Recently, a documentary movie in the television guide caught my eye. Porndemic was to be aired late at night, and from the description of its subject matter, I decided to watch it. This movie is about the HIV scare in the American porn industry that occurred in the late 1990s. As I vaguely recalled hearing about that news item at that time, my interest was sparked.
The first 15 minutes or so of this approx. 1 hour and 25 minute film was effectively a celebration of the porn industry here in the US. I was thinking to myself that if the movie did not begin to address its stated subject matter soon, I would likely lose interest and switch it off. What was instructive in those first minutes was that the players in the porn industry, from the performers to producers to distributors, knew by the late 1990s that porn was widely accepted in American society and that the porn industry was continuing to grow rapidly in both annual revenues and profits each year. As well, there were observations by some of the older folks in the industry suggesting that the young, quite hedonistic “stars” of the time (late 1990s) were emotionally immature. (Perhaps, we can also infer that they were rather irresponsible and reckless in some of their behaviors, but I digress.)
The porn industry of the time was centered in the San Fernando Valley of the greater Los Angeles area. Most of the performers knew, or knew of, each other. It was, in a sense, a closed society, where the performers or “stars” were able to pursue a quite hedonistic, debauched, sexual lifestyle with each other and be paid top dollars for doing so. To wit. these individuals were being paid big salaries to screw each other’s brains out in front of a camera. Offstage, they all, or many of them, partied with each other and “enjoyed” more promiscuous sex with various members of this group. One item of note is that the female performers (starlets?) appear to be every bit as enthusiastic in pursuing the porn lifestyle as their male counterparts.
So we can well imagine the palpable fear and anxiety that these players experienced or felt when some of their fellow performers started testing positive for HIV in 1997 and 1998. The carefree, reckless, live for the moment days were gone forever. Reality check. There can be ugly consequences to some of our actions in this world.
The movie then goes on at length about the HIV-Aids scare with some infections of various female porn stars in 1997 and 1998. There is much use of interviews with the actual porn stars or performers that were involved at the time. The story centered on one particular, big name male performer who had put off being tested for HIV, and is said to (alleged to) have forged blood test results so that he could continue to work in the industry. This individual was to be the patient zero in the epidemic of HIV infections among the porn stars. (In hindsight, it does not seem to have been a large epidemic as only a few confirmed infections came to light.) Many of the performers became suspicious and paranoid during this time period. The porn lifestyle had a down or dark side to it. Was this male performer, who was responsible for infecting a few of his fellow performers with HIV, showing reckless, even criminal, disregard for the safety of others? Or, could it be that he was intentionally infecting others? Or, what actually might be more likely, was this villain still in a state of denial as to his HIV status, or in denial as to the likelihood of his infecting others in on set sexual encounters?
It is not clear what conclusions, if any, we are to draw from the movie based on how it ends. Was the purpose of the movie solely to document a historical episode within the industry? Or, was one possible purpose to educate the general public that porn stars are, after all, human beings, and worthy of our compassion?
Reader discretion is advised for this next section.
So, are condoms the panacea for all sexual risks? I have read that many brands of condoms have microscopic holes in the latex that may prevent sperm cells from passing through during sex, but do not stop the AIDS virus from being transmitted to a partner during sexual intercourse.
But, there are larger issues here.
The movie was instructive in other ways. It calls to our attention that as early as the mid 1990s, the porn industry was effectively trying to normalize anal sex for heterosexuals. We have read and commented on posts on a number of marriage blogs over the past several years, some Christian and some not, and we can say that this issue of anal sex within marriage does come up frequently.
What is depicted in porn is almost exclusively casual, recreational sex outside of, or independent of, a monogamous relationship. This was verified by the movie albeit it was not likely a purpose of the movie. The reality is that porn encourages a promiscuous lifestyle as regards sex. Now, a person could counter here that the porn industry is merely responding to, or reflecting the reality of the society over the past few decades. Even so, do we need such reinforcement of promiscuous lifestyles in society?
The level of depravity in some of these films (touched on by the movie above) is truly mind-boggling for many of us. Porn has to be “edgy” to maintain or grow its sales. Over the years, it has continued to push the envelope so to speak by showing ever more graphic sex and ever more extreme sexual encounters and episodes. We hear of anal “gang bangs” in an age of HIV. Are these performers insane, or do they just feel themselves to be invincible in their youthful recklessness? I won’t write of other things depicted as these may be too disturbing to readers. The question arises as to how such films affect young, impressionable viewers in our society?
It is wrong to make a false god out of sense gratification. I say that as a sex positive person who believes that sex is best kept for and within marriage. When a person makes sense gratification the end all and be all of their life, he or she will neglect to develop the other facets of their being and their life, and will become a rather limited one-dimensional type of person. Ultimately, such a life is wasted.
Personally, I do think that porn is a problem, a significant problem, but that it also symptomatic of other problems in our society. It does appear that many Americans are obsessed with sex, but I think there is a contributing factor here that is not fully addressed. Many Americans are sexually frustrated in their personal lives. Thus, for them, there is a certain excitement and vicarious fulfillment in viewing porn films and videos. A starving man is always thinking of where and when his next meal is to be found.
What this says for married persons when porn is a problem in their marriage is that one spouse, or perhaps both, is not achieving sexual fulfillment within the marriage. We have on several occasions written on this blog about the importance of mutually fulfilling sexual relations within marriage. In too many cases, it is the wife who is not sexually available to her husband. But, in a smaller percentage of cases, it is the husband that neglects making love to/with his wife for various reasons. This needs to be, and can be corrected.
Here in the US, we do a terrible job of teaching our adolescent children about sex. As parents, we largely abdicate the responsibility to do so, and let the amoral, even immoral sex ed in the public schools serve as the only instruction on sex for our children. That needs to change. Parents need to take an active role, and engage in ongoing conversations with their teenage children on sex and sexual concerns/issues.
Porn may have served to make the sexual revolution more ingrained into our society, but we can also opine that the sexual revolution normalized porn in our society. We do not need to engage in a chicken or the egg type of conundrum to conclude that we need to push back now against this destructive, moral depravity that has indeed taken a heavy toll in lives and souls over the past few decades.
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