Led by Dr João Florêncio (Art History and Visual Culture; Exeter Masculinities Research Unit) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through a 24-month Leadership Fellows grant (2019-2021), Masculinities and the Ethics of Porosity in “Post-AIDS” Gay Porn theorises gay “pig” masculinities and their visual mediation, which emerged in the last two decades in tandem with the introduction of antiretroviral therapies for the management and prevention of HIV infection. It does so through a close critical engagement with representations of “pig” masculinities in contemporary gay pornography, interviews with gay men who identify as “pigs” in London, Berlin, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and archival work at the Bishopsgate Institute (UK), the Schwules* Museum (DE), the ONE Archives (USA), and the Tom of Finland Foundation (USA).

“Pig” is a term used by some gay men to self-define themselves in terms of their own sexual practices, which they regard as transgressive, pushing the limits of the body and of its integrity through relentless condomless penetrations, stretching of the rectal sphincter, and exchanges of all kinds of bodily fluids (sperm, urine, saliva, etc). It is used in the names of hookup websites directed at gay men into fetish or “extreme” sex (e.g. NastyKinkPigs.com or AssPig.com) and often included, as a pig head or snout emoji, on usernames or profile text on gay hookup apps like Grindr, Scruff or Recon. It is also a term that, alongside “bareback,” has been appearing in increasing numbers of gay porn titles since the mid 1990s. What is interesting about gay “pig” masculinities are the ways in which they appear to be predicated on a transgression of the boundaries of the male body, a blurring of inside and outside, self and other, through the pursuit of relentless penetrations and exchanges of bodily fluids. Unlike hegemonic forms of Western masculinity, which have been shaped by a rejection of all things considered “feminine,” including penetrability, gay “pigs” appear to become more “manly” the more penetrated and open to foreign bodily fluids they are.

The introduction of Highly-Active Antiretroviral Therapies (HAART) and viral load testing in 1996 made HIV infection a long- term chronic condition and led to a radical transformation in the lives, identities and sexual practices of gay men. Not only did HAART make HIV infection no longer progress to AIDS but it also makes HIV-positive individuals uninfectious. More recently, the confirmation of HAART’s efficiency as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) also means that those who are HIV- negative and having sex without condoms can prevent HIV infection by taking one pill a day. As a consequence, unprotected sex has been uncoupled from the spectre of AIDS and the number of gay men engaging in “barebacking”-that is, in intentional condomless anal sex-has risen exponentially, leading the practice to become mainstream. At the same time, bareback porn has also become the fastest growing genre of gay porn and, today, only a very small minority of studios continue to make visible use of condoms.

It is in that context that gay “pig” masculinities have emerged and become visible in gay online platforms and pornography. This research project will lead to the first monograph and documentary feature film critically discussing “pig” masculinities and their sexual ethics at length. Taking on a speculative research methodology (Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten, 2017) and drawing from porn studies, masculinities studies and the posthumanities, it theorises “pig” masculinities as porous threshold masculinities that simultaneously reiterate and trouble hegemonic traits of Western masculinity whilst pushing the limits of the body and opening themselves to new forms of sexual sociability and modes of communion.

In so doing, the project aims to contribute to existing critical histories of sexuality, subjectivities, and their visual representations by examining a contemporary form of gay male self-identification, one that is emerging in “post-AIDS” contexts through a complex interplay of desire, sexual performance, biochemical technologies, and 21st-century visual media.



The University of Exeter

1–2 September 2020


Keynote Speakers:

Professor Tim Dean (University of Illinois)

Professor John Mercer (Birmingham City University)

Professor Susanna Paasonen (University of Turku)



We’re living in viral times; ours is a time of contagion. As Tony Sampson writes in his book Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, “the networked infrastructures of late capitalism are interwoven with the universal logic of the epidemic” (Sampson 2011, 1–2). Deeply connected to contemporary biopolitics and modes of digital sociability, virality also underpins news forms of wealth creation and accumulation sustained by 21st-century media, whilst at the same time (paradoxically, perhaps) presenting a political threat through the risk it carries of “contagious overspills” that may undo borders, nation states, institutions, ontologies and subjectivities (2). Defined by Sampson as “contagious relationality” (3), in the age of memes, “fake news,” hacking, epidemics, ecological crisis, global migration flows, antiretroviral drugs, YouTube and Pornhub, virality is at the centre of contemporary forms of both control and liberation (5–6). Whilst, on the one hand, it sustains the logics of 21st-century biopolitics (antiretrovirals, hygiene, cyber security, ID and age-verification systems, etc.), on the other, it has the capacity to disrupt subjectivities and social assemblages, a capacity that resides in its ability to facilitate unforeseen flows of desire and affect (chemsex parties organised through Grindr and facilitated by Uber, biohacking, citizen journalism, Wikileaks, Anonymous, the “Arab Spring,” the “Yellow Vest Movement,” etc.). 


If our time is a game of push and pull fuelled on all sides by contagious forms of relationality, what then for masculinities? If our understandings of masculinity are “inherently relational” (Connell 2005, 68), what happens to them in a context of “contagious relationality” (Sampson 2011, 3)? If “gender is a way in which social practice is ordered” (Connell 2005, 71), what has been the impact on masculinities of a social order both coded and disrupted through viral means?

Within that context, we invite proposals for individual papers, creative/performative presentations, and pre-constituted panels addressing masculinities in relation to the material, technological and conceptual aspects of virality and its epistemological, ontological, ethical and/or (bio)political dimensions.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Masculinities in the age of antiretrovirals (PEP, PrEP, TasP)
  • Masculinities and the “thirdworldisation” of the AIDS crisis
  • Masculinities and online sexual sociability
  • Masculinities and/in online porn (including amateur porn)
  • Radical/ised masculinities
  • “Alt-Right” and NRx masculinities from 4Chan and reddit to broadcast media
  • Masculinities, borders, and migratory flows
  • Fitness apps and quantified masculinities
  • Masculinities, #NotAllMen and #MeToo

Please send a 300-word abstract and short bio (max 50 words) for each paper to Dr João Florêncio at the Exeter Masculinities Research Unit (Masculinities@exeter.ac.uk) by the 31st of January, 2020.

All questions should also be directed to Masculinities@exeter.ac.uk.

Notification of acceptances by the 1st of March,  2020.


After the conference, a selection of participants will be invited to contribute their papers to an edited volume.

Practical information




Getting to Exeter


Emerging out of field work conducted in the UK, Germany and USA, and archival research undertaken at the Bishopsgate Institute (London), the Schwules* Museum (Berlin), the ONE Archives (Los Angeles), and the Tom of Finland Foundation (Los Angeles),  Porous Masculinities: Gay Porn, Sex, and Bodily Fluids in the Antiretroviral Age (working title) will be published  by Routledge in 2020-21.

More info coming soon…


Filmed during 2019 and 2020 in Berlin, London,  Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the feature documentary Oink! (working title) will follow the daily lives of a group of gay men who identify as “pigs,” working within and outside the gay porn industry, and provide a valuable insight into their experiences of identity, community, belonging, sexual pleasure and intimacy, as they are co-shaped and framed by 21st-century media.

The film will have its theatrical premiere in late 2020.




Producer: João Florêncio
Director: Rob Eagle
Cinematographer: Rufai Ajala
Editor: TBC
Colourist: TBC
Sound Editor: TBC
Music: Liam Byrne

Theatrical Premiere Partner: