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LOVERS LAW by Rat Boy

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Rat Boy LOVERS LAW
Craig McSwiggan

It hasn't been a great week for Calum McSwiggan.

For the uninitiated, Calum is a British LGBT blogger and campaigner. A relative newcomer to YouTube, with a modest 39k subscribers, he has a fairly wholesome image thanks to his work with various LGBT charities, blogging about sexual health, mental illness and other causes. His videos have also featured prominent LGBT celebrities such as the British diver Tom Daley and RuPaul's Drag Race alumni Willam Belli.

However, in an interview with Buzzfeed, the 25-year-old LGBT blogger admitted that he'd performed in gay porn without condoms (otherwise known as bareback sex) as a teenager. The revelation has potentially damaging consequences for his new career as a campaigner and sexual health advocate. As recently as September, he had made a video in collaboration with the It Starts With Me campaign urging gay men to use condoms and practice safe sex.


After his YouTube channel become popular last year, viewers soon began linking him to videos he made as a 19-year-old student with two friends on a popular livestreaming porn site. Links to the videos started appearing under his videos or in response to his tweets. He tells Buzzfeed, "One person threatened and said they were going to tell my mum. Some people were being quite malicious and vindictive with it."

As Calum explains, he turned to gay porn at university in Derby around 2009. After being fired from a part-time job because he complained about the homophobic bullying he was receiving from colleagues, his friends suggested a liveblogging site as an alternative to help pay his rent and bills. The videos paid well and they became very popular, very quickly. Soon he and his friends became the most watched on the site. 

Unfortunately for Calum, he believed the videos would not be recorded. But it wasn't long before illegal recordings of him and his friends began popping up everywhere. It was out of his control to stop them. His decision to make the videos is one he ultimately regrets and would like others to learn from. 

"Although we were all tested before we did it and knew we were negative, when you watch the videos there’s no context to that, it just looks like we’re having unprotected sex and that’s not something I want to promote." he says. "I promote the opposite – it’s something I say in my videos: 'Don't bareback, make sure you’re using protection.' I don’t want this to damage my reputation and all the things I've worked so hard to do...I want it to serve as a warning, because I know how enticing the porn industry can be and so often it preys on young, naïve people."

In his latest video (see top of the page), in which he talks about this experience, he ends with an apology to his viewers. "I did gay porn. And I'm sorry. And I really, really hope you can forgive me". 

In comparison to his usual videos, it's a very scripted, awkward watch. That's perfectly understandable given the subject matter. We feel sorry for Calum and his story. To essentially have been blackmailed into confessing something he wanted to keep private is bad enough. The fact he only started making porn after being fired for complaining about homophobic bulling in the first instance is doubly unfortunate. He has absolutely nothing to apologise for. 

If Calum is guilty of anything, it's naivety. But, in a way, we can't think of a better spokesman for sexual health than someone who has real experience of the underside of pornography. It would be too easy to call out Calum as a hypocrite for not using protection but that would belie the realities of the industry which often places pressure on performers to have unprotected sex.

We should also consider his age at the time. As Calum says near the end of the interview, "There are so many 18-year-olds in porn and yes you’re legally able to consent at that age, but do you really have the right head on your shoulders to make that decision? I certainly didn’t." His story is a valuable lesson to others who might not have fully thought through the consequences of working in porn.

This brave revelation by Calum could create a space for a more open dialogue about the realities of working in porn and how consuming pornography affects attitudes, particularly in young gay men, towards safe sex. You might not have been following Calum before but it might be worth following him now.

If you like more sexual health information, head over to the Terrance Higgins Trust website. You can also watch Calum talk about sexual health issues below.

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