hey, beastly! I’m ******* and I had contacted you on Twitter about some bug chaser questions. I want to make it extremely clear that I am not looking to cast judgment, or make any accusations about the community whatsoever. my questions come from a place of genuine curiosity, and wanting a deeper understanding. kink is a very interesting thing to me, I want to understand as many of them as I can (the ones that have communities attached at least).
the reason I’m thinking about these now is mostly due to the recent law in California, where it’s now a misdemeanor to knowingly spread HIV to someone else. so with that backstory out of the way, on to the questions:
1. there is a part of me that understands this kink at face value, there’s the risk and potential for something dangerous and there’s a thrill involved in that. so my first question is about in the case of someone who is looking to get pozzed, what happens after that? is the fantasy fulfilled or does it become the new thrill to spread it to someone else? I can see how it’s a case by case basis, just wasn’t sure if you’ve seen one outcome more than the other.
First things first: You need to understand why the law in California was passed. The law has nothing to do with bug chasing. If the law is confusing, that’s because many media outlets reported it poorly.
“California Lowers Penalty for Knowingly Exposing Partners to HIV,” read CNN’s headline about the passing of SB 293. The Los Angeles Times‘ headline, “Knowingly Exposing Others to HIV Will No Longer Be a Felony in California,” was no better.
While these headlines are technically correct, they are also misleading and contradictory to the true intentions of the bill. Yes, SB 293 does reduce the “crime” of knowingly transmitting or attempting to transmit HIV, dropping it from a felony to a misdemeanor (bringing it in line with penalties for willful exposure to other sexually transmitted infections), but that is just one part of it. The bill’s primary goal is to address several outdated laws and sentences that were created over 30 years ago, at the height of stigma and ignorance around HIV.
— “Media Fumbles HIV Decriminalization Bill,” Plus Magazine
Those laws implemented 30 years ago are called “HIV criminalization laws,” and they do not reflect current medical advancements in HIV care and prevention. Most people at the forefront of HIV activism consider them extremely harmful and dangerous.
These laws prosecute HIV-positive individuals for acts of consensual sex, regardless of condom use, along with spitting and biting, based on the underlying belief that blood, saliva, and semen are biological weapons as dangerous as firearms. This belief is founded on fear, not science. You cannot transmit HIV through saliva, and even if you have sex without a condom, the conditions for infection have to be pretty perfect for infection to actually happen.
Last year, The Huffington Post reported that between 2008 and 2015, there were at least 226 cases that either directly or indirectly deemed the potential and unlikely transmission of HIV a crime. That number rose to at least 279 by the end of 2016.
HIV criminalization laws were established at a time when gay men were seen by lawmakers (and most of the general public) as social miscreants gleefully spreading their virus and willfully infecting others. This bogeyman of the thoughtless, reckless gay man harming people was an invention by anti-gay crusaders, pastors, and homophobes. Most HIV infections happen because people don’t know they have it. You can have transmittable HIV for months and even years without ever having symptoms.
Despite our updated knowledge about HIV and AIDS, these laws still exist, and their existence fuels the intense social fear and hatred of people living with HIV. This fear and hatred (collectively called “HIV stigma”) have disastrous consequences on public health; stigma dissuades people from getting tested for HIV. Since HIV is a legally punishable, stigmatized illness, many prefer to ignore symptoms rather than receive legal proof that they have the virus. The law in California was passed in order to encourage people with symptoms, or who may be high-risk of contracting HIV, to get tested, and to lessen the stigma surrounding HIV.
With that out of the way, I’ll move on to bug chasing.
Bug chasing is the practice of HIV-negative people seeking sex with HIV-positive people with the intention of getting HIV, or catching “the bug.” “Gift-givers” or “gifters” are HIV-positive people who fuck bug chasers in order to infect them.
I can’t say how the thrill in any fetish evolves. If you’re into fisting, does the thrill morph into something else when you get a hand in your butt? No. A bug chaser likely still thinks bug chasing is hot even after they seroconvert (get HIV). That said, the fetish may evolve into helping other bug chasers catch it. For many self-described bug chasers, the goal isn’t catching HIV at all. Many people, including many people I know personally, admit that the bug chasing fantasy is really hot, but they do not actually want HIV.
