It’s Wednesday morning, all the porn stars have gone home and The Grabbys are over for another year. Scanning the list of Grabby Awards winners, there’s a conspicuous absence of bareback videos and performers. This is no surprise. Awards shows are supposed to honour the best in their field, but The Grabbys don’t even acknowledge that bareback porn exists — they have become the mutual backslapping club of condom studios. So are The Grabbys still relevant?
Whether you like it or not, fucking without condoms is no longer fringe activity and bareback porn isn’t produced and traded underground. Early Monday morning, as The Grabby’s after party was winding down, I visited 100 gay porn membership sites to check their latest video release and here’s how things stacked up: 44 sites featured sex with condoms, 49 offered bareback sex, and seven sites released multiple scenes in the previous week which were a mix; and of the 44 condom sites, at least nine of them have filmed barebacking in the past. How can The Grabbys continue ignoring such a huge segment of Gay Pornland?
I don’t know the people who run The Grabbys, so I don’t know why they continue to shun the bareback side of Gay Pornland. But they are stuck in a time warp honouring big studios who today are mere shadows of their early-millennial grandeur. Gone are the days of massive DVD extravaganzas filmed in exotic locations with a cast of two dozen porn hunks, now most gay porn scenes are minimalist productions, filmed on a crate in a darkened room or on the couch in the director’s house. Why? Gay porn is hurting: Porn fans aren’t buying DVDs like they used to, free tubes dominate online porn, and bareback porn continues guzzling up a bigger share of the pie.
This is not a discussion about whether barebacking is right or wrong, this is about an award show completely ignoring what’s happening in the arena it’s supposed to be honouring. In 1999, when the Grabby Awards held its first ceremony, it was also a fund raiser for a non-profit organization doing safer sex education and outreach, but this is 2015, and barebacking is here, it’s mainstream, and with the rise of PrEP use among gay men, it’s not going away.
Gay porn performer Armond Rizzo sums it up with the following tweet.
The Grabby nominee list isn’t completely free of bareback: “Performer of the Year” nominees Trenton Ducati, Jason Phoenix, Armond Rizzo, and Billy Santoro have all filmed bareback scenes; and “Hottest Cock” nominees Alexander Greene, Rocco Steele, and Jarec Wentworth have all also barebacked. They all also perform with condoms.
Ultimately, the decision to bareback in porn is a difficult one that performers and studios have to navigate. It’s also complicated by money: if a performer goes bareback, he may find himself shut out by certain studios; and likewise, as porn buyers continue to demand bareback sex (and in growing numbers), those studios producing condom porn will continue seeing their revenues shrink. The bareback issue is further entangled by the grief of a community that lost legions of its friends and many think that barebacking is an assault on the memories of those we loved. But times change and we’re living in a completely different landscape. If The Grabbys don’t drag themselves out of the last decade, they’ll end up being just a big party porn stars goes to every Memorial Day weekend — or not.