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About Me

Big Brother 2012 house mate, single Dad, actor, singer, personal trainer, stripper, adult entertainer, public speaker, activist, columnist, presenter and former secondary school teacher. Canadaphile, Francophile, atheist, fighter for freedom and tolerance, real child protection, sexual liberalism, European integration and abolition of the monarchy.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Johnny on Johnnies in La-La Land

So the city of Los Angeles has voted 9-1 in favour of making condom use in any pornography produced within the city’s limits mandatory.

Am I the only one in Pornland who doesn’t think this is such a bad move?   Pointless, perhaps, but not bad.

To be fair, my citizenship of Pornland has been rather questionable recently and feels like it might be revoked any time soon.  I haven’t appeared in any productions for several months (except my own, of course).  This may have something to do with the fact that I no longer reside in London or it could possibly be because I have become somewhat vocal about my views on condoms in porn.

Not that anyone is taking much notice of me.    I mean, I’ve only really made a name for myself as the ‘porn star teacher’.  Prior to that, the only thing I apparently had going for me, as producers often told me, was my looks and my physique (which doesn’t really say an awful lot about the quality of ‘talent’ in the British porn industry), oh, and some mention of my penis being a decent size too.  Believe me, I certainly was not used for my amazing sexual prowess or my astounding abilities as a solid porn performer because, as I’m the first to admit, I am no such thing.

As a former teacher of, amongst other things, sex education and as someone who has worked in pornography and been openly criticised for not ‘practicing what I preached’ by not always performing using protection, I do however hold an opinion that some want to hear and many others wish to contest.

When I first performed in pornography, I worked for a company that proudly claimed to strictly produce condom-only videos.  I remember quite distinctly the director stating that the fear of compromising the health of his performers and the possibility of law suits following such unfortunate, although slim, possibilities, just wasn’t worth pursuing a ‘bareback’ route, even though many others in the market had already gone there.

A year or so later, this company seemed to have brushed its formerly held strong opinions aside and made the decision to join the rest of the market by requiring that their male performers no longer wear protection. 

Was I a little taken aback by this decision?  Yes, indeed I was.

Did I question in my own mind whether or not I should carry on performing in pornography?  Yes, indeed I did.

And yet, I carried on.

One could argue that if I felt so strongly that I should have the courage of my convictions and stand up to non-condom using production companies by refusing to work with them.   If I had done this, believe me, my porn ‘career’ would have taken a pretty fast nose-dive.   (I can already hear some amongst you utter the words: “Yes.  So?”).

Sure, if I had stopped back in 2004, who knows whether I would be in the position I am now.  Arguably, I am in a far more advantageous position to have, at least, some influence, because I stuck with the porn, than if I’d given up back then.   Indeed, I certainly wouldn’t have been in the newspapers,  on the radio or TV, seeing as the porn I did back then was not the porn that my ex-students discovered and led me to getting the sack.  I would have resigned from teaching in 2010, as I originally had planned, and slipped off quietly into the sunset to the house in Herault that I was planning on buying.  Alas, for right or wrong, this never happened.

Now, however small it may be, I have some clout.  Not a lot, but more than if I’d never barebacked before.

You see, I’m not entirely against ‘bareback’ pornography in principle. 

Ideally, I would wish that all pornography did promote and use condoms.  However, much like teaching, I believe the main function of pornography is not to preach.  As a teacher, my role was to inform.  As a form of entertainment, the role of pornography is to provide enjoyment for its viewer, while, in my opinion, taking some efforts to be conscious of the power it holds and the messages it can, at times, convey. 

I believe that the use of contraception should be a choice.    If it is the choice of the performers (all performers involved) to not use protection and all parties have been tested, then I believe that is their choice. 

However, the choice should be the performers’ and not the production company’s.  The problem exists however when that choice is taken away from the performer.  When I was hired by a company to appear in their production, the only real choice I had was to perform without a condom or not perform at all, thereby forgoing the job and any financial recompense along with it, not to mention jeopardising the possibility of gaining any work in the future.  This is not a real choice.

There are some in the industry who would argue that the current measures requiring sexual health screening every 30 days is adequate enough and, bearing in mind that, for many performers, this is their job, their sole source of income, it is in their interest to maintain an impeccable and clean sexual health record, otherwise no work and, therefore, no money.  Unfortunately, however, as reliable as some within the industry are, I am not always so trusting of everyone (be they porn ‘stars’ or otherwise).  Between each 30 day test, performers can, of course, contract an STI that would not show on a certificate.  One of the biggest flaws of these tests, is the fact that HIV has an incubation period of three weeks.  This means that, even if contracted, HIV would not show on any test during this period.  The porn industry in the UK will point to the fact that there has never been any case of HIV contracted by a performer (not so the case for other ‘lesser’ STIs), but this does not negate the possibility existing or being elevated by the lack of condom use.

Some pornographers will also claim that, even in the USA, cases of HIV contraction within the industry have been so small as to cause any real concern.  In any other industry in the developed world, the fact that there are any deaths (or inevitable deaths) would be reason enough for its practices to be re-examined and, in many cases, tougher regulation introduced.  Why should pornography be exempt?

