Soho is one of the most iconic areas of London. Soho is nonetheless one of the most important gay corners in the entire world, to some extent can be said that is the capital of a certain gay lifestyle. And is a gay issue, related with Soho’s lifestyle, that I want to rise in this article. A gay, unceremonious, uncomfortable matter: unprotected sex.
Bare Back is becoming a common place, an accepted practice. In some gay apps, like grindr and hornet, the third ritual question that occurs after “hi, how are you?” and “are u top or bottom?” is, indeed, “do you like BB”. No wonder then, that scientists are registering an increase in HIV infects amongst the gay population in this City.
What is the reason of this rejection of condom? Is it its use so desensitizing or uncomfortable? Or the reason is to be found somewhere else, maybe in some symbolic, rather than physical exchange? this is precisely what I am going to talk about in the following paragraphs.
One of the contradictions of capitalism is that the so called liberalism, namely the production of commodities that aim to create desire, are today killing desire itself. The death of desire is decreed by the easiness and the accessibility of enjoyment. Desire, indeed, is always generated by a prohibition or a lack. There is something very precious about desire, this thing is its transgressive and unconventional nature; but, since transgression is becoming mainstream and highly standardized by the market, the possibility of transgression itself is fading away.
We are constantly pushed towards transgression, because conservatism and morality, in our contemporary world, don’t help capitalism and liberal economy any more. What remains, though, when desire disappears is the endless practice of enjoyment, which is precisely its opposite.
As the brilliant and provocative genius that Pier Paolo Pasolini was, he once stated that, in a liberal society, where a limited amount of freedoms are allowed, everything else is forbidden, whereas in a dictatorial regime, where everything seems to be forbidden, everything is actually allowed. This makes total sense, because it is prohibition that creates desire. This idea is entirely applicable to our contemporary secularized society. When the ultimate moral law, the religious power, stopped being the repressive/productive force that created desire, than we started looking somewhere else to find new prohibitions. But what is left in a society without god? Science, obviously.
Doctors, indeed are constantly inviting people to use condoms; by saying so they are generating a taboo, making bareback sex appealing. Science is slowly taking the place of religion in ‘forbidding’ actions, and god knows how much prohibitions we need in order to challenge their limits.
There is another aspect that i would like to point out while thinking about all those practices. Another uncomfortable one.
We like risk, but, incapable of accepting the limitations of enjoyment, we like relatively ‘safe’ risks; another of the safe features of capitalism.
contracting HIV in a City like London today, is not as it was twenty years ago, and is not as it would be in a poor country. Life expectancies for HIV+, if treated properly, are indeed pretty high. So even the obvious risk is somehow reduced to minimal terms. Taking a full risk, indeed, is not the way in which contemporary society works.
If once the best metaphor for society could have been some examples of the Body Art, or the ‘Viennese Actionism’, where the artists during the performance experienced pain, somehow testing the extreme points of human limits; today the best metaphor is the Art corporel by the French artist Orlan, where the body of the performer goes through the knife of the surgeon, changing its shape but protected by painkillers, and by the safe, aseptic, operating theatre’ s environment. The apparent extreme, then, turns to be a ‘fake’ extreme. So we did remove our condoms from our cocks, but only to put them on our heads.
it remains to figure out what will happen to desire when science will find (hopefully very soon) a cures for all the STDs.
Which prohibition will, then, give new shape to our desires?