Sunday, June 14, 2009

Latest HIV-in-Porn-Panic: Rumor Control Central Re-Opens for Business

As readers of this blog already know, a female porn performer tested positive for HIV earlier this month at the Los Angeles clinic of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM), of which I am chairman of the board emeritus after six terms as a board member, starting with the organization’s formation in 1997. Though I’ve given up blogging as a hobby, the sensationalistic press coverage by local media and irresponsible fear mongering by public officials and anti-porn partisans in the wake of this development cannot go unaddressed.

The current situation has long-term implications for public health and public policy reaching beyond the parochial concerns of the porn industry, those who support it and those who oppose it. The ghoulish glee, complete dishonesty and utter disregard for the potential consequences to actual sex-workers in the attempt to politicize a single, isolated episode with which rad-fems and self-styled porn experts have seized upon this thing is disgraceful and says much more about them than it does about us.

For those implications to be considered rationally, there must first be some clear-sighted recognition of the known facts of this particular case. I’ll try to provide them, and then I’ll offer my perspective on the spin they’ve been given and my own best assessment of the correct course of action for the industry itself and for the greater community of which it is a part. I do not pretend to objectivity in this matter. I don’t have that luxury. I make my living as a pornographer and I am married to an active performer exposed to the same risks as everyone else in the long-term talent pool here, where the majority of porn in sold in America is made.

Where We Are

As many here already know, but some might not, AIM administers testing for HIV and other STIs to the porn performer community, as well as to other sex workers and to population at large. AIM also offers medical treatment, counseling, education and support services to its clients, who include both sex-workers and those uninvolved in sex work in any way.

AIM’s primary function as a community-based, non-profit organization using the most advanced testing methods available is to help maintain a voluntary, performer-supported system of health-status monitoring enabling both performers and producers to know with the greatest possible certainly that working performers are free of HIV and other STIs.

The informal but stringently observed practice here in the Los Angeles area requires monthly testing of all performers in heterosexual pornography to be tested no less than once every 28 days for HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, every sixty days for Syphilis, and to authorize access to the results of those tests through a computerized data base to both other performers with whom they might be hired to work and to producers who might hire them. The gay side of the industry has opted for barrier protections and does not require performer testing, though some gay performers test on their own initiative.

Since 1997, AIM has performed over a hundred thousand such tests for the thousands of performers who have passed through the porn industry during that time. During those dozen years, a total of five active players on the heterosexual side of the industry have been diagnosed as HIV positive. Four cases were discovered in 2004 and one on June 4 this year.

The events of 2004, which received nationwide media coverage and inspired hearings by a special committee of the state legislature, were very different from the circumstances with which we’re confronted this time and those differences require close scrutiny before any broader conclusions are drawn.

Unfortunately, irresponsible gossip bloggers, a sensationalistic local press and various activists with different agendas have already begun spinning the few facts thus far made public to their own ends, with potentially disastrous consequences. Before that process whirls out of control, let’s have a look at what we actually know so far.

The performer, who was tested for HIV and other STIs on June 4, is a 42-year-old woman who had been working in porn for approximately one month prior to that date. Obviously, all details regarding the identity of this individual are subject to California’s strict medical privacy laws and will not be divulged here.

Like all new performers, she was tested prior to her first scene and received a clean bill of health at that time. During her brief career, she had sex on camera three times preceding June 4 and once, while her June 4 results were still pending, on June 5.

Typically, the PCR-DNA test AIM uses, which can detect HIV viral matter in the bloodstream in as short a time as ten days after infection, yields results in 24 hours. If the results are negative, the performer and/or anyone casting the performer can obtain those results through AIM’s computerized database or from the clinic directly via phone or fax. These disclosures can only be made to third parties with the performer’s written permission.

A confirmatory test, standard procedure in any instance of a positive or inconclusive result, also came back positive on June 6.

The performer and her two primary contacts since June 4 (one a male performer, the other her boyfriend) were immediately notified and quarantined, as were six secondary partners of her two primary contacts.

As of that point, the prospect of contagion from the female performer who tested HIV+ to the rest of the porn talent pool and the surrounding population was contained and remains so now.

Both her primary contacts and their secondary contacts have been tested and are HIV- as of now. They will be retested twice during the coming month and if those tests are also negative, which is highly probable given the nature of the contacts (vaginal intercourse without internal ejaculation and female to female exposure), the quarantine will be lifted and those performers will be able to return to work at no unusual risk to their partners.

In short, this single, isolated case was caught early, notification was given promptly, including to governmental public health agencies mandated by law for notification of new HIV infections, and the infected performer has already been referred for treatment. She’s out of the business. Her few contacts are HIV- and likely to remain so, but will not be working until that is certain.

In no way does this case resemble the situation in 2004, which involved a perfect storm of highly active, long-term members of the performing community, particularly high-risk sex practices (double-anal penetrations and internal ejaculations) on multiple sets and a much larger group of primary and secondary contacts throughout an entire month-long testing cycle. There was clear evidence of performer-to-performer HIV infection in the 2004 episode. There is no such evidence in the present instance and little chance any will emerge.

While it is certainly true that less serious STIs are not uncommon in the industry, they are treatable and we treat them as they arise. We notify partners and treat them too. It would be lovely if the rest of the country were as diligent about these problems as the porn-making community.

This is pretty much where the facts end and where the speculation, fear mongering, politicking and outright lying begin.

The lies started, as they so often do these days, with unsubstantiated reports from remotely involved parties appearing on porn gossip and chat sites. Perhaps the most harmful of these lies was that the infected performer was given a false negative result from her June 4 test by personnel at AIM prior to working on June 5.

This didn’t happen. It couldn’t have because her results did not come back until June 6, as laboratory reports conclusively establish. While AIM’s testing protocols are not foolproof, as nothing wrought by human hands can be, clinic procedures absolutely forbid clinic staff from discussing pending test results with anyone, including those tested, until the lab reports are in. These rules were observed to the letter in this case.

Another false accusation spread around the ‘net claimed that AIM made no attempt to stop the performer from working while her test was still pending. AIM has no legal authority to forcibly prevent anyone from doing anything. However, the importance of voluntary compliance with AIM’s testing and quarantine procedures is well understood throughout the industry and when the positive results were verified, the infected performer’s contacts have honored AIM’s request to refrain from performing until all re-testing is completed. Again, that is how the system works, and it worked quickly and effectively this time as it has in the past.

But vicious as these distortions of reality were, their sources were already well known for their hostility toward AIM’s voluntary harm-reduction approach and knowledgeable insiders viewed them with the skepticism these sources have richly earned by their past behavior.

It wasn’t until the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County health officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Cal-OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer and Aids Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein got into the act that the bigger and much larger and more ominous falsehoods were put in general circulation.

Fielding is a long-time adversary of AIM’s whose department has a history of harassing and defaming the organization dating to well before the 2004 cases. Fielding’s hirelings have attempted to obtain confidential medical records of AIM’s clients, made threatening calls to AIM clients in efforts to intimidate them into giving information his department has no legal right to collect and publicly accused AIM of “stonewalling” his department’s attempts to investigate STI transmissions in the industry, though he knows as well as we do that California law is extremely specific regarding what we must report to government agencies and what we are forbidden to report to anyone. Members of Fielding’s staff have heckled AIM board members, myself included, from the floor at public forums unrelated to his agency’s mission and Fielding himself has lied to my face in his office in front of two other AIM board members and two members of his own staff regarding his intended recommendations to the state legislature prior to the investigative hearing into the 2004 cases.

But none of Fielding’s cynical machinations sinks to the level of his false assertion, trumpeted by The Times, that AIM has “concealed” an additional 16 HIV infections in the industry since 2004. In fact, eleven of those cases involved male performers in gay porn who are not part of AIM’s client base and who do not test with AIM and four were private citizens not affiliated with porn who sought testing at AIM for personal reasons. As required by law, all HIV infections detected by AIM were reported to Fielding’s department, which is how he comes to know about them, but were not disclosed to AIM’s heterosexual porn industry clients because they did not involve het porn in any way. And yet The Times reported this deliberate and heinous distortion of the truth under the blaring headline: “More Porn HIV Cases Disclosed.” In point of fact, there is no way AIM, Fielding or anyone else can know that the cases involving the gay performers were porn-related, as AIM does not monitor that population. But then again, The Times also characterizes mainstream porn as a $12 billion dollar a year industry, an unsourced figure frequently repeated in mainstream media and universally scorned as a ridiculous exaggeration by industry insiders.

Meanwhile, Cal-OSHA’s Fryer alleges in the same story that “AIM Healthcare has never been cooperative with us and our investigations,” because AIM has obeyed the law and refused to give out client information to agencies not entitled to said information.

And then there’s AHF’s Weinstein, who has characterized the porn industry overall as “a poster-child for heterosexual HIV transmission” and proclaimed that: “This industry screams for regulation. Cal-OSHA needs to require condoms be used in any film. Yesterday.” Weinstein has organized picketing in front of Larry Flynt’s offices to demand that the straight porn industry adopt mandatory condom use and has refused to meet with industry representatives to discuss the reasoning behind the current standards. He is what is colloquially known as a hothead.

