Porn and Football Share a Dangerous Obsession

Jonathan Smith writes on www.policymic.com- America’s profitable porn industry came to a grinding halt (sorry, I couldn’t resist) last week. Several industry organizations called for a moratorium on production after a 29 year-old female performer, Cameron Bay, tested positive for HIV. The recent moratorium has bolstered the proponents of a Los Angeles County ordinance (recently upheld as constitutional), that requires condoms to be worn during vaginal and anal penetration scenes.

The debate between the porn industry, health professionals, and politicians is, oddly enough, reminiscent of the ongoing discussions involving the NFL’s new tackling guidelines and regulations.

Porn is a lot like football and other professional sports that have to balance entertainment with the need for safety. The bodily risks taken by athletes and porn actors are the consequence of viewers’ demands for better entertainment in the form of bigger hits, harder tackles, and raunchier sex scenes. Players and performers gravitate towards those actions that will draw the most spectators toward them. An athlete takes steroids to enlarge his muscles for the same reason a porn star will enlarge her breasts: to stay relevant. Meanwhile, desensitized consumers expect professionals to entertain them with spectacles and performances that set them apart from their peers.

This demand for spectacle has encouraged both football and porn to become more dangerous. According to a Guardian article, in her highly critical book on the porn industry, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, author and professor Gail Dines found that, “the most popular acts depicted in internet porn include vaginal, oral, and anal penetration by three of more men at the same time; double anal; double vaginal; a female gagging from a penis thrust into her throat; and ejaculation in a woman’s face, eyes, and mouth.” An analysis of the porn industry by Business Insider found that the porn industry especially rewards women who film in-demand penetration scenes; performers receive $800 for a girl-on-girl scene, $1,000 for a guy-on-girl scene, $1,200 or more for anal sex, and $4,000 or more for double penetration. While such scenes pay considerably more, they also carry an increased risk of disease transmission. The industry has tried to address the problem several times in the past. It mandated condoms during an HIV scare in the late 1990s and in 2004, but reversed itself after sales began to slump.

Athletes — in particular, male athletes — also face economic pressures when it comes to health risks, and are just as defiant as porn stars when it comes to safety regulations. Football is a violent sport that puts tremendous wear and tear on a player’s body, all for viewers’ enjoyment. Players are upset over recent rule changes that fine players for being too aggressive, such as the rule that forbids players outside the tackle box from lowering their helmet before initiating contact — i.e., what every running back does to break a tackle.

Just think of the last time you watched a football game with a group of people, and together, you let out a collective, “Oh, shit!” when the linebacker sacked the quarterback. How many times did you rewind the DVR to show the hit in slow motion? Defensive players receive bonuses for aggressive hits and sacks, and in an industry where the average career last only six or seven years, such bonuses are essential to players’ retirement funds. Porn actors are also employed in an age-limited career, with the average actor staying in the business for no more than a few years.

Consumers will continue to reward the porn producers and team owners who meet the demands and expectations of a fickle public. Entertainers will be forced to take huge risks with their bodies as long as we insist that athletes perform at superhuman levels, and as long as we dehumanize porn stars. What porn and football have most in common are fans that see performers as something other than human.

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