Bug Chasers
February 2, 2001 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Bug Chasers : According to this article at Alternatives Magazine, there are gay men who are looking for HIV+ partners who will infect them. In fact, it even claims that some people "fetishize" the virus. I'm absolutely stunned. Can anyone confirm that this is really happening?
posted by ivey (18 comments total)
Yes, it's true.
Can't offer you any explanations, though.
posted by Su at 8:56 AM on February 2, 2001

I read an article probably 2 years ago about parties where HIV+ and virus free people would "bare back." Kinda like russian roulette...danger had the appeal.
posted by karenh at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2001

Uuuuugh. The author's premise strains credulity, and his purple prose doesn't help his case.

Men wandering around with tattoos advertising their desire to get infected? Oh, please . . . if this sort of bushwah came out of the mouth of a right-winger, he'd be tarred as a gay-baiting loony. Gay men are no weirder than anyone else, and anyone who showed up at the baths begging to be infected would rightly be treated as the nutcase they were. (Not having any experiences at a gay bath, but having many gay friends, I did some informal fact-checking on this. None of them had ever heard of "bug-chasing," much less met one, except in the abstract, boogeyman kind of way.)

"Bare-backing" is simply a term for sex without rubbers--I do believe straight people engage in this sort of behavior, sometimes even when they're not sure of the partner's HIV-status. It got its own term in the gay community because of the sensationalization surrounding the AIDS crisis. That it has its own set of scare quotes does not make it remarkable behavior.

Finally, here's a take on it by one of the aforementioned friends I polled:

"What he is calling Bug Chasers are men who have lots
of promiscuous sex, stating they are doing so in the misguided hopes of getting HIV / AIDS. What he seems to be missing are the hard-to-ignore, hard wired impetuses that 1) men are weasels and will generally have as much
sex as they can get, and 2) humans have a somewhat pervasive mind set of imperviousness - that "the big bad thing" will happen to someone else (after all, I've never died before). It seems a bizarre conclusion to jump from
seeing men having lots of at-risk sex and immediately assume that they are doing it out of some desire to get AIDS."

Word. This guy is a crank.
posted by Skot at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2001

Props to Skot for using the word 'bushwah'. Much of the guy's piece is, indeed, buncombe.
posted by Mocata at 10:03 AM on February 2, 2001

I dunno about that skot, I seem to remember hearing a lot about this from other publications, too, and I remember having a dicussion about it in a comtemporary studies class a couple of years ago. Not that it lends any credibility to this article, but if it is a misconception, it's being spread in more places than this.
posted by Hackworth at 10:07 AM on February 2, 2001

This is an old story:

posted by flinn at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2001

While I have no idea if this article is valid or not, people will fetishize anything you can think of (and some you can't!). For example, ampulove.com has separate sections for amputees, for those who "have a thing" for amputees, and for "wannabees" who want to become amputees. Please don't ask how I found this site :-)
posted by jpoulos at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2001

If this kind of 'bushwah' is true, it's sick. I don't think anyone has any kind of right to do something like that to themself, who's to say they won't keep it a secret when they're with someone else?

Craving and spreading a disease... now there's something that belongs in the DSM.
posted by tomorama at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2001

They do have a right to do it to themselves. They don't have a right to spread it.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:58 AM on February 2, 2001

I first read about this in Wired- the article can be found at http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,18244,00.html There is some very disturbing stuff in there. A couple gay friends have mentioned the existence of such a subculture to me as well, though they themselves are horrified at the idea. I'm not one to take Wired 100% at it's word anymore, but this sounds pretty well grounded.
posted by louie at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2001

This sounds to me like a sort of side effect of treating the AIDS epidemic as a social/moral issue rather than a disease control issue.
posted by harmful at 1:47 PM on February 2, 2001

It's true that what the author says goes on really does go on. But the theories on WHY it goes on are just a bunch of fairy dust based on vague imaginings. No one's done any solid research into why bugchasers chase.
posted by rbgilbert at 1:56 PM on February 2, 2001

For more on the amputation thing, here's the old MF thread.
posted by rodii at 3:17 PM on February 2, 2001

Absolutely bizarre, if true, but unlikely to be restricted to the gay population, I'm afraid. The point of a fetish is that it is a deviation from the pure act of procreation. In many ways even kissing is a fetish. Of course at the more extreme spectrums there are people with fetishes for everything from ears to pee, poo to nappies, piercings to blood. Note that these fetishes are pansexual (not restricted to gay men), and I suspect that IF IT EXISTS this HIV one is the same. What might be different, as ever, is that the gay community has experienced more impact from HIV than most other communities in the western world and is generally more open about sex and experimentation generally (probably because everyone who is gay had to break past a couple of taboos socially to start off with). These two issues MIGHT lead to a slightly increased proportion of such fetishes in gay culture.

Having said that, I have seen no evidence for this kind of thing, met no one who was interested in the idea and I know a fair block of gay people.
posted by barbelith at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2001

I saw a personal ad in a newspaper a few weeks back that listed "HIV+" as desirable. Go figure.
posted by JimmyTones at 4:41 PM on February 2, 2001

Jimmy, that's absolutely understandable. Responsible HIV+ people would rather hook up with someone also HIV+, rather than live their lives in fear of infecting a loved one. This has been a staple of personals ads for at least ten years.
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on February 2, 2001

And, while applying Ashworth's Law to an AmIHotOrNot donor site last night, I shuddered when I hit a Bareback Webring Site.

Full Body Shudder.
posted by baylink at 9:35 PM on February 5, 2001

WARNING: Explicit content, and I couldn't go back and edit the posting because of the Infamous Posting Bug (see MT).
posted by baylink at 9:36 PM on February 5, 2001

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