Bareback Porn Star, 25, Dies
The death, of an AIDS-related illness, of a 25-year-old barebacking porn star is the latest twist in several episodes that have roiled the adult entertainment industry in recent years.
Chad Noel’s March 17 death was reported on at GayPornGossip on March 26. The posting read, "Chad Noel age 25, a former ’twink genre’ gay porn performer using the stage names of Donny Price & Craven Cox passed away in New York City, on March 17, 2010 following a brief illness associated with complications of HIV." The article also noted that Noel had worked for an adult entertainment company that makes videos of men barebacking--a euphemism for unprotected anal sex. Noel had also performed under the names Craven Cox and Donny Price. Noel was a native of Laramie, Wyoming, the town outside of which Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die. A notice of Noel’s death was also published in the Laramie Boomerang on March 23.
Noel’s death is the latest chapter in an ongoing debate about barebacking, both in pornographic films and in gay society. Health experts point to a failure among younger gays to use condoms consistently--or to use them at all--as a leading factor in rising rates of HIV transmission among younger men who have sex with men (MSMs). Even so, observers note that the issue is a sensitive one among practitioners of bareback sex, who feel that safer sex advocates are intrusive with their message of the importance of condom use.
International Mr. Leather founder Chuck Renslow added heat to the controversy when he announced last year in a letter to ILM vendors that no depictions of unprotected anal sex would be allowed for sale at the 2010 edition of the leather convention. "Though we are now three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, no cure has been found," wrote Renslow in a letter sent to event vendors. 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," Renslow continued. "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.
"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."
A report of a heterosexual adult film actress testing positive last year prompted worries that California lawmakers would step in to regulate the industry more closely. The industry maintains that it is capable of policing itself and needs no government intervention. Some leaders in the field have taken stands for the conspicuous use of condoms in all adult films, among them Russian émigré and porn producer Michael Lucas.
Lucas had also been vocal about the industry’s honoring of adult film star Brent Corrigan, who was awarded with several top honors at last year’s GayVN Awards. Corrigan had appeared with Noel in a 2004 film--now recalled--titled Every Poolboy’s Dream. At the time the film was made, Corrigan was 16 or 17; Lucas excoriated Corrigan, saying that the actor must have known that it was illegal for him to participate in the film at his age, and citing the actor’s alleged possession and use of a fake ID to support that claim.
"As a producer, this is my worst nightmare, having police come with machine guns and taking me into custody," Lucas, a native of Russia who grew up under Communist rule, said in an April 23, 2009, EDGE article. "We should not forgive that. We should not be nominating and celebrating someone who performed underage. The adult industry already has a terrible reputation for exploiting children. I want to be in an industry I can be proud of."
Corrigan, in turn, was reportedly the object of a feud between Cobra Videos founder Bryan Kocis, who had Corrigan under contract, and two other adult film producers, Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes, who wanted to use Corrigan in their own films. Cuadra and Kerekes were accused of murdering Kocis in his home, and then setting a fire that left Kocis’ body badly burned.
Health officials say that the younger generation of MSMs believe that HIV is no longer a life-threatening disease, due to the success of drug regimens in keeping the virus in check. However, HIV- and AIDS-related illnesses and complications do still prove fatal in some cases, and there is no cure for the disease.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.