Gay Porn Industry Insider Tackles Condom Vs. Bareback Porn Debate

Speaking to us under the condition of anonymity, porn industry insider “Brennan Hart” has been working along side the top names in gay porn for several decades.

As California legislators attempt to ban bareback porn filming, Hart has given us his personal opinion on the current state of the gay porn industry and whether or not this industry should promote safe sex in their films.

Gay Porn In Its Bubble

By Brennan Hart

I started as some sort of gay porn gadfly back in the days when most watched it on VHS. I’ve reviewed, I’ve interviewed, I’ve written, I’ve been on sets, I’ve advised so many great porn stars, celebrated their amazing successes and kept their secrets. I’ve also been around so long that no changes in gay porn surprise me anymore.

Perhaps that’s why Steve Pena asked me to write this article. It all started when Steve asked his fans if they preferred bareback or condom porn. I sent him a private joking reply, but Steve saw beyond the easy laugh and challenged me to turn it into an article, seeking an opinion rarely sought.

Right up front, I must say that these are just my opinions. I’m not qualified to discuss medical developments in the current STD landscape or the psychological effects of porn on viewers. I do not speak on behalf of any company, any blog, any website. I am just someone who has seen voluminous changes in the gay porn industry while inside it and is pretty unshockable.

The whole point of this article is to address the condom versus bareback issue on a purely pornographic level. I cannot avoid bumping against some more emotional issues, but I want people to focus on the porn itself, not larger social or medical issues.

Okay? We’re all on the same page?

Do I prefer bareback or condom porn? Honestly, I love both. If it can get me hard quickly, I’ll watch it. That’s the truth. And since the scenes don’t usually start with fucking, I often won’t know if I’m watching bareback or condom porn until I’m back from cleaning up the jizz that comes after roughly 32 seconds.

Can that be one of the central arguments here? That porn is porn and there is something out there to please everyone? That all you have to do is simply turn it on?

When asked “is there a future for condoms in gay porn?” there is only one answer: yes, of course. It will not disappear completely. As more studios convert to bareback porn, it seems likely that any company strictly filming gay porn with condoms is going to face serious challenges, but there are many smart people out there and they will survive this too. Fuck, if porn has survived HD, it can survive anything.

However, I do firmly believe there is more to the issue than how a person feels about condom usage, and these possible issues come from years of observation:

Mix and Match:
Take a look at Falcon offerings. If you buy a DVD of any recent Falcon title, the discs have bonus scenes on them from Falcon’s glorious archives. Not all are from the bareback era, but for those who like Falcon and want to see some bareback action, it’s all here in one disc. A DVD can have a few of each and on a website, even more is possible. Many studios do it already. One of the studios I’ve recently noted turning in more and more outstanding work is TimTales. Why not mix and match? They have both condom and bareback porn and in one notorious scene, both! All of it is very hot. Those who want only condom or only bareback may not be so easily swayed, but at least the studios are showing they actively consider what their viewers want. Can viewers meet them halfway?

Filming Quality:
I’ll be blunt here: too many filmmakers lack the skill or creativity in shooting porn for condoms on or off to make much difference. If a cameraman or director cannot get close enough to the action, has no concept of lighting or can do it in only one position, what the fuck does it matter who is wearing what? You can’t see the dick in the ass, let alone what’s on the dick. Change to bareback has come very quickly and I honestly feel that the filming skills to shoot it properly are lagging way behind. Why? I have no idea. They managed it better when they were shooting on tape with cameras the size of trees.

Creativity:
I credited Falcon earlier, but now I have to knock the venerable studio for a truly terrible idea, though one that showed an attempt to bridge the gap while sitting on a fencepost shoved way deep in its ass. Falcon decided to take one of its big movies and make it seem bareback by editing out the condoms. There was no pretending it was bareback, not even a hint of it, so no one was misled. We were simply supposed to believe that some editor went blind digitally removing the condom from every frame. Blogs went wild both knocking and supporting Falcon. This idea seems to have flopped, but they tried. I applaud anyone who tries something new.

