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Why porn stars should be forced to wear condoms

from www.shutterstock.com

Why porn stars should be forced to wear condoms

It’s a question that goes to the heart of many of the troubling political, ethical and legal issues in internet pornography production and consumption – should condoms be mandatory in porn?

From the point of view of health and safety, the question surely must be answered in the affirmative. Anyone reading this article who has even the slightest familiarity with mainstream heterosexual pornography will know that a common trope of male orgasm is the “money-shot” – ejaculation of semen outside rather than inside the woman’s body.

The most successful porn websites show sex that involves gagging the woman with a penis; pounding anal sex; spitting into the woman’s mouth; anus-to-mouth penetration; ejaculation onto the woman’s breasts or onto her face and eyes; bukkake – wherein a number of men have sex with one woman and multiply ejaculate onto her. Not only are bacteria spread from woman to man and vice-versa during these acts, but daily and multiple anal penetration causes anal fissures.

Condom use would of course fundamentally change the nature of much porn, in that the practices described above and the “money shot” would not be able to take place.

Anti-porn activist Gail Dines, in researching the pornography industry, demonstrates that not only are saliva and semen regularly found on set, but so are vomit and faeces. She points out that a number of organisations in the USA (where the vast majority of pornography is made and then distributed globally) have monitored the health hazards to which performers are prone. Alongside many health hazards, these include HIV, rectal and throat gonorrhoea, and chlamydia of the eye.

Vested interests

All other Western industries such as factories, laboratories or medical care institutions have strict health and safety regulations to protect people who come into contact with bodily fluids in the course of their work. However the organisations which have consistently campaigned to force the pornography industry to be subject to the same workplace safety standards as other legal industries have ultimately failed to compel mandatory condom use. Where does the failure lie?

From the point of view of the porn industry, the question: “Should it be mandatory for pornography performers to wear condoms?” is answered in the negative. In contrast to all other industries where we leave it to the state and its institutions to impose regulation rather than to the industrialist, the pornography industry has successfully managed to exempt itself. The various powerful lobbying arms of the pornography industry have effectively functioned to override the request for legal requirement for condom use.

Big money gets in the way of safety. from www.shutterstock.com

The success is the result of a conceptual sleight of hand. It is argued that in a liberal democratic society to regulate any sexual practice to which adults freely consent is equivalent to state censorship. Pornography and its various practices are defended on the basis of freedom of speech, a democratic right which should be protected on the same basis as a free press or fiction writing.

The problem with this argument is two-fold, both of which are related to the pornographers’ dissembling narrative that pornography is not filmed prostitution. First, sex acts in pornography are not performed, as in acting in a film or play, but are carried out on real bodies. Indeed it is this reality that is so viscerally compelling for the consumer.

Second, although the intended illusion is that the consumer is merely watching people having natural consensual sex, this sex is actually carefully choreographed and directed. The performers are paid employees of an industry whose wages and working conditions are controlled by the porn owners. Government regulations requiring performers to wear condoms would cut into profits because porn consumers do not want condoms.

What is offered for consumption does not lie in the control of the worker but of the industry moguls who both respond to consumer demand but also seek new products which then create the demand. In this profit-maximising economy, the requirement for condom-free sex, like all the acts that pornography represents, is imposed on the worker, not chosen.

Your view

I assume, given the increasing normality of pornography consumption, that it is reasonable to conclude that many of the readers of this article also consume internet pornography. So it would be interesting to pose the question to you: should it be mandatory for pornography performers to wear condoms?

Answering the question inevitably involves political, philosophical and ethical issues. Like all such issues, the competing interests that might involve sexual exploitation can’t be left to the partisan interests of those involved, but requires serious and robust public debate not the turning of a blind eye.