Barebacking and sexual position

Matthew Grundy-Bowers, Sally Hardy, Eamonn McKeown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Bareback sex continues to fuel the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men but despite the fact that much academic attention has been focused on the sexual behaviour of this population few authors have considered the significance of sexual position. In order to explore this relatively under-examined factor, interviews were conducted with 13 HIV-negative and unknown status gay men who had recently engaged in bareback sex. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and through the lens of sexual position, the findings were organized across three super-ordinal themes. There were some areas in which there was little difference between the men's experiences of engaging in bareback as tops or bottoms (for instance, how participants connected with barebacking partners). In other areas, however, there were clear differences in men's experiences according to sexual position, particularly in the interpersonal dynamic between tops and bottoms during bareback sex encounters, which, it is argued, were acted out in accordance with a barebacking ‘sexual script’. There were further differences by position in how individuals overcame ‘cognitive dissonance’ by invoking strategies to make their engagement in bareback sex safer and in the meanings men ascribed to bareback sex and semen exchange. These findings provide valuable insights for those working with MSM around HIV prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-194
Number of pages19
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2015


  • Bareback sex
  • gay men
  • sexual behaviour
  • sexual position

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