That reminds me…a very long time ago, a friend long out of the business was telling me how he and a scene partner were so turned on by each other, they wanted it to feel real. So, the guys, by mutual decision, tore the heads off the condoms and were conscious of when the camera was up close enough to see it, meaning they couldn’t pull out fully. I hadn’t thought about that in years, but I bet it’s not an isolated incident. The scene was scorching, by the way. No, I probably will not tell you the movie or the performers, but I’m open to attempts at bribery.

Everything but the fuck:
Gay porn is not just fucking. There is a lot more to it. Everything from passionate kissing to blowjobs and ass eating can also make a scene perfect. For a long time, Chi Chi LaRue had a whole line of videos focused on rimming and they were terrific! Or, how about fetish porn? Obviously geared toward a subsection of gay porn viewers, many of the fetishes don’t even have fucking, but can be very sexy. Try it! Historically, Titan had cum shots at the end of oral action and then again at the end of anal action and watching just the latter meant missing some amazing sex. Oral fans know what I’m talking about! Stockings, stuffed animals, twins…we’ve had it all. Well, except twins in stockings with stuffed animals.

Yes, I’m aware that many people only want to see fucking and asking them to look at sex acts they don’t enjoy watching is futile, but there were so many things I had never seen or never thought I would see in porn that I have actually come to enjoy watching.

Story porn:
The heyday of story porn is long gone, but Dominic Ford is a perfect example of someone who has a great affinity for that style of porn, especially the comic side. His sex scenes do not suffer in quality, but there is so much else to do in watching his scenes than merely playing lookout police for condoms. A Cockyboys movie tends to run three or more hours. There is a lot going on in their movies and the sex can be so explosive and intense that the guys could be wearing parkas and manage to please. If you watch your porn online, even the briefest scene set-up for Men at Play sizzles so that you may explode before they get those tight suits off. Over at PeterFever, small plots tie together 10 or so scenes but never get in the way of the hardcore action. Try getting wrapped up in the story and maybe the wrapping of the models will matter a bit less.

Favorite stars:
I don’t know if anyone has done any sort of scientific study about this, but what is the loyalty of fans to their favorite stars? In the last year, I can think of a dozen guys who did both bareback and condom porn and some of them continue to go back and forth. If you really like a performer so much that it gets you hard just seeing his name, are you willing to watch him in any kind of porn? Look at the guys who come out of studios like Sean Cody. The site is a machine of cute boys, now predominantly bareback, but many of them rename themselves and jump into the larger world of gay porn with condoms. I have to believe their fans follow them.

Cheap and Easy:
I’m being polite here, but let’s face it, the recent swing toward bareback has produced some exceedingly cheap product that I have trouble imagining gets anyone off (my article, my opinion, but feel free to bash away). True, the move to Internet porn is actually responsible for the glut of cheap porn, but the viewer demand for bareback porn has led to pop-up studios with questionable models and talent turning out crap. Do people really watch crap because it has or does not have condoms? I’m not talking about amateur porn, I’m talking about porn you pay for made by “professionals.”

Availability and Cost:
Internet porn has made gay porn of any kind instantly available to just about anyone. Studios are constantly running membership deals and for $10 or $20 a month of unlimited viewing. It costs no less than $30 or $40 to buy a DVD, so you can get unlimited porn from multiple studios for the costs of a DVD. That means a viewer who loves one performer can follow his scenes, condom or not, then meander through a site and see what else is there. Could this lead you to a scene or a studio you had dismissed because of its stance on condoms?

And don’t think the studios aren’t happily pandering to that possibility. Look at the Naked Sword family of companies. For one membership, you can get so much porn you will never be able to watch it all! If you get a membership for that much porn, I bet even the most die-hard bareback fans will find scenes to like. On the other side, Raw Fuck Club can introduce you to all sorts of bareback sex, maybe there is a scene there that shows you something you hadn’t considered. Or, look at Bel Ami. They chop most of their scenes into two parts, effectively pulling a viewer in twice. It doesn’t cost anything extra when they do it and hell, how many of you can pump your cocks all the way to the end of a 30-minute scene, or a 60-minute scene? Don’t want to watch the condom part of a scene, but it has your favorite Czech twink? Watch the first part and then switch to another scene where a lookalike Slovak twink goes raw.

