Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blog Roundup: Performers Speak Out about STDs and the Porn Industry

In so much of the mainstream media coverage of the recent outbreak, what is conspicuous by its absence are the voices of performers, who, after all, are the ones in the trenches that ultimately suffer the effects of STDs if they're transmitted in the making of porn. Thankfully, many current and former performers blog, and a number of them have had quite a bit to say about the recent outbreak and what steps the industry should take. They have a variety of positions on what needs to be done, but all represent a far better informed position than I'm hearing from the current crop of public health officials and activists.

Without much further ado:

Renegade Evolution: Porn and Condoms
Nina Hartley's Journal: HIV In The News
Audacia Ray: HIV outbreak in the porn industry
Belladonna on Safer Sex and the Industry
Marie Luv Tells Why She's Quarantined
Monica Foster: [1], [2]


  1. I clicked on the link to Nina Hartley's journal and I received a message saying "the administrator has banned my IP address."

    What happened?

  2. Sheldon:

    Try accessing the journal page through Nina's other site:


  3. OOPS...forgot to activate the link:

    Nina Hartley's Journal via

    Just scroll down to the June 18th entry.


  4. IACB--

    If you want to update:

    Lux Alptraum
    now has an article up.


  5. What I find very disturbing is that accidents happen to factory workers all the time - accidents that involve loss of limb - and nobody cares. But if you allow a person to contract HIV, which is more of a chronic illness today then the killer it was in the 80's and 90's, then all hell breaks loose.


  6. Belated reply to Outis –

    Basically, I was posting a roundup of porn performers or ex-performers who were writing about this, since these are the voices of people who are most directly affected. I like Lux's writing, but I'm not sure if she fits that definition – I think I vaguely remember something about her having an alt-porn site way back in the early days of alt-porn (2002 or so, when dinosaurs walked the earth :), but I don't think that actually involved sex with another person on camera. The same reason I didn't link Violet Blue's (the not-now-known-as-Noname Jane one, I mean) post on the subject, though it was good. Audacia Ray may have been stretching the definition too, but she directs porn and has certainly done "full contact" sex work, so she knows the risks first hand.

    Maybe in the next few days I might post a larger roundup of everybody I thought had something worthwhile to say on the topic.

  7. Drar –

    That's a valid point, though I'm ultimately not down with a "they have it worse in other industries" argument. One HIV infection as a result of making porn is one too many, and while HIV is more controlled than it was in the past, being on anti-AIDS drugs for the rest of your life is no picnic, and it ultimately does shorten one's lifespan. Add to that the fact that the porn industry has no equivalent of Screen Actors Guild insurance, and basically, that means that an infected performer is SOL for the expenses they incur unless they successfully sue the producer of the company who's set they were infected on.

  8. IACB:

    This is not entirely correct:

    "Add to that the fact that the porn industry has no equivalent of Screen Actors Guild insurance, and basically, that means that an infected performer is SOL for the expenses they incur unless they successfully sue the producer of the company who's set they were infected on."

    While it is true that porn performers have neither been able to qualify for SAG membership nor successfully form a union of their own (for reasons already discussed here at length), it is not true that performers who test HIV+ are "SOL."

    AIM has followed up with medical treatment and ongoing counseling through a variety of programs and agencies for performers who have tested positive and still provides for free or reduced-price care for as long as they avail themselves of it. AIM continued to provide treatment for Darren James even while he was suing us.

    What we have found, to our dismay, is that after an initial period of taking advantage of our clinic services, such performers have tended to drift away, either returning to their cities of origin or finding other (we hope) means of receiving the treatment they require.

    It's a rather maddening and commonly circulated lie that we just abandon performers who contract HIV. Nothing could be further from the truth, and every time this claim is made, it adds to AIM's undeserved reputation as an uncaring instrument of the industry's interests.

    This points to something that those who stridently demand that AIM should be more "independent" of the industry overlook, which is that much of our success arises not out of the support of the big industry players, who are far less generous to AIM than they should be, but rather from the trust we've built with our performer client base by being very much a part of the industry, monitoring it closely and responding to the atypical needs of providing for those who work in it.

    The suggestion that bringing in a bunch of outside "experts" to administer what is already the most successful sex-worker HIV harm reduction program in the world is foolish and dangerous (and considering the individual who most vocally advocates this, we can hardly be surprised).

    That AIM is run and largely staffed day to day by people with direct experience of working in porn is one of its great strengths. This is a major reason why we so ferociously oppose efforts by various governmental agencies with their own agendas to take over our operations. Those lacking familiarity with the specific needs of the performer community could never do so as effectively.

