Condom ‘optional’?

June 14, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There’s much I don’t understand about the porn industry: the poor writing, the implausible plotlines, the baffling belief that a man reaching orgasm near a woman’s face is somehow erotic. But of all these many mysteries, nothing causes quite as much amazement as discovering that the industry is averse to contraception.

It turns out that California is suffering from something of a porn panic after an actress recently tested positive for HIV. People who have worked with the woman are being told to lay off the heavy thrusting for a while and the state’s health & safety folks are busy trying to discover the source & stop it spreading. This might not be the easiest thing to do, however, for it turns out that safe sex isn’t sexy:

After an HIV outbreak in 2004 spread panic through the industry and briefly shut down production at several studios, many producers began making condoms a requirement. But they said both actors and audiences quickly rebelled.

Forgive the pun, but this is just nuts. In catering, if you spend your days handling a lot of meat, you need to maintain hygeine by wearing a clean pair of gloves. Likewise, if you’re handing meat for very different purposes, you’d think it might be smart to make sure your implements are safe.

I can just about understand why the porn-loving public aren’t keen on condoms; ‘dudes’ generally don’t like those little rubber failsafes at the best of times, and I’m sure it’s a real drag watching that implausibly well-groomed grunt-merchant take a minute out of his wild orgy to apply some protection. Pornography is 90% hedonistic fantasy, so I can see why the condom – as a reminder that sex isn’t free from consequences – wouldn’t go down well with the people who watch it.

What I find much harder to understand is why porn actors – whose hygiene is pretty essential to get paid – would prefer not to wear them. Is it because the sans condom market is much more lucrative? Would insisting on safe sex ruin your reputation as an entertainer? Or is their objection similar to the punters – that ‘safety first’ is just a turn-off? I suspect my readership probably doesn’t extend to porn actors, so I might never find out, but it certainly seems that the potential risks of not wearing a condom are far worse for both the individuals and the industry than any limp costs incurred from a disappointed public.

Beyond that, for better or worse (and I’ll leave the angsty rants for another day), a lot of teenage boys receive their sex education from pornography, and when it comes to having that first experience, their main frame of reference is going to be some skin flick they swooned over in their bedrooms. I’m not going to start insisting that all future editions of ‘barely legal’ or whatever start to include instruction manuals, but it’d surely be a public service if these kids saw contraceptives portrayed as a normal part of a healthy sex life. In the end, it wouldn’t just be the sexual health of the actors that you’re improving, but the health of a great many people whose perceptions of intercourse are heavily influenced by what a bunch of oddy-named entertainers get up to without clothing.



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  1. There’s actually a lot of misinformation about the HIV panic of the last week. Ernest Greene of AIM Healthcare discusses this story (including clearing up some misinformation that’s been included in the press releases), including answering some of the questions you have about why condoms aren’t more widely used in hetero porn:


    • Hey, thanks for the info; was really interesting to get the other side of the story.

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