Condoms in the Porn Industry: Gays Do It Better

In the mid to late-1980’s, gay porn studios adopted mandatory condom rules. In a time when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was destroying the gay male community as a whole, these regulations were self-imposed to help keep the performers from contracting the disease at work. As we know, porn performers come in contact with many sexual partners in their line of work. One infected performer could spread the virus to his co-workers, then their co-workers, and down the line, until you end up with 16 or more people infected within a month’s time, happening too fast to avoid with standard testing alone, especially with the testing technology & resources available in that time.

This was the 80’s. Most people assumed that HIV was a “gay disease,” only effecting promiscuous gay males. Our president at the time, Ronald Reagan, didn’t even publicly recognize the disease until the closeted Hollywood star Rock Hudson contracted it in 1985.

The gay community was wholey responsible for HIV outreach, awareness, and activism until the early 90’s, when foundations and government-sponsored research finally took off. Part of this responsibility was making sure that condoms were used in porn, and they made that choice on their own.

Fast forward to 2009. The world is well aware that HIV can be contracted no matter what your sexual orientation, race, age, or lifestyle is. Medication for the disease is as well known and as easy to acquire as any other prescription drug. The gay stigma, mostly, has been removed from the virus.

Gay porn is still regulated regarding condoms, and although some “bareback” lines continue to show unprotected sex, they are largely scorned by the major companies in the industry. Scorned!

This is why I get so upset about the refusal of straight porn companies to adopt these laws.

To me, it seems like a homophobic double standard, that straight sex in porn is somehow safer from HIV, that’s it’s above all others somehow. More importantly, it’s astounding to me that they go so far as to give condom-only porn stars less work, forcing many of them to have unprotected sex at work in order to make their rent, pay their bills, make a living. And, having condom-only porn stars protesting doesn’t seem to help at all, because there is always someone else willing to bend their boundaries to get a well-paying or highly-visible scene.

So, in gay porn, bare-backing is scorned. But in straight porn, it’s the other way around, condom-only performers are the ones scorned.

Because the nature of the beast will always find plenty of performers willing to take a risk with an unprotected scene, the straight porn industry will only adopt condom regulations when it’s ordered to. It will never choose to regulate safer sex on it’s own. They don’t have to, they will always be able to find someone who needs the work.

This needs to be done, unfortunately, on a federal political level. We must talk to our senators, congressmen, and sex worker lobbyists, and get them to demand condom regulations in adult film productions.

The heterosexual adult industry needs to adopt the same regulations that the gay male industry has imposed on themselves out of a call for duty, because HIV is no longer a gay disease, it’s a universal epidemic, and it needs to be treated as such.

Condoms in porn are like hardhats in construction – they protect the workers from industry-related injuries and deaths. Not only that, but they encourage everyone, especially 18 year old males, to normalize safer sex and condom use into their own sex lives, and promote healthier boning.

Check out Jiz Lee’s post on condoms in the porn industry, published simultaneously to mine!

14 thoughts on “Condoms in the Porn Industry: Gays Do It Better

  1. thanks for initiaiting these conversations courney and jiz.

    it’s really difficult to make broad blanket statements about any of this. i think that it’s the consideration of safer sex is what’s integral. and that consideration is going to be different depending on the situation and depending on the individual. i kinda think that it’s really about making sure models feel empowered to have their own boundaries be defined and respected is what’s integral. in that case, maybe it’s the expectation – either for against protection in any porn queer or straight – that’s really the problem. it kinda shuts down the agency and freedom of the individual in that case. and that is not hot, imho.

    of course that set-up has alot of assumptions in place. knowledge, time, communication all have to be there and sometimes they’re not. perhaps this perspective also comes from my own philosophy rooted in a queer culture that, for both women and men, is typically a lot more sex-positive with an emphasis on these issues of communication and such that are perhaps less available as a resource and a language for straight folks (and it kinda may get carried over into the philosophies of mainstream porn).

    one caution that i have, is that in advocating for safer sex there needs to be a consideration of the implication this has on cultural perception about porn and sex work more broadly. i fear anything that may reenforce the misplaced stigma and assumption around porn (and other forms of sex work) that perceives those who are working are more likely to have HIV (and other STIs). factually, this is untrue and its a myth that I have to confront almost every day in my work as a sexual health counsellor. that’s not to say that there’s no risk (cause we can (as has recently been the case) point to the exceptional instance where someone is working and is positive and/or sero-converts) but to turn bodies intrinsically and instinctually into sites of disease (which could be a logical extension of blanket 100% safe sex philosophies) could have some unanticipated impacts. all that said, courtney’s article does raise some really great questions about the discrepancy and false assumptions about risk that frames the current practices in place.

    and, as a sexual health counsellor, one technical thing that i never hear talked about is window period issues, particularly with HIV testing. we know now that folks are most likely to spread HIV right after they sero-convert (so before it can be tested). basically that means that a negative HIV test is kinda pointless if someone has significant risk in the 10-12 weeks before the test. personally, i would not take the risk (and it is a risk) if this were the case. again, bringing it back to agency and knowledge, i wonder if other women and men have have this option and information to the full extent that they should.

  2. Although this is very very far from true :

    “The world is well aware that HIV can be contracted no matter what your sexual orientation, race, age, or lifestyle is. Medication for the disease is as well known and as easy to acquire as any other prescription drug. The gay stigma, mostly, has been removed from the virus.”

    In most parts of the world, and especially in the parts of the world that are both the poorest ones and the ones where there are the highest HIV seroprevalences, access to medication is far from achieved.
    “the world” you’re talking about here is the rich Western world.

    But even In France, gay males, transsexual women, sexworkers and IV drug users are still officially considered to be “at-risk populations”, although we’ve been fighting for years to make the institutions understand that prevention and education shouldn’t be about at-risk populations but about high-risk (that is, unsafe) sexual practises.
    In France, this “at-risk populations” policy serves to justify the fact that, for example, gay males don’t have the right to be blood donors, (neither do people with African origins), although all the blood that is given is tested. There is a huge lack of blood donors, and they refuse life-saving blood from some categories of population, just because it would be more expensive and less profitable… and because they’re super homophobic. A doctor from the French blood organization told me “we’re not going to take the blood from people who spend their time playing with their poop”.

    Remember – you live in San Francisco.

  3. sadly gay porn with condoms just isn’t nearly as hot, instead of seeing hot penises you see these white probe things that wrinkle and stuff…
    i want to see penises.

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