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Exploring the (Sub)Cultural Dynamics of Gay, Bisexual and Queer Male Drug Use in Cyberspace

Frederick, Brian Jay (2016) Exploring the (Sub)Cultural Dynamics of Gay, Bisexual and Queer Male Drug Use in Cyberspace. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Hamburg. (KAR id:57031)

Language: English
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In 2015, Peccadillo Pictures released the movie 'Chemsex', an 80-minute documentary about the experiences of gay, bisexual and queer male (GBQM) drug users in London-men whose lives have been impacted by chemsex, that is, the mixing of illicit drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and mephedrone with 'risky' sex. The film has been described by the media as painting a bleak portrait of a 'subculture on the edge'-one that is fueled by both the heteronormative marginalization of GBQM and the popularity of online and mobile-based GBQM social networks. The release of 'Chemsex' was prompted by research that reveals increases in GBQM drug use-not only in London, but among GBQM in many gay ghettos throughout the world. Most of these studies emerge from disciplines outside criminology-for example, behavioral health, epidemiology and public health. These studies also describe GBQM drug users as existing within a subculture. Moreover, these studies also link GBQM drug use to external marginalization and or stigma related to sexual identity or HIV-seropositivity. Yet, rarely are the cultural dynamics of GBQM drug use fully explored. Neither do these studies address the fact that drug use-in most jurisdictions-is a crime.

Cultural criminologists argue that crime, deviance and transgression are part of an ongoing process that is interwoven with the dynamics of culture and all of its attendant meanings. This thesis explores the cultural dynamics that may shape the meanings that underlie GBQM drug use-in particular, drug use that is facilitated and or expressed through cyberspace.

This thesis conceptualizes the cultural dynamics of GBQM drug using three tenets that are central to cultural criminological inquiries: that crime and deviance and transgression are often related to marginalization and oppression; that these phenomena are often subcultural in nature; and, that subcultures cannot be studied apart from their mediated representations. Complementing this framework is a research design that employs virtual ethnography, instant ethnography, ethnographic content analysis and visual content analysis. Critical discourse analysis is also employed in an effort to analyze the underlying power differentials that are present in the mediated representations of GBQM drug use. Using these methods, I was able to participate in the activities and understandings of GBQM drug users who were situated in cyberspace. Using the theoretical framework that was constructed, I was then able to analyze and draw conclusions as to the cultural dynamics that underlie their activities, behaviors, language, norms, rituals and values.

One of the key findings of this thesis was in the discovery of shared group drug injecting experiences that are constructed as temporary networks using Skype and other webcam conference call applications. Another finding concerns the sharing by GBQM of drug-themed photo content in mainstream and GBQM social networks. A third finding involves their sharing of drug-themed videos to Internet 'tube sites'.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Duggan, Marian
Thesis advisor: Krasmann, Susanne
Uncontrolled keywords: cultural criminology, drug use, cyberspace, LGBTQ studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women > HQ21 Sexual behavior and attitudes
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2016 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 09:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Frederick, Brian Jay.

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