AN OPEN LETTER REGARDING TESTING AND CONDOM USAGE
Sep, 2009 Opinion/Editorial by Kyle Majors (NL-can I get a image of you Kyle?)
As you may know, California is the porn production capital of the world. Recently, Cal OSHA and the California Legislature have begun to take a serious look at porn producers’ practices regarding STD testing and mandatory condom usage.
Yesterday a major gay porn blog posted an article claiming that the gay adult industry is rallying to “wage war” to stop the California government from requiring STD testing on porn sets. The article suggested that the industry is united on this, and that such a requirement would cripple bareback production and drive everyone’s production costs through the roof. I replied to the article suggesting that it was one-sided, pointing out that CockyBoys.com requires AIM testing AND condom usage, and suggesting that anything less is unacceptable.
The blog pulled the original article, stating that a revised article is forthcoming. The blog also removed my commentary. The gay adult industry is absolutely not united in opposition to AIM testing and condom usage. Having been silent in the public debate, and having had my post removed yesterday, I decided to go on the record in my own blog and other blogs who find the topic of interest.
CockyBoys has been AIM testing almost since we started AND requiring condom usage. We pay for the AIM tests, not the models. And, we are not alone. Many web-based studios have required testing and condom usage for a long time. Bait Bus, Randyblue, NextDoorMale and Suite 703 require AIM testing. Sean Cody and Collegedudes247 require HIV testing.
Testing is NOT prohibitively expensive, except maybe for studios that pay models crap to begin with. It’s especially a meaningless cost if you are shooting the model in more than one scene and amortize the cost across those scenes. The AIM folks will work with you to find local testing centers near the models so out-of-state models don’t have to come to California to be tested. The problem is that there is a general sense that profits come before models. My God we have an obligation to models – to protect them – not expose them to unnecessary risks. If a studio really can’t afford testing, they probably shouldn’t be in the business.
Further, many “condom only” studios like to pretend that they have no responsibility because condoms are used. A lot of condom studios give models a false sense of security spreading myths about the level of safety on their sets. Condoms break and have a statistical percentage of failure. One studio boasts that it not only uses condoms, but also inspects models before a shoot for any visible signs of STDs. What a crock of bull – as if the naked eye can detect STDs.
There is also the issue of “facials” where one model cums in another’s mouth. Although less risky than bareback sex, oral cum shots pose certain risks. A number of studios who use condoms, but don’t test, then turn around and shoot oral cum shots. They usually give the model some line about how saliva is acidic and oral sex is safe. That’s simply not true. If the ejaculating model is infected with an STD, the receiving model’s mouth is potentially vulnerable. This is especially true if the ejaculating model has a cut on his penis, has blood in his semen, or has a high viral count, or the receiving model has a cut in his mouth, a bleeding or receding gum line, recently brushed his teeth, or is “deepthroating.” Even with testing oral cum shots raise certain moral questions for me, but without testing they are clearly irresponsible and unsafe.
I am sick and tired of the DVD and bareback guys whining over this issue. This is a situation where the industry should have banded together and self-regulated. There might have been some means of establishing “truly informed consent” that could co-exist with testing. That didn’t happen. Now the only state in the Union where producing porn is clearly legal is considering government regulation – it’s policing an area where the industry failed to police itself. CockyBoys approached a couple of the pro-condom DVD studios a year or so ago about creating an industry trade association and we were privately told to “not rock the boat” over bareback content. Now the government is stepping in, and frankly, it’s about time.
Condoms are a “must.” Bareback has no place at all in legalized porn production in my opinion. In an insightful piece written for TheSword.com entitled, “Pornstars to Producers: Condoms Not Enough,” the author highlights models’ genuine concerns over the risks and the general lack of communication by studios regarding potential STD exposures. The article states that 30% of gay adult models are HIV positive. I suspect that number may be higher viewed on a studio-by-studio basis. In that light, bareback studios are downright irresponsible. There is NO REASON to permit bareback production. It presents an unacceptable degree of risk rising to a level of reckless endangerment in my view.
I recently read a quote from a bareback producer stating two models could cost three hundred dollars or more to get tested. The producer said most models don’t have the money so they’re not going to pay for it. Are you kidding me? The producer should pay for it. $150 per model is what we are talking about? So let’s say “fuck it,” not pay the $150, have them shoot bareback and roll the dice? Interestingly enough if you google the same producer you find claims from a model that the producer pressured the model to do bareback work (even though the producer also shoots condom scenes).
With power comes responsibility. Models do porn principally because they need the money. I can pull out my check book, and if the number is big enough I can make just about anyone do just about anything. Could I give our models a bunch of bullshit about how testing minimizes the risks, write them a check, and get them to do bareback? Yes, I probably could for many. But they wouldn’t be doing it because they wanted to, or because they really feel comfortable, they would be doing it because they need the money.
Here’s where the “free will” people chime in. It’s suddenly all about models’ rights and the models’ ability to make their own decisions. This is probably the only time you will hear studios advocate models’ rights, so listen up. The idea is that models are at least 18 years of age, and are informed adults. They have the right to make their own decisions regarding their health. They have the right to control their own bodies. This is America damn it – who is the government to regulate what we can do with our bodies? Well this argument is so silly it only merits addressing because so many people toss it about. The fact is that the government regulates what we can do with our bodies all the time, principally in an effort to stop us from doing something stupid in the name of money. Selling blood and semen is legal in most states. Selling kidneys isn’t. Prostitution is legal in Nevada on a county by county basis. Most states think prostitution is a bad idea. There are tons of examples where the government protects us from doing something potentially dangerous for money. If you can’t sell a kidney or a lung for money, it seems to me you shouldn’t be able to engage in unsafe sex for money either. The model is not only endangering his health, but the model in question almost certainly is without health insurance. When he gets sick he’ll probably be a burden on the state as well.
There are at least two primary reasons to oppose bareback porn: the health risks, and the message it sends. I’ve already discussed the obvious health risks to models. The “message” point is more subtle. Bareback porn arguably sends a message that bareback sex is “ok” or “safe.” The idea is that bareback porn encourages others to engage in unsafe sex. This argument not only indicts bareback producers, but also distributors of bareback content and “pre-condom” content. That’s right; if you find the “social message” argument compelling, you have to condemn the “pre-condom” companies too. It’s not about when the content was produced, it’s about the social message it sends. Personally I’m less moved by this argument, as model safety is my primary motivating factor. However, the argument is not without merit.
Finally there’s the argument that if California adopts regulations on porn producers, production companies will move to another state and California will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Producers informed on the law governing adult entertainment production know that California has more favorable laws than any other state. However, if California’s actions pose a real risk of state flight by producers, then it’s an argument for regulation at the federal level. As opposed to allowing producers to “state shop” for states that don’t regulate, perhaps the federal government should adopt national regulations. Instead of devoting so much energy to 2257, maybe the feds should take a close look at bareback porn and the benefits of condoms and testing.
The bottom line is this. Neither condoms nor testing is enough. Condoms break, and HIV exposure takes 9 to 11 days to show up even in AIM HIV tests. Testing combined with latex is the only morally acceptable solution. We are asking guys to have sex on camera for money. The least we can do is foot the bill (less than the cost of a decent dinner) to test. As for condom usage, well if you don’t see the health benefits of that by this point….nothing I say in closing will convince you. This is one area where the models have to come before profits. If it takes the government stepping in to force the matter, then so be it.
Thanks for listening. Be well.