19 May 2004

What Role Does Adult Erotica Have in Promoting Healthy Sexuality?

Dr. Carol Queen wrote an opinion column for the 16 May 2004 San Francisco Chronicle that comments on the recent HIV outbreak in the adult video industry ("Porn industry's HIV outbreak holds a lesson in safe sex: Monogamy's not retroactive -- and it doesn't work when one partner is infected").

According to Carol's column, only 1% of heterosexual porn video producers require condom use while making videos. This is in stark contrast to the gay male porn video producers who have 20+ years of experience in both normalizing the use of condoms and making safer sex a normal part of erotic experience. Here's what Carol writes to porn fans who consider condom use in videos to be less erotic:

"Extremely risky acts are safer when condoms are correctly used. To porn fans for whom the sight of a condom is pleasure-squelching, I say: Get used to it. The (heterosexual) adult industry has for 20 years shirked an opportunity to help normalize condom use. This doesn't just put its own talent at risk. It puts viewers and their partners at risk as well.

On the gay side of the industry, this is well-understood. Gay Men's Health Crisis 15 years ago suggested that watching explicit safer sex movies taught prevention comfort and skill more effectively than any other method. In a land of suppressed sex education, many turn to porn out of curiosity to see how sex works. The heterosexual side of the industry should step up to the plate and show fans how safer sex works."

The attitudes about HIV risks commonly held by heterosexuals are often ones of denial and it always happens to "outsiders" and not to "us":

"If there is a lining to this dark cloud, it might be manifested as a body blow to that denial, which is as common outside the porn industry as inside. Sexual contact between people can transmit HIV if one of them has it. Neither monogamy nor heterosexuality is a protection. The virus likes mucous membranes. Unprotected penetrative sex puts one at risk."

The rest of Carol's article is worth reading ... so is a related article on HIV and risk in the adult video industry by Tristan Taormino that was published on 30 April 2004 ("Porn Faces Reality: HIV outbreak in California porn industry highlights risky business"). Tristan talks about the educational opportunity available to the adult video industry and the unfortunate fact that very few video companies are using this educational opportunity.

One can only hope that this trend in heterosexual porn changes.

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