Can these be part of the central argument? That studios and viewers can mutually open up new avenues through curiosity or re-invention?

I said I would bump up against larger issues. Though I believe it should, of course many disagree that gay porn exists in a purely entertaining bubble. I wish that when we turned our dicks on, we could turn our minds off.

Okay, so let’s address “hypocrisy.” Over the years, and this goes as far back as the emergence of Hot Desert Knights and, at the time and to a lesser degree, Treasure Island, friends in the industry have asked my opinion on whether or not to go bareback. My couch has seen more talking than a psychiatrist’s office and less action than a church pew on this topic alone because I support all gay porn. One giant star had signed a deal with an exclusively bareback studio well over a decade ago was then suddenly frozen in fear as to whether it was a good idea or not and we spent more hours in discussion about it than he actually ended up filming. He gave it a huge amount of contemplation, making no decision lightly, knowing full well he could be losing most of his fan base. It takes blogs or commenters on blogs mere seconds to pull up an article where the star who just announced a switch to bareback had claimed he would never do it, but none of them know what thoughts or actions the performer took to make either statement.

Is it hypocrisy? If you look at one “never” statement and the corresponding “now I will” announcement only, I guess so. But, we have to dig deeper before flinging that label at someone. Until recently, it had been policy at condom-only studios for everyone to be publicly anti-bareback. But, the world has changed and the industry with it. Put a context around those statements. I’m not saying assume that your favorite Raging Stallion hero is a weekend cumdump simply because he has to say one thing at work and then can do whatever he wants at home. I’m simply saying that we cannot take the “never” and the “now I will” statements as the only requirement for calling someone a hypocrite.

I will only dip my toe into the Truvada PreP argument because, as I said, I don’t possess nearly enough information to be considered “informed,” but a lot of people do have that information, people on both sides of the porn dilemma, from condom supporters to activists who have been unwavering in their insistence that safer sex has always mean condoms now adjusting their stances to people who have always refused to use condoms. A porn friend said to me, “maybe in my lifetime, the Pope will come out on behalf of Truvada since it means not using condoms.” After a good laugh, I replied, “he first has to come out and say that one man plowing the hell out of another man is okay–you are such a fucking manwhore that you forget that the reason he doesn’t like condoms is for their use as birth control, an issue between men and women. Remember women?”

Can that be part of the central argument? Bareback sex will be okay when the Pope gives his blessing?

If we take Lucas Entertainment at its word that negative performers will only work with negative performers and positive with positive, and that the testing is current and shared, along with the huge amount of press Michael Lucas has gathered discussing Truvada, perhaps we don’t have to look at it as hypocrisy. Performers are not indentured servants. They can say no. Now that more and more medical professionals are supporting Truvada, used in a specific way and with the understanding that the research is only addressing HIV, could it be that Lucas Entertainment has simply moved to the latest version of safe sex?

Ditto for Bel Ami, a studio that rarely makes any kind of substantial statement, and thus is not being blasted for hypocrisy as they increasingly dispense with condoms. Why? If you want my opinion, it’s because they have conditioned us to assume their models are overwhelmingly straight and so young that they must be as STD-free as the day they were born. Being straight or not very experienced doesn’t mean you can’t contract an STD, though people do tend to make those mental leaps, not exactly discouraged by Bel Ami.

Lucas and Bel Ami have done the exact same thing: one with loud explanation, one with no explanation. The reactions from fans seem to have followed: Lucas gets the hypocrisy label and Bel Ami doesn’t.

Can that be one of the central arguments here? That the definition of “safe sex” is no longer restricted to celibacy and condoms? That viewers can update their definition along with some studios?