    As we also work with performers wishing or having to leave the industry on exit strategies and providing new employment, the oft-repeated claim that we simply cut HIV+ players adrift on the ice is completely unjustified and deeply unfair.

  9. Ernest:

    I'm not so sure that IACB was in any way casting any dispargement upon AIM when he was speaking of the comparison between porn performers and other occupations; he was only making the point that porn performers' risks with HIV and other STD's are of a different kind than the health risks of other occupations. That doesn't translate into porn performers being treated as a higher risk than other occupations; just that they should be treated as different based on different situations.

    As far as the lack of long-term health insurance and access to treatment for performers: well, I would say that the best solution would be to have such treatment and preventative care be part of a comprehensive, universal health care system (engineered as part of a single payer-based health care plan with universal coverage emphasizing preventative care). The next best solution in the absence of that would be a plan backed financially by the companies or via an adult performers' guild where they would pool their earnings and profits into a health care and insurance system that could provide the means for adequate care and testing.

    While AIM certainly should be credited for the existing system working so well under the circumstances, I do believe that it can be done a bit better and not have them bear all the weight and the burden.

    But, once again, that's only me, the house pro-porn leftie socialist. YMMV, as it is.


  10. I didn't think IACB was disparaging AIM, although others certainly do at great length, merely pointing out some essential realities regarding what it can and can't do within the limited mandate it enjoys.

    I completely agree that no one in this country should be without health care coverage, and I favor the single-payer approach, though I fear it stands no chance here against the massive resources of entrenched health care industry lobbyists.

    This, of course, is a far clearer and more present danger to the well-being of citizens in Los Angeles County than the rather more tangential concerns of STI transmission in porn, and yet the same public health officials who find time and energy without limit to harrass AIM and bloviate to the media about the terrible risks omnipresent in our line of work remain oddly silent on this subject.

    Absent any real, systemic health care reform, which is exactly where I expect us all to find ourselves when the smoke clears and the dust settles under the current presidential administration, I fully support the notion of an industry-supported health care plan for all porn workers, crew as well as performers.

    AIM has investigated this possibility before and found a yawning absence of private underwriters willing to undertake such a venture. This is odd, in that the population they would be insuring is relatively young and healthy and does not use a disproportionate share of medical services when compared to other groups insurers eagerly cover. Again and again, we've run into resistance in seeking group coverage for this low-risk, low-maintenance pool of potential participants in a voluntary sign-up plan.

    I just can't help wondering why this problem seems so hard to solve. Obviously, I suspect social and political stigmas attaching to sex workers, and unfounded assumptions regarding their health risks or their propensity for abusing the system, play a role in the decision making process at coporate HQ.

    We would love to offer coverage through AIM, and again, attempts have been made to bring this about, but no insurer or HMO has proved willing to cooperate in such a venture, even though it would undoubtedly prove lucrative and with a relatively high return on investment.

    Again, we find that many problems associated with sex work are caused not by the workers or the work itself, but rather by the attitudes held by others toward those workers and that work.

    Not all solutions to these problems lie within our industry, nor do all the problems themselves. For as long as sex work is stigmatized and even legal forms of it are regarded as suspect by key social and political institutions, those problems aren't going to be solved.

    So here's a thought. Instead of hammering on AIM and/or on porn, why don't some of these eager do-gooders devote a minute or two of their time to hammering on the far more powerful entities that might actually do something to improve the lives of those in porn, as opposed to trying by direct or roundabout means to put them all out of business?

  11. I didn't mean my post as a put-down of AIM, and I'm glad that they stay involved with ex-industry people with HIV as best they can. One of the piece of bad press that I'd read about Lara Roxx is that she'd gone back to Montreal infected with HIV and with basically nobody accountable for her expenses but herself, so I kind of had that in mind when I wrote that. (I believe Roxx did sue the company that made the video where she was infected, but I'm not sure how the suit was eventually settled.)

    Also, as somebody with "independent contractor" status myself, I know how easy it is to fall between the cracks of basically, no real public healthcare system to speak of (except --kind of-- for the elderly), private insurance plans for long-term employees, and outrageously expensive plans for individuals who want to buy in on their own. I, of course, am a big supporter of universal health care and its one of the reasons I voted for (and, albeit, am disappointed with) Obama.

  12. "One of the piece of bad press that I'd read about Lara Roxx is that she'd gone back to Montreal infected with HIV and with basically nobody accountable for her expenses but herself, so I kind of had that in mind when I wrote that."

    Of course, I wasn't putting two and two together – at lease in Canada her medical expenses are covered. Not that that makes being infected with HIV OK, but at least she's not saddled with insane medical expenses.

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