All these individuals, and a few converts they’ve made at the margins of the industry, support a truly mad plan by Fielding’s deputy Dr. Peter Kerndt to implement state-legislated regulations requiring condom use throughout the industry that would make it illegal to distribute sexually explicit materials created without the use of condoms, even though Kerndt himself admits that digital post production effects could theoretically render it impossible to determine after the fact whether condoms were used or not.

If these individuals were mainly concerned with the health and safety of performers, their views might at least be worth a second hearing, and their methods, while still questionable, would at least be well meant if misguided.

But their real objective has nothing to do with performer safety and everything to do with porn content, which they regard as setting a bad example to viewers following safer sex precautions in the viewers’ private lives. Kerndt makes his priorities crystal clear in his 2007 jeremiad published by the Public Library of Science: “The portrayal of unsafe sex in adult films may also influence viewer behavior. In the same way that images of smoking in films romanticize tobacco use, viewers of these adult films may idealize unprotected sex. The increasingly high-risk sexual behavior viewed by large audiences on television and the Internet could decrease condom use. Requiring condoms may influence viewers to see them as normative or even sexually appealing, and devalue unsafe sex. With the growing accessibility of adult film to mainstream America, portrayals of condom use onscreen could increase condom use among viewers, thereby promoting public health.”

This is basically Weinstein’s line as well. They want to empower the state to punish porn producers for not requiring condom use because they regard the depiction of sex without barrier protections as unhealthy viewing for the audience.

Unfortunately, in the service of that goal, they’re quite prepared to put at risk the performers they claim to be protecting.

The Future

Cal-OSHA, which would be charged with imposing the mandatory condom scheme outlined in Kerndt’s plan, has only one established standard for dealing with potentially pathogenic bodily fluids. It was written for health workers and IACB summarizes nicely the more extreme and irrelevant provisions of Cal-OSHA’s blood-borne pathogen provisions:

“The last time OSHA became involved, the rules they set down were pure overkill, mandating not only condoms for high-risk acts, but use of dental dams, gloves, and, I kid you not, eye goggles for all sexual contact. They basically took the rules they've mandated for medical workers and applied this to the porn industry, without regard for context.”

As he says, such an unworkable regimen would be universally flouted, essentially turn a legal industry into an illegal in which state regulations were routinely violated, making producers and other performers liable for confiscatory fines and other administrative restraints clearly imposed by an agency whose agenda is not regulatory, but rather prohibitionist.

No surprise there. Members of Cal-OSHA’s staff, like those of Dr. Fielding’s department, have been unbendingly hostile in all my face-to-face dealings with them since 2004. They’re approach to performer safety is to destroy those performers livelihoods and drive the industry out of the state completely. Confronted with this prospect, Dr. Kerndt stated directly that he wouldn’t object if that were the result.

Worse, if that’s possible, than Cal-OSHA’s plan for porn would be the means through which it would have to be put in place. Cal-OSHA has jurisdiction only over employees. Independent contractors, which is how porn performers not under contract to specific companies, are currently classed under state law, would not be subject to Cal-OSHA supervision unless reclassified as employees.

So what, you might ask, is so bad about that? After all, it would make them eligible for workman’s comp and provide them with a mechanism for reporting unsafe working conditions on the set.

There’s just one little hitch in this plan. It is against the law in California for any employer to require an HIV test, or even to ask about a potential employee’s HIV status, as a condition of employment. Doing so is considered employment discrimination and carries significant penalties to the employer.

In fact, if performers were considered employees rather than contractors, it would be illegal for a producer to hire a performer on the grounds that said performer was, in fact, HIV positive. That’s right. Producers would be required to hire HIV+ performers, and if other performers didn’t like working with them, those performers would be fired while the HIV+ performers would be allowed to remain on the set until partners could be found who would work with them.

This, put simply, is insanity. In thirty-five years of legal pornography in this country, not a single clinical death has been correctly attributed to HIV transmission in the making of heterosexual porn. During that time, thousands of sexually active young Californians from very similar demographic cohorts have died of AIDS contracted in circumstances utterly unrelated to porn, including a significant number whose cases were contracted in bathhouses and sex clubs where HIV prevention has been the province of governmental oversight.

Our good fortune in porn is directly attributable to two things: constant voluntary testing and the much-derided conceit of the external ejaculation, which significantly reduces the risk of serum transmission through mucous membranes.

But wait a minute, didn’t I say that gay porn is made without testing but with condoms instead? Why wouldn’t that work in straight porn as well?

In part, because it doesn’t really work in gay porn. Though condom use has become less of an absolute in gay porn, it has been the standard for 20 years, during which time, unlike in straight porn, a number of performers have died of AIDS. This is most likely a result of imprudent behavior in their personal lives rather than on the set, but it points to an important difference between the composition of gay and straight talent pools.

An unspoken by generally accepted truth in gay porn is that many performers are already HIV+ when they enter the industry. Producers and directors make quiet but diligent efforts to pair them only with other already-infected partners, but the fact remains that testing is regarded as pointless in gay porn because, as one of the best known gay directors told me privately, “it’s just assumed that all of our talent is or will be infected and that the use of barriers is a secondary precaution.”

Our model in straight porn is to try and keep the talent pool disease free rather than simply accept the permanent presence of infected performers as a necessary work-around. If you visit the web site that lists all the porn performers who have died during the past twenty years, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of them were gay male players who died of AIDS. The risk of a similar situation in straight porn is what Fielding, Kerndt, Weinstein, et al would subject us to in the interest of setting a better example for our audiences.

Thanks but no thanks to that noble sacrifice. For uninfected female performers, not only are condoms in the absence of testing a more dangerous approach than bare-backing with tested performers, it actually puts them at greater risk. To understand why, it’s necessary to recognize that sex on camera is quite different from sex in private.

As a director, I allow two and a half hours to shoot a typical boy-girl sex scene. That’s over two hours of intercourse in various positions with constant stops and starts during which male performer’s erections rise and fall, condoms frequently tear or unravel and the degree of latex abrasion on the internal membranes of female performers’ vaginas lead to micro-abrasions that make them more vulnerable to all kinds of STIs. Most condom-only female performers eventually abandon condom use, not under pressure from producers, but rather because of the constant rawness and end-on-end bacterial infections produced by countless hours of latex drag.

Condoms are fine for ordinary folks having a quick bang, but they’re not suited to effective use in porn. I know whereof I speak because I refuse to shoot as a director for any company that won’t allow performers to use condoms if they wish and have probably shot more condom footage than any straight porn director alive. I began doing so way back in 1993, when all we had was the elisa test, which though still regarded as the so-called gold standard outside of porn because its antibody detection screening is virtually never wrong when it comes to detecting active HIV cases (if you’ve got HIV antibodies in your bloodstream, you’ve got HIV, no doubt about it), may not detect a case for as long as six months, while the PCR-DNA test has a window period no longer than two weeks. That’s still too long, and I would personally prefer twice-monthly testing to reduce the false-negative results that contributed to the situation in 2004. But it’s a lot safer than a six-month interval during which a newly infected person would be at his or her most contagious, having the highest viral load because antibodies had not yet begun to fight the progression of the disease process. From having shot so much condom footage, I would estimate the condom failure rate at about 15% in any given encounter.

So, if we give up universal testing in favor mandatory condoms, what we would have is a large group of internally compromised female performers having sex with a number of men whose HIV status would be unknown.

I ask anyone reading this who is HIV- if he or she would knowingly have penetrative intercourse with someone who they knew for a fact was HIV+, condom or no condom. I’m betting the honest answer for the overwhelming majority of readers would be “no way.” That is just plain common sense.

The choice is pretty simple and pretty stark: condoms or testing. It is legally impossible to have both. At the investigative hearings in 2004, lawyers for the ACLU made it clear that numerous challenges to the anti-discrimination laws sought by specific professions to weed out HIV+ potential employees were successfully resisted in court challenges and that the ACLU would vigorously resist any attempt to gain such a waiver for the porn industry.

I repeat: testing or condoms: that is the choice. If you’re HIV-, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

Okay, so that logic fails to persuade, Fielding and the rest prevail and some half-assed attempt is made to legislate condom use in het porn. How is this to be accomplished? On any given day, there are approximately 200 porn scenes shot in the Los Angeles area. What agency would police all those scenes through the use of what body of inspectors paid for by how many millions of taxpayer dollars that this state, which is flat broke, simply cannot pay? It would quickly become obvious that the law would be unenforceable, and producers, knowing full well that condom use not only adversely affects the sales of porn products but also obstructs the making of them, would simply play the short odds of getting caught in a very loose legal net by ditching condoms altogether. The outcome would then be use of neither condoms nor testing, the worst of all possible worlds.

While porn-bashers love to claim that only a few big companies bother with testing and that all kinds of other porn is produced without it, the fact is that our voluntary compliance model has been adopted not only in Los Angeles and Miami, the two biggest theaters of porn production, but also in much of Europe. It is honored by most internet content creators and by magazine photographers as well. There is a clear liability issue in failing to do so, should the worst happen, and whatever one might think of porn producers, few would argue that they are unconscious of legal risks, as they face those legal risks in other aspects of their work on a daily basis.

What we have now is a system that has proven its reliability over a dozen years, during which a total of four people have been infected with HIV while making porn.

