SEX

Numbers Don’t Lie: People Prefer Their Porn Without Condoms

Particularly straight people

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Barebacking? Leave it to the professionals. — (Photo Illustration: Diana Quach)
Feb 24, 2016 at 11:31 AM ET

The health of porn performers is under increased scrutiny as of late; California lawmakers even tried to pass legislation that would force adult film actors to wear condoms and even goggles on camera (it didn’t pass). But don’t viewers prefer their playbacks bareback?

In order to take a hard look at the popularity of condoms in online porn, Vocativ binge-watched a considerable volume of adult entertainment from the vast perv servers of Pornhub.com. We can confirm what you may well have thought: the most popular videos featuring heterosexual sex are largely latex-free. Nine of the top 10 most viewed videos of all time on Pornhub.com feature zero condom usage. And there are no condoms in Pornhub’s most popular porn video of all time—Kim Kardashian’s 140 million-view sex tape, which launched her career upon its release in 2007. (Kim actually takes two spots on the top 10; a second part of the sex tape ranks seventh, and there’s no visible condom use in that installment, either.)

The most popular heterosexual porn videos are almost entirely condom-free, but gay porn is another matter. On the site’s most-watched gay porn offerings, all of which feature anal sex between two men, five of the top ten videos feature condom usage, including Pornhub’s most watched gay porn movie ever, with over 12 million views.

In the top ten videos from this month featuring male-on-female vaginal sex, just one single video had condom use, and it was the least popular video of the 10 we considered. Yet for gay porn, the frequency of condom use was even greater than in the all- time most popular videos. 70 percent of February’s most-watched gay porn videos featured condom usage (not including two videos which do not feature male-on-male anal sex).

Conner Habib, a gay porn star who has appeared in over 200 scenes, says the disparity in condom usage is not surprising, considering the HIV epidemic of the 1980s had a lasting effect on the gay porn industry. “Condom use is more prevalent [in gay porn] because there is just a longer history of dealing with and understanding HIV in the gay community, and different strategies for how to contend with it,” Habib says.

Nevertheless, Habib tells Vocativ that condom usage is still not the norm in gay porn. He also claims health testing guidelines, such as those laid out by Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the porn and sex toy industry, are often followed by straight porn studios in lieu of condom usage. But these guidelines have not reached many gay performers and producers. Eric Paul Leue, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, explains to Vocativ: “Traditionally, LGBT producers developed guidelines separate from the ‘straight’ protocols,” but says that “almost all” of the top producers of gay porn are members.

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One of the earliest gay porn producers, Chi Chi LaRue, otherwise known as Larry David Paciotti, produced her first pro-condom porn film back in 1987. “Flexx” used condoms in every single scene, and LaRue tells Vocativ she uses them to protect her performers. “From that moment on I never did a movie straight, gay, transsexual or otherwise without condoms.”

However, she now accepts that some producers, whether or not they test their performers by other means, simply prefer not to use condoms. “I used to stand on a soapbox and jam my opinions of condom use down everyone’s throat. Now I just police myself and do what I think is best on my sets … I guess you could say I’m sending a message that using condoms could be sexy, while others that choose to not use condoms could possibly be sending the wrong message, but that’s not really for me to decide.”

Then again, having your performers wear condoms isn’t necessarily going to protect them, nor will it protect people watching at home if they’re led to the believe condoms are the gold standard of protection from STDs. Leue says: “Condoms break, condoms come off, they have to be replaced multiple times on a given shoot, and they can cause rashes and abrasions when used for a prolonged length of time. They’re not made for adult production. So it’s important going forward that we include multiple ways of prevention, including testing, PrEP and condoms, and allow performers to make choices that work for them.”

Habib says that while it’s fine to enjoy watching porn, it’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves which parts they take back to the bedroom. Porn is entertainment, and like any entertainment, it’s not necessarily the best place to look for life lessons. “I’ve done porn scenes where I’ve had sex on the back of a motorcycle—not a moving motorcycle, but on a motorcycle. I’m not educating anybody by doing that … It’s really important to be … aware of the aspects that are turning you on, and ask yourself why, and sort of go from there in a way that’s healthy for you.”

In other words, go ahead: Get your rocks off to your favorite porn film. Just don’t look at it as safe-sex education.