“The gay Facebook” : friendship, desirability, and HIV in the lives of the gay Internet generation
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Why are men seeking other men online? And how does the Internet influence these men and their sexuality? These are the two underlying questions driving this thesis. To answer these general questions, I conducted a qualitative study, which used in-depth individual interviews with 15 men who have sex with other men who self-identified as gay, queer, or homosexual. Through employing a theoretical framework that is inspired in queer theory, I uncovered three main topics in these men’s lives that are intimately shaped by their use of the Internet: friendship, racial and bodily desire, and HIV. First, I show the creative ways gay men are using the Internet, and specifically a sexualized space, in order to build relations with other gay men, despite the larger obstacles a heteronormative society puts in these men’s way to forge these friendships. In using their gay identity to try to establish relationalities with other gay identified men, the informants in this study challenge the impersonable traits associated with modernity, while seeking to build new alliances that could potentially radically disrupt heteronormative society. Secondly, I highlight how the social exclusionary practices toward people of color and non-normal bodies on Adam4Adam.com reifies whiteness and masculinity, which in turn, reifies heteronormativity. Here, I unmask how the structure of Adam4Adam.com, especially its filtering system, normalizes these discriminatory practices in users’ lives. Thirdly, I examine the role and meaning of HIV and sexual health in the lives of my informants. I incorporate the term “doing sexual responsibility” to show how my gay informants manage their anxiety-ridden lives when navigating their sexuality and sexual health. I also show how the gay men in this study engage in online foreplay as a pleasurable way to manage this anxiety and how trust and hegemonic masculinity are unintended consequences of this danger discourse on sexuality. As these men’s narratives and this thesis illustrate, society is still structured through heteronormative standards, but the Internet provides a new space for gay men to navigate their marginalized status in society.