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Bareback Films Banned From Int'l Mr. Leather Convention

"I am trying to reach those people who think AIDS isn't something to be aware of, " says IML founder.
Bareback Films Banned From Int'l Mr. Leather Convention
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Jul 23, 2009 3:00 PM PDT    Text size: 
CHICAGO — Organizers of the International Mr. Leather (IMRL) convention have elected to bar the sale and promotion of condomless, or bareback, materials at all future events.

The policy change was recently disseminated in a letter to IML vendors and has stirred up controversy in the leather community and the gay and gossip blogosphere at large.

"Though we are now three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, no cure has been found," IML President Chuck Renslow said. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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."

An "entire generation may not fully appreciate or comprehend the severity of the situation," having not experienced the loss of friends and loved ones to the disease.

"Too many 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," Renslow said. "We believe that it is our obligation to do everything in our power to prevent future infections."

Towards that end, the IML Executive Committee has altered the policy of its popular Leather Marketplace, held annually during the convention, to "no longer allow participation by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes or sells any merchandise tending to promote or advocate barebacking."

"This restriction will also apply to the distribution of gifts, post cards, or any other information via our facilities."

Renslow was spurred to action in part by a request made by organizers of Act Against AIDS , the CDC's national campaign aimed at reducing incidences of HIV in the U.S.

"I was asked by the people running Act Against AIDS to do something. AIDS infections are increasing. My partner died from AIDS. People, especially young people, are not getting the information they need. I looked around and decided I could do something about that," Renslow told XBIZ.

"These young kids, especially, they may not have everything they need to know. Some older guy might tie them up, give them the wrong information, and they don't know any better."

The policy change has stirred up controversy in the gay adult filmmaking community and among fans of the popular bareback genre.

STD testing of gay adult performers is voluntary and a majority of all-male studios instead self-regulate the use of condoms.

However, scores of gay adult films are released every year featuring condomless sex. STD testing of performers engaging in condomless sex by the studios that employ them is voluntary.

"We're not barring bareback companies from the Leather Market, only the promotion of bareback sex and the bareback lifestyle, and the sale of bareback videos," Renslow said. "They are welcome to take out a booth at the Leather Mart and to participate as long as bareback is not promoted or encouraged in any way."

Renslow reiterated IML's intention to push the issue of rising HIV infections center stage.

"If a grown man makes the informed decision to have bareback sex, that is his decision," he said. "That is not who I'm trying to reach. I am not trying to infringe anybody's right to free expression or sexual expression. I am trying to reach those people who think AIDS isn't something to be aware of, especially those young kids who don't know any better.

"We can't allow this to continue to happen. I am in a position to do something about that and I am taking that stand."

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