What we are being stridently told to do once again is abandon something that works for what amounts to a grisly science project in order to satisfy the inchoate desire of uninformed outsiders to use us at the risk of our health as models for correct sexual behavior by those who watch what we make.

The only intelligent words quoted in the most recent example of yellow journalism from The Times were spoken, not at all surprisingly, by producer John Stagliano, himself HIV+ from a non-industry-related sexual encounter.

“A government agency the size of Los Angeles couldn’t stop it (the making of non-condom porn). It’s not going to change.”

We all better hope he’s right. The changes we’re being pressured to make are foolish, dangerous and, as usual, completely indifferent to the possible consequences to actual sex-workers.

Thankfully, those who would have to write those changes into law seem very much disinclined to do so on the basis of hectoring by a handful of self-appointed anti-porn crusaders whose real ambition is not to regulate this industry, but rather to destroy it by making it so manifestly dangerous that no one in his or her right mind would participate in it. That no one in Sacramento seems the least bit eager to sign off on the bizarre enabling legislation that would brig this horrific reality into being demonstrates once again that anyone with the sense to pour piss out of a boot knows more about most things than those who pass themselves off as experts on any given subject.

But the terrible truth underlying all the potential and actual strategies, good and bad, for keeping the porn talent-pool 100% safe from HIV is that this is not now and never will be possible, no matter what methods are used. HIV exists in the general population from which porn performers are drawn and of which they remain a part. AIM can and does keep out a surprising number of aspiring performers who try to enter the business already infected, usually without knowing their own status until their first AIM test.

But no matter what methods are used or regulations are imposed, HIV cases will inevitably slip the net from time to time. Early identification and quarantine are the most effective tools for limiting the danger this unassailable fact creates, but they will always constitute action after the fact, much as Cal-OSHA is complaint-driven and, unless its powers are hugely and possibly illegally expanded as described above, system works and would only be able to punish those they deem as having broken the rules after some incident occurs for them to investigate.

It is still much, much safer to have barrier-free sex with a tested porn performer than with a stranger met in a bar, but porn performers themselves have been known to have barrier-free sex with strangers met in bars. Porn performers do not represent a threat to the health of the citizenry of California as Dr. Fielding would have us believe. It’s the other way around. Outsiders with unknown histories pose a threat to our well-observed community.

This risk is impossible to gauge and impossible to eliminate entirely, short of keeping performers locked up between shoots, an idea that would probably get some traction with Fielding, Kerndt, Fryer, Weinstein and the rest of their gang.

But with Gitmo being closed down, I somehow doubt that Swiftian proposal, no more absurd than applying Cal-OSHA’s blood-borne pathogen standard to porn, will be put into effect.

Instead, whatever we do, there will always be some risk associated with sex among groups of young people whose behavior off-set cannot be entirely controlled.

Personally, I’ve always thought the term “safe sex” was something of an oxymoron. Whatever measures are taken, physical intimacy is never completely free of risks of various kinds. It is from that understanding that the current harm-reduction approach, which has saved countless lives over the past decade by acting as an alarm system rather than a policing operation, evolved as it has.

No matter what we do, we will find ourselves back here from time to time, dealing with the worst outcomes as they inevitably arise.

No occupation is without hazard. When compared to things like commercial fishing, mining, logging, construction, fire-fighting and, of course, military service, porn rates very low on the list of dangerous occupations according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s no accident that porn is as safe as it is. The porn community’s own efforts, free of the ignorant and sometimes malicious attempts to interfere with them, have kept it that way.

But three is no absolute guarantee that any system will always work, and attempting to require that guarantee in porn, when it is not required in any other occupation, carries with it the prospect of truly catastrophic failure.

The existing system is not perfect, but it is far superior to any of the schemes proposed to replace it.

That is where we are and that, no matter what happens, is where we’re likely to end up staying.

I have no doubt that some of these observations will generate the predictable onslaught of ignorant bullshit in the comment thread that follows as the usual crowd of porn-bashers and AIM haters emerge from under their various rocks.

I have no intention of debating this urgent matter with any of them. I will, time permitting, attempt to answer reasonable questions couched in polite language by those with a genuine interest in the well-being of the community to which I belong.

102 comments:

  1. This essay should be immediately sent directly to Gawker, the LA Times, and everyone else who is thinking on jumping on the bandwagon of mandating "Condoms Only" legislation, OSHA regulations, or any other form of paternalistic regulation.

    And then, it should be bronzed in stone and placed on public view for everyone to see.

    Well done, Ernest.


    Anthony

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  2. Whatever Mike South squawks, the opposite is assumed to be true.

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  3. AHF staged a similar stunt back in 2004. After some internal discussion, it was decided not to play into Weinstein's grandstanding and both AIM and LFP ignored the brief protest, as did most of the local news media.

    I don't doubt it will get some attention in the current atmosphere, but I see no purpose in amplifying its importance by attempting to respond to it.

    For what it's worth, I made an attempt to have a reasonable discussion with Weinstein concerning the actual issues involved in the last go-round and he wasn't the least bit interested in anything I had to say. He clearly sees these episodes as opportunities to advance his safer sex agenda, with which I fundamentally agree, though I think it ill-served by his cynical exploitation of sex-workers' misfortunes.

    Like the rest of the shouters, he evidences little concern for porn performers and simply intends to exploit them for his own purposes as he accuses others of doing.

    I have great respect for the good work done by AHF over the years. For Weinstein himself, alas, none.

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  4. I also noticed this statement in the press release:

    Starting with:

    "After the Los Angeles Times reported that as many as 16 actors and actresses in the adult entertainment industry recently tested positive for HIV"

    Followed further down by:

    "Unlike the gay porn industry, condom use is not currently standard procedure in the straight porn film industry."

    Actually, of 12 (not 16), 11 are from the gay side of the industry, which has long acknowledged the presence of HIV+ performers in its ranks.

    I wonder if Weinstein is simply not aware of how these numbers break down and how they don't exactly fit the case he is trying to build, or whether he knows this and is using it as propaganda without regards to its veracity.

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  6. If you read AIM's web page, this blog, or even the somewhat muddled account of the L.A. Times, it quickly becomes evident that the "undisclosed" cases were, in fact, gay players and civilians.

    This rather argues against Weinstein's advocacy for applying the gay model to straight porn, although not decisively as there's no way of knowing if the infected gay performers were already infected when they entered the business, became infected through the business or were infected under circumstances unrelated to the business.

    But AHF's parroting of the L..A.T.'s distorted presentation of the circumstances surrounding the so-called undisclosed cases is inexcusable showboating. If they didn't know that those cases were unrelated to the issue of condom use in straight porn production (which is unlikely), they should have determined the facts before using these inflammatory and misleading statistics as part of their attempt to capitalize on the controversy surrounding the situation.

    One would like to think, after APH's long campaign to raise public and political consciousness regarding HIV, that they would realize the manipulative presentation of distorted data weakens rather than strengthens their own cause. I would call this The Reefer Madness Effect. If you exaggerate claims of harm, you damage the credibility of subsequent attempts to identify the realities of harm.

    Where porn is concerned, the ability of those who would like to address those areas of industry operations that could be realisitically improved to promote performer safety to do so is constantly undermined by the sleazy tactics of anti-porn activists. As with marijuana, the patently ridiculous claims regarding its dangers have done nothing but impeach the credibility of those who would raise legitimate concerns over its potential misuse.

    The truth about Weinstein is that he knows what these numbers actually reveal, but doesn't give a rat's ass because he's on a mission from god. That may be a slightly less reprehensible motive than those of the political appointees and hack journalists who have latched onto this story, but the practical effects are no less damaging.

    That AHF enjoys such broad respect in the HIV-AIDS serving community makes its behavior particularly inexcusable. This organization is using that respect to spread a destructive lie at the expense of vulnerable sex workers.

    I've been in the room with Weinstein more than once and recognize the passion he brings to a vital issue. I can't help wondering how a man who has had to combat lies of the very kind he's now telling for so many years can join forces with the rest of the liars in this case and still sleep at night.

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  7. Ernest, what is the agenda - in your opinion - of Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Cal-OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer and Aids Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein?

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  9. I dislike answering anonymous questons, but I'll take this one.

    I think these individuals believe that porn as it now exists sets a bad example and that the success of a voluntary, community-based disease-hazard mitigation program provides political cover for policy makers disinclined to go along with attempts to legally impose a more politically correct standard of sexual behavior than is commonly depicted at present.

    In short, I think this is a roundabout attempt at censorship through regulation, and that if the laws are put in place to enable them to do so, these people are prepared to see the industry effectively prohibited for failing to comply with that theoretical standard. If the cost of this is the lives of a few non-theoretical performers, the greater good will still be served.

    I believe this to be the case not only because of the public behavior of the persons and agencies who have attempted to create a crisis around the current situation in which no crisis actually exists, but also from private conversations, including repeated encounters with Dr. Kerndt and members of his staff, that lead me to believe that they are porn prohibitionists at heart.

    These are not stupid men. They know full well the collateral effects of the measures they propose. It would be impossible for the industry to operate lawfully in any recognizable form under the regulations they favor.

    What would you call such an outcome?

