3 min

Pornography as a moral tool

Sure, keep the actors safe, but don't fool yourselves

Credit: Tatsu

A porn actor’s legs are spread wide in the air and his butt is clearly visible. Suddenly a fountain of thick, viscous cum bursts out of his ass. It is the climax of one of the scenes in Bareback Buddies, a porn video produced by Hot Desert Knights in California.

Did you find the above description extremely hot? Or were you appalled and disgusted by it? A growing number of porn consumers clearly side with the first reaction, and that is the centre of a growing controversy.

Unsafe sex in porn has reached a new high., based in Toronto, sells kinky videos on the Internet and one of the most prominent fetishes is barebacking – sex without a condom. Its database of videos lists 231 bareback with titles such as Plantin’ Seed, 100% Bareback Beef and Barebackin’ Brothers.

Last spring a major producer of gay hardcore porn, Titan Media, issued a policy statement that declared it would no longer employ any actors who had previously appeared in bareback porn. The statement, signed by Titan Media’s principals, states in part, “We recognize that some younger gay men, and others discovering their true sexuality later in life, may adopt the habits and practices they see in adult films and then take those practices and behaviours out into the community at large.”

The statement also condemns without mentioning the names of firms such as Hot Desert Knights, as well as Dickwadd and Treasure Island Media that profit “at the risk of the health and safety of performers.”

The California Office For Occupational Health And Safety Administration (OSHA) seems to agree with Titan Media. Last month, declaring it to be an issue of workplace safety, OSHA slapped two straight porn producers with a fine of $30,560US for making porn in which three actors were exposed to HIV.

Unlike mainstream gay porn, the hetero porn world has resisted the use of condoms because they believe that consumers don’t enjoy watching condom sex as much. So far no such penalties have been levied against gay producers.

I think it’s admirable to protect workplace safety, even when the workplace is a mattress. It may not be possible for porn stars to find work in straight porn and thus they’d be deprived of a livelihood. But will it stop condomless porn from being made? Perhaps it will just drive it back underground, from whence all porn came.

For those activists who effortlessly go from zero to berserk at the mention of “bareback,” I wish to state that I think barebacking is crazy, dangerous and extremely risky. But let’s not pretend that it is not, for many men, extremely erotic. Take a look at the number of members at on-line sex- connection sites such as, or even the Barracks bathhouse’s bulletin board who are looking for bareback sex.

Where I diverge from Titan Media is in its belief that it can re-engineer desire along the lines of safe sex. The fact that barebacking has been forbidden for so long probably goes a long way to explain its attraction. If you were to tell most people that they can’t have something, many of us would immediately want it. Pornography, in the old days of the underground, had an aura of excitement in the darkness, of almost criminal carnal excitement. By the 1980s and ’90s, porn had become pervasive and about as exciting as infomercials. The only difference today between the hairless animatronic frat boys of Falcon Studios porn and Will And Grace are the presence of a few hard-ons.

Titan Media’s argument that showing bareback porn will lead to its general practice is the same as the one used by conservative groups against all manner of entertainment during the past century. I happen to be fond of film noir films from the late ’40s, a central feature of which were stories about murder. I have never been inclined to murder anyone after watching Dark Passage or The Killers. In fact, millions have viewed those films and haven’t been inclined toward murder either.

Titan Media’s good intentions become awfully disingenuous when it talks about its willingess to continue selling what are known as “pre-condom-era” videos. These were made before the late ’80s when the use of condoms in gay porn became the norm. According to the Titan Media policy statement, “these films were produced at a time when sex without condoms was not life-threatening behaviour.” But if you believe that viewing bareback porn encourages barebacking it surely doesn’t matter whether it was made in 1980 or 2004.

Titan Media’s anti-bareback policy is admirable in that it shows some degree of moral concern for performers and customers. They would be more convincing if they refused to sell pre-condom-era videos. But their moral concern ignores the central attraction to pornography: looking at something nasty, visceral, forbidden and dangerous. It is inherently immoral.

Religion and peer groups are where you turn to for moral guidance, and pornography is like religion in only one sense: it involves kneeling before a male and receiving something in your mouth. Otherwise, pornography is the last place that anyone should turn to for moral guidance.