Should Pornography Performers Be Forced To Use Condoms?

Posted by ap507 at Aug 11, 2015 10:30 AM |
Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans discusses issues surrounding the absence of condoms in pornography
Should Pornography Performers Be Forced To Use Condoms?

Source: The Conversation; Big money gets in the way of safety. from www.shutterstock.com

Please note: The following article contains some graphic content.

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Should it be mandatory for pornography performers to wear condoms? This question goes to the heart of many of the troubling political, ethical and legal issues that surround contemporary internet pornography production and consumption.

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 top five most successful 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.

Gail Dines, in researching the pornography industry, demonstrates that not only are saliva and semen regular bodily fluids found on set but also vomit and faeces (Dines 2010).   She points out that a number of organizations 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 (the now shuttered Adult Industry Medical Care Association).

Alongside many health hazards, these include HIV, rectal and throat gonorrhoea, and chlamydia of the eye. All other Western industries have strict health and safety regulations to protect people who come into contact with bodily fluids in the course of their work. However the organizations 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. Wherein lays the failure?

From the point of view of the 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 and other vested parties have effectively functioned to over-ride the request for legal requirement for condom use (Free Speech Coalition website).

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 imaginative writing (such as the novel or play).

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

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

In the demand/ supply economy of maximising profit the requirement for condom-free sex, like all the acts and practices that pornography represents, is imposed on the worker not chosen.

I assume, given that one in four hits on web-sites are to pornography web-sites and given the increasing normalcy of pornography consumption, that it is reasonable to conclude that some of the readers of this article also consume internet pornography.  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.

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