When HIV is a turn-on

A new gay porn film courts controversy by fetishizing positive performers, and hinting at the risk of transmission

Topics: Sex, Love and Sex, HIV, LGBT,

When HIV is a turn-on (Credit: Slinky777 via iStock/Salon)

There is a jar of white liquid. Written on the jar are the words, “POZ CUM.” The contents are poured directly into one of porn star Blue Bailey’s orifices — an orifice that is not his mouth.

This scene from Treasure Island Media’s new film, “Viral Loads,” is stoking controversy — even in the condom-eschewing straight porn industry — by fetishizing HIV and transmission risk. The film’s press release boasts, “Mansex is a virus, one that uses men as its host. Some try to resist it. Others embrace it as the source of life and meaning. We live to breed the sex-virus, to pass it on to every random anonymous dude we meet and fuck. It’s how we reproduce, man.” Of Bailey’s costars, the press release says, “Most are poz, some are neg. Who the fuck cares?

Industry blogger Mike South wrote about the new film under the headline, “And You Thought Straight Porn Was Bad … .” A post on STR8UPGAYPORN opined, “Treasure Island Media isn’t really a gay pornography studio anymore, is it? Now, their business model is 100% focused on spreading infectious diseases.” He added that the production company “is in the business of terror and death (which is a weird thing to expect people to jerk off to),” and likened the release to a “snuff film.”

Thing is, Bailey is HIV-positive; he isn’t an HIV-negative performer being exposed to positive ejaculate. However, it’s theoretically possible that he could contract an HIV super-infection or other STIs from the activities in “Viral Loads.” What, I wondered, did Bailey make of this risk, the surrounding controversy and the film’s fetishization of HIV (and perhaps even the idea of — if not the actual, real-world — transmission of the virus)? I gave him a call to find out.

What do you think of the controversy over the film?

I requested to be in the video. The jar of cum was their idea but, to me, that wasn’t imposing any risk to my health because I’m HIV-positive and a jar of cum wasn’t going to change that or affect my health in any way. To me, it doesn’t seem like a controversy at all. Of course, they’ve hyped it up and sensationalized it a bit, but it’s not like it was affecting my health.



Treasure Island may have left out my status on purpose to maybe hype it up.

Did you have any worries about contracting any other STIs?

That’s always a risk with having sex, so at some level there’s a chance that can happen, but I get tested pretty often. I got tested before that and afterward.

Some people will be scandalized to find out that there is pornography that fetishizes HIV. What would you say to them, how would you explain it?

One, it could be made for an audience that is already seeking that out and that may already be HIV-positive and that’s just part of how they have sex in their life. Another aspect could be somebody who is HIV-negative and would like to fantasize about this and jerk off to it, but not necessarily participate in it. That’s a way for them to fulfill the fantasy without actually participating in risky behavior.

You mentioned that Treasure Island Media might have left out your status purposefully to create the illusion that there was a risk of transmission of HIV. Why?

I certainly think they left it out to get people talking about it.

Do you feel any responsibility in your films to set an example of safe sex?

First and foremost, I don’t think that porn needs to set an example. It’s not an educational video. For me, personally, as somebody who is openly HIV-positive, I am informed about my decisions, I communicate with my partner about my status and I think in that aspect I am being responsible in the choices that I make for myself.

The studios that I work with, even though they don’t test and are bareback, they talk to the models. They usually sero-sort. If it’s a positive-negative model pairing, both models are aware; usually the positive model is undetectable, which lowers transmission risk.

You primarily shoot without condoms.

I do both, but I would say the majority of the work I do is without condoms.

And you work with models that are HIV-negative.

I’ve worked with HIV-negatives both on the bareback side and the condom side.

The film seems to fetishize HIV, maybe even the risk of transmission. Why might that be a sexy thing for some gay men?

That is a difficult question, because I don’t want to speak for everybody. The only thing I can think of is that, perhaps, somebody who is negative would engage in bareback sex and then always have a fear about contracting and perhaps they think if they’re already positive, that fear would not be there anymore. That thinking seems to be a little outdated, because if they’re able to get on PrEP they would be able to do the same thing and protect themselves.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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