Ottawa
3 min

Is amateur porn setting us back?

From 'professional' amateur sites to XTube

At this year’s Taste for Life event, a volunteer came around to our table. Barely out of his teens, he explained to us that he contracted HIV because his generation wasn’t being educated about it.

On the surface, it’s a bit of a shock. I’m of the generation that grew up just as the medications were starting to become effective, before HIV/AIDS became a chronic condition. But surely the youth of today must know about it? How can they not, when HIV awareness campaigns are always going on?

Except that they’re not. Sex education programs in Canada, while still kilometres ahead of the “abstinence only” fiasco in the States, still has a long way to go before we can get proper sexual education. Look at Quebec, where they have just pulled classroom time for sex-ed in lieu of a “holistic approach” where it can be discussed in any class. The translation, of course, is that sex, especially gay sex, won’t be discussed, because people — not least of all students — are too uncomfortable to bring it up.

So, if not in schools, where else are we to get our sexual education? Well, the time-honoured tradition for gay men is to pick up tips from porn. And for a while, there was a real sense of responsibility in porn studios when it came to showing people wearing condoms while fucking.

But there has been a noticeable backlash in that market. For one, there are more studios producing bareback porn than ever before, citing market demand. No matter how many warning labels they slap across the boxes, I think it sends a unfortunate message about unprotected sex.

But it’s not just these studios that are cropping up. It’s especially pervasive in the amateur porn industry that has blossomed on the internet, from “professional” amateur sites to the phenomenon of XTube.com, with everyone uploading their homemade goodies.

Don’t get me wrong — there is something democratising about amateur porn. What sites like XTube and LifeOut have on offer is different from the images we are fed from the studios — or even the “professional” amateur sites which still sell us our own insecurity via straight boy fantasy.

In amateur settings, the social responsibility for showing safer sex is noticeably lax. It’s also incredibly exploitative because while many of the studios that produce bareback porn test their performers for HIV beforehand (which is a pretty shaky guarantee to begin with), these amateur productions don’t. They usually offer performers an extra couple of hundred bucks and call it even — but that kind of behaviour is even more loathsome.

One “professional” amateur studio out of England, Blakemason.com, is aware of the prevalence of bareback sex in the amateur porn industry, and has taken a stand against it. In his diary, producer Adam Mason has railed about his competitors’ practices, from exploitation of models to their practices regarding bareback sex.

“Some people will promise you an astonishing £140 per bareback scene and endless reams of (rather pointless and inadequate) paperwork to convince you that it’s a good thing,” Mason writes. “And don’t forget that’s far less money than you could earn for having a wank for much more reputable producers.”

He goes on to lament the market trend of bareback videos outselling safer sex ones by a factor of 10 to one, but despite that, refuses to play that game.

“Anyone who promotes bareback sites without knowing exactly how those films are produced needs to ask themselves the question ‘have I made money from somebody’s misfortune?'” Mason writes. “Commercial suicide for me perhaps, but soon, there will be a website for all affected models to relay their own stories.”

With homemade sites like XTube, there is not even that kind of exploitative effect at work — just simple ignorance on display. Ignorance which gets perpetuated the further removed the next generation gets from adequate HIV prevention education. Young people see bareback porn on offer without understanding the particular situation of the fellows involved.

The issue is further complicated by couples who film themselves fucking without a condom and upload the video. What about the social responsibility of demonstrating safer-sex behaviour? What about those “amateur” studios that show condomless couples and tell us they’re boyfriends — is it just a line to assuage viewers while still exploiting their models? And in the end, does it not reinforce the message that barebacking is hotter, thus perpetuating the problem?

I believe that we will soon be facing another crisis in our community when it comes to HIV and AIDS. While it has never left us, there are too few of us who have witnessed the devastation of the ’80s and lived to tell the tale, and the generations that followed haven’t learned the lessons of those who came before us. It’s not just the feeling of invincibility of youth — it’s just plain ignorance.

Anyone who consumes bareback porn becomes implicated in perpetuating that ignorance. We need to put our feet down and say no to what we’ve instilled in the next generation.