How can we talk about preventing something that's sexually transmitted when we don't talk about sex?
For much of the 1990s, sexual health promotion talked explicitly about sex. It was common for safer sex information to show and talk about sex in all its sweaty, spurty glory. In fact, sexual health information pushed the boundaries of what was deemed to be acceptable to talk about and show.
In the 2000s, sexual health became more prudish. Many of the publications that had led the way in sexual health in the previous decades started to reject sexual health adverts, in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, and to get their publications off the top shelves of book stands. We call this the sanitisation of sexual health.
When PrEPster started, we wanted to appeal to the broadest audience possible. We didn't want to reinforce stereotypes of who might want to use PrEP, nor stereotypes of the gay-body-beautiful and so we generally kept our content as non-18+ as possible.
In spring 2019, as we embarked on a new project for queer men of colour, we decide it was time for a change. Few sexual health interventions (at least in the UK) show intimacy and passion between men. Few show images or use language that might appeal to, or represent, those who enjoy and engage in the sweaty, spurty glory of sex. Many use euphemisms (bananas and condoms, anyone?).
The PrEPverts project unapologetically pushes kink, hot sweaty passion to the forefront, and puts sex in the centre of sexual health.
PrEPverts short video
Shot behind the scenes of the PrEPverts photoshoot, Photographer Ajamu takes about the reasoning behind the project and not only the need to represent kink, but kink and intimacy between Black queer men.
In collaboration with the crew at NYC Downlow at Glastonbury Festival's Block 9, the PrEPverts project got its first public outing in June 2019. Flyposted across the site, around the dark corridors of Downlow's backroom, and in 5,000 limited edition fuck packed, the project continued our rich history of working with the team in this corner of Worthy Farm.
Fringe! Festival's Love Hub
Key photographs from the PrEPverts project were exhibited at Love Hub –part of Fringe! Queer film & Arts Fest– in November 2019, along with a connected interactive panel discussion: Why is our sexual health so sanitised?