Banning Bareback?

March 21, 2016 in General

In Gay Times (April 2016), Ben Cohen confesses that he’s unsure about the forthcoming California Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative, submitted by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The initiative would ban bareback DVD production throughout California. It would insure that performers wore condoms and producers paid for vaccinations and sexual health tests, as well as providing hefty penalties for those who produce this material. It is based on an earlier successful referendum model in Los Angeles County.

In February 2016, one gay bareback performer transmitted HIV to another performer on the set of a bareback porn production facility and two men offset. As a result, the Centres for Disease Control found that the current HIV ‘sorting’ regime within bareback productions is inadequate and argued that condoms and PrEP should be provided to performers.

Cohen continues that bareback gay porn arose last decade as a novelty or fetish, but has since engulfed half of the gay porn industry. HIV exposure and detection rates have risen, although so has HIV testing, combination therapies are more effective and PEP and PrEP are available in some jurisdictions. HIV has become ‘more manageable.’ Yeah, but most HIV+ gay men I’ve talked to about this subject almost universally say that they wouldn’t wish their burden on anyone.

Unlike Cohen, I’m not undecided on this issue. I back this initiative and its outcome. Bareback porn eroticises unprotected sex and potential HIV transmission and while one can do nothing about consumption, applying the axe at the site of production would protect performers and their offscreen partners and sexual companions from HIV exposure. And is it really the case that we can do ‘nothing’ about consumption? Perhaps not on domestic PCs, but the material in question can be banned in sex on site venues. Yes, greater inclusive school sex education would definitely help, as would more public awareness campaigns. So would the decriminalisation of sex work in this context. However, no-one is talking total prohibition of gay porn in this context. Safe gay porn will still be available, and it is the height of libertarian mischief making to confuse prudent regulation (which this is) with outright prohibition (which this isn’t).

Source: Ben Cohen: “Who Watches the Watchers?” Gay Times (April 2016): 34.

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