25 March 2020

Raw: PrEP, Pedagogy, and the Politics of Barebacking
Edited by Ricky Varghese
Published by University of Regina Press
Review by Toby A. Welch
$34.95 ISBN 9780889776838

I have never learned as much from a book as I did from Raw. Considering that I love expanding my knowledge about almost any topic, that is a great thing!

‘Raw’ I understood but I had no idea what the subtitle of this book meant – I learned fast. PrEP, the acronym for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is an antiretroviral medicine used to prevent HIV infection. Pedagogy in general terms means educating and sharing information, often with social, critical, and cultural responsibilities. Barebacking is having intercourse without using a condom, a reference most used these days to describe two men engaging in anal sex. Now that we have the title cleared up, let’s jump in!

A massive amount of time and research went into the compilation of this book. Each of the 14 contributors, including the editor of the tome, has an impressive resume. As for what this book is about, the editor sums it up best in his introduction: “Each of the authors in this project provides a rigorous examination of the ideological, socio-political, ethical, and moral ramifications and repercussions connected to barebacking.”

This book touches on a variety of topics tangent to barebacking including Black sex, lesbian sex, AIDS, the impact of pornography, condoms, safer sex, and the desire for intimacy through sex. We delve into each of those topics deeply, often encountering terminology that was previously foreign to me. For example: jouissance, which is a phallic, orgasmic, and ejaculatory form of pleasure. And pro-am, lingo for the professional amateur porn that is found often found on free-to-use pornographic websites.

I feel enlightened about the modern-day realities of sex after reading Raw. For example, I had no idea that a circumcised male is much less likely to contract HIV than an uncircumcised man. Brian J. Morris, a professor of molecular medical sciences, explains: “Circumcision, when coupled with condom use, should virtually guarantee complete protection from infection by HIV.”

I appreciate that while this book conveys a massive amount of information, it never comes across as preachy. The contributors merely share data and observations, never try to sway anyone’s thoughts or opinions.

This is the third stand-alone book in the Exquisite Corpse book series, a series that challenges readers with questions about the human body that are often left unanswered. (The first book dealt with the anus, the second delved into the hymen.) As this book was so eye-opening and well-crafted, let’s hope the University of Regina Press adds more titles to their line-up.

For anyone interested learning more about the realities of barebacking and/or the sexual culture we ar experiencing in these modern times, pick up a copy of Raw: PrEP, Pedagogy, and the Politics of Barebacking. I guarantee that you will be entertained as well as enlightened. Happy reading!


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