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The Ethics of Bareback

The Ethics of Bareback
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Condom-less porn (or bareback) is on the rise in gay outlets, and as popularity creates a demand for more and more, studios and performers are leaving the protection in the nightstand.

  Vote with your dollars

An argument can be made that producers have the right to make bareback porn, just as consenting adults have the right to perform in bareback porn. But just because an entity has a right to make something doesn’t make the production itself right. Wal-Mart has the right to move production off-shores to benefit from poor labor laws, it doesn’t make it ethical that they do so.

In order to better understand the mindset of the bareback porn consumer, I did a small, completely non-scientific survey of my own. I put out a call to my readers, asking if anyone would be willing to discuss their viewing habits. The four men who answered my questions ranged from 22 years of age to 43 and lived anywhere from Alabama to Berlin. Each had his own reasons for watching bareback porn, but in the end it came down to wanting to see sex uninterrupted by a condom.

“(Bareback porn) shows the purest form of sex,” says Conrad, a 22-year-old from Berlin.

“Being HIV+, it is affirming watching my people have bareback sex with each other. Porn stimulates fantasy, imagination, and forbidden desires. For me these don’t involve condoms,” says Martin, a 37-year-old from New York. “My point of view is informed by the initial bareback porn produced in the late ’90s by three studios (HDK, Dick Wadd, and Treasure Island), whose performers were all already positive... Clearly, as your questions imply, things are different now.”

All of the men I spoke to admitted to being ignorant of the testing policies involved in the production of films they watch. “I am not aware of them, but I hope they are very rigorous,” says Conrad.

“Honestly, I don’t really want to know and I don’t go check on these things before I watch porn that features [bareback] sex,” says Adrian, a 29-year-old from London.

Porn performers might be better off if every actor were treated as HIV+, but only if that means that condoms and testing become mandatory. It’s not likely to happen, though, unless we as consumers become more educated about the porn we support. Bareback porn is like the worst kind of capitalism as practiced in America. We tend to value low prices more than we do ethical production methods. With consumer products it gets you cheap goods, purchased without any consideration for how those goods were produced. With bareback porn it gets you your fantasy—condom-less sex—without any consideration for the risks to the performers onscreen.

There are a lot of things that humans do or pay to watch others do that aren’t completely safe, and there’s nothing wrong with that. People should be allowed to take risks, but there is a difference between a risk and an unnecessary risk. NASCAR is an incredibly risky form of entertainment, but we don’t ask the drivers to go without seat belts. We don’t ask football players to play without helmets, construction workers to work without hardhats, or nurses to work without gloves. Why should we ask porn stars to perform without a condom just so that we can see “natural sex?”

It’s impossible to make porn—or sex of any kind, for that matter—completely safe. It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where sex comes pre-packaged with a slew of potentially dangerous side effects. This is nothing new. The reality of STIs hang over any sexual act. Putting a camera in between the performers and the consumers may protect the consumer, but the consumer was never really at risk anyway. Masturbation is one hell of a safe sex act. Having sex with multiple partners in order to entertain consumers is not.

A common complaint that I’ve heard regarding safer sex and porn is the unfortunate sleight-of-hand that comes with having condoms magically appear. If done artfully, there’s no reason showing performers putting condoms on couldn’t be sexy. Even fumbling or lack of continuity is preferable to putting the performers at risk.

Let’s be clear about something: porn is a sleight-of-hand. It is not real sex. Where producers edit out the step of rolling on a condom, they also edit out (in most cases) the enemas, the lube, and the removal of socks. They cut out the lost erections and the Viagra. They cut out the lights necessary to ensure that you can see every wrinkle in a performer’s asshole. Porn is an illusion. The risk that performers are taking is not. One person’s fantasy should not trump another’s reality. Honestly, if the presence of a condom—in your porn or in your sex life—can derail your sexual enjoyment then you’re doing something wrong.

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07/12/2012

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