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  10. I'd call it attempts at increasing accountability Ernest and I understand your need to spin that into something else.

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  11. Anony:

    If you are going to smear Ernest and avoid addressing the very valid points he made, then at the very least pick a name.

    Accountablilty, you say??? OK, so how in the HELL would imposing mandatory condom usage and turning porn studio shoots into the equivalent of Haz-Mat do anything to prevent the spread of HIV and other STD's in the general population?? Why should porn performers bear the full brunt of being the poster children and guniea pigs for the campaigns of Cal-OSHA, and the AHC?? Has anyone bothered to ask THEM -- you know, the performers who will be called on to do their duty for "their own good" about how they should give up their vaginas and penises to the "greater cause"??

    Never mind that given even the twisted slanting of the LA medical office shows that, at best, only ONE of the 16 "confirmed" cases of HIV+ infection in the past 5 years can even remotely be attributed to the het porn industry. But, why let the actual facts get in the way of a moralist crusade to impose government to police personal sexual behavior, or simply to restore personal vendettas against AIM, right???

    Now, it goes beyond saying that even one HIV infection is one too many, and my heart and best wishes go out to the performers who were most affected. But guess what, Anony: given the habits of those who actually do perform sex, not to mention the preferences of those who mostly consume het porn these days, I fail to see how only showing wrapped penises and banishing het bareback scenes will do anything to promote general HIV/AIDS education. At least, anything more than more conventional methods of general education. We already have several studios and thousands of performers who promote their own "condom-only" campaigns, not to mention other means of controlling whom they engage in sex with in their work. Rather than use the power of government to impose, then why not focus on those performers who willingly do support your principles??

    Nope, Anony...so much better for you to simply avoid the issues and pontificate about "accountability" as a means of supporting one more attempt to censor under the cloak of "protection".

    Take that nonsense elsewhere, because it's not playing here.


    Anthony

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  12. Nony- You do realize Ernest's partner is an active performer, yes? I'd imagine he's very concerned with her safety and health...so what, again, is the agenda??

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  13. Which brings me to another fascinating irony here.

    Based on what we now know, the infected performer was no 18 year old ingenue entrapped by raving men in trenchcoats or forced to the casting couch by cigar-chomping producers in cheap unbuttoned 70's shirts (as the usual stereotypes state). Rather, she was an over 40-ish woman whom had just gotten into hardcore and whom had made one video.

    My uneducated guess is that she probably did get infected either through her boyfriend or by someone outside of the industry....exactly as Darrin James was originally infected in the original 2004 outbreak. No bit of mandatory condom usage would prevent that from happening anyway.

    But I guess that even 40 year old women are considered too stupid to take responsibility for and speak for themselves.

    Heck...even 50 year old women who have been sexual rights activists and public spokespeople for their lifetime can't even be trusted to represent their own bodies and their own choices. Not. Even. Nina. Freakin'. Hartley.

    Of course, she's just a paid shill for "the pornographers". Or, simply, Ernest's mindless "slave".

    Just watch for it. You know it's coming whenever Nina makes herself public on this. If it's already happening to Ernest, she'll probably get it triple-strength.

    Because, as usual, sex worker women not bowing to the prevailing "wisdom" just don't matter.

    /sarcastic rant


    Anthony

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  14. And a-wwwwwwaaaaaaaay we go:

    Alt.porn guru Tony Comstock leads off the assault on AIM from the "sex positive" perspective:

    Comstock Films Website: Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative: Reprise Contains a pretty harsh personal attack on Dr. Sharon Mitchell as a phony doctor (directly challenging her degree from the San Francisco-based Institute of Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality) and AIM as an effective shill of the porn industry who covers up true HIV statistics to protect "the industry". And, of course, supports the Cal-OSHA mandatory condom position as the "sex-positive" position.

    With people like these, who needs Gail Dines?? Or....William Dannemeyer??


    Anthony

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  15. Yes Renegade I'm fully aware of who Ernest is partnered with and believe she engaged in some (controversial) public speaking last year stating that condom use in pornography should not be mandatory? Is that correct?
    What are your thoughts on this guy?
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-porn-hiv15-2009jun15,0,5929264.story
    I'd respect your position more if you were just honest and stated that condom use is not good for business.

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  16. Allow me, please.

    Responding to Anony's latest riff:

    First off, fool, Nina's position is neither "controversial" nor recent; it is her long time stated policy based on YEARS of being an active porn performer and sexual rights activist, and based upon the known observations and testimonials of other porn performers. She testified similar positions to the California Assembly in 2004 right after the Darren James/Lara Roxx case.

    And speaking thereof: No, quoting a slanted article from the LA Times featuring Mr. James reflecting on his discovery of being infected (and let's not touch upon the not-so-thinly hidden racial agenda here, too) does not give your stated position any more foundation than it already has. It has been confirmed that James was never infected by anyone within the industry; he was unfortunate to have been infected with the virus while touring in Brazil; and he unfortunately didn't catch the infection in time before he returned and did an anal scene. An unfortunate breach in the system, yes. A tragedy for him and his family, and for that of those others infected?? Yes, indeed. Proof positive for your agenda of imposing condoms and other harsh means of intervention?? Not so much, I'd say.

    Oh..and Ernest is not a porn agent or a company owner; he is a producer of his own films and a part-time employee for HUSTLER magazine via his editorship of TABOO magazine. He profits not one bit from promoting or opposing condom usage; he is simply giving his own opinions based on experience. His position (and Nina's, and mine) is not against condom usage per se, but against MANDATED and IMPOSED condom-only policies for the reasons that he stated so well and in explicit detail in the original post. Try reading them again before you make your next reaction, Anony...if you can remove the microcode from your brain first.

    I'd respect YOUR position more if you would just come correct and say that you simply want to regulate the porn industry out of existence in order to impose your particular view of "protection" on everyone. Otherwise, either fish with a better quality of argument, or cut the bait.


    Anthony

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  17. Do you have anything to say about the hideously blatant and toxic racism in the pornography industry anthony?
    I am fully aware of how Ernest earns his living. For you to say that he doesn't profit from non condom use is just.. well.. stupid.
    Non condom use means more scenes and more business and more money. Those pesky women's vaginas get all messed up with repeated condom use in scene after scene, right?
    Then there's all that annoying stuff with having to get them on and off and on.. and then they break.. Just can't have production slowed down like that can we now.
    Then there's the fact it's just not hawt.
    One thing in your favour though special K, you make a magnificent cheerleader.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Why you guys are allowing anonymous posts is beyond me.

    Ernest, don't waste your time with this one. I'm pretty sure I know who she is.

    I have two questions. First, do you think that there will be any more press releases today? I have a post I want to put up but I was waiting to see if AIMS had anything more to offer.

    Second, any idea on what got Comstock in such a snit? I have been following him for a while and I have never seen such a rant. Wow.

    Outis

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  20. Outis,

    I have no mod powers here, but if I did, I would not allow anonymous posts on threads of this type. The matters involved are grave and nameless interlopers with hostile intentions should not be allowed to derail the discussion. But that's not my call.

    IF you want to know what's happening at AIM, here is their URL:

    http://www.aim-med.org/news/2009/06/15/1245082421/

    Here is what they posted today:

    "6/15/09
    by dr.mitch 6.15.09 page 1 of 1
    It has come to our attention that Adult Industry Companies are concerned that they may be shooting someone who is on the quarantine list. AIM has taken steps to insure that this does not happen. We have taken the names of all the talent who are waiting for their next test date (and not working in between), off of our website database for the time being. This way if you do not see a name of a person you wish to shoot on the site, don't use them, or at least call our office, as there is an explanation.

    Also, at this time we are not recommending that production managers accept any copies of tests, even if it looks like an original, better to be safe than sorry and call the offices, allow us make sure it's authentic.

    Bear in mind that everyone who has been exposed is being extremely cooperative, and patient. There are no positive tests from exposures thus far, and AIM does not expect any. It is not as easy for a man to contract HIV from a women, and at this time, we are not sure that this was indeed a work place exposure, as AIM investigates all private and industry partners. We are not recommending that anyone cancel a shoot schedule. Rumour is not Fact.

    Yes, we are in cooperation with the HIV Epidemiology Department of Los Angeles, as we always have been since our inception in 1998. Thank You so much for your patience, and tolerance.

    AIM Board of Directors will more than likely call a press conference to clear up rumors, and outrageous accusations later this week. Please keep checking this website for the facts on this issue. We have always, and will continue to have your best interest at hand. Thank you for your support.

    Dr. Sharon Mitchell"

    AIM is, as always, still doing its job.

    I won't be responding to this Anonymous henceforward, whose style of attack is familiar to me also, beyond this point.

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  21. And as for Tony Comstock, with whom I have already gone multiple rounds on this subject, way down in his post, after all the personal attacks on Sharon Mitchell and the heinous comparison of AIM to a drug dealer, he gets down to the same bottom line as Dr. Kerndt:

    "Pornography is made in a way that profoundly contradicts the basic safer-sex message and respect for responsible personal choice that is supposed to lie at the heart of sex-positive philosophy. I am profoundly disappointed."