Some pornographers will identify difficulties with working with condoms: that they make maintaining an erection hard (or not, as the case may be), they break and tear and frequently dry up, causing filming to be longer and, inevitably, more awkward.  These things are all true.  Whoever said that maintaining health and safety standards was meant to be easy?  These are obstacles that are not impossible to overcome and should, with a producer and performer of a ‘professional’ standard, simply be part of the job.  For some porn houses in LA who churn out the same formulaic drivel (blowjob, position 1, 2, 3, cumshot) each and every day, the adding of several minutes to their conveyer belt of boring smut, whether it potentially prevents infection, saves lives and (god forbid), in the process, sends out a positive message, is obviously something that they simply could not tolerate.  Sympathy much, anyone?

I did, and still do, porn because I enjoy it.   It was never primarily for the money because I always had other jobs at the same time.  I don’t always agree with everything associated with pornography, but I will always fight for the principle of a society to make and enjoy sexual intercourse as a form of art and entertainment.  For some individuals, pornography is their main, or only source, of income for a period of their life.  The idea of turning to a producer and insisting on the use of condoms is just not realistic in the current climate where condoms just aren’t, apparently (although I see no evidence), what the audience like to see.  Indeed, the only time I have been required to wear condoms on a porn set since the early days of my ‘career’, were on the occasions that a girl I was to be performing with was unable to produce a valid sexual health certificate and it was too late to rearrange the shoot.

The reality is, that for performers within heterosexual pornography in this country, and in much of the world, there really isn’t much, if any, choice.  The only choice is in the hands of the producers who seem to be voting with their bank accounts (because they believe that condom porn just doesn’t sell) and not with their concern (if they have any) for the health and safety of their performers.

This is nothing new.  Since when has any industry shown any concern for the health and wellbeing of its employees unless it has been forced to do so?  Pornographers are no less or more immoral than any other money-hungry fat cat in any other sector of our capitalist society?

I have no problem with elements of risk.  We encounter risk every day in our lives.  Indeed some of the most enjoyable activities involve varying degrees of risk.  Some people pay vast sums of money in pursuit of sometimes the most risky of these activities (bungee jumping, sky-diving, formula 1 racing, shark watching, etc).  While the element will always remain, it is the responsibility of all parties involved to ensure they do absolutely everything within their power to place the health and safety of all participants at the highest degree they possibly can while still, of course, allowing the activity and enjoyment to go ahead.  While pornographers neglect to permit their performers to make a real choice about their own sexual health and safety, they cannot claim to be doing everything they possibly can not to be putting the lives of the people they employ to sell their product at a real risk of contracting a virus or infection that could, ultimately, render them infertile or dead.

While I may carry some concerns about the limitations on rights and the extent to which anyone or any organisation is coerced into an action, I actually commend the LA city council for standing up for the safety and wellbeing of individual performers who want to be able to work within pornography while equally want to stay as safe as they possibly can, but who might otherwise feel powerless against the corporate pornographic machine to do anything about it.

So, the fact that Los Angeles has now taken the choice away from the porn producer is a step in the right direction even though, as some will argue, it is at the expense of his constitutional rights.   However, I think the idea that porn companies, after now feeling bullied into using contraception by their city council, won’t take steps to ensure nothing hinders them from continuing their journey on a bareback obsessed bandwagon, is a tad optimistic.   I fear that it will ultimately have no effect whatsoever on the industry at large, except causing the relocation of companies to addresses outside of the city limits.  To those of us who do not reside in the ‘spiritual homeland’ of the porn industry, this will mean and change nothing.

One might have hoped that if pornographers were to put more imagination and effort into their productions, the fact that the male talent is wearing a thin layer of transparent latex should really make no difference to the viewer’s overall enjoyment.   I’ve always known that I’m a bit odd, but am I really the only one who gets greater enjoyment out of watching good quality, well shot, beautifully thought-out and protected sex on screen rather than close-ups of an anonymous, body-less, bareback cock ramming away for twenty minutes? 

From the first time I started viewing porn, I’ve always reminded myself that I’m watching someone’s daughter or son.  In some ways, this is how I’ve justified my own involvement: if you’re happy watching other people’s kids doing it, then you should have no problem with doing it yourself or knowing your own children do it.  I don’t have a problem.  Equally, I don’t have a problem watching people who have chosen to become boxers.  However, the moment they start punching each other in the head with no gloves, that’s when my enjoyment and the entertainment value becomes secondary to my concern for their well-being.  Or, yet again, am I really the only one who cares?  Do we really value human life and the safety and security of it so little that, as long as we’re getting off on it, nothing else really matters?   

Of course, this is capitalism, we’re all getting fucked by it in some way or another and, even if its not always directly responsible for our deaths, tends to have, for the majority of us, a habit of killing our dreams and suffocating our spirit, at some point along the way.  At least for porn ‘stars’, we’re getting fucked by getting fucked,  which , in some ways, is the best, or even better than, we could hope for.

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