Since the early 1980s, the gay community, along with many others of course, have prayed and prayed for medical breakthroughs that prolong life and outright cures. We prayed hard enough and we have the former. We may not have the latter yet, but what if we do have a prophylactic with some very interesting new data worth investigating? Will it affect your decision to bolt if your Grindr hook-up has a cold sore? Will it stop you from going crazy from syphilis? Are there side effects? Do your own research, make your own decisions. Do not depend on gay porn studios for information. They exist to entertain you when you’ve had enough self-education each day and just want to send a load up behind your ear. Or behind someone else’s ear.

While it’s easy to take aim at companies who have made the switch to bareback porn, what about the companies sticking with condoms? In some cases, the vigor to keep viewers has meant a huge increase in quality. Hot House, with its eternally elegant presentation, is a perfect example: they are willing to look at many different fetishes or ways of filming sex that remain undeniably hot, condoms intact, with crisp colorful scenarios and very popular models. Titan has always depended more on their bruisers crashing together like avalanche stones than obsessing over too many close-ups and that energy is the company’s focus. Nobody does it better.

In other cases, the stance can be troubling. Men.com openly stated it will not employ HIV+ performers and will continue to make condom-only porn. However, they did so in such a rush that one could assume every performer who worked for them a lot and suddenly no longer did was HIV+. It may be true, it may not be true, but in all that hurried policy setting, they opened up a speculative Pandora’s Box. It could be coincidence: perhaps some longtime men.com porn stars simply decided to cut down on their filming or work with other studios at just the time men.com decided that HIV status was their #1 priority. But, that stance is company policy and I admire them for having one just as I do Lucas or Bel Ami or Falcon. Controversy fades, good sex is forever.

To be fair, so did Michael Lucas did the same kind of potential damage when he made his statement about positive performers always being paired with positive performers because suddenly a million blog commenters made assumptions about the HIV status of dozens of performers. My take is the same: it was the wrong comment at the wrong time, no denying it. That controversy has also faded. The good sex has not.

Can that be one of the central arguments here? That rushing to be first in line one either side of the argument can be a problem because it doesn’t show enough foresight? Maybe the wait and see attitude of studios still doing what they do best and waiting to see how it all shakes out is not such a bad idea?

I’ve been asked many times, “are the performers willing to risk their health just to film without a condom?” I don’t know. I would never ask such a question. These guys are my friends and I don’t judge their decisions. I trust that if they have come to a decision, they have done so after considering the facts and their options with both eyes open. I don’t ask if they are taking Truvada. I don’t even necessarily know their HIV status. They get enough abuse and speculation simply because they are porn stars that they don’t need the same from friends.

The other question I get asked more often is, “doesn’t porn have a responsibility to the viewers?” Yes, but in only one way: it has to be hot and exciting. That is all porn was ever intended to be. Porn never signed up to be a lifelong sex educator. It only took on that responsibility in the 1980s when porn became the safest alternative to the lack of information surrounding HIV.

Never use a minor and never force a performer to do anything he does not want to do, that is the extent of porn’s social responsibility. Hurl your stones, as many and as hard as you want, I won’t back down from that opinion.

If a person watches bareback porn and says, “my favorite star is doing it, I’ll go do it” without any additional thought, the responsibility falls on that person. That’s just stupid. Porn viewers don’t have all the facts about their favorite stars as they race to that idiotic conclusion. Never make a role model out of someone you don’t know, be it a porn star, a politician or a musician. It’s not fair to them or to yourself.

Can that be one of the central arguments? That we are making the industry into something other than a dazzling assembly line of male sexual perfection?

Porn is a visceral form of entertainment. It needs instant reaction to be successful. It is not made to create intellectual arguments, but it sure is easy to take aim and blame porn for all sort of evil because no one outside the industry will rush to defend it. You cannot attack or praise porn without facts and since it takes a lot of time to amass facts, do you really need to bother? I propose cutting through everything with a slogan:

Get porn on so it can get you off.

That’s the point of porn. Literally, that’s it. Don’t overthink it. Save that for your personal lives and personal choices. I can tell you from the inside that the studios and performers are actively considering everything you would as they make their decisions.

Get porn on so it can get you off.

Again…

Get porn on so it can get you off.

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