    For him, it's about the message. For me, it's about the best way to protect performers. Those intentions sometimes conflict, and when they do, I side with what has proven effective at protecting performers, not with abstract issues regarding "messages."

    And if you're reading this, Tony, I have never in 25 years asked a performer to do anything on set that he or she wouldn't have done off set.

    The suggetion that testing is useless and that repeatedly tested performers are at the same risk in multiple sexual encounters as the general public is risible, as any cub reporter could quickly establish.

    Equally indefensible is the claim that a generalized outbreak of HIV in the het industry is inevitable under the current protocols.

    If such a thing were likely, would it not have happened by now after a decade of relying on the safeguards in place during that time?

    I'm well aware of your statistical modeling of the situation on the ground here, and find it theoretically flawed and fundamentally baseless, as I said during our last go-round on the subject.

    Make your own movies your own way. I'd be the last to challenge your right to do so. But you're wasting your time attempting to persuade the rest of us to to follow your lead for reasons we find unconvincing.

    And I think the sex-postive community is more attuned to the voices of performers than to your jeremiads in contradiction of performers' oft-stated preference for a voluntary system based on individual choice and responsibility.

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  22. And here's an interesting stat, courtesy of our friends at County Health:

    "The most recent figures from the L.A. County Health Department indicate that 869 new HIV cases were reported in Los Angeles County in July-Dec. 2008."

    HIV transmissions resulting from het porn shot in L.A. County during that same period: 0.

    One has to wonder why Dr. Kerndt and his associates consider the single case with which we're dealing now so much more important than those 869 other cases, and all that have been reported from other sources since. I don't recall any barrage of statements to the press from Kerndt, Fielding or any other county official regarding any other specific new cases since 2004.

    Perhaps they were too busy trying to explain how L.A. County's main public hospital got shut down by court order for allowing too many patients to die in its corridors while awaiting treatment, or the tens of millions of dollars paid out by L.A. taxpayers in settlements for litigation brought against the county as a result of incidents related to public health care overseen by the agency that employs both Kerndt and Fielding.

    And then there's that little matter of dumping indigent patients on skid row.

    But it's so much easier to cast blame on porn over a single HIV case, and so much more advantageous publicity-wise. Hey ... look over there!

    The health care system in this county is a public disgrace. These doctors have better things to do than mount their soapboxes in regard to porn. This county would be much better off if they used their time and our money to take on the vast health care challenges facing the millions of people, many of them uninsured, who depend on public health agencies for their medical needs.

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  23. Hello, Ernest,

    Thank you for your long and informative post; it's great to get some information on this from sources other than those who want to create a moral panic.

    I do have some comments on some of the points you raise:

    The whole employee vs independent contractor and Cal-OSHA scenarios are something of a diversion, and they're not entirely correct. Whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor, Cal-OSHA still applies, fully; you can't get around Cal-OSHA compliance just by classifying someone as an independent contractor.

    Whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor is a matter of fact based on the kind of work they do and their relationship to the company that's paying them, and one cannot just decide one way or another if someone is an employee or not. Some porn companies (LFP and Kink both pop to mind) treat all of their performers as employees. Really, all production companies should treat them as employees, as a matter of law, but most don't, and the EDD doesn't have the resources or the inclination to go after them all.

    Your point about HIV status seems... well, odd. Where are the lawsuits against porn production companies that told someone they couldn't work because of the HIV status? That situation could happen *right now*; I'm not sure what condoms have to do with it. Indeed, the situation would seem ripe for just such a lawsuit.

    Here's the critical point: Production companies are, for the most part, not supportive of condom use (Kink.com up here in San Francisco is one notable exception). You may be very supportive of the option, and other particular directors may be, but that's not universal. I just spoke with a (very active) performer, and asked her what would happen if she walked onto a set of a major production company and said she'd like to use condoms that day. She said, "I'd be sent home." She's not the only one who has told me this.

    You say, "The choice is pretty simple and pretty stark: condoms or testing. It is legally impossible to have both." But that's clearly not true: We have both now; neither one is a legal requirement. The problem is that condom use is being actively discouraged by many production companies, and testing is being held up as the reason for that. Legally-enforced mandatory condom use would be a disaster, and no sane person would call for the end of testing. But a culture in which condom use is acceptable as a personal choice, across the industry, is far overdue.

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  24. Okay, one fnal response to "Anonymous" (whose style is about as hard to identify as Bill O'Reilly's):

    You're doing a wonderful job of proving why anonymous posters are received with such skepticism in these parts, dragging in unrelated issues and launching personal attacks in every direction.

    The one thing about which you are correct in your various posts here, which predictably grow increasingly hostile and mean-spirited as they proceed, is that Nina and I agree on the "problematic" nature of attempts to impose condom use in porn by legislative means. Being a performer herself who chooses to work without condoms, she is in a rather more credible position to speak to this subject than a hostile outsider who evidently cares little about what porn performers think in this matter and possesses no information on it beyond a few press accounts.

    You clearly think you know a lot about us while telling us nothing about you, other than that you're a conduit for standard anti-porn boilerplate from those who regard the industry as fundamentally pernicious and everyone associated with it as corrupt and amoral.

    This perspective is hardly unfamiliar, nor is the charge that those who reject it, whatever reasons they give and whatever facts they muster to support those reasons, are just "spinning" to protect their economic interests.

    In this case, the spinning is all from the other side, and to an extent that makes me wonder why they don't throw up from dizziness.

    The dismissal of the very real risks created by condom drag for women who use condoms regularly in porn as a mere dodge is callous at best, and if you ever talked to any female performers instead of simply spitting back whatever nonsense you can gin up to dismiss this concern you might have a different impression, although from your comments it's clear that the views of porn performers are irrelevant to your position.

    Countrary to your defamatory allegation, I have no profit-related interest in limiting condom use. I have had no problem at all selling videos shot with condoms. My audience, which buys mainly instructional tapes and features, clearly has no problem with condoms, as my sales numbers demonstrate. The star of O – The Power of Submission, my 2006 feature, is a condom-only player and that title has sold over seventy thousand pieces to date. I guess some viewer's think it's pretty "hawt," condoms or no.

    And I am on record as opposing over-production as bad for both individuals in the industry and the industry itself. I would like to see fewer scenes shot and fewer titles released for everyone's sake. Condom use is not an inconvenience I wish to avoid. It is a potential parodoxical risk factor unique to our circumstances that needs to be addressed in any sound harm-reduction policy.

    I also note, speaking of harm reduction, that you have ignored the disasterous risk entailed in mandating condom use at the expense of abolishing routine testing. I guess that one is just too difficult to fit into your ideological framework, so you choose to simply ignore it.

    My concern here, and my only concern, is performer health.

    And that is all I have to say to a nameless stranger who comes over here to call me a liar. I've been in the vanguard of the fight for performer safety since 1993, a fight that has not been without costs, economic and otherwise, for me and others who have chosen to participate in it. My motives are well-known to those in the community to which I belong and I have no need to justify them to you beyond this point.

    This is not an abstract argument about accountability, which isn't even an issue in this case as neither side has raised it as such, but rather about the safety of the talent pool and how best to protect it, full-stop.

    Done with you.

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  25. 1. My comments appear to be getting eaten.

    2. While I think I know exactly who Anony is, this just goes to show what's wrong with popping in to "ask questions" and never discussing the answers.

    3. I'm not sure what to say about all this. Right away it sounded fishy to me, though I have to admit the "and this was nothing like the other case, everyone was being responsible!" had me a bit spooked.

    But yeah, it is unusual (by which I mean a big hairy creepy disgusting problem) that people are seemingly refusing to even consider that, yeah, maybe it might be less safe for a porn star to fuck out in the big wide world.

    I remain vaguely weirded out by the whole no condoms in porn thing, so I can easily understand people's reactions to the idea of that. But the thing to ask is whether the system in place works... and even assuming the worst, it seems to me that AIM has an amazing track record.

    Forgetting that is like forgetting that most of the swine flu out there won't kill you, because a very small percentage of people have died.

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  26. (also in re: "does it work?" I think listening to the arguments against condom use in het porn is a must before people spout off on this. I reserve judgment precisely because I'm very not sure... and I'm not the person qualified to make the call either.)

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  27. Christophe,

    Sorry I missed your post eariler. You raise some points that require clairfication and I'll attempt to offer it.

    Cal-OSHA enjoys broad authority to mandate workplace safety. However, the application of anti-discrimination laws is contingent on employee status which, as you say, is a matter of ajudication. Those laws are specifically and universally applicable to employees, much less so to contractors. It is the anti-discrimination aspect of classification of performers as employees that jeopardizes producer's ability to require testing for performers as a hiring condition. Wholesale reclassification would trigger the anti-discrimination laws that forbid required testing, as the ACLU delegation explained at length in the 2004 legislative investigation hearing.

    "Where are the lawsuits against porn production companies that told someone they couldn't work because of the HIV status?."

    No one in straight porn has standing to sue a producer for refusing to hire on the basis of HIV status because new performers are required to test before working, and when AIM has found those aspiring performers to be HIV+ (which has happened a few times over the years), they've been told they will not be allowed to work in porn and referred for medical treatment and counseling.

