The emergence of intentionally unsafe sex—“viral sex”—among men who have sex with men has led to the emergence of several new sexual identities, including barebackers, bug chasers, gift givers, and virus breeders, and it raises pressing questions about the nature of sexual freedom and the state of liberal identity politics for gay men in the United States. Avoiding subjective and psychological approaches to viral sex, this essay addresses viral sex in terms of the political economy of liberalism and biopower, featuring a discussion of Michel Foucault's late work on homosexuality and its relationship to political rationality. The central argument presented here is that viral sex functions as a powerful new claim to sexual freedom, one that provides a biopolitical alternative to the liberal politics of identity and to the dominant “culture of life” in the United States.

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