Party ‘n’ Play
Online hook-up devices and the emergence of PNP practices among gay men
Kane Race
Department of Gender & Cultural Studies
University of Sydney, Australia
The renunciative turn
Popular discourses increasingly pin HIV preventionas a
possibility that relies on the renunciation of substance use
(and sometimes even casual sex!)
To counter this, we need engaged analyses of sex/drug
cultures so that the possibilities of safety/care that are
immanent within these cultures can be identified and fostered
Online hookup sites/apps/locative devices
A new(ish) infrastructure of the sexual encounter
– If institutions allocate resources and establish hierarchies
of authority
– Infrastructures produce capacities and shape encounters
in ways that become more or less durable components of
everyday routines
Party and Play (“PNP”)
• Also known as ”partying”, “wired play”, “chem sex”, “extended
• At home; arranged online; involving one or more partners over
extended period of time; use of psychoactive substances (typically
crystal meth, smoked, GHB); pornography; etc. - a specifically
assembled erotic environment.
• About 15% - 20% of Sydney gay men had participated in PNP in last 6
• Approached as a pathogenic site by public health literature
• Also a site for the elaboration of specific affective associations
2004 community ed poster NYC
• In social/political theory, the technological
object/commodity is typically positioned as
responsible for the demise of sociality, community,
politics, etc.
• An alternative approach asks “How do objects/devices
mediate sociality?” (Object-oriented process studies)
Sex as play
• “Looking to play?”
• Georg Simmel, “The sociology of sociability” ([1910] 1949) – role of
play-form in the making of sociability
• Bruno Latour’s “associology”- challenges the notion that “society”
or “community” explains anything – rather these formations need
to be explained, by tracing their assemblage.
Distinctive features/formations
• Pre-specification of practices and desires
• Co-construction of fantasy/ erotic speculation
• Wired play/ extended sessions
The emergence of undetectable identity
Sexual speculation
Generative encounters
• “the crystallization of their fantasies in the texts that constitute the
vehicle for their interaction is akin to the joint construction of a script” (P.
Adam et al. 2011: 507).
• N.B Here desires, intentions and even identities do not precede the online
encounter in any simple sense, but can be understood to emerge from it
through a process of eventuation.
(On eventuation see Race, “Complex events”, forthcoming this year in
Contemporary Drug Problems)
Group play/ extended sessions
What are some implications for HIV prevention and education?
Requires a different form of health education than that which addresses itself to the
sovereign, intentional, calculative, rational-choice actor.
It becomes impossible to classify any individual element in a sexual assemblage as good or
bad since their properties are emergent
What matters is the manner in which various different elements come together in an
assemblage to generate specific effects (whether good or bad) – and it is this coming
together that requires specific attention and vigilance.
A training in potentialities (both promising and dangerous) – what I call “speculative
Promoting this mode of attention might become the goal of a new form of sexual health
and drug education.
This research has been supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery
Grant, “Changing Spaces of HIV Prevention” DP120101990.
Thanks to the community of informants who have shared their experiences and
impressions of changes to sexual community and gay sexual culture.
Article based on this paper forthcoming this year in Sexualities
Two related pieces forthcoming in Contemporary Drug Problems and Culture,
Health & Sexuality.

online hook-up devices and the emergence of PNP practices among