Monkey see, Monkey do?
*Warning NSFW, Mature content*
Does showing barebacking porn in bath houses send the wrong message and lead to the men in towels taking more risks? Leatherboy iain is concerned it will
In the 15 years I’ve been out as a gay man, I have spent a lot of time in bath houses – from Montreal, to Houston, to Auckland, to Luton. I try to do my best to support baths as I consider them a bit of a dying breed, especially here in Toronto where we’ve lost three in the past seven years. (Although one was re-purposed as a swingers club – a score for sex-positive spaces in this city.)
I have spent a lot of time at the remaining bath houses in Toronto – one is where I go for an evening Bear romp, another where I go to chill out, and the other two are where I go for pig sex, depending on my mood and the type of guys I’m looking for.
There is a trend I have noticed about the baths in Toronto that I do find concerning. I am noticing, for the first time in this city, bareback porn playing in two out of four bath houses – three out of five if we were to include one that closed down in the past year – and this surprises me. In one case, there was also a fisting video where the guys were not using any protection as well. This sets off my inner sex-and-BDSM-educator alarm bells.
When talking to people about this, the reactions range from, “wow, that’s not good” to “baths need to make a buck somehow” to “I can’t believe people don’t know how to look after themselves.”
Personally, I believe that bathhouses need to be a partner with the local public health authority and AIDS Service Organizations to help promote healthier choices and well being, and I believe only porn using condoms should be played in bath houses. I acknowledge that the ASOs have regular meetings with the baths here in Toronto to raise these concerns.
Let’s address some of the remarks .
When you’re first coming out, young or old, the first sexual images you see tend to leave a lasting impression. As time goes on, those images start to normalize and they begin to be incorporated into sexual practices and experiences. As an ex of mine said at one time when I was coming out, many people first coming out look to porn as ‘education’, if you will – which, to me, means at-risk men are impressionable when they are first exploring sexuality. In short, it’s the start of eroticisation of those images and the incorporation of that imagery into their own practices.
It may surprise you but some guys actually don’t know better when it comes to safer sex practices. I have played with some older men in bath houses that didn’t know that Vaseline causes latex to deteriorate quickly, and hence leads to condom breakage. You cannot assume that because HIV has been around for 30 years that guys know better.
In outreach, it is hugely tough trying to communicate to the MSM (men who have sex with men) community that does not necessarily identify as gay, nor out, nor listening for those safer sex messages because they don’t think it applies to them due to being in denial about their sexuality. In many cases, men who are coming out – young and older – are nervous and even sometimes too scared to take in the messaging that is out there. You cannot assume that every man identifies as gay in a bath house and that they have the capacity to take in the messaging some of us picked up in our youth or early adulthood.
Looking closer at the MSM community, if you are used to fucking without condoms with your wife, some guys are not necessarily going to think twice about getting fucked or fucking without a condom when with a man. Even with gay youth, the messaging can be completely missed, hence the risk of thinking that they do not need to use condoms. Ultimately, if you don’t have the education, how can you choose what is acceptable risk? Even those who do actively choose riskier sexual activities would agree that one should be educated and come to their own conclusion about what is acceptable risk for them.
As for increasing revenue, I agree, bath houses need to make their buck and I am all in support of sex-positive spaces. I am not so sure bareback porn is the way to go about increasing revenue. When I am choosing a bath house, I am not picking the place with the best porn, I am looking at what I want to get out of my time there – sex or relaxation. But hey, different strokes for different blokes in my books. In which case, I do ask who wants to sit around watching porn and jacking off, when you could be having sex with a hot guy, or multiple hot guys in an afternoon?
In Toronto, in 2009, 69% of reported cases of seroconversion were in gay men. Toronto was ahead of the game in the 80s, by not shutting down their bath houses, but turning them into places where outreach could be done to educate our brothers about making better choices. This statistic proves we still have a long way to go, and our bath houses need to be that partner in safer sex education. I am very concerned that at-risk men will watch these videos and normalize it into their own behaviours.
Guest contributor boy iain was the subject of two PositiveLite interviews with Bob Leahy about the world of leather, here and here. Those interviews have also appeared on www.hivster.com , this was first published on Positivelite.com