The Internet profiles of men who have sex with men within bareback websites.

Published: August 5, 2011

Abstract

The Internet has become a venue for men who have sex with men to search for sexual partners. Some of these men intentionally seek unprotected anal intercourse with other men (‘bareback’ sex). This paper focuses on the creation, use, and content of Internet personal profiles of men who have sex with men in the greater New York City metropolitan area who use bareback sites for sexual networking. We used a mixed-methods approach to examine data from a cybercartography of Internet sites conducted during the first phase of the research (199 personal profiles) and from in-depth interviews conducted during its second phase (120 men who have sex with men who sought partners online for bareback sex). Results indicate that men generally followed offline stereotypical patterns in their online profiles. However, men who disclosed being HIV-positive were more likely to include face and head pictures. Overall, the images they used were heavily sexualised in accordance with group norms perceived and reinforced by the websites’ design and imagery. Bottom-identified men tended to be more explicit in the exposition of their sexual and drug use interests online. This paper highlights how certain virtual and social performances play upon and reinforce other, in the flesh, performances.

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