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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Have a Confession to Make

I bareback. A  lot. Every time I fantasise I do it bareback. I never imagine condoms being used in my jerk-off fantasies, and  have never met any guy who does.Condoms just don't feature in my ideal imaginary sexual scenarios. In my head I break all the safe-sex rules and don't worry about it and no campaign or sanctimonious finger-wagging is ever going to change that. And I don't know any guys who act differently.

How is this different from watching bareback porn? Well, it's fantasy, it's not real - no-one else can get infected through my fantasies, but part of the logic that condemns bareback porn is the claim that watching it undermines the safe-sex message and teaches guys it's ok not to use rubbers, but in fantasies that's just what I do, I watch and take part in wild  hot fucking without condoms, yet I am still able to look after my sexual partners safely in real life.

And for some social and historical context for those who need it, let's remember that the new breed of bareback porn was invented by poz men for poz men, within our particular sub-culture in the wider gay world.

Let's be honest - Bareback porn is popular and watched because it's hot, because it comes closer to our fantasies. And this is a fact too - a lot of guys, HIV+ or HIV-,  are able to manage their porn the same way I manage my fantasies - they can get turned on by one thing and know when to use condoms in other situations. Gay men do not need the patronising message that they cannot make safe and sane sexual decisions for themselves, but must be lectured to and treated like children; we stop listening, and that is just what should not happen.

I kicked off more than I intended with my comment that supporting bareback porn at Mr Leather "didn't sit well with me." Condemning and stigmatising men who like bareback porn was not my goal. I think I understand Mark's argument - I'm not sure I agree with it, especially in that setting where it has been so explicitly and officially made unwelcome.

Comparing them to people who drive their car through a shopping mall is singularly unhelpful, inaccurate and ignorant. Adding more stigma to an already stigmatised group is not going to make them respect you or listen to you.

But there are some good reasons to hold bareback porn up to scrutiny, instead of needlessly inflaming a moral panic.

Porn is an industry, and the actors in it are often exploited and put at huge risk of all sorts of sexual diseases, not just HIV. They are often pressured into having unsafe sex, and told they won't work if they refuse. Porn from some parts of the world is basically a form of slavery. There are in fact much clearer moral grounds to condemn the porn industry in its entireity rather than  bareback porn between consenting HIV positive actors.

The gay porn industry is different from the straight one in some respects, but even there it's a dangerous place to work, as Mason Wyler found out. And even though he'd been making bareback porn, when it turned out he was positive he lost his work. Until he started working with actors who were alos poz. The argument about poz-poz unprotected sex is for another day.

This video gives a good example of the risks porn actors run, and why it is now a dangerous job to be in, especially if you're "gay for pay".

There is some strength to the argument that that watching bareback porn can lead to men imitating it and putting themselves at greater risk of infection. Monkey see, monkey do. But this has its limits - I didn't start making crystal meth after watching Breaking Bad. None of my mates have run off to join a bikie gang after watching Sons of Anarchy, although a few have shown serious lapses in dress sense since Desperate Housewives came to air. What we watch influences us, but only so far, and audiences today are accustomed to sifting reality from screen life. 

New Zealand has been able to maintain a relatively strong condom culture, when guys hook up here we tend to go for the rubber, and we do not want that culture eroded and more men infected - we're not recruiting. Yet if we are honest we know it's not uncommon for sexually active gay men to make the choice at times not to use them. Encouragement and support rather than  moralising and finger-pointing is a much better approach to take.

The thing is, I'm not a great fan of porn videos - I'm nerdy, I prefer to read my porn and make up the pictures in my head - I only keep a few films at homes to be hospitable to guests.

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