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The Porn Industry Needs Your Love

The Porn Industry Needs Your Support

Earlier this month, Utah's state legislature passed a resolution against Internet porn, calling it a "public health hazard" that leads to "a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."

Dripping with pulpit language, the resolution was approved by Utah's Republican governor, Gary Herbert, on April 19. In no specific terms, it calls for research and policy to "address the pornography epidemic that is harming the citizens of Utah and the nation."

Let me clutch my pearls for a second in feigned shock, alongside the conservatives who passed this resolution with the same Christ-like conviction that makes them hate trans people, marriage equality, and above all else, sex — or at least all visual depictions of it. 

This document would be dismissible if it did not uncomfortably echo the ongoing attacks against the porn industry in California, which came to a head earlier this year when the board of the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety, better known as Cal/OSHA, narrowly voted not to approve draconian porn regulation laws pushed by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The regulations would have required protective barriers like latex condoms, latex dental dams, and eye goggles for all performers on adult sets — despite the strenuous and well-documented efforts by the industry to test performers for STIs, and the long history of such practices being standard in that state. 

Adult performers, directors, and activists across California came out against the proposed laws. Many saw them as a thinly veiled moral attack from AHF, an organization that is rapidly becoming a tiresome enemy to anyone who believes that the sex practices — filmed or otherwise — between two consenting adults do not need such rigorous policing. Note that this is the same organization that has actively campaigned against PrEP — a once-daily pill proven to be extremely effective at preventing HIV transmission — since the drug's release. Michael Weinstein, head of the organization, has called PrEP a "party drug."

The proposed laws were eventually shot down — for now. One of their most vocal opponents was my friend and longtime PrEP activist Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, who in an op-ed for The Advocate wrote:

"Much of the adult industry, performers and producers alike, see this as censorship, a moral crusade, while community advocates see it as reminiscent of proposed laws in the 1980s that criminalized people living with HIV." 

We know the reasons people fear porn, and by extension, sex. There's this deeply ingrained, religiously influenced idea that sex is either wicked or righteous, depending on who you ask. It's something holy when regulated to the privacy of a married couple's bedchamber, and evil everywhere else. Utah's resolution is packed with all the tired and false accusations that porn has received since the advent of the Internet — that porn turns young men into rapists, sex addicts, and child molesters, and that porn abuses women (if studies have shown anything, it is that the opposite is true).

People will probably always be debating the social and psychological effects of watching porn, but regardless of anyone's personal beliefs, porn is a massive global industry that will not simply disappear overnight. It will get pushed underground and go unregulated, harming those who depend on it to survive. As LGBT people, we should be the first and loudest to come to the porn industry's defense. 

Until recently, LGBT characters were not featured prominently or positively in TV and film. When I came along, as a budding homo in middle-Georgia in the late 90's/early 2000's, Will and Grace and Queer As Folk had already gayed up the public airwaves, but it didn't matter — my parents blocked every station not labeled "Christian" or "family" and installed an impassable parental blocker on our Internet. 

I remember the first time I watched porn. I was in high school, dog-sitting for my mother's boss while he was out of town for a weekend. The job was decent pay for the minimal labor of walking and feeding a teacup Bichon Frise. Left alone in a house with a computer, I finally typed the holy words into a search bar: "gay sex." 

The first porn I ever watched that day — a preview clip of a Cocky Boys video — changed my life forever. Growing up in a hyper-religious home in the deep South, the only messages and images I had been given of gay sex were ones of disgust. 

Aside from the usual homophobic slurs that Southern boys call each other on the football field, my teammates said things like, "I don't want a dirty dick," (perhaps oblivious that this can also happen with women) and thought the practice of a senior putting his testicles on a freshman's face was hilarious. (And so did I — let's laugh at this again, maybe?) 

Shortly after that first video, my father confronted me in my bedroom about this “gay problem” and gave me my most lasting image: "It's poop. That's all gay sex is. You're going to live in an apartment that smells like stool, and you won't even notice it, because you'll live in it.”

I've come a long way in my sex life, long enough to know that shit does sometimes happen, but that fact neither negates nor diminishes the high place that sex holds in my life. I've become a pretty kinky guy for whom shit is no longer synonymous with shame. Through porn, I first learned the mechanics of gay sex and, later, the endless variations of it. And all those videos and preview clips and jack-off sessions did more than that: they taught me to love my sex and not see it as something disgusting. When I finally watched gay sex happen with all the sweat and ferocity that gay porn is known for — when I finally saw two men fucking — I discovered that it is far from ugly. It is fucking beautiful.

Many LGBT people grow up thinking that their sex lives are something that must be hidden away. Even with today's widespread media LGBT representation, nearly all love songs and rom-coms that come out cater to straight relationships and straight sex. For the young gay person looking to see their sex life depicted without apology or shame, the only place to go is the Internet and its endless pleasures — digital spaces that the Utah legislature would like to bar them from.

This is why we should take this insufferable crusade against porn personally. Gay people were long taught that we are not welcome in the light of mainstream culture, so many of us went into industries that celebrated our sex lives: escorting, modeling, and porn. That message was less true when I came along, and is even less true now, but we still owe a great deal to the performers, models, directors and artists who made porn back when it was hard to find, and should defend the ones who are making it today.

Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be allowed to watch. Our sex lives and our fantasies are not ugly. Shame and bigotry are. 

ALEXANDER CHEVES X100
ALEXANDER CHEVES is a freelance sex writer and contributor to The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @BadAlexCheves and visit his blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend

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