Condom Use in Porn - Part 2
Posted Jul 18th, 2008 10:11 AM by Will Jarvis
Porn performers are often likened to their brothers and sisters in mainstream acting, but that's not always accurate. The comparison certainly doesn't apply where condoms are concerned. Hollywood can fake it. We can't. We actually have to do, y'know, the thing we do. If it's a martial arts movie, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris can do their own stunts, but most actresses and actors, however, don't. Porn actresses and actors are more like professional athletes; we have to be physically capable of doing certain acts for the cameras.
Because our acts are more or less choreographed - we discuss among ourselves and with the director what positions we'll do - adult performers are probably closest to professional wrestlers. What they do is fake, but it's real too in the sense that it requires actual physical ability to give a good performance. Of course, pro wrestlers can make millions of dollars, and they have health insurance and other protections should something go wrong. Compared to wrestlers, performers in porn get little money for the risks they take - and of course, there are no royalties. A little more money for the talent, or the producers putting aside money and buying health insurance for the talent with the royalties from DVDs and Internet downloads and so forth, would help, but talent rarely gets paid what we're worth for the work we do.
But the fact that we really have to do the physical act means that how we do it should be up to us. And that brings us back to the First Amendment. The writer gets to decide what's in his (or her) script. I wrote a movie called Our Naked Eyes. It was my first script, and I also directed. In that movie, I wrote sex scenes that involved condom use and sex scenes that didn't. The story is about two graduate students who are studying various aspects of human sexuality. One of the characters meets a fellow she likes and at one point in the story has an erotic fantasy about him. In her fantasy they do not use a condom. Later in the story, they do get together sexually and she asks him to use a condom. That fits with her personality. Combined, the two scenes show the difference between fantasy and reality, which is difficult to do in a fantasy story. But it worked.
The other scene involving a condom occurs after the two grad students have an argument and one storms out, forgetting to take her purse with her. They were supposed to interview a guy at a swing club the next day but the character who stormed out finds herself at the swing club that night. She's in need of some stress release and hooks up with a guy at the club. She's not into participating in an orgy though, so they go off to the club's coatroom and start to have sex. She stops after a bit and says, "I left my purse at home and my condoms are in it." Or something like that. The guy starts picking through the pockets of the coats hanging in the room and finds a condom. They put on the condom and have a good fuck. This scene was played for humor, to lighten some of the tension of the previous argument scene, and other tensions that had been building between the two main characters.
As the writer, I get to decide which scenes have condoms and which scenes don't. It's my call. Any interference by the government in the writing of a story is censorship. The First Amendment says the government can't censor, and that means the government can't tell a writer to put condoms in the script.
So, what can we do to make performing in XXX movies as safe as possible? First, use some common sense. I was in a threesome with Ron Jeremy and an actress named Alyssa Somethingorother. It was a photo shoot for a European magazine; hardcore. One of us, Ron or I had to do the anal with the actress. The photographer didn't care which of us did it. We flipped a coin. Ron did the anal. After it was over, we all used the shower. Ron washed his dick, washed his body then washed his dick again. Ron is not stupid. A little soap and water goes a long way. Also, urinating after sex is helpful. Some of the nasty bugaboos trying to get in through your urethra can be flushed out.
Teaching the talent something about human sexuality would be nice. A little knowledge about how things work and what's what might help some people spot little problems before they go too far and become big trouble. So few sex performers know more than the average person about sex. Nina Hartley, who has a nursing degree, is one. Sharon Mitchell has gotten quite knowledgeable on the subject since starting the AIM Clinic. Back in the seventies and eighties, an actress (I believe it was Jesie St. James) worked part time in porn and part time as a professional sexual surrogate. I know a little about sex as I had some sex surrogate training, but not much. We should have a sex surrogate training program for Talent. It could really help.
HIV and AIDS is a serious subject. I don't take the matter lightly. I'm concerned for my health and for the health of my friends and fellow performers. I've had a few scares. Been on the secondary quarantine list twice. (The secondary list is for performers who have had sex with someone who has had sex with a possible HIV positive person but not with the suspected infectee him/herself.)
I've been sweatin' out HIV tests since 1987. That's when I had my first one. I've had friends who've died because of HIV. One friend, a year after discovering he was HIV positive, committed suicide. I've written about HIV, both in the real world and in fiction. When I wrote "Porn 101: The Guide to Becoming an X-rated Movie Star" in 1988 I made one of the first mentions, possibly the first mention, of HIV in print to come from within the industry. Outsiders were writing about HIV and porn, but nobody inside the industry at the time was acknowledging it publicly.
We need an instant HIV test like the home pregnancy tests women take. Pee on a stick, wait a few minutes, see the results. If we could have that, we could test at the start of every shoot. What would be even better is a vaccine. Merck had an HIV vaccine in clinical trials last year with 3000 volunteers. But they called a halt to things very early on when the vaccine didn't prevent all types of HIV. Many people had high hopes for this vaccine, and many people were disappointed when it failed. Merck, from what I've read, might not continue its research into HIV vaccines. This is another disappointment.
So, yes, this is serious. Nobody wants to get AIDS. But government mandated condoms aren't the answer. If the person or persons you are having sex with don't have any STDs or HIV, you can't get any STDs or HIV from them. Good testing works well for us in the industry. And it allows us to use or not use condoms in scenes as appropriate to the particular story being told. Sometimes condoms are appropriate; sometimes they are not.
I've got a gazillion things more to say on the subject, but this piece is already way too long, so I'll wrap it up. I didn't put forth those statistics at the beginning of Part 1 for the hell of it. Rather, I mentioned them to show that it's the right of each and every individual to make his or her own choices. The government cannot have any say at all in whether I choose to accept a certain risk. The government, if it has information, can inform, and should inform, the people of the potential risk. But the choice must always remain with the individual.
Will "Taliesin" Jarvis is a veteran of adult entertainment with more than twenty years experience as an actor, author and activist. See him on the web at http://www.taliesinthebard.com