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      A Porn Director Stirred Up Controversy by Making a Movie Centered Around HIV

      May 11, 2014

      A still from Viral Loads

      Treasure Island Media is a gay-porn studio based out of San Francisco that has always specialized in making films that pirouetted on the edge of outrage, but its most recent release, titled Viral Loads, headed straight into the abyss. It's an extremely hardcore video starring Blue Bailey, an allegedly HIV-positive man who's status is curiously exempt from the film's presser and—well, here's an excerpt from the studio's description of the film:

      The willing, hungry lad gets gang-fucked by a roomful of studs. Most are poz [HIV-positive], some are neg. Who the fuck cares? Not Blue, that’s for fuckin’ sure.

      To finish up his man worship initiation, we bring out a brimful jar full of more than 200 poz loads. Blue’s good buddies Dayton O’connor and Drew Sebastian carefully squirt every fucking drop up Blue’s knocked-up ass. Max X slurps Blue’s jizz-leaking ass throughout, establishing himself as the new world’s felching-champeen.

      I called Treasure Island head honcho Paul Morris to ask what the heck was going on here, and he in turn asked if I was cut or uncut.

      What follows is an excerpt from our conversation. I should say that getting in touch with him was challenging, which he later explained by telling me, “This is the first phone call I’ve taken in years. I don’t meet people, and I don’t talk to them. I deal with the men that I work with. It’s very rare that I meet somebody.”

      VICE: Hey, Paul, thanks for talking to me. I’m flattered.
      Paul Morris: Toby, I assume that you’re uncut.

      Yep. A lot of us Australians have hoodies.
      That’s kind of wonderful, isn’t it?

      Yeah, it’s all right. You’re pretty shy on the phone. I understand your reserve; your porn doesn’t always receive the warmest reception.
      I find the most offensive reaction to what I’ve done is people saying that I clearly don’t understand the suffering and what was lost due to HIV. The vast majority of my acquaintances and friends and lovers died. It isn’t that I’m untouched. It’s that I’m so deeply touched by it that I believe in the necessity of remembering what it is that they and I all explored—and not forgetting it. That’s crucial to me. The most painful thing for me to hear is I’m callous, or I’m doing this to make a buck on the deaths of other people or something like that. That’s horrifying to me.

      In one scene in Viral Loads, there’s a jar of 200 different loads labeled “POZ CUM.” It is poured directly into Blue Bailey’s ass. You can see how that would upset people.
      The number of men who have written to me asking to be the recipient of gallons of semen is virtually uncountable. These aren’t the incidental fantasies of a small fringe of outliers. These speak to the heart of the sexual imagination of most queer men. It wasn’t made for you. There’s no reason for you to see it. For you, it would read as an irrational stunt. But for the straight world, much of what comprises queer culture and life is incomprehensible. Regrettably, the same can still be said for many of the older members of the gay world. Years ago I stated that all gay men are HIV-positive. That is, every gay man alive today is defined as much by the viral load narrative as by any external homophobia. If you wonder at the meaning of a jar filled with poz loads being poured up the ass of a happy, intelligent, and more-than-willing young gay man, the primary meaning is that there is no reason or excuse for continuing to live in fear of a virus.

      Then why the controversy?
      We’re at a point where it’s altogether possible, given the simple strategies like PrEP, to render HIV a nonissue. And the gay world is panicking because too much money, too many institutions, too much of the gay mainstream has based itself on terror and fear and grief. It’s a cultural identity crisis. It’s a mass version of agoraphobia. A world that’s suddenly free of fear is daunting and very large.

      Have any of your performers contracted HIV during one of your videos?
      You’d have to ask my performers that question. I know everything about them. Everything.

      Then surely you know this.
      Yes. I do know this.

      And?
      And that’s between myself and those people. When people come to me, we have one of the most extensive interview processes of any company in porn. We get to know not just what their health status is—whatever “health” means—but we find out who they are. We talk with them about what books they’re reading. “Why are you coming to do porn?” We encourage people not to do it if there’s the slightest indication this isn’t something they really want or should do. Then they tell us everything. We put them into situations they want to be put into. Everyone who’s in one of our pieces is doing exactly what they most want to be doing. Now, what they tell me is extremely private. You’re asking me to tell you the most intimate information about the people with whom I work?

      It’s hardly intimate in this context. You advertise this. You market it. It’s the kink in the middle of Viral Loads.
      Why would you call it a kink? What does a kink mean? No. no, no, no. First of all, you’re not the person for whom this video is made, Toby.

      Is that relevant?
      The point is that this was made for a community of men who understand what it means.

      What does it mean?
      Some of the people that I’m most interested in right now are young, intelligent gay men who are educated, bright, upper-middle class. They refuse HIV meds because they’re proud of their viral load. Is that something you can understand?

      It is. I get it.
      Explain it to me.

      If it were me? You’re right, I’d go crazy trying to live a normal life with a killer virus waiting to take me out.
      Interesting. One of the elements of Viral Loads that I think from the outside might not be immediately apparent—is the term. “Viral load” is something that the entire gay world has held on to and labored under for two generations. One of the reasons I made this title was to simply say, exactly as you did, “Enough is enough.” We're living with this; let’s just be open and clear about it. I don’t see anything controversial about that, do you? If it seems odd to some people; they’re not the people I’m really interested in. Certainly they’re not the people I’m working for.

      They’re part of your community. You should give a shit.
      There are people who are locked for various reasons into archaic and counterproductive ways of thinking and living. I had an acquaintance who was in his late 70s; he was a fellow who hated my work. He assured me that he would only have safe sex because he didn’t want to become HIV-positive. A few weeks after we had that conversation, he died of a heart attack. I think he was insane. Gay men in their 50s and older are addicted to the notion that sex equals death, and the culture has to live under the burden of terror. The only wildness that is acceptable is the wildness of drag queens.

      In gay culture, there’s never been more of an almost hysterical centering of life around two things—drag queens and marriage—both of which are unfortunate misogynistic parodies of heteroseuxal life. Gay men have completely lost the sense of who they are because they’ve been immersed in terror, because they’ve been living under a viral load for two generations.

      Is HIV inextricably linked with the gay identity?
      No, and in 20 years it’ll be all but forgotten. It is right now, and what I’m saying is, we’re more than this. The point of Viral Loads was for those people to whom it would make sense to look at it, say it, own it, and fucking move on. Fucking move on! In 20 years, there will be references to HIV, and young gay men will astonish and horrify people who are now in their 20s when they say, “What the fuck are you talking about?” And the men will say, “I remember the day when it was a big deal. I remember the day when if we had just fucked somebody and come up their ass, we were worried about HIV.” My point is: Time to fucking move on. Somebody said, “How safe does it have to be for you before you’ll just fuck somebody?” My answer is: It’s there! We’re there. We’ve been there. Now the important thing is to break the mould of stigma and terror and knee-jerk reaction.

      Follow Toby McCasker on Twitter.

      Topics: HIV, Gay, porn, homosexual, Viral Loads, HIV-positive, poz, controversy, POZ CUM, Blue Bailey, Paul Morris, Treasure Island Media, poz porn, HIV porn, AIDS, stigma, HIV aids, PrEP, is the age of HIV over?, shame, LGBT

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