POZlife

POZLife: Life from the Infected and Effected point of veiw.

Bareback promotion draws activists’ ire

Posted by pozlife on June 1, 2006

BAREBACK.jpg
Treasure Island Media director Max Sohl and Dawson, star of "Meat Rack" and "Dawson's 20-Load Weekend," raffle prizes during a promotion at the Eagle. The event sparked outrage among activists because they contend the films promote and glamorize unsafe sex.

By MIKE LAVERS
Friday, March 11, 2005

A month after New York City health officials announced a man had tested positive for a highly aggressive and drug-resistant strain of AIDS, the city's only leather bar hosted an event that appeared to endorse "barebacking" (anal sex without condoms).

On Friday, March 4, representatives from Treasure Island Media, a San Francisco-based production company that has produced dozens of bareback films, unveiled their latest movie at the Eagle. The film takes place on Fire Island, in and around the Pines, in which Dawson, a Treasure Island actor, has unprotected sex with nearly a dozen men.

Barebacking films have aroused a lot more than the libidos of gay viewers who want to see men having sex without condoms. They have unleashed a storm of criticism among gay men, with some saying that they are protected by freedom of speech and others insisting that they perpetuate and countenance deadly sex practices.

The premiere at the popular gay leather bar in the far reaches of West Chelsea sparked outrage among local gay activists and health care providers.

Dawson and "Meat Rack" director Max Sohl were at the Eagle to promote their movie and to greet nearly 50 people who turned out for its premiere. What particularly outraged activists was the second reason for the Eagle meet-and-greet: They were also reportedly there to recruit models for the upcoming sequel to another movie, "Dawson's 20-Load Weekend." The film is being planned for a New York shooting next weekend, when several thousand men will converge on the city for the annual Black Party. The producers apparently plan to film over a three-day period coinciding with the huge leather-oriented dance event at Roseland Ballroom.

Jon Winkleman, a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, accused Treasure Island Media of producing films that eroticize HIV and AIDS. During the premiere, he passed out fliers reading "Treasure Island Media makes snuff films" and "Men who intentionally infect and spread AIDS to negative men are murderers!"

Winkleman, who was also an active member of ACT-UP during the early and mid-1990s, described the decision to allow Treasure Island Media to debut "Meat Rack" and show "Dawson's 20-Load Weekend" at the Eagle as irresponsible.

"I'm just so shocked that such a prominent part of the leather community would promote a party that eroticizes getting infected," he charged.

The Eagle did not return repeated requests for comment as to whether the bar had sanctioned the event. But Saul Austin, a spokesman for Treasure Island Media, said Winkleman's allegations against the company are unfounded. He further indicated that Treasure Island Media may pursue legal action against Winkleman and others responsible for the fliers' content.

"The unsigned statement was not only factually inaccurate but libelous as well – to both our company and our models," Austin told the Blade. "The authors of the flyer misinterpreted our style and content, and without contacting us for clarification, literally declared Treasure Island Media and its models to be murderers."

Bareback videos criticized
Dan Carlson, co-founder of HIV Forum of New York City, said the promotion at the Eagle is "socially irresponsible. We are still in the age of HIV and AIDS, and we have to acknowledge that it is still a difficult disease to live with," Carlson said. "Parties like these don't contribute to a mindset of safety."

Jay Laudato, executive director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, added that he is most concerned about the growing popularity of bareback films among gay men. "It is so clearly a dangerous activity to engage in," he said. "It both shocks me and saddens me that the community continues to find this something that is sexy because it is not. It is destructive."

The Blade reported last September that bareback movies, including those produced by Treasure Island Media, could be found for sale or rent at Rainbows & Triangles on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea and other video and DVD sellers around the city. Carlson, who has repeatedly called for increased funding for HIV prevention initiatives, said the debut of "Meat Rack" at the Eagle highlights the need for more education about the dangers associated with unprotected sex. "The issue for us is contributing to shifting norms away from safer sex to bareback sex without understanding the context and education around that," he said.

Carlson admitted that some gay men, such as those who are in long-term monogamous relationships where both partners have tested HIV-negative, may feel comfortable having unprotected sex. He added that bareback sex in gay porn movies is an entirely different matter.

"Barebacking in the context of a bar or sex club is very different than at home with a monogamous boyfriend of three years who is negative," Carlson said.

Ana Oliveira, executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, said the gay porn industry can play a pivotal role in preventing HIV and praised the industry for "eroticizing safer sex" during the 1980s. Nevertheless, Oliveira criticized companies that "would rather make a fast buck" than "promote the long-term health of their customers."

"While barebacking videos may tap into fantasies of sex without consequences, the harsh reality is that unprotected sex continues to drive new HIV infections in our community," she said.

Winkleman agreed. He said gay New Yorkers need to take a stand against bareback movies and the companies that produce them.

"We really need to start talking about it and challenging the notions that it is hot and erotic to shoot a load up someone's butt without knowing their status," Winkleman charged. "The message of getting loads up your butt is not good."

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