So much blood in the news today. As Audacia Ray has pointed out, this story in the Times about “Flashblood,” the practice of injecting the blood of another drug user to get high, is couched in pretty reactionary terms. They quote a researcher saying that the practice is “crazy,” and explaining that, as it is practiced in East Africa, flash blood is particularly dangerous because the practitioners are often sex workers who are “vectors for H.I.V.”
They don’t mention other facts from the study, like the fact that flash blood users are mostly married, and were forced into sex at an early age by a family member. This passage, from the Times piece, doesn’t make the practice sound “crazy,” but a terrifically sad sharing of resources:
Most of the addicts she has interviewed who practice flashblood, Dr. McCurdy said, are women. For them, sharing blood is more of an act of kindness than an attempt to get high: a woman who has made enough money to buy a sachet of heroin will share blood to help a friend avoid withdrawal. The friend is often a fellow sex worker who has become too old or sick to find customers.
Contrast this with the “vampire facelift” covered in various news outlets today, in which a patient’s blood is extracted, manipulated, and then injected into the face as filler. It’s called “Selphyl!” Get it? For some reason, no one describes doing this as “crazy,” the stories merely list the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure. It’s “part of a growing trend!” Rich white women have trends. African women have vectors.
I’ve noticed n all these stories of youth-chasing, it’s rarely mentioned that it’s only a certain type of youth that’s chased–no one is trying to go back to being a young woman raised in poverty, forced into marriage and sex work, and then doing something “crazy” as an act of sisterhood.
ETA: Whoops when I copied and pasted this, I left out the last graf.
Which is not to say that I think flash blood is a rad new way to show your friends you like them. It’s awful. But context matters. These women aren’t chasing a high, they are in incredibly dire circumstances, and I’m more interested in getting to the truth of their lives and how they can be empowered than I am in vilifying them and scaremongering.