Vital Signs: Queering Blood in Sexual Health Promotion


Blood in the context of sexual health promotion is often rendered as an unwanted, unintentional or even dangerous side effect; a contaminant and accidental by-product of sexual activity. Within some queer and BDSM communities, blood play ‰- the intentional and consensual drawing of blood through, for example, piercing or cutting ‰- is a part of sex or play and often a queer act of bodily self-inscription. These practices, however, are highly stigmatised; framed uncritically as a form of ‰self-harm by proxy,‰ or derided as destructively ‰risky‰ in terms of transmitting Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs). I Love Claude is a sexual health resource and art project for sexually adventurous women, primarily women who play with women in BDSM contexts. Local and international research shows that many people in the queer and/or kink communities engage in piercing and cutting, making it necessary for Claude to provide sex- and kink-positive sexual health promotion in regards to blood play and other activities that have a higher risk of transmitting Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs). This presentation analyses the ways in which blood and blood play are understood in dominant discourses ‰- in medical discourse, public health and health promotion ‰- and discusses the ways in which blood play is experienced and understood by practitioners within the queer and kink scenes. The presentation includes a screening of the short film, Vital Signs, a collaboration between Claude and Sensate Films, to show how creative approaches to sexual health promotion can work to destigmatise practices and engage hard-to-reach communities in sexual health education and risk reduction strategies.


Viv McGregor |

Dr Viv McGregor is a Community Engagement Coordinator at ACON. She runs the sexually adventurous women’s sexual health project, I Love Claude, and is the ACON coordinator of the cervical screening and STI testing service, Check OUT, run in partnership with Family Planning NSW. She has a PhD in Gender and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney and has taught gender studies, queer theory, sexuality studies and feminist theory at USYD & UNSW