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Mon 16 Apr 2007 In: Safe Sex View at Wayback View at NDHA

What are market forces doing to LGBT international solidarity? I asked myself this question when I read a recent UK Gay Times article on Czech "bareback" gay erotic DVDs. According to German gay journalist Marek Urban, Prague has a dark side to its transition to a democratic society and open market society. Unfortunately, this market-driven orthodoxy has its casualties. Urban reports that many participants in bareback erotic DVDs are hard-up straight university students who don't mind unprotected anal sex as long as they get paid handsomely. According to the article, production companies insist on HIV/AIDS tests regularly, and there's a visual "rule of thumb" that operates within the bareback erotic DVD market, meaning that "wasted" looking "cheap" guys aren't hired, at least not in the prestigious studios. HIV/AIDS is distanced as being either a "gay" or "African" dilemma, which makes any adoption of safe sex difficult, despite regular engagement in high-risk unprotected sex and fetishisation of transmission of body fluids in bareback DVDs. Distributors claim that they are "forced" to stock these products, due to the apparent size of the bareback market, and their clients turned to alternative distribution market outlets, even if some also tried to insure that they stocked as few bareback DVDs as possible. Producers of safe sex content gay erotic DVDs also express apprehension, and never make cost an incentive for participants to engage in unsafe sex. What about the market itself? Before HIV/AIDS, most 'historic' gay erotic media was filmed without condoms, with an accompanying market amongst gay men who came out during that period, and whose consumption is motivated by nostalgia, rather than a desire to engage in unsafe sex. Unfortunately, there are Czech production companies that do cater to the bareback market, although little is known why such consumers experience barebacking as somehow 'transgressive." According to one consumer of such DVDs, the reason lies in assumptions that participants are aware of the risk, and are sufficiently aware of safe sex imperatives not to rush out and have unprotected anal sex. Commendably, not all erotic media distributors are willing to tolerate barebacking. Germany's Bruno Gmunder certainly doesn't. Unfortunately, though, recent US/Australian mixed HIV'/AIDS "prevention" messages related to "negotiated [un]safety" and condomless sex with long-term partners is present within the context of bareback DVD participants within the Czech Republic, and again, these participants and their production companies insist the "real" problem is cheap "cowboy" bareback production companies. The Terrence Higgins Trust sees the problem as one of voluntary self-regulation of the adult erotic media industry, and doesn't favour censorship bans, which would only drive the market for such DVDs underground. And, after all, erotic media products belong to a fantasy genre, and media effects scholarship suggests that media products alone compete with other social influences on human behavioural outcomes. Unfortunately too, this disidentification is complex. Granted, consumers of bareback DVD may not have unsafe sex themselves, but they're identifying Eastern European men as fantasy "others", not as members of an international LGBT community who may require solidarity in this context. How do we take on the bareback DVD market? If fewer gay men find this material "transgressive," then the market will shrink and it will become unprofitable for production and distribution companies to exploit this market. The answer would seem to be re-eroticising safe sex, and insuring that some unionisation of Czech Republic erotic DVD participants occurs, although this may be complicated by transitory participation within this medium. In addition, participants may not regard themselves as either gay or bisexual, and premium pay may pipconcern for protection from HIV/AIDS transmitted through unprotected sex. It's likely to be a fraught process, but censorship bans are not the answer. Rather, we need greater international solidarity and trade union organisation against unsafe working conditions, which would make participation, production and distribution of bareback DVDs difficult, and smother the market through intervening at the point of supply. I'd be interested to hear what our Chief Censor and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation have to say about this, too. Recommended: Marek Urban: "Bareback City" Gay Times 340 (January 2007): 46-53. Craig Young - 16th April 2007    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 16th April 2007 - 12:00pm

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