    "You say, "The choice is pretty simple and pretty stark: condoms or testing. It is legally impossible to have both." But that's clearly not true: We have both now; neither one is a legal requirement. The problem is that condom use is being actively discouraged by many production companies, and testing is being held up as the reason for that. "

    You left something out here, which is the change that would occur if the mass reclassification I've described were to be mandated. You're quite correct that right now we can and do have both testing and condoms (though I agree the latter are discouraged by many companies, which they should not be if the performer chooses to use them). But we would lose the right to require testing if porn casting were broadly defined as employment. I posited a potentially disasterous scenario which has not come to pass and which I hope never does, but would if those advocating legislative action got their way.


    "Legally-enforced mandatory condom use would be a disaster, and no sane person would call for the end of testing. "

    Completely agreed here, but the individuals demanding mandatory condom use do so in the full awareness that testing could not be required under any statute enacted into law without triggering the anti-discrimination regulations. Are you suggesting these individuals are insane? If so, i think you're being more charitable than I would be.

    "But a culture in which condom use is acceptable as a personal choice, across the industry, is far overdue."

    As I've been arguing for such a cultural change for sixteen years, obviously I agree entirely. However, that change must be voluntary on the part of both performers and producers or it will never happen.

    Performers must be free to judge their own levels of risk and decide for themselves whether or not condoms would reduce that risk, as opposed to increasing it.

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  28. And let me also add that companies holding up testing as an alibi for discouraging condom use are distorting AIM's position on testing. AIM makes it clear in the form given to performers that they must sign to authorize testing that there is an uncertain window period, that the possibility of an infected person testing negative on single test does exist, and that the test itself does not provide protection from transmission of HIV or other STIs.

    There are, as I've stated, legitimate concerns with the utility of condoms as a safety measure in porn, but the use of testing to establish that performers are free of disease AT THE TIME THEIR BLOOD IS DRAWN is irrelevant to those concerns.

    Testing is a warning system, most effective at what it does but not represented by those who administer it as protection against disease in itself. Basically, the PCR-DNA test gives a pretty good snapshot of a person's immune status as of ten days prior to their blood draw.

    AIM is blamed every time a performer turns up with a positive test, when in fact we only know about those performers' status as a result of testing. Were there no testing, or a return to the clearly inadequate ELISA standard in conjunction with haphazard use of barrier protections, infected performers could enter the business and work for months undetected. I hardly see how that would be an improvement of any kind.

    AIM is a testing service, not a policing agency. It should not be held accountable for circumstances over which it has no control.

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  29. Oh, looks like we've been "honored" with a link from the "Rage Against the Manchine" commentariat.

    "Caution! Trolls Crossing, Next 10 Miles."

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  30. Great. Not like I didn't see it coming, complete with the usual personal smack. Like my being a BDSM director is somehow relevant to this discussion.

    As the trolls show up, though I would prefer their nonsense be deleted, I would suggest that others here avoid rising to whatever bait they throw, as I intend to.

    This is a serious thing we're talking about and it should not become yet another football to be kicked around by idle porn haters with nothing better to do.

    Let them pass and be done with them.

    Constructive engagement is always welcomed here, unlike in many other places.

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  31. "No one in straight porn has standing to sue a producer for refusing to hire on the basis of HIV status because new performers are required to test before working, and when AIM has found those aspiring performers to be HIV+ (which has happened a few times over the years), they've been told they will not be allowed to work in porn and referred for medical treatment and counseling."

    I assume you can see the problem here. All it requires is one performer getting a positive result, showing up on set with a HIV+ test result, being turned away, and they have a perfect lawsuit under anti-discrimination law. The fact that the producer might pay them as an IC or as an employee won't cut any ice with the court.

    On the other hand, a producer could quite legitimately argue that being HIV- is a basic job qualification. This area requires case law before anyone can say how it will turn out.

    If producers are, as it sounds, betting the farm on IC vs employee classification, they need a plan B, because:

    Performers are employees.

    Producers generally pay performers as ICs because it is much easier on them, and the performers get the full amount, but the fact that performers in motion pictures are employees is settled law. This mass reclassification will happen; it's just a matter of time.

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  32. Yeah, with the trolls linking I'm not sure I want to say too much, except that I think this discussion is far more nuanced than "la la, no one cares when women get sick" which is how it gets spun.

    I just want to officially announce that I'm probably done, especially to Ernest, so it doesn't look like I'm not talking out of irresponsibility. I hope people read this thoughtfully. It should go without saying that no one's happy when someone becomes infected, though the way some trollish folks talk about it people don't care or something.

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  33. What Trinity said, and concerning potential trolling, what Ernest said. This is the kind of topic where I'd really prefer to deal with people with a first-hand knowledge of shooting porn and/or HIV/health issues.

    But I will say, discussion has been very interesting so far. Also, nice to see you drop by Christophe – I'm a Radio Blowfish fan.

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  34. Christoph,

    As you say, this may ultimately be decided by case law, but as of now, it's not. You may feel confident to declare that porn performers are employees, but the fact that mainstream actors are does not automatically make this a matter of settled jurisprudence.

    Nor would establishing them as employees necessarily create a possible exemption from anti-discrimination provisions already tested in court in other industries that have tried to make claims similar to the one you suggest.

    In fact, the ACLU delegation at the investigative hearing in 2004 stated flatly that all such attempts at gaining exemptions from these provisions based on the nature of the work involved, including health care where blood-to-blood contamination is a daily risk, have been rebuffed by the courts. They went further to state that they would vigorously contest any attempt by the porn industry to gain such an exemption and would do so with a high expectation of success.

    It's all down in the hearing records which are available online.

    As to the mass reclassification being only a matter of time, well, time will tell. I hope you're wrong about that prediction. Such a thing carries potential risks far more serious for performers than for producers, who would actually be exempted from many possible instances of lititgation under workman's comp regulations.

    Nothing about this question is simple, and attempts to make it simple enough to satisfy those with political motivations are inherently irresponsible.

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  35. As far as the employees vs IC question goes, this isn't speculation on my part. Three adult production companies (at least) have been audited by the EDD, and in each case, the performers (and crew) were found to be employees. Those companies now treat all of their cast and crew as employees, including withholding, workers comp, the works.

    The comparison with mainstream actors is not trivial, either. Porn performers are just motion picture cast, legally; that's the basis of California v Freeman, which I assume no sensible person in the industry would like to overturn just to get a tax break.

    Given that the reclassification creates a large amount of revenue for the state, I would expect we'll see more of them.

    As you say, without a case, we won't know how the courts will deal with the HIV discrimination and porn industry question. My point is that such a case is possible right now; it's not a testing vs condoms question.

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  36. Christoph,

    I appreciate your points here, which are well-taken, but there's considerable diversity of opinion regarding them.

    I am aware that in some administrative proceedings some companies have been fined as employers, but there has yet to be a court test of any of the precedent-setting cases you hypothesize. Until that time, this is all speculation that goes nowhere useful.

    For now, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    But the problem remains that no legal standard requiring the use of condoms will be consistent with a testing requirement. That's the law now, and it's withstood some pretty serious challenges from much more powerful industries than ours.

    Who would really care to risk lives by abandoning a testing standard that's worked better than any alternative program for sex workers anywhere else in the world when it comes to HIV prevention in favor of a scheme to impose universal condom use by force of law that's never been tried anywhere?

    You yourself declared that abandoning testing is something "no sane person would call for" and that "law-enforced condom use would be a disaster."

    I think we should move on from this impass. I have no new information to contribute at the moment, but if and when I do, I'll start another thread for it.

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  37. Um, nony...on that honesty thing?

    I usually DO use condoms when I work, and oddly enough, I still work. It's a personal preference of mine...

    and?

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  38. Great post, Ernest. I discussed it on my blog, sexgenderbody and cross-posted at dailykos.com.

    Thank you for what you do.

    -arvan

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  39. Earnst,

    Fair enough.

    Then, I'll contribute one other point. I know this seems small, but I think it reveals a certain tone-deafness on the part of AIM's public relations, and this is speaking as someone who fully supports the industry and AIM's mission.

    Bluntly: Sharon Mitchell has got to stop calling herself "Doctor Sharon Mitchell."

    Yes, I know she had a PhD, and I'm not going to split hairs over whether or not the accreditation status of IASHS makes a difference. But Ms Michelll is the executive director of a medical clinic. When someone who runs a medical clinic calls herself "Doctor," the implication is clear, and highly misleading in this case.

    This just creates yet another opening for critics of AIM, testing, and the industry to weigh in saying, "Well, they have a phony doctor running the clinic, how much should we trust them?"

    I'm sure that Ms Mitchell is proud of her PhD; I would be, too, in her situation. But using "Doctor" as a prefix in a medical context has an unalterable meaning, and pretending that everyone who reads it as MD is just being silly is, I would offer, astonishingly naive.

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  40. I agree with Christophe on this latter point. I would even go so far as to say Sharon Mitchell shouldn't be using "PhD", either, considering the unaccredited nature of the school she attended.

    I don't think this disqualifies Sharon Mitchell from directing AIM, since you don't actually need a medical background to work in STD prevention. I'll note that that Michael Weinstein similarly lacks any kind of medical or scientific background, though I will give him some credit for not claiming such.

