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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 4, 2007

Bareback film studio draws attention at CLAW

Cleveland--An example of the rise in profile of the Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend was the presence of Treasure Island Media, a San Francisco adult film studio.

The studio garnered a great deal of attention by videotaping the goings-on at their booth at the Folsom Street Fair a few years ago, but organizers later threatened them with a lawsuit if they ever used the event’s name again.

This year, they not only had a booth in the CLAW vendor mart selling their DVDs, Tshirts and other garments, they also organized a film shoot. Brad McGuire, a performer who has been in six of their films, worked the booth and attended two parties at Flex Hotel and Spa and the Tool Shed.

Treasure Island is controversial. They specialize in bareback porn, videos where performers do not adhere to the guidelines of safer sex.

McGuire also works as a bartender in Chicago. He performs in videos for some other companies, although a few completely blackball anyone who has been in a bareback video.

McGuire, interestingly, does not argue against that.

“It’s my choice to do it [the bareback films], and it’s their choice not to hire me,” he said.

Bareback porn, which has become increasingly popular over the last ten years, has been greatly stigmatized. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, virtually every porn studio voluntarily began requiring that all of their scenes that include anal sex use condoms, and a few films even used them with oral sex.

After ten to fifteen years of that, however, some producers began making films without condoms again, some of them foreign, others more in the fetish market.

One of the worries opponents of bareback porn have is the “monkey see, monkey do” philosophy--viewers will see people engaging in unsafe sex onscreen, and then do it in their own lives.

McGuire’s friendliness in person belies his onscreen tough-guy demeanor. He likes to believe that his videos for Treasure Island are taken as a fantasy break from real-life safer sex.

“It’s like watching Jackass,” he said, referring to the bone-breaking MTV show. “If someone goes out and does those stunts, they’re stupid, and I like to think our customers aren’t stupid.”

“It’s a fantasy outlet for them,” he continued.

As for his fellow performers, “We look at it as having fun,” McGuire said, noting that he was very close to a number of the other stars in his videos.

But Nathan Schaefer worries about the performers. He’s director of education and public policy at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

“The actors in the film, that’s the primary concern,” Schaefer said, noting that they are putting their health at risk. “The danger of doing bareback sex onscreen is not only related to how it affects other people, but also the people involved in the act themselves.”

“Historically, the advocacy around including safe sex materials and visual images in pornography is a direct result of the harm done to those professionals,” he said.

He credits McGuire for his high regard for his fans, but worries that they might be given too much credit.

“I think it’s dangerous to assume that their audience can distinguish between what’s more or less dangerous,” Schaefer said. “Fantasy versus reality, yes, that makes sense to me, but perceptions of danger in regards to sex, that’s a different concept.”

“I worry that if someone is pleasured by watching bareback sex, and that’s a safe activity for them to be watching that, you have to be worried about what that does to one’s perception of their own risks and what that contributes to their behavior,” he noted.

Schaefer concluded, “Ultimately, it has to at least in some ways include messages that concern public health.”

So, the bottom line from both camps, who generally would not be expected to agree on anything, is: Don’t try this at home.



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