Extra benefits for condoms in porn

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

MCT
MCT

Last October, a porn actor tested positive for HIV and the whole industry shut down for days, according to Fox News. This is not the first time an erotic actor has tested positive and caused a halt in the industry and it probably won’t be the last. Despite fairly strict regulation around regular testing, disease slips through the cracks. In a business where one person can have many partners in one photo shoot and have many shoots in a month, even getting tested every two weeks doesn’t create a safe environment. In response to this latest breakout, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) has begun to discuss a proposal making condom use mandatory in all photo or video based pornography, according to aidshealth.org. This is not a new idea, but the most recent outbreak seems to be a catalyst for change. There is some resistance from industry heads, citing loss of profits and difficulty with enforcement, but I suspect despite their groaning, this may be the moment in time when condom regulation comes into reality.

While the health and safety of sex workers is critical, it is not the only benefit to mandating condom use in pornography. In a world with abstinence education and wide internet access, young children are learning the facts of life from alternative sources. A 2002 Kaiser Foundation study found that 34 percent of public secondary schools taught abstinence-only sex education programs and that 58 percent used “abstinence-plus,” advocating abstinence first with supplementary teaching on how to use birth control. I’m not sure exactly what the “plus” is or how effective it might be, but the teen pregnancy rate in the United States rose three percent between 2005 and 2006, according to The Washington Post.

While a good chunk of the information about sex teenagers receive comes from their friends, I imagine a lot comes from internet pornography. I’ll admit there aren’t many statistics to back me up on this claim (and my Google search for “How many teenagers look at porn” didn’t turn up much), but with the way the news media goes on about underage “sexting,” I can assume teens are getting information about sex from somewhere.

I got the internet in my house around age 10, and I had seen pretty much everything there was to see by the time I entered middle school. There is lots of debate to be had about depictions of women, violence, degradation and false presentation of sex, and my early exposure to all sort of pornographic material certainly shaped some of my ideas about sex. But you can’t deny that I’m not the only person our age that had this experience. There’s a reason guys have a preconceived notion of what a naked woman should look like, and it’s porn.

But the debates about pornography could fill a book. My point is about condoms.

There seems to be a pervasive belief among people our age that condoms are just not as sexy as ‘going bareback.’ The “lessens the sensation” excuse has seemingly become a legitimate reason to not wear them. If condoms were present in every porn film, we might see a change in attitude about condoms in the general public. This could include shots of the condom being applied or talked about in a positive light.

Conservative and anti-porn groups can talk about shutting the whole system down, but if there is one lesson history has taught us about sex work, it’s that it will just go underground. Like many controversial and illegal things in this country, legalization and regulation is far more helpful than a complete ban. It’s true that these issues cause us to talk about pornography on the evening news and begin to discuss just how many Americans indulge in pornographic material. But at some point America is going to have to drop the prude act and accept these elements in our society so that we can fully dissect how they effect our every day lives.

We can’t ignore the influence that pornography has on our culture. As it becomes increasingly available for free online, tech savvy teenagers will jump their parental controls and see whatever they like online, long before they ever have a real life sexual encounter. If I was the president of all the porn in the world there are a lot of changes I would make to the content and attitude of pornography, but I’m not in that position. Condom use protects actors (and the population they may be sexually active with) from disease, but it also sets a precedent that condoms are sexy and necessary for many different sexual acts. Until comprehensive sex education is mandatory and funded in every school in this country, kids will always take their curiosity elsewhere. We can’t change sex education overnight, but we can change what the porn industry teaches our teens.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]