Nightlife » Sex

Can Condom Use in Gay Porn Lead to Safer Sex?

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 17, 2011

We've all seen the videos: Two (or more) guys are going at it hot and heavy. There is sucking, licking, and panting. Then faster than you can say "safe sex" the next thing you know, someone has a dick in their ass and on that hard cock is a condom.

I suppose that, 30 years after the onset of the AIDS epidemic, we should view that as a good thing; and we's just that I've never found these magic, self-applying condoms in aisle six at my local drug store. I also haven't been able to find them at the adult bookstores. In fact, come to think of it, I've never seen them anywhere else other than a porn flick. That's because we all know they don't exist. Condoms are applied by the man wearing them, or in some cases, the man about to be on the receiving end of some serious dick.

Barebacking in the porn industry has become normalized and fetishized with the advent of the hundreds of You Tube-style gay sex sites where users, most of them amateurs, upload their own flicks. Likewise, some porn studios, in and out of the continental U.S., film, promote, and encourage fucking condom-free. Derrick Burts, a porn star turned safe sex activist after he tested positive for HIV late last year, knows the lessons of barebacking all too well.

At just 24 years old, Burts' life was turned upside down as the news of his infection sent fears through California's adult film industry. In October 2010, Burts, who fucked in straight films as Cameron Reid and gay films as Derek Chambers, began the painful process of notifying performers he had worked with of his status. The performers were then placed on a quarantine list and were tested. He would later learn that the clinic he tested positive at had traced his HIV infection to a fellow gay porn star they described as a "known positive." The clinic, however, would not identify the performer due to patient confidentiality.

Burts -- and many other young gay males -- positive test comes years after campaigns like iconic Chi Chi LaRue's 2008 Channel 1 Releasing "Safe Sex is Hot Sex" campaign against barebacking in porn. After years of working in the industry as (at first) a promoter for Catalina Video and eventually making his name as one of gay porn's most recognizable directors, LaRue got tired of hearing about the new HIV infections in young gay males increasing due to unsafe sex. The now legendary PSA was blunt: The actors are real, said LaRue, assume everyone you are having sex with is HIV positive, and know that sex education is key.

With all of the "use a condom" messages out there, one would think it was common sense that porn actors use condoms. In all reality, although it is not mandatory, most gay porn studios have their actors wear rubbers. But would it benefit the teens who login and ingest the fuck-scenes to see that there is a hot and safe way to apply and use a condom when making love or tricking? Some leaders in the industry say yes.

Michael Lucas, perhaps the most mainstreamed, provocative, and controversial figure in gay adult entertainment says that although there are no regulations saying that gay performers have to wear a condom, he wishes there was. "I promote safe sex because I believe that young people are first introduced to sex through adult videos," he told EDGE. "These movies are so accessible and young people are very internet savvy."

Lucas has a point. It would be naïve not to agree that gay teen boys around the world gain access to porn sites by simply clicking that they are 18, when, in fact, they are not. For many a gay boy, before they suck their first cock or let another guy fuck them, they learn habits -- however good or bad -- from streaming internet porn.

"I feel it is my great responsibility to show that men can have great sex and enjoy each other while using condoms," continued Lucas, who's used the stardom that porn gave him as platform to speak out against drugs, unsafe sex, child exploitation, anti-Semitism, religious oppression of gays, and host of other social problems. "And don't forget that there is a severe lack of sexual education, so young men are more likely to see an adult movie than they are to search out safe sex information."

Lucas added that the studios that do not film their actors wearing condoms "obviously don't care about the gay community and they are, in effect, pushing young gay men to commit suicide."

Tony Radovich of SEA Fuk!t, a Seattle-based program developed by men who have sex with men that reminds gays to have safer sex through a series of sexually graphic photos, videos, and messages, agrees with Lucas. "We've got to normalize condom use," said Radovich. "If we show these guys that safe sex is sexy and that applying a condom doesn't always have to be 'boring' then we might change some minds."

Radovich says they are "pro-homo," adding that "there is a real lack of sex education for gay men, and we work to fill that void."

The SEA Fuk!t website is accessible and, for all intents and purposes, works. Teens (or inexperienced adult gay men for that matter) can login and watch safe sex videos, learn about anal sex, and discover what condoms, lubes, etc., are right for them.

"I promote safe sex because I believe that young people are first introduced to sex through adult videos," said porn director Michael Lucas. "These movies are so accessible and young people are very internet savvy."

"Choosing the type of condom and fits right is important," said Radovich. "It's like trying on a pair of shoes. You aren't going to be comfortable in a pair that doesn't fit right. It's the same with condoms."

Unlike many websites, SEA Fuk!t uses local men from the community and not porn stars. "Not everyone looks like a porn star," said Radovich. "We use guys from all different shapes and cock sizes."

Can Porn Encourage Safer Sex?

Is it possible for condom use to be normalized in the face of the bareback porn barrage? An official from the gay porn company says no and that "porn is not an educational medium for teens."

The official, who refused to allow himself to be identified by name, told EDGE "porn is a medium for adults to explore and engage with their sexual thoughts and desires."

"The purpose of porn is to depict sexual fantasy without judgment, and it is expressly made for adults, not teenagers," he said. "What teenagers need is comprehensive sexual education -- not this abstinence-based BS -- early and often, from their parents and in the school system [and not from porn]. They need to be taught about their bodies, including their genitals, and they should have it reinforced that all consensual sexuality is good, right, and natural."

In some ways, Lucas would agree that normalizing or fetishizing condom use in porn is a hard sell because, "Everyone knows that, unfortunately, it feels much better to have sex without condoms."

"Wearing them is not a natural way to have sex," he continued. "It is something that we have to do in order to stay healthy."

Kristofer Weston, director of marketing and project coordinator for COLT Studio Group, disagrees with that summation. "Condoms can definitely be considered an erotic fetish," he told EDGE. "The latex and rubber fetish is a huge part of the current BDSM lifestyle. Different forms of heavy latex condoms and chastity devices have been developed and built into latex cat-suits, shorts, sleep sacks, and more over the years."

Condoms themselves have been developed into different shapes, sizes, colors, lubrication, and flavors.

Weston says that they "have a responsibility in our COLT movies to always show the use of condoms and not to hide them regardless of what people do in their private life."

He said COLT movies do educate young viewers in the importance of safe sex and how hot it can be.

"I think porn is the first way many young gay men see sex for the first time and learn from it," he concluded. "When I direct movies for COLT Studio group we often show the condom just appear after a cut in order to not interrupt the action with the mechanics of applying a condom. But if the scene is slow and erotic, I will show the actors applying the condom and then apply some lube in an erotic way. I think there and many viewers who want to see the whole thing as it would naturally happen and are aroused by the realness."

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook