Doing drugs, doing gender?
My PhD project explores the relationships between chemical use and the construction and embodiment of masculinities in the provincial capital city of Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia. More specifically, I focus on “chemical sexualities” – the use of modern and traditional cosmetics, drugs, and tonics to enhance sexual performance, stimulate sexual desire, and shape the desired masculine body – and how practices are informed by discourses about what it is to be a man, men’s bodies, health, and risk. My lens is that of “doing gender through doing drugs”, that practices of chemical use are ways to perform masculinity.
Although numerous scholars have addressed the relationships between drug use and gender, there remains a lacuna in our understanding of how drugs intersect with the body in performing gender. Whereas previous studies of gender have tended to move away from the physical body, my research foregrounds the corporeality of the body as well as bodily sensations and pleasure, alongside the social, cultural, and historical contexts of practices to transform the body. My research in Jayapura also shows how certain practices can heighten sexual risks in the midst of high HIV prevalence.