Nearly every person I talked to when writing this piece said they believe bug chasing is an exaggerated phenomenon, an anti-HIV myth generated by AIDS panic — an invented monster meant to demonize those living with HIV by blaming them for their own illness. If you think about it, it’s an extension of the poz-phobic “you did it to yourself” claim.
That said, I respectfully disagree with these people. Most of them are not as kinky as I am and are not HIV-positive. If I polled kinky HIV-positive guys like me — and gay men who enjoy hardcore, bareback sex as I do — I think I might get a different consensus. I have been HIV-positive for five years and have been asked by countless guys to “poz” them, to infect them with my “toxic” seed, and so on. I probably get a message like this every month. For me, bug chasers are real and not threatening. My boyfriend (who is HIV-negative) and I have both freely admitted that the idea of bug-chasing is really hot, but I wasn’t seeking HIV when I got infected. In fact, I didn’t even know what bug-chasing was until after I was positive.
To be clear, the only bug chasers I know are men who have sex with men. They are into a heavily tabooed, deeply frowned-upon fetish. As such, they are more likely to find playmates in the kind of people I play with, and I am more likely to encounter them pursuing the kind of sex I like. So my perspective may be skewed — I probably encounter a higher number of bug chasers than the average gay man (even the average HIV-positive gay man).
Since I was not bug-chasing when I seroconverted (got HIV), I have no personal experience as a chaser or gifter. But I do understand how fear and danger become erotic fantasies — that’s easy. I have enjoyed risky sex because it’s risky and had tabooed sex because it’s tabooed.
So while I can’t speak on bug chasing from personal experience, I can hazard a guess that the fetish evolves the way any other fetish evolves. Your experience deepens or wanes, you may evolve into or out of it. You may simply move on to something else.
2. within the community as a whole, is it frowned upon to poz someone without their knowledge or consent, or is it, for the most part, kept to chasers coming to the infected (I’m not sure the community name for this sorry) directly?
What “community as a whole” are you referring to? Gay men? HIV-positive men? Among HIV-positive people, infecting someone with HIV without their consent is seen as a terrible thing to do. But you’re not talking about bug chasing — you’re talking about stealthing.
Stealthing is attempting to infect someone with HIV without their knowledge or consent. Bug chasing is different; generally speaking, chasers are actively and knowingly seeking HIV, and knowing that the person fucking them is HIV-positive is the whole point. That’s where the eroticism comes from. Stealthing is not bug-chasing.
This must be said, and probably should’ve been said sooner: Someone can only spread HIV if they are not taking anti-HIV medication. Taking HIV meds as prescribed will render you undetectable, which means you are unable to transmit HIV. Finding someone who is knowingly HIV-positive and not on meds is a difficult task since most people who test positive in the U.S. start taking medication as quickly as possible. To truly have a chance at getting HIV, you would have to look for someone who is HIV-positive and not on meds.
When bug chasers ask me to infect them, I tell them I’m on meds and undetectable, and they usually lose interest or, more likely, still want me to fuck them and “pretend” that I’m infectious. Many of them are into the fantasy of chasing over the actual reality of getting HIV.
3. in other risk centered kink there’s usually a defined dominant/submissive bond. are the roles defined like that with bug chasing? I guess what I’m asking is how the encounters work. is it better if things are kept casual or do relationships form between the chaser and the infected person?
I’ve never heard of bug chasing described as a dominant/submissive scene. I think you may be confused about what bug chasing is. Bug chasing is not an established, public scene in the world of kink. If you went to any leather gathering, you wouldn’t find a tent set up for bug chasers, or dance parties for bug chasers, or community groups for bug chasers (which is a shame, because I think that’d be pretty cool). Even among kinky people, bug chasing is heavily frowned upon.
Bug chasing is so stigmatized that the community of chasers and gifters is effectively invisible. They live in chat rooms and on sleazy hookup websites. To find someone into bug chasing, you’d have to do some digital hunting. If you know where to look (I do), you wouldn’t have to look hard.
I don’t know how encounters work since I’ve never arranged one, but I’ve known some guys who enjoy seed parties (pozzing parties), which are gangbangs where a central bottom is fucked by as many men as possible (ideally some of whom are HIV-positive and not on medication) with the sole purpose of getting infected.
