Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Show Me Some Skin. Or Don't.

You may know they've started showing Newsnight on BBC America. It isn't the proper, week-nightly one, but a cobble-together of Monday to Thursday's most interesting
or important stories, aired here on Friday nights. So while it's not as comprehensive, it is more Paxman-intensive, so you can see him tear into more people per episode. Which is part of the fun, really, and since everyone falls equally under him, it's much more balanced than 99% of American news. And almost equally more intelligent. Katie Couric *is* a perky little thing, and we all like to watch her over on CBS, but her idea of hard-hitting question does tend to be: "Is it as hard as I think it is to be so busy, Mrs Obama...

Anyway, Madeline Holt, the Culture Correspondent for Newsnight did a story last week I can't imagine getting aired here. It was about gay porn models (I'd love to call them actors, really I would, but thankfully enough reality has set in in the industry that they all are supposed to be called models now. I think that's much better. I mean, these are trained professionals working under uncomfortable circumstances. Calling them actors makes them sound like ought to be "ferrying hamburgers somewhere on the North Circular Road"*...) porn models, as I said, contracting HIV whilst making bareback videos.

Apparently, three videos have been pulled from shops because they feature a scene made by Icreme productions (of which I can find no web presence) and featured in at least one Eurocreme movie. They never said which ones, though, although I was surprised to see to see Bareback Thrill Ride** zoom across the screen at one point. Although I have to point out it was during a film segment which was probably just about the popularity of bareback titles.

Then they chuffed out some PSA with Chi Chi LaRue talking about how much the gay community has gone through and now people are getting AIDS for porn. Don't get me wrong, I agree with him completely in theory. ( I was going to post the ad here, but I just can't bring myself to foist Chi Chi LaRue on potentially innocent victims, gay or straight...)

But it's complicated.

Are people who watch bareback porn complicit somehow in these boys' getting HIV? To a degree, I think they are. They create a market where bareback videos have a demand, certainly, and without that demand the videos wouldn't flourish. And porn producers (sadly) are not always not known for their virtue.

What wasn't touched on at all, really, in the newscast was that a lot of this bareback trend can be traced back to really scummy producers taking advantage about a decade ago of very poor, very desperate boys in post-Communist Bloc (there's a pun for you Eurocreme fans) countries. A lot of the current crop still takes advantage of under-privileged young men from Central and Eastern Europe. Knowing a bit about the history of bareback, the net effect of this newscast's was "OMG, now it's happening to good English boys".

That's not to say there aren't thoroughly decent porn producers and production companies, who take care of their models. The crux of the Newsnight story was that the particular company mentioned wasn't meticulous in keeping up with their models' blood-tests and their laxity in enforcement directly led to the models' HIV status. Presumably -- hopefully -- most companies do keep up being meticulous.

But... just how responsible are these companies, anyway? Don't their models have enough sense not to have unprotected sex? Aren't they responsible for themselves? How can you grow up after 1985 or so and not know the dangers of unprotected sex (and not be from the South)? For me, anyway, it's hard not put some blame on the models themselves.

What really smarted was the one of the boys they got to go on camera. When Holt asked him what he felt about the repercussions of his actions -- and remember, in the UK, one of those repercussions is that the general public is footing his incipient treatment and (not to be coy about) protracted, messy death -- he grinned a self-satisfied grin and said "Dunno". A nation of queers over the age of 23 or so rose up as one with a desire to smack him.

Another point in the articles was "Are people going to do this at home?" And many of the same questions apply. And most of the "how stupid are you to fuck bareback" retorts apply. And all these videos, to be fair, are rife with "This is well dangerous" labels.

To be honest, one of my concerns with this is personal. I've got a bareback video on my PC. I watch it. Am I indirectly supporting this side of the industry? I'm not actively supporting it: my choice for a video has never yet been determined by whether or not condoms are used. It's virtually immaterial to me. But I am looking at the videos, so I am influencing things. In the end, I probably won't watch any more bareback films to ease my own conscience. But questions about how responsible each boy is for himself will still be around.

But it's not like I'm going to fuck bareback, but then I'm not really given much option, either.

*Quote taken from Robert Holmes, beloved Doctor Who writer, from one of Peter Haining's virtually identical books on the series... probably the one in The Doctor Who Files and probably the article about his wife perforating an ulcer in Germany.

**I really hope my conscience won't stop from watching this hot -- hott -- movie.

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