First let me explain my credentials to discuss the issue of condom versus bare back sex in porn.
I worked for 22 years at big pharma, some of it in the lab as a chemist, some of it as a safety coordinator, some as a clinical research auditor, and some as a clinical research protocol manager. During that time, I worked on all phases of clinical trials that led to the final approval of a novel antiretroviral therapy. I also worked on an anticancer agent to fight Kaposi’s Sarcoma. I had dedicated my life to fighting HIV and cancer. Unfortunately, this all ended after my brain hemorrhage disabled me.
During the time I was working on the antiretroviral therapy, I traveled across the country and saw very disturbing things. I saw men [some women and children also] who were being robbed of their lives by AIDS and its related illnesses. I saw people who could not walk across the room and were blue with lack of oxygen in their blood due to AIDS related anemia. I saw people covered in Kaposi’s lesions, which along with the accompanying edema crippled them. I saw patients who were on oxygen because of pneumocystis pneumonia. I could go on and on with the scary instances of concomitant illnesses common in AIDS patients. Back then, AIDS was a death sentence. I saw brave patients go with us to the FDA to plead for drug approvals, which we were fortunate enough to obtain.
Young people, through no fault of their own, have no idea how terrible AIDS can be as they didn’t live through that time. Some people think, “Oh, if I find that I am HIV+, I will just take some pills and be okay.” But think a minute about that. How many pills? [And they will be for the rest of your life.] What will they cost? How will you pay for them? How much will you worry at every cough that you have? Or worry with any symptom that you have? Of course, you may be immunosuppressed as well, and therefore have increased susceptibility to other diseases, including STD’s. I have suffered with a chronic illness and complying with the medication is not easy and can be depressing. From thereon forward, you will be HIV+, and need to take precautions such as telling your sexual partners that you are positive and having regular blood testing for CD4 counts and HIV levels. And of course as you get older, being HIV+ can complicate diseases of aging. Oh, and did I mention the possible side effects of HIV therapies that you will have to tolerate for the rest of your life?
Yes, I mean to scare you.
I was also a safety coordinator for about 600 employees. At big pharma we worked with all kinds of infectious diseases [including HIV] as well as toxic and radioactive chemicals. We followed OSHA and NRC procedures and were audited for same. I personally maintained records of exposure to radiation for every employee who worked with it, as was required by regulation. I also maintained accident records for the site. I did laboratory inspections and made reports. I headed both the safety and radiation safety committees and in this capacity, wrote safety procedures to improve our safety and standards.
So, my views of safe versus unsafe sex are formed by these experiences in the scientific, medical and professional safety capacities.
I have been reviewing gay pornography since 2008. Of course I adore gay porn!!!! I thought that my blog would be a good way to spread the message that safe sex is hot sex.
In the past year or two however, many of my industry friends have opted to the bare backing scene. I too have been approached by studios who have bareback sex for reviews and promotion and I have always said “No thank you”. A well known director who has won awards told me in confidence that he believed that studios in the future would all be bareback.
My opinion is that what one does at home is one’s own business. But once a sex worker steps into a studio, that employee’s safety should be protected by the employer. Period. It is totally a question of employee safety in my mind. The entire freedom of speech argument is a non-sequitor and illogical. The studio is a workplace; the employee is given instructions to follow by the employer. It is all a question of safety. I could not go into big pharma and say whatever I wanted for fear of being fired. Or, I could not choose not to follow safety requirements because of free speech. I would be at risk of being fired. Plus I could endanger fellow employees and the property. Using condoms in porn is the only known way to protect employees from HIV and STD’s.
When AB1576 was introduced in California, I was hopeful! Finally condoms would be required in porn in California.
Resistance was fierce. Most of it was for financial reasons though; never a good slant for safety. I could recount many times that safety was sacrificed for the almighty dollar.
It was true though that sex workers’ records would have to be maintained at the studio under AB1576. But this was never a problem at our company. Personal information was kept confidential at all costs. A responsible employee would not have trouble with doing this. Also, there would be no need to sero-sort performers who were using condoms. If bare backing companies are sero-sorting, don’t they already have personal medical information? Why isn’t it a problem if BB studios do it, but as soon as it is done for safe sex, privacy is an issue.
Unfortunately, the bill failed. That is why I am so bummed.
I am against bare backing because of my concern for employee safety and also because I believe that influenceable viewers may copy what they see their favorite porn star doing on-screen. The CDC reports that HIV infections are up in the US. Infection rates are also up in Europe and Asia. Here is another article on the matter. Though no scientific study has proven the association to be true I feel the association is a no-brainer. Besides, shouldn’t we err on the side of safety?
I feel that the real heroes of this story are those sex workers who refuse to take the bigger paycheck that bare backing offers, which can easily be more than $1,000 per scene plus airfare. For many of these people, that is a huge amount of money. Also worthy of note are the studios that refuse to go to raw sex, even given the greater financial rewards available.
Part of the problem is that the porn market is changing and salaries are far lower than they were in the past for sex workers. At one time, a sex worker would earn $2,000 per scene, now that has dropped to $400 to $600. Plus amenities such as airfare are not paid out anymore.
All of these problems could be solved if there was a sex worker union formed. Salaries are determined by unions as are worker safety standards. But forming a sex worker union is quite problematic when escorting is not legal in many states. Even if it was, still the organizing and signing up of sex workers would be a monumental task.
So, I am bummed. Majorly. I have lost interest in doing reviews and even in watching porn altogether.
All I can say is that if you are a sex worker who is bare backing, take Truvada. It should protect you from sero-converting if you can tolerate it. Unfortunately it will not protect you from other STD’s.