I have gone to countless bareback sex parties where there may have been a bug chaser or two present, but he wasn’t wearing a sticker saying “Hello! I’m a bug chaser!” so I can’t say for sure. If a pozzing party was described online as a normal bareback sex party, I may have been to one, but I didn’t know I was doing so. I’m not opposed to going to a pozzing party, but an ideal pozzing party (or seed party) is structured with multiple tops all fucking an HIV-negative bottom. I would want to be the lucky bottom, and I’m already HIV-positive, so I can’t imagine it’d be much fun for me.
I’m sure some relationships have formed from chaser-gifter encounters, but again, that’s hard for me to say for sure. If any couples I know have formed that way, they would not announce that information (although I wish they would — it’d make them a lot more interesting).
4. this question might seem sillier compared to the others but it’s mostly cause I’ve never seen too much about it. I’m sure there are people who get off on infecting others, much as how with pregnancy fetishes there’s the thrill of getting the person pregnant, but within that group are there bragging rights about infecting x number of people? I’m just kind of curious about this through the eyes of someone who has HIV.
As someone with HIV, I’m not automatically part of the bug chasing scene, but it’s clear that you think I am.
That alarms me a little bit because that means you think all HIV-positive people are bug chasers and vice versa. You think we were all seeking HIV and that we willingly spread it. I’ve said this already, but I was not chasing when I got infected with HIV, and most people who test positive for HIV are not bug chasers. By asking the question as you did, you must believe the poz-phobic myths spread about us.
I’m sure some gifters brag about how many people they’ve infected, but again, since I’m not in the community, I don’t know.
Assuming most people with HIV were intentionally seeking it is dangerous — it effectively blames the sick for their own disease and gives lawmakers and healthcare institutions another reason to not extend services to us and to overlook our community’s needs. Again, the “you do it to yourself” myth has been the cause of ample violence and hatred of people living with HIV.
5. following up with a bit more of a serious question. it might also be kind of personal so how you answer is up to you. how does the initial setup work? is it an uncomfortable thing at first? I guess like, in the general sense, is there parts of it that are weird? I guess it’d make sense if there were, there is in any other kink.
You are assuming I got HIV through bug chasing. This would only be a “personal” question for me if I did. I hope you know by now that was not the case.
I understand that you’re only asking these questions out of curiosity, and I’m happy to answer them, but they’re offensive (unintentionally, I imagine) and you should not ask them to anyone living with HIV.
I do not know who infected me. Like many gay men who test positive at 21, I was simply having lots of sex and not thinking about the consequences. I assumed the slip-ups — the times I didn’t use condoms — would never hurt me. I was wrong.
I can’t answer these questions because I’m not a bug chaser or gifter, and I’ve never sat down with a bug chaser to talk — although I would love to. As someone with many kinks — some of which are tabooed and extreme — I can say that the first time you try anything new is uncomfortable and strange.
There is something powerfully sexy in the idea of being “marked,” branded, labeled as one of a tribe. Our most fervent religious impulses connect us to this idea of becoming part of a special populace — our ancient traditions define this as an essential human experience. Religious concepts of ascension through suffering and being cleansed by blood have been around since ancient times. One could say that bug chasing has a very clear psychological linkage to the Last Supper, the Eucharist, and the ascension of Christ.
On top of all that, it’s easy to eroticize self-ruin. If we cannot acknowledge that — if we cannot confess the allure of giving up self-concern and freeing ourselves to destruction — then we will never understand many of our basic human impulses. If HIV is equated to death, as it has been for the last fifty years, then we can expect many people to be drawn to it the same way we are all sometimes drawn to self-abandon. The only problem with this is that HIV is no longer a death sentence; with meds, you will probably live a long life with it.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: Although I’ve never participated in bug chasing (and am therefore unable to answer your questions thoroughly), I can understand and appreciate the allure and eroticism of bug chasing and I have a very sympathetic opinion of bug chasers. Their fetishes are no less vile or frightening than mine are. Bug chasing is not outside the realm of my fantasy and certainly not far removed from the sex I currently enjoy.
Bug chasers are real and I invite them to come forward. Let’s talk about this fetish, acknowledge its eroticism, and decide how people like us — queer people, people with extreme kinks, and people living with HIV — will address and understand it.
The only playmates I want in life are the ones willing to face dark truths about lust and desire, something we must do as a public health strategy and as humane, sex-positive people.