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Dr João Florêncio, Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture

New research to investigate impact of AIDS crisis on masculinity and sexual behaviour

Three decades after the AIDS crisis, a new study will investigate the impact the disease has had on masculinity and sexuality in the gay community.

University of Exeter academic Dr João Florêncio will examine how desire and sexual performance has changed in the “post-AIDS” world through tracking how gay men are portrayed in pornography and erotica.

The project will contribute to existing critical histories of sexuality. Dr Florêncio’s work will result in a monograph and a documentary made in partnership with Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest and the filmmaker Rob Eagle from Scruffy Docs.

Dr Florêncio said: “Understanding the complex ways in which gay masculinities and sexual behaviours are being shaped in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis, the role of antiretroviral therapies in that process, and their mediation in gay pornography is fundamental to gain a better grasp of contemporary gay identities and the ways in which today’s gay men negotiate pleasure and manage risk in the pursuit of a fulfilling sexual life.”    

The two-year project is funded through a £194,184 research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Dr Florêncio will trace the history and impact of gay “pig” masculinities and their visual representations, which emerged in the last two decades in tandem with the introduction of antiretroviral therapies for the management and prevention of HIV. “Pig” is a term used by some gay men to self-define themselves in relation to their sexual practices, often regarded as “transgressive,” pushing the limits of the body and of its integrity, and often centred around exchanges of bodily fluids.

Date: 19 February 2019

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