Should Porn Industry Performers Start Sheathing Their Swords?

Fleshbot editor [link NSFW] Lux Alptraum has a new piece in BlackBook about the renewed debate surrounding condoms in the porn industry. She says performers don't use them because viewers simply don't want to see them.

Alptraum says:

The reason for condom scarcity in straight porn, ultimately, is you: the consumer. Porn companies make porn without condoms because that is the kind of porn that patrons want to see. And porn companies want to give you what you want-it's how they make a living.

As evidence, Alptraum cites the drop-off in sales (particularly abroad) by Wicked Pictures, the only condoms-required porn company in the States and the movement, even within the condom-heavy gay porn genre, to go condom-less.

Alptraum does, however, point to why the gay porn industry became a majority condom-use industry in the first place: the activism of the consumers.

Fair point, but condom-only porn has thrived in the gay community largely because condoms have long been a charged political issue, and because the community has banded together to promote and support condom-only porn. Activists have spoken out against bareback sex, while publications and reviewing bodies have refused to acknowledge its existence.

This is, of course, because of the LGBT community's concern with promoting bareback sex as a fantasy, given the risks inherent in it and what was a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the gay male community.

In America, however, the number of women living with HIV/AIDS is rising — and, according to the AIDS charity Avert, three-quarters of all new HIV cases come from heterosexual sex. They add:

In the USA, African American and Hispanic women account for 80 percent of AIDS cases, even though they represent less than one fourth of all women. Generally in industrialised countries, the epidemic has had a disproportionate affect on women in marginalised sections of the population, such as ethnic minorities, immigrants and refugees.

There is, in fact, an equally good argument for the porn industry — and its consumers — to be concerned about the message they're sending about the fantasy of safe bareback sex.

Alptraum implies that the debate about bareback sex in straight porn comes down to whether one feels that it's the industry's place to impose standards on consumers' fantasies or respond to consumer demand.

Some argue that more prevalent use of condoms in porn could help sex up the image of safer sex. Then again, there are those who feel that porn's job is to entertain and satisfy fantasies, rather than educate-and if I'm a responsible, tax-paying, condom-wearing citizen, don't I have a right to enjoy a little condom-free porn in my private time?

Which is a fair analysis, to a degree. But it ignores the part the pornography industry plays in creating fantasies, and reinforcing them.

While Alptraum argues that consumers seeking bareback porn will, if the legitimate U.S. industry migrates to more condom usage, en masse leave them behind in favor of international movies or online (including amateur) porn that does feature bareback performances, she's assuming that condom usage — or the lack thereof — really plays a significant role in what pornography people choose to consume. And it would seem that it is more likely that there is a percentage of people — perhaps the same percentage of people that would turn down sex if protection was required? — that would change their consumption habits if they have to see condoms, most people wouldn't spend that much time thinking about it.

But, in addition, there's another factor to consider. If the industry is, by default, condom free, how much protection does that leave for performers — and especially women, as the risk of transmission is higher — to demand to use condoms for their performances? The answer is likely: probably none. If, by Alptraum's reasoning, using condom while filing means movies make less money, then performers in those movies will make less money. Women that demand partners use condoms during "regular" movies will be marginalized, paid less, relegated to non-penetrative scenes or simply not hired. And yet everyone recognizes that, for the safety of the performers, it's far preferable to use condoms than not.

The porn industry has often been accused of exploiting its female performers to fulfill the sexual fantasies of its audience to the detriment of those performers — and many of its stars, from Jenna Jameson to Sasha Grey have gone to great lengths to try to portray a more positive and less-exploitative image of the industry. Yet, over and over again, the industry publicly argues against protecting its performers and makes not effort to allow or even encourage them to protect themselves to preserve the bareback fantasies of many consumers who would probably not engage that much unprotected sex with strangers, regardless of a piece of paper that deems them safe as of a certain date.

Unsafe At Any Deed: Porn, Condoms, & HIV [Blackbook]

Related: Women, HIV and AIDS [Avert]