IML bans material promoting unsafe sex

Mon. July 20, 2009 12:00 AM by Jay Shaff

international mr. leather 2008 gary iriza

photo credit // bullmanx
Chicago, IL - IML's (International Mr. Leather) executive committee has banned vendors at the group's annual convention from displaying or selling any pornographic photos and videos which portray or promote unprotected sex, also known as barebacking.

A statement released on International Mr. Leather, Inc. letterhead and signed by Chuck Renslow, President of IML, reads as follows:

"Dear Vendors:

On behalf of International Mr. Leather, Inc., I would like to thank you for your past support and in particular for your participation as a vendor in our annual Leather Market. We are writing you today to inform you of a policy change affecting next year (2010) and all future markets.

Though we are now three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, no cure has been found. The CDC and local health officials inform us that new infections are on the rise. And, while we have had some success developing medications that might make infection more manageable, that accomplishment comes at a price. Not having experienced the deaths - the loss of loved ones -- which preceded these medications, we have an entire generation who may not fully appreciate or comprehend the severity of the situation.

Too many in our community believe HIV/AIDS is curable or manageable. Too few understand that HIV/AIDS infections dominate life. We believe that it is our duty to inform and educate. Several years ago when "Meth" was the scourge of our community, IML drew a line in the sand and raised awareness and used all our influence to try and stop this addictive madness. As is the case with HIV/AIDS, we believe it is our further obligation to do everything in our power to prevent future infections.

To that end, after considerable discussion, the Executive Committee of International Mr. Leather has decided that it will no longer allow participation in the IML Leather Market by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes/sells any merchandise tending to promote or advocate barebacking. This restriction will also apply to distribution of gifts, post cards or any other information via our facilities.

This policy takes effect immediately."

Jim Pickett, gay men's health advocate, offered the following to

"IML's decision to ban booths, merchandise, or paraphernalia from companies that focus on selling or promoting bareback sex has created an enormous amount of discussion and debate. That's a great thing, and I'm delighted with the community-wide conversation that Chuck Renslow's letter has encouraged. Gay men SHOULD be critically engaged in our collective health and wellness, and that includes being mindful of everything we consume, including porn.

While I appreciate the consciousness raising aspects of the IML ban, I would ask sexually active gay/bi/trans me to keep a few things in mind. First, not all "bareback" sex, or anal intercourse without a condom, is a risk for HIV transmission. For instance, two men may make a mindful, informed decision to have intercourse without a condom and not worry about transmitting or acquiring HIV if they each have the same HIV status.

Secondly, most of the behavioral research shows that around 50% of gay men engage in anal intercourse without a condom. We need to step up our efforts around NEW ways to protect ourselves and our partners from HIV, beyond latex. Ongoing promotion of condoms is important, for sure, but we also need new tools, like rectal microbicides, vaccines and oral prevention, to add to the safer sex "buffet."

Many people don't like using condoms all the time, or at all, and demanding they use a condom every time they have intercourse won't make it so.

We also need more research into risk-reduction behaviors like sero-sorting and sero-adaption - where men make decisions about the kinds of sex they will have depending on their own serostatus and that of their partners. We don't know enough about things like "strategic positioning" and "dipping" and the withdrawal method - and it's high time we started finding out how well these strategies work for reducing HIV risk.

Finally, if gay porn was so powerful, most of us would be using condoms all the time. Most porn, after all, involves men using condoms with each other. This is not to minimize the possible effects of bareback porn, but to put it into context.

For people who are interested in the discussion around bareback porn, the co modification of pleasure and risk, and sexual intimacy in our lives, please join us for the community forum "Risky Business" on August 17 at the Center on Halsted. Check out for more information and to RSVP."