    I'll note that I think that "credential inflation" is a huge problem on all sides of the "sex wars". There's "Dr Judith Reisman", who does some seriously sketchy "sex research" based on having a PhD in Communications. Or "Dr Melissa Farley", who actually does have a PhD in Psychology, but is somebody who really has a background in counseling and is grossly underqualified in the kind of statistically-driven social research she hawks.

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  41. And so the disinfo continues.

    http://gawker.com/5292555/dont-believe-a-porn-star

    Hamilton Nolan is the author of both gawker pieces.

    Think it would do any good to e-mail this guy with links to AVN and XBIZ?

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  42. "I don't think this disqualifies Sharon Mitchell from directing AIM, since you don't actually need a medical background to work in STD prevention."

    I agree completely, just to be clear. This isn't about Ms Mitchell's performance as executive director. It's about a public message that does more harm than good.

    I mean, look at the photo accompanying this LA Times article. Wearing a lab coat, in a medical context, means "I see patients." Plenty of people are shooting at us; do we really need to blow our own feet off this way?

    If you ask a random person on the street, who may indeed be porn-friendly, whether or not condom use should be mandatory in porn sets, the reaction will be "It's not? Oh, my god, of course it should be!" Those of us who don't want a mandatory public-health based reaction have a big PR hill to climb, especially given the suspicion with which the industry is viewed, and the common assumption that the industry doesn't give two shakes about performers' health. (And every production company that sends someone home for asking to use condoms helps feed that perception.)

    I know this seems petty and trivial, but politics is built on the accumulation of small perceptions.

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  43. Outis,

    It looks like the guys over at Gawker have finally found their way to AIM's site. The updates today don't seem as snide and sensational, which is good news, although I don't know how much influence Gawker has in a situation like this.

    Arvan,

    Thanks. Your support is much appreciated.

    Gentleman, as to Sharon Mitchell's credentials and how she chooses to portray them, which has been a subject of controversy in the past as she knows, i think she's the only one in a position to comment.

    I would ask you to consider the fact that she has never claimed to be an M.D. and that much of the controversy around this matter has been generated by others who insist, incorrectly, that she has. And it is true that in her capacity as a counselor, she does indeed see patients.

    I would also remind you that PHDs working in other related health care activities, including everyone from psychologists to biochemical researchers, are routinely addressed as "doctor." Hospitals are full of doctors who aren't necessarily MDs. Some of them even wear white coats with their names on them. Inferences drawn from photographs can be misleading, but are not necessarily intentionally so.

    And I can also attest to the fact that without her stewardship of the clinic, AIM would never have survived as it has. I think she never gets enough credit for her very real accomplishments and is constantly worked over by AIM's critics for things that either never happened or had nothing to do with her or with the organization's mission capabilities.

    I might agree that AIM has not done an ideal job of selling itself to the general public, but that's not it's main job. Though I'd like to see the organization do better at representing itself, the urgent concerns of operating the clinic on limited resources naturally take precedence over dealing with things like the sudden deluges of media attention that descend on AIM every time a case like the current one arises. These cases are all different and there is no way of preparing for every eventuality over which AIM might be called to account.

    It's unfortunate that some individuals take every opportunity to politicize the atmosphere around everything about AIM and how it operates, but I'm not sure how much can really be done to control that.

    Bear in mind that AIM's ability to defend itself from some of the specific attacks leveled at it are hampered by the need to adhere to California's strict medical privacy laws. There's only so much AIM is permitted to make public regarding specific cases and individuals.

    AIM's critics operate under no such restraints and are free to offer whatever wild and baseless speculations about the organization they please. It's pretty hard to fight back against all those lies with one hand tied behind our backs by our legal obligations as health care providers.

    Remember also that AIM has been criticized on some occasions for saying too much and on others for not saying enough. Sometimes no comment is the best comment you can make.

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  44. I didn't follow why it's legally impossible to have both mandatory condoms and testing. Could you clarify that point.

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  45. ES:

    I'll try this again.

    Under California law, it is illegal to discriminate against persons with HIV in hiring employees. Employers are not permitted to require HIV testing of potential employees or even inquire about their HIV status.

    In order for the state to acquire the power to legally reqiure porn performers to use condoms, those performers, who are not regarded as employees by the companies that cast them but rather as independent contractors, would have to be reclassified as employees.

    State regulators could impose whatever protective measures they choose on those classified as employees, including the use of condoms for all sex acts, including oral sex as well as intercourse, but producers would no longer be allowed to require HIV testing or even to refuse to hire performers known to be HIv+ without opening themselves to liability under California's strict anti-discrimination laws.

    This may seem like a technicality, and Christophe among others has argued that it is, but the reality of it is that state mandated condom use would have the probable effect of barring producers from requiring that performers be HIV tested in order to be employed in porn.

    This is what economists might call a classic case of conflicting goods. It is good to offer workers as much protection from on the job hazards as possible (if you believe that condoms actually do that, which is still open to question). It is also good to prevent employment discrimination against those infected with HIV.

    However, in porn's case, the good of keeping HIV infected performers out of the talent pool clearly outweighs the good of attempting what even those who advocate doing so agree would be the nearly impossible goal of compelling all performers to use condoms in all sex scenes.

    There's no practical way to do the latter, and trying is likely to undo the former.

    I hope that helps. This isn't a simple matter, as I've said. Since the system we use now has kept the incidence of HIV among porn performers well below that in the general population, I maintain that it's foolish to risk destroying the protections we have in favor of trying a new approach that has never been attempted anywhere and stands a good chance of failing completely.

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  46. I don’t really understand how performers can be legally considered independent contractors if the company paying them can determine whether condoms are required or not. My understanding was that a person was considered an independent contractor if the person paying them had no control over the working conditions, like construction contractors who bring their own equipment or a driver who owns his own car – it’s not the responsibility of the person who hires them to make sure the equipment or the car the contractor owns is safe. If Vivid can require condoms on the set if they want to, then the company has control over the working conditions on the set, which would make anyone working on that set a legal employee, wouldn’t it?

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  47. In order for the state to acquire the power to legally reqiure porn performers to use condoms, those performers, who are not regarded as employees by the companies that cast them but rather as independent contractors, would have to be reclassified as employees.

    I'm afraid I have to be blunt, here: That statement is false.

    Cal/OSHA has jurisdiction over all workplaces in California, regardless of how employees re classified. You cannot escape Cal/OSHA jurisdiction just by stating that an individual is engaged as an IC rather than employee. (If you could, every single construction and agricultural worker in California would be an IC, I guarantee you.)

    It also skips over the the issue, that exists right now, that several major production companies do classify their staff as employees, right now, today.

    Further, anti-discrimination law applies equally to ICs and employees, especially if the ICs are engaged for personal services (like all cast members are). This is settled law; there's no opinion or debate on this subject.

    Since no court has ruled about the application of HIV discrimination laws to the adult movie industry, we don't know what the end result would be. (It appears from your comments that the ACLU has a strong position, but that's not a definitive ruling on anything.)

    But this has nothing to do with testing or condoms This apocalyptic scenario could happen today. Indeed, testing makes it even more likely, since it removes any doubt in anyone's mind exactly why the performer didn't get the job.

    I'm sorry to have to belabor this, but these are simply matters of fact. The whole employee vs IC thing is a distraction. There are good, solid arguments in favor of testing and against mandatory condom use, but this is not one of them.

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  48. And that's what I get for being drawn back into an argument that I already said could not be resolved here.

    Christophe, when you state, bluntly, that what I'm saying is false and then go on to say:

    "Since no court has ruled about the application of HIV discrimination laws to the adult movie industry, we don't know what the end result would be."

    You rather undercut your own position in this matter. You claim to know something to be true while admitting that neither you nor anyone else knows for sure until there is a court test, whether it is or not.

    This is where we left off.

    Rather than go through another round on this, I'd be interested to read your other "good, solid arguments in favor of testing and against mandatory condom use."

    Don't you think that might be more constructive than to go on splitting hairs over the current employement status of performers and how it does or does not impact the anti-discrimination issue?

    Frankly, I could use a little help here if we're really on the same side.

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  49. I don’t really understand how performers can be legally considered independent contractors ...

    Well, in fact, every time it has come to the California Department of Labor's attention, they've decided that adult industry performers are employees, not independent contractors. Several large production companies have been burned for large sums of money in back taxes because of this.

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  50. "Protest, June 15: AHF to Renew Call for 'Condoms in Porn' Law at Larry Flynt's Hustler/Hollywood Store"

    Any idea whether this, in fact, took place last night? I've been looking for news and/or blog reports of this press conference and rally, but there's no mention of it, even on AHF's website.

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  51. You claim to know something to be true while admitting that neither you nor anyone else knows for sure until there is a court test, whether it is or not.

    I believe you misread my comment. You are conflating two separate things, here.

    Neither you or I nor anyone knows if a court would rule that California's anti-HIV-discrimination laws would be applied to adult industry performers. You seem certain that the court would rule that it does, I'm not so certain, but that's neither here nor there.

    However, you seem to think that, right now, the industry is somehow protected from such a suit, and from Cal/OSHA regulation, because some (most?) producers classify performers as independent contractors.

    That's simply not true. A test case for HIV discrimination in the adult movie industry could be launched today.

