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October 3, 2008

Debates Over Bareback Porn: RFD Magazine
FILED UNDER: "Gay Men's Health & Culture"
TAGS: barebackcondomsHIV / AIDSHIV Preventionhooking up onlineLifelubepornography
By Trevor

[ Image redacted - see here (Warning: Explicit) ]

The faerie magazine RFD has a very interesting article by "middle" over the mag's recent decision to run ads from bareback porn studios (namely Treasure Island Media -- the ad pictured above is from issue #131). You can read the entire article on the flip (it's not available online, so I have transcribed it for you!), but I was particularly struck by one bit in particular:

I'm repelled when terms like bareback, pre-condom, and raw are used to brand, commodify, and attach a premium to risk. There's a human impact I've encountered first-hand - men and boys who feel their willingness is a commodity to be traded against their perceived shortcomings: age, ability, cock size, weight, femininity, HIV status. Where there vulnerable or clueless pursue fantasies fueled by glamorization of risk with little or no brotherly support, unhappy results range from name-calling to seroconversions, addiction, and worse.

Bingo! This is EXACTLY the issue I have been trying to put my finger on for some time. I see men out there -- online in particular -- "trading" in the way that he describes. Too fat? Well maybe if you agree to get fucked raw, you might get laid. Too much of a queen? Just tell him how much want his load in your hole.

This is the kind of logic I see operating left and right in online sex sites. And it's not just operating in the minds of bottoms; tops are totally working this logic to their own advantage. I get the sense that many guys out there are looking for bottoms they know they can prey on in this manner -- guys who they perceive as low(er)-value on the hooking up marketplace, guys who will desperately want it, no matter the cost. It makes me furious to see it happen -- or when I feel that it's happening to me. I got that sense in San Francisco almost every time I logged online. They'd ask if I fucked raw, I said no, and they said goodbye, hoping that I'd lose my will and give in.

Ugh. It's manipulation of the worst kind. Not only does it make you feel like an abject piece of meat, but -- oh yea -- it also is extremely high risk sex for the bottom.

You can read the whole article on the flip.

(Via LifeLube)

Here's the full article:

When I got word that RFD was going to run full-age (pssst - "bareback"!) porn ads, my gut response was "Cancel my subscription!" - for about a minute that is. Then I thought, "I'll just cut those pages out." Nah - that felt wrong and strangely violent. A pull-out section? No. I don't want RFD to be like the gaynstream rags that do that. And that's the point. It's such a tired plot: the advertiser with cash wins regardless of stylistic, political, or ideological conflict.

I've been HIV positive for 22 years and faeries and gatherings are essential parts of wellness for me. I took the name middle in part because I live in between. As an educator and activist, I exist between western and alternative medicine, individuals and institutions, drug companies and AIDS denialists.

I'm all about liberty, choice, and exuberant sex. I have nothing but support for those make an informed choice to have what my friend reminds me is natural sex. Still, I feel a negative visceral response to the promotion of so-called bareback media.

I believe in communal health so I don't like denial. I play well (lube in one sock, condoms the other) in scenes where some or even most folks aren't using condoms as long as other choices are facilitated and respected. But if condoms are totally absent or hard to find, if there is no evidence (posters, literature, something) that awareness is a priority for the establishment, I seek alternatives.

I can count on my fingers the times I've fucked or been fucked au naturel since I got my results in '87. Call me a freak, but on those occasions I found little more and sometimes less pleasurable than sex with condoms.

Clearly condoms present barriers that have nothing to do with preference for some guys and we undoubtedly need alternatives.

I'm similarly adverse to analogous virtual cruise joints and media. I avoid and strive to disrupt these "denial zones" because they betray our humanity and disrespect the legacy of those who've fought for sexual freedom and wellness as well as HIV/AIDS treatment, research and prevention.

I'm repelled when terms like bareback, pre-condom, and raw are used to brand, commodify, and attach a premium to risk. There's a human impact I've encountered first-hand - men and boys who feel their willingness is a commodity to be traded against their perceived shortcomings: age, ability, cock size, weight, femininity, HIV status. Where there vulnerable or clueless persue fantasies fueled by glamorization of risk with little or no brotherly support, unhappy results range from name-calling to seroconversions, addiction, and worse.

As it turns out, visually the ads haven't bothered me as much as I'd feared. Chis T. Ramblin's essay in issue 133 freaked me out, though. "Product placement," I thought. "Conveniently on the opposing page splashed with big ass cover photos. Blech!" I read the review. The gushing praise made me uncomfortable but I liked some of what Chris had to say. I talked to him and our dear editor and don't think their intentions were along those lines.

So, I checked out the advertiser's website and watched most of two DVD sets. Although I got it up and stroked it off, the condomless sex and tops rubbing their jizz into the bottoms' holes added nothing to my experience. I'd have enjoyed the fucking equally had condoms been used.

I commend the director for using hot men, including those who don't necessarily fit stereotypes of perfection. I felt a twinge of recognition at the sight of gray hair, lipoatrophy (fat loss due to HIV/meds) and the infamous Viagra flush.

In the end I found them relatively boring. Although some of the unedited bonus footage is a little better, it's too specific for my taste. The endless close-ups are impressively lit and cleanly shot - so much so they're clinical (welcome to the how-to-transmit-STDs HD channel.) Were it ethical for scientists to deliberately expose humans to HIV like vaccine researchers "challenge" primates with SIV and SHIV, this would be a strategic way to do it.

I prefer a whisper of a story line and some sign of non-penile connection. I saw that spark only once or twice in several hours' worth of footage. The action is sufficiently hot, but I kept wanting the camera to zoom out from decapitating / amputating cropped shots to include full bodies and faces.

In one sequence, the close-up angle, the bodies, and the cocks were all so consistent that it might as well have been a loop. It's anal masturbation with cloned living dildos (hot, right?)

Since our advertiser appears to deal exclusively in "risk porn," and since I encountered no discussions of risk or health, the DVDs and site fall into my "denial zone" category.

I still love and need RFD. I won't cancel, mutilate, or otherwise disrespect it. Meanwhile, my non-sexual fantasy is an RFD with no ads. It doesn't impress me that the company hires poz men and faeries (so do Burger King and General Motors.) That won't help keep RFD alive, but the cash revenue will. For now, cash talks and moral navel-gazing walks.

PERMALINK | Posted at 12:54 PM | Post a Comment (2)

2 Comments

I just gave a presentation to MSW interns at New Leaf (mental health services for the LGBT community in SF) about FTM men who have sex with men (FTMSM).
This trading issue was one I really drove home. "Afraid no one will want you because you're trans? Fuck raw!"
Not surprisingly, the risk assessment of FTMSM that the DPH is doing is finding higher rates of sero-positivity amoung FTM men than they expected. No wonder.
I too have had the same "Don't fuck raw? Goodbye." response from guys online (and in person for that matter.) It took me years to find enough self worth as a trans guy to start saying no to bareback sex that I felt was risky.
Thanks for another illuminating article Trevor, miss you!
Jackson

Jackson | October 3, 2008 4:19 PM

Aww Jackson my love I miss you dearly! Very interesting news on the transmen seropositivity stats. I don't think Prevention has even BEGUN to think critically about how sex and power interface to create risk disparities among populations. Race. Gender. Class. Top/Bottom. Weight. Age. Even dick size. We need a critical analysis of power. NOW!

Trevor Hoppe | October 3, 2008 6:30 PM


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