Saturday, 12 April 2014

Porn Performer Welfare: Treasure Island Media's Latest "Snuff-Porn" Stunt

Treasure Island Media have created some contentious porn, much of which is designed to skirt the line between consent and violation. Slammed is one such title, in which the participants ostensibly use hard drugs prior to sex; if the footage is genuine, it is difficult to ascertain the levels of consent involved. 
The company seem to revel in controversy, and their latest release Viral Loads is a desperate attempt to shock. The film purports to depict HIV Positive performers ejaculating into a jar. Once 200 "loads" have been amassed, they are then squirted into Blue Bailey's rectum. Unsurprisingly, the film is picking up some negative press, even within porn-friendly sectors. For example, str8upgayporn.com are referring to Viral Loads as a snuff-film (I won't post a link as it is a NSFW site).
I cannot comment on the film itself as I have not seen it. I do not know whether the liquid collected really is semen, or whether it genuinely has been amassed from HIV-Positive performers. It may be that the film is a fantasy construction, or that the audience achieves pleasure from watching this material because, like viewers of faux-snuff fiction, the audience believes the footage to be contrived. 
However, it is interesting that even if Viral Loads is fantasy, Treasure island Media continue to create and unabashedly market such controversial material while "extreme" production has all but died out in studio-based heteroporn. I am not suggesting that everything in heteroporn is "peachy" or that gay male porn is "worse" in any way. What the brazen Viral Loads campaign does suggest however, is that campaigners who are concerned about porn and issues of harm should principally focus on performer welfare, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender of the performers involved.
Viral Loads raises many difficult ethical questions, but here is the one that most interests me. If: a) the liquid genuinely is semen, b) that semen really has been produced by HIV-Positive men, c) Blue Bailey has consented to having the liquid squirted into his body, and d) Blue Bailey is able to give his consent (if he "of sound mind" to use legal lingo), does anyone have the right to intervene? To object is to infringe on Bailey's autonomy, suggesting that even if he does make a reasoned decision, his choice is invalid - that is, he is incapable of making decisions about his own body, his welfare and so forth. 
The reason I flag this question is that I suspect many people who find the idea of Viral Loads disquieting may not really be thinking about Bailey, or at least not as an individual who made a decision to star in the film. For many objectors, the problem with Viral Loads begins at a broader, more abstract level: with the idea that Treasure Island Media are profiteering from sexual harm, that the film is characteristic of glorified sexual harm that is increasingly visible and pervasive in our culture, or that the notion of viewers taking pleasure in fantasies of sexual harm is indicative of a decline in human compassion, for instance. 
If Bailey really is being exposed to high-risk activities, ensuring that he has made an autonomous choice should be our first concern since he is the one who is directly and immediately exposed to potential harm. Yet, each of the above objections point away from Bailey or the particular performance he engaged in. No matter how valid any of these concerns are then, it is notable that our prevailing paradigms for conceptualising the combination "porn and harm" too readily neglect the individuals directly involved in the performance. It seems to me that such approaches themselves display a lack of compassion or concern for human welfare. 





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