Constructing the neoliberal sexual actor: responsibility and care of the self in the discourse of barebackers

Cult Health Sex. Jul-Aug 2005;7(4):333-46. doi: 10.1080/13691050500100773.


This paper analyses on the discourses employed by a subset of gay and bisexual men who no longer practise protected sex more than twenty years into the HIV epidemic. In-depth interviews with 102 men in Toronto are used to examine the moral reasoning of those for whom the language of barebacking provides a shared set of accounts and tacit understandings for unprotected sex. Barebacking raises some of the central issues of contemporary theory around risk, responsibility, and ethics, and poses new challenges to HIV prevention policy as barebacking discourses adapt some of the major tenets of neoliberal ideology by combining notions of informed consent, contractual interaction, free market choice, and responsibility in new ways. At the same time, interviews with barebackers reveal competing and contradictory discourses that suggest new avenues of engagement for HIV prevention initiatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Status
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Ontario
  • Risk-Taking
  • Safe Sex / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology*