What about safe sex?

At a glance, the adult film industry doesn’t exactly appear to be the embodiment of safe sex practices. Where are the condoms, right? Those are what safe sex is all about, isn’t it?

As Amy Lieberman argues in this article on Feministing, that’s not entirely true, nor is it the case that sex in the porn industry is as unsafe as it would seem based only on condom-usage alone.

So what safe sex practices are put to use in the adult film industry, why are they important, and how does it all factor into Accounting for it All?

Heteronormative Analyses

First of all, it’s important to make a distinction between porn depicting hetero couples and porn that features gay sex. As this article from The Conversation suggests, condom use is managed “quite well” in male-male gay porn, where “condom use has been standard practice since the late 1980s.”

Far too often, analyses such as these will fail to take that into account, so it felt important to address the matter here, even if briefly.

With male-male porn often featuring condoms, then what’s the deal with actors in hetero porn not putting them to use in their own shoots?

Many actors cite chafing as their primary concern where condom use is concerned. Both this article from Rolling Stone and the article from The Conversation above touch on this, with the latter adding that condoms aren’t “designed for prolonged sexual encounters” and that the actors themselves find changing condoms in the middle of a shoot to be cumbersome.

More than just Condoms

Focusing overmuch on condoms limits the scope of the conversation and ignores other key aspects to what it means to have safe sex, especially in the adult industry. In fact, Hugo Schwyzer argues in Jezebel that porn sex is the safest sex.

How does he reach that conclusion given that condom use is so sporadic (or almost non-existent) in hetero porn?

Regular testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) plays a major role. Per Rolling Stone, for example, in the state of California the law requires that porn actors be tested for STIs once every 14 days, and, as Lieberman asserts in her post on Feministing, many choose to be tested more often than that.

Beyond regular testing for STIs, performers can take advantage of alternate means of preventing unwanted pregnancies, including oral birth control or an intra-uterine device (IUD), among others.

Nothing is Perfect

All that said, is the rate of STIs and unwanted pregnancies at absolute zero in the adult industry? Of course not, but why would we expect it to be?

Among the general adult population of the United States, there are 20 million sexually transmitted infections each year. Of those, the CDC cites that young adults between 15 and 24 account for about half of those infections despite only representing slightly more than a quarter of the sexually active population.

Would seeing condoms put to use in porn help curb those numbers in the general population? Possibly, but with performers reluctant to use them widely, it might be necessary to develop alternatives to do so.

One example of these alternatives is the Pleasure Project, a UK-based group that in 2016 was willing to pay couples £200 to have safe sex on camera. The Pleasure Project is well intended and sex positive, but even if this initiative were successful, it would only account for an infinitesimally small percentage of the porn out there in the world, and they themselves stated that the videos wouldn’t be available publicly.

Accounting for Safe Sex

Where does that leaves us with Accounting for it All? Well, as I’ve written so far in this post there’s very little that’s perfect in the real world, and Accounting for it All mirrors that in many ways.

The sex in Accounting for it All is safe in that our protagonist, Robin, mentions at one point that she’s on birth control and receives regular STI testing, but there’s little mention of it beyond that.

With my final edits of the manuscript set to begin this month, perhaps I’ll find ways to more overtly emphasize safe sex in the final version of the book that you can have in your hands beginning in November 2018. After writing this post, that will certainly be among my goals during revisions.

How will those revisions ultimately manifest? Your guess is as good as mine, but we’ll both have a better idea only a few short months from now.


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