For all the good the internet has done — what with its limitless amount of instant knowledge and endless supply of dick pics — it’s also had some rather unfortunate, unintended consequences: specifically, the enabling of hypochondriacs everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on to WebMD because of minor symptoms and walked away convinced I had Ebola.
Yet for all the information available to us, there’s still a rather noticeable dearth in society’s understanding of how STIs are transmitted and treated. I’m just saying, when I have to explain to someone 10 years my senior that a regular condom prevents the transmission of HIV and I don’t need to wear “some sort of super-condom” (his words, not mine) when I have sex with someone who’s positive, something’s fucked up.
Recently, Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon wrote about the rising trend of mandatory STI testing in gay porn. The old standard used to be that gay porn was all about condoms without mandatory testing, while straight porn was the inverse: Condoms, boo! Testing, yay! But with more gay porn sites being owned by straight parent companies nowadays, mandatory testing is more common in the world of gay porn.
In a theoretical, perfect universe (let’s call it Earth 2), this would be a good thing, right? After all, getting tested regularly is part of being a responsible, sexually active adult, and combining testing with proven science and modern medicine ensures that common sense dictates how things are run, rather than paranoid poz-phobia.
The only problem with that, if my complete lack of subtlety hasn’t clued you in, is that we don’t live on Earth 2.
Consider this, if you will: a typical safe-sex porn scene involves any combination of kissing, unprotected oral, unprotected rimming, protected anal and then cumshot. The odds of contracting HIV from this setup are actually rather low since the primary modes of transmission are blood or semen coming into direct contact with the blood stream or mucous membranes (both located in the anus), which is protected quite efficiently by, you guessed it, condoms. Diseases that can be quite easily transmitted through scenes like this include herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis.
Yet the focus is still on HIV.
Furthermore, since HIV shows up on tests only after a three-month window, these tests prove only that the performer hasn’t sero-converted at that moment, and the test becomes less accurate with every minute that goes by. Thanks to this three-month window, tests essentially become security blankets, rather than an effective method to prevent transmission.
Should performers be getting tested regularly for STIs? Of course they should. Anyone who is sexually active should be getting tested. Should said testing be mandatory and controlled by the industry? Not so much. I’m sure studios have good intentions here, but performers should be taking medical advice from trained medical professionals. Ultimately, the best defence against infection, more so than testing and even condoms, is knowledge.