Image by Rhys Carter Studios
This article by Gareth Johnson @GTVlondon first appeared in FS Magazine, a publication of GMSH, here. Republished with permission.
Have you ever watched much vintage porn?
‘Vintage porn’ is a quaint sort of term used to describe porn that was made before everyone realised that condoms were the most effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV. Vintage porn is kind of cool – sexy guys with moustaches and hairy chests, happily slamming their big cocks into each other – you wonder how they did it all without Viagra.
The other thing that you notice about vintage porn is that they don’t really focus that much on cum. There’s always a money-shot of course, but the cum was usually shot artfully across the guy’s chest, or across the bottom’s back. No big deal.
I’m not trying to write any sort of definitive history of gay porn, but once HIV hit there was a long period where all porn featured condoms – it was the reality of our sex lives and it was the reality of the porn that we watched. There were still cum shots and they were generally fairly controlled – across a smooth, tanned chest, or prettily painting upturned cheeks. All nice and safe.
At some point, things changed. I first kind of clicked that there was something different going on a bit over ten years ago (don’t try and carbon date me – the results aren’t pretty) when my boyfriend at the time told me about felching.
“Well that’s pretty gross,” was my immediate reaction. Then he showed me a video. Then I was turned on. Then we had sex. Bareback had not only become a adjective that could be applied beyond horse-riding, but it became the cutting edge of gay porn. Frontrunners were studios such as Hot Desert Knights, SX Video, and of course Treasure Island Media. But what was initially seen as something pretty edgy and out-there now seems to have become the industry norm. Even studios such as Bel Ami – which for many years defined the genre of young pretty boys from Eastern Europe having polite, condom-safe sex – is now celebrating its extensive collection of bareback porn (it is actually pretty good) and jock-boy staples such as Sean Cody are now setting the standard on just how good you can make bareback sex look. I watch a lot of Sean Cody.
The thing that makes contemporary bareback porn different to the sex that was captured in vintage or pre-condom porn productions is the way that cum is treated.
Where vintage porn focused on getting a nice clear money-shot across a guy’s chest or back, today’s bareback porn totally fetishises cum. Cum-eating, cream-pies, gang-fucks, felching – it seems that’s what gay porn viewers want to watch because that’s what gay porn studios are producing. I’m not going to try and understand the psychology of whether we are turned on by cum-play because cum has always been what we have been taught to be scared of, taught to avoid, taught was dangerous – in a way it doesn’t matter.
Our desires, our fantasies, what we find erotic, are all inextricably linked with our experiences and what is happening in the world around us. It is hard to avoid the reality that the gay men of today are turned on by bareback sex, are turned on by cum-play, and the porn that we watch celebrates that in every way possible.
"Let’s not demonise bareback sex, let’s not beat ourselves up over it – we need to accept that the sex that we like to watch, the sex that we fantasise about having, is much higher risk than having sex with a condom on your cock."
One of the interesting consequences of the explosion in the popularity of Kindles and other e-book readers is that there has been a renewed interest in erotic gay fiction. I’ve been writing a bit – it’s one of my new hobbies – well, it combines two of my favourite hobbies, writing and masturbating.
Putting to one side the weird phenomenon that straight women are one of the biggest audiences for erotic gay fiction, what is clear is that erotic gay fiction thrives on bareback sex. There aren’t any condoms in erotic gay fiction, the sex is raw, the cum flies everywhere and it is fetishised just as much as in any Treasure Island Media production. That’s the way I write it anyway.
If you were inclined to make some kind of moral judgement, you might try and argue that exploring your fantasies through erotic fiction is somehow more acceptable than watching bareback porn. That erotic fiction is often set in a historical period or a fantasy world that is clearly removed from our day-to-day lives where we know that condoms are one of the most effective way of trying to prevent the transmission of HIV. Somehow I don’t think that flies.
Somehow, as gay men, we have made condoms not only uncool but almost the opposite of sex. Right now there is no cure for HIV, and there is no vaccine against the virus. One of the ways that is good at stopping us from infecting each other with an incurable virus is condoms and we have very effectively made condoms the opposite of the sex that we want to be having. Self-sabotage much?
So what’s the answer? Mount an enormous educational campaign about the dangers of bareback sex? Hand out free condoms everywhere? Make it illegal for porn studios to produce porn unless condoms are used? Personally I think we’d be better off investing all that money into trying to find a cure for HIV.
I am passionate that gay men should not put themselves at risk from contracting a life-threatening virus for which there is no cure. However, I also think we need to be realistic. Let’s not demonise bareback sex, let’s not beat ourselves up over it – we need to accept that the sex that we like to watch, the sex that we fantasise about having, is much higher risk than having sex with a condom on your cock.
Is that going to stop you? Probably not. But if you’re gagging for a bit of cum-play why not watch some porn or read some erotic fiction instead. My stories on Kindle won’t win me the Booker prize, but they might help you explore some of your bareback fantasies.
FS says: stop relying on porn to teach young gay men about sex
The vast majority of young gay men now learn about gay sex from watching porn. We are in an era where bareback porn is probably the most watched porn on the internet. Mainstream studios and actors, who once declared they’d never do bareback, are now shooting bareback porn. If you think we live in a world where the condom is going to make a comeback in porn then it’s time to think again.
We frequently see online cries for bareback porn to be banned. “Think of the gay children,” is shouted out. Why do we think it’s (a) acceptable that young gay teens are watching porn and (b) this is an acceptable form of sex education? Porn should not be the number one way young gay men learn about sex and sexual health.
But it’s not just bareback porn we need to think about. Porn itself is not ‘real’, the men starring in these films have bodies that they work very hard to maintain - spending several hours in the gym every day. We also don’t see the real aspects of someone preparing for anal sex. It most certainly doesn’t take two seconds for someone to be comfortable enough to take a large cock up the arse.
Porn (and bareback porn) should be seen for what it is... fantasy! Our gay teens deserve proper sex and sexual health education and at an age where they don’t think fantasy is reality. Then, and only then, will porn have less impact on the way younger gay men think about sex and sexual safety.
This article was taken from FS magazine issue 144. To read the DIGITAL VERSION: Click here