The terms bareback and bareback identity are increasingly being used in academic discourse on HIV/AIDS without clear operationalization. Using in-depth, face-to-face interviews with an ethnically diverse sample of 120 HIV-infected and -uninfected men, mainly gay-identifying and recruited online in New York City, this study explored respondents' definitions of bareback sex, the role that intentionality and risk played in those definitions, and whether respondents identified as 'barebackers'. Results showed overall agreement with a basic definition of bareback sex as condomless anal intercourse, but considerable variation on other elements. Any identification as barebacker appeared too loose to be of use from a public health prevention perspective. To help focus HIV-prevention efforts, we propose a re-conceptualization that contextualises risky condomless anal intercourse and distinguishes between behaviours that are intentional and may result in HIV-primary transmission from those that are not.