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May 04, 2016

Op-Ed: AHF Lauds Porn Condom Use Study

LOS ANGELES—AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) puts out its fair share of press releases—and the one it issued on April 28 was a doozy. The PR was headlined, "AHF on Porn/Condom Study: 'Porn is Not Just A Fantasy. Performers are having actual sex; contracting STDs—and the audience knows it.'" Its first paragraph goes that claim one better: "A groundbreaking new research study undertaken by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health (Schrimshaw et al. 2016) has documented a notable increase in condom use among viewers of adult films in which the performers wore condoms." Great news, right? If only adult entertainment were in the business of educating the public rather than catering to their fantasies, this could be a breakthrough. Who'd care that more than three-quarters of the states in this country don't offer comprehensive sex education in their public schools; let the kids learn about sex (and sexual safety) from porn! After all, at least a quarter of them look at it frequently on the internet anyway, and more than half the rest have been "exposed" to it at some point in their adolescence, so why not use all those "abstinence-only" funds to buy adult DVDs and website subscriptions and let the kids have fun? There's just one problem: The results of the study, which can be found here, are based entirely on just 265 subjects—all of whom are "MSM": "men who have sex with men." Oh, AHF does mention "MSM" exactly twice in its press release, but that doesn't stop it from generalizing that, according to the study, "…the number of condomless anal sex encounters increased by approximately 25% for every one unit increase in the proportion of [pornography] viewed online that featured condomless anal sex. In contrast, the number of condomless anal encounters decreased by approximately 38% for every one unit increase in the proportion of [pornography] viewed online that featured anal sex with condoms." Now, looking at that quote alone, it's likely that the uninformed reader might get the idea that if condoms were all over hetero porn, there'd be a lot less couples out there fucking/getting fucked in the ass without condoms. And of course, they'd be wrong. And speaking of wrong: "People emulate actions, behaviors, clothing, hairstyles and other things they see in mainstream movies all the time—why would it be any different with porn?" asked the apparently clueless AHF president Michael Weinstein. "From Farrah Fawcett hairdos in the '70s to kids copying Jackass movie stunts today." Yeah, Mikey: People do stupid shit all the time in response to media cues—but you're expecting them to act more responsibly in response to seeing people fucking as most of them would like to fuck: without condoms??? (Oh; and by the way, it's not just condoms. What AHF is pushing is not only mandatory condom use, but mandatory use of goggles, dental dams, latex gloves and other paraphernalia that would make the average porn movie look like a scene from CW TV's Containment.) Also, as those familiar with the politics of homosexuality in this country—a group which should include AHF—are aware, when HIV was first identified in 1981, it was quickly dubbed "the gay disease"—or more formally GRID: gay-related immune deficiency—in large part because it was mostly gays presenting with symptoms like Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and Kaposi's sarcoma cancers. True, it didn't take long before non-gay people were also found to be infected—but the gay scare lasted long enough that gay groups all over the country were recommending that gays should never have sex without condoms... and it stuck! (Well, at least for a while ... and there are still plenty of gays who swear by condom use all the time in every sexual encounter.) The point is, however, that the adult film/video industry tried going all-condom back in the late '90s, just after the Marc Wallice group of infections, and while there don't appear to be any studies indicating that the porn-watching public began using condoms en masse in their personal lives shortly thereafter, what the all-condom videos didn't do was sell—and not only would that same scenario likely play out today, even AHF would have to admit that it'd be damned difficult to "educate" the hetero porn watchers into using condoms if they're not watching the videos because, for whatever reasons, they don't like seeing condoms! The full AHF press release can be read here.

 
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