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Sunday 10 April 2016

Neoliberalism and Gay Porn

Posted in: Politics and Religion
By Craig Young - 6th December 2015

What effects has the current free market government orthodoxy had on the production and content of gay men's porn?

During the eighties, there was a long battle fought to liberalise New Zealand censorship policy and refocus its standards of proof, practice and enforcement on the basis of evidence from mainstream medical, scientific and social scientific sources, in order to insure that New Zealand didn't have to face the same barriers to safe sex and HIV prevention media that prevailed elsewhere within the western world under "community standards' parameters. We won. The Christian Right's pro-censorship Society for Promotion of Community Standards (SPCS) is on its last legs by its own admission, so it is not a current threat and nor is the amusing Bob McCoskrie from Family First. It is good to see that the tenure of conservative Christian lawyer Dr Don Mathieson has not been renewed, given his role in the interminable wrangle over prohibition of Ted Dawes' Into The River earlier this year. Free speech won that round.

While we have more or less liberalised access to gay men's adult erotic entertainment, nevertheless, there's something wrong with the modern gay porn subgenre. One need only witness the amount of performer suicides and obituaries recorded within LGBT communities to recognise that. As well, there's the ever-present nuisance of bareback condomless DVDs and the circulation of P/crystal meth, but what about the social and legislative context in which all of the above are occurring?

Back in the eighties, it was still possible for Canadian gay activist Tom Waugh to argue that gay porn had an "organic" relationship to gay male communities, and this certainly seemed to be the case when the HIV/AIDS epidemic first arrived. Major gay erotic entertainment companies embraced their new responsibilities and regularly featured scenes of anal sex with a discernable silvery band around the right appendage. But then, as time went on, things started to transform. The industry became more hierarchical and profit-oriented and as the LGBT rights political agenda advanced, so did the available audience. For that matter, there was also the rise of two developments that were to disrupt that aforementioned symbiotic relationship.

One was the proliferation of P/crystal methamphetamine across the United States and much of the rest of the western world. As gay psychopharmacologists and HIV prevention experts have noted, P/crystal meth causes cognitive short-circuits that lead to 'peak' experiences of long-term continuous sexual elevation from increased production of the neurohormone dopamine, enough to deplete it, as well as its accompanying neurohormone, serotonin. The absence of dopamine and serotonin produces schizophrenia and bipolar depression within sufferers. Moreover, P/crystal meth users also develop tolerance to their drug of choice. With the demise of rural infrastructure due to social and medical service cutbacks, as well as consequential unemployment, US criminal networks have exploited the situation, as depicted in the excellent AMC television series Breaking Bad, focusing on the life of a dying New Mexico former chemistry teacher, Walter White, and the perversion of his skills for personal profit, leading to numerous deaths but insuring the personal future of his wife and son. P/crystal meth spread across the western world, especially in societies with considerable regional disparities of wealth. Unfortunately, gay male communities encountered it and had 'chemsex', leading to intense sexual experiences but as bottoms, with cognitive wipeouts and distorted perceptions of sexual and personal risk. As a result, HIV/AIDS began a resurgence within gay male communities within the United States, United Kingdom and the rest of the western world.

The other part of this grisly equation is neoliberalism, the current free-market economic orthodoxy which encourages limited central government spending on medical and social services, housing casualisation, high unemployment, anti-union legislation, lengthened work hours and extreme disparities of income. It's all very well if one is an LGBT professional and has marketable and rare skill sets that enable one to do well within this economy, but the flipside is low-income gay and bisexual men who have educational problems, lengthy periods of unemployment or temporary casual work, unstable living arrangements and little access to underfunded alcohol and drug detoxification programmes. They consequently feel disconnected from high income LGBT individuals and if they get hooked on p/crystal meth and/or polydrug intake, their situation may become desperate. In order to avert or escape homelessness, or feed their habit/s, such young men may be vulnerable to fringe production companies that engage in bareback DVD production. There's a dark symbiosis going on here- gay professionals feel distanced from underclass gay and bisexual men, who do not feel any reciprocal responsibility or as if they are members of a greater LGBT community. It's worsened by the fact that barebacking DVDs are produced in the United States, which has never had a large-scale social democratic party akin to Labour in Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom, as well as the Czech Republic, which similarly embraced the neoliberal cause wholeheartedly after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1989. And, moreover, sex work is still illegal in both societies, so the underclass young men who have sex with men in these DVDs are unable to approach the authorities about what they've been coerced into through circumstance. In New Zealand, the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 makes it illegal to exploit sex workers in that context.

Unfortunately, too, bareback DVDs have their own background matrix of contributing factors. One is the presence of discrimination within the gay porn industry against HIV+ performers. Another is the absence of community solidarity caused by the rise of acquisitiveness as a key personal goal for many lesbians and gay men, particularly within the United States, leading bareback DVD producers to care for nothing but their profit margins and for bareback DVD performers to care for little but interim relief for their own desperate economic plight and securing enough meth/polydrugs to get high and have 'crystal sex.' Rendering this even more problematic is the simplistic dichotomous thinking at stake in the PrEP debate, promoting it at the cost of condoms when there is nothing to stop both being utilised for safe sex. Finally, there's bareback marketing. Barebacking is marketed as "raw", "natural" and perversely "more intimate" sex than sex with a condom. What's natural about being high on p/crystal meth while you have sex? "Crystal sex" can be rough and raw, all right...and painful and abrasive. And how is getting out of it on meth supposed to accentuate intimacy?

Enough. It's time gay men got back to the basics of HIV prevention and refocused attention on re-eroticising safe sex, while rejecting the destructive and dysfunctional messages of barebacking and chemsex and/or P/crystal meth. It's high time that HIV prevention research focused more strongly on P/crystal meth ab/use and polydrug use so our communities can address the issue. We also need to urgently do something about the insidious, atomising and destructive effects of neoliberalism that is eroding our former sense of comprehensive community and breeding kneejerk acceptance of economic inequality as something "natural" and "desirable." It isn't- especially not in the context of gay erotic adult entertainment.

Craig Young - 6th December 2015

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