    First, a performer could go to AIM, get a HIV+ result, show up on set anyway, be turned away, and file suit. In this case, the suit would be exceptionally clear, because there would be no question in anyone's mind why the performer was turned away.

    The fact that the production company classifies performers as ICs would provide exactly zero protection against such a suit. This is settled law.

    Would the suit succeed? I don't know; no one does.

    My point is that this is not an argument in favor of testing or against mandatory condoms. I understand the desire to have an apocalyptic scenario as ammunition, but this isn't a good choice.

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  52. Don't you think that might be more constructive than to go on splitting hairs over the current employement status of performers and how it does or does not impact the anti-discrimination issue?

    Frankly, I could use a little help here if we're really on the same side.

    I think you make a fine case, above, about performer's health, the failure rate of condoms, and so forth. My advice is to focus on those, rather than technical (and thus, technically refutable) arguments about Cal/OSHA and IC status.

    Remember, outside of the industry, the gut reaction of the public will be: "Well, of course the industry should be regulated more closely!" Thus, arguments constructed around regulation-as-bad-thing are doomed to fail.

    Right now, the single biggest issue to my mind is that performers do not have the ability to demand condom use. AIM could take a strong leadership position in creating such a culture. Producers who send performers home because of condom requests should be named and shamed. AIM could take a strong leadership role in that.

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  53. IACB

    Here you go

    http://business.avn.com/articles/35597.html

    It appears that there was no official representation by the AHF. It seems as though the protest was sponsored by Lifestyles, the condom maker.

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  54. There are a lot of companies that put people on "independent contractor" status for their own advantage, and in a lot of cases, its simply a matter of having them file a 1099 rather than a 1040. The biggest difference is that contractors are typically paid piecework or by-the-job rather than hourly or regular salaried pay. I know this, because this basically describes my present work situation.

    And even though I'm an independent contractor, the company I work for definitely does have rules as an employee, including how I'm supposed to dress on the job, what information I can and can't share with a customer, etc.

    (In practice, I generally don't like the arrangement, which seems more about the company being able to get out of employer obligations – Workman's Comp, comping employee expenses, rules around firing, etc – without having to give up much in the way of their rights as bosses.)

    But anyway, even if it is established that employee status would prevent mandatory testing (and that really hasn't been clearly established as a point of law), I don't see the reverse as true – if a company did want to have a mandatory condom rule, I don't think there's anything in the status of independent contractor that would prevent that.

    But, like Christophe pointed out, I don't think employee versus independent contractor status is the crux of the argument.

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  55. "It appears that there was no official representation by the AHF. It seems as though the protest was sponsored by Lifestyles, the condom maker."

    Interesting – talk about taking advantage of a guerrilla marketing opportunity.

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  56. Christophe,

    Fair enough. I think the core arguments have and should always revolve around what model best protects perfomrers' health. I've made those arguments as best I can and will continue to do so.

    I agree that there needs to be more push-back against producers who won't allow the use of condoms, but AIM is not in a position to mount that crusade, beyond recommending to all that informed performer choice is the goal toward which the entire industry should aspire.

    AIM is in the health care business first and foremost. That means we have to preserve the trust of as many participants in the industry as we can, including those with whose policies we don't necessarily agree. If we start singling out companies and crusading against them, we will risk those companies' compliance with the voluntary testing protocol.

    Believe me, it wasn't an easy sell with all of them at the beginning and for a long time thereafter. If companies AIM singles out for criticism break ranks and decide to stop requiring tests, or refuse to cast performers who test with AIM, once again, gaps would be opened in the safety net.

    AIM can advocate for a broad policy, as it does often if you follow the Web site, but it cannot set itself up as policing operation for the industry.

    But that doesn't mean that organized efforts by others can't be brought to bear effectively on anti-condom companies. I can hear the groans as I say this, but the real power already resides with the performers. Those who want the option of condom use, not only for themselves but for others, will need to stick to their guns about it, even if it means some lost employment. If enough players do so, particularly those who are most highly sought after, companies that want those players will have to re-think the economics of condoms v desirable talent when the look at the bottom line, which is where they look first.

    But this can only be fair and successful if it also involves respect for the choices of those performers who do not want to work with condoms. The best argument for performer choice is that it's a reality - that is, those who want to use condoms can and those who don't won't have to and neither will lose employment as a result.

    This won't happen overnight, and I have my concerns about the staying power of performer initiatives based on disappointing past experiences, but that's where the impetus will have to originate if this is going to succeed.

    The overarching problem is that everyone involved wants somebody - AIM, the government, etc. - to wave a magic wand over this situation and resolve it instantly. It's taken years to get to where we are now and nothing is going to happen overnight, especially if it involves changing the culture of an entire industry that's evolved over three decades.

    Those who have the most on the line - the performers themselves - will have to take some responsibility for changes they want to see if those changes are going to happen.

    In the meantime, there is still the immediate problem of preventing an ill-fated attempt at a government imposed fix that is certain to backfire.

    One thing at a time. Right now, we're under attack from the permanent anti-porn lobby that seizes on every new incident to try and forward a dangerous prohbitionist agenda that risks what we've agreed is a disasterous undermining of the safeguards we have.

    I think a two-track approach that addresses the need for change in the industry while protecting it from mad schemes hatched by hostile outsiders stands the best chance of a long-term solution.

    I agree that none of this should rest on legal technicalities and for my own part, I'm sorry so much of our time here has been expended on going back and forth over those.

    It's the big picture that counts. Let's try and stick with that for now.

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  57. The most intelligent and thorough writing on this subject I've read since the story broke.

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  58. I had wanted to respond to Anony's latest smack earlier...but my Internet has been down these last few days; I'm using a public computer right now.

    But better late than never, I'll say.

    Yes, Anony, I am very much aware that there is racism in porn; but there is also plenty of racism in anti-porn, too. You using Darren James as an example of the evil Black man (with the larger-than-life dong) who goes and infects innocent ingenue White girls, might be considered the latter example. The fact remains that Darren James wasn't infected by anyone within the industry; he was tragically infected outside the industry and it didn't show up in the testing in time before he did that infamous shoot with Lara Roxx. A tragedy for him and his family?? Yes, indeed. A breach in the system?? Absolutely. Proof positive that the system is a failure and that government must step in and impose mandatory condom usage and other rigid regulations?? I don't think so.

    As for Ernest profiting from non-condom usage...you do know that he and Nina have strongly encouraged voluntary condom usage in his own shoots, right??? And he has never gone against the stated will of any performer wanting to use condoms. So, it really doesn't matter whether or not he personally profits from condom usage or not, doesn't it??

    Plus...last time I checked, Ernest did not own any production company; he is mostly a producer of his own content and an editor of a fetish magazine. But, I guess that he should be held personally responsible for every performer who gets infected merely because he makes his money producing porn....right???

    And as for your mocking of Ernest's points about how condom usage can really get in the way of an effective shoot: that's all fine and good, but I thought that the main point all along was to MANDATE mandatory condom usage as a means of selling condoms as the ultimate form of "safe sex" to the public?? I mean, shouldn't public service and "saving lives" trump profit in this case, regardless of whether you consider condoms to be "hawt"?? (And in fact, many companies and websites have in fact done condom scenes that are very much hot; the main issue is not that, but whether the personal preference of the performer and his or her personal judgment should be respected.)

    I do agree that many companies are too afraid of losing the profits of their consumer base, which have shown that they would probably not go too well with banishing "bareback" scenes, even if some justification of public support of "safer sex" procedures was given. There are already more than enough companies and individual activists around to promote that vital message; I really don't believe that the vast diaspora of the sexual media should be restricted merely to sell that particular message. That's why we should have comprehensive sex education.

    Better to be a "cheerleader" for the truth and for personal choice and harm prevention than to be a brownnoser troll who just can't handle facts that conflict with their vendetta. Nothing special about that, Anony.

    I'm done with 'ya now....go home.


    Anthony

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  59. As to the intriguing dialogue between Christophe and Ernest regarding porn production companies and their stances on condom usage:

    I'm sure that many companies are motivated by the fear of loss of profit from their base consumers, who for the most part generally do understand the need for condom usage in general...but don't particularly want them in their scenes because they prefer seeing and vicariously feeling the natural sensation of "bareback" sex.

    My particular concern, though, is about the performers, especially the FEMALE performers....because many of them have openly said that they themselves do not like to use condoms not only because of everything that Ernest pointed out about their durability in a daily shoot...but also because they personally don't like the FEEL of condoms in their personal lives.

    Now, some other performers do not have any problems with condoms at all, and some have even said that they would support an industry-wide condom-only policy. The fact remains, though, that if even performers who would be on the front lines of these policies are in strong disagreement over this policy, then why are those who are most belligerent about imposing this policy by government fiat so willing to ignore their objections?? I guess that they can be dismissed as industry flacks and brainless sluts, too???

    Finally, as to Sharon Mitchell's credentials: I always refered to her as "Dr." because she does have an accredited degree, however you may question the creds of ISAHS, they are legally licenced to give degrees. She may be a conventional M.D., but no one can ignore that her efforts and her organization have been overwhelmingly effective in combating STD's within the industry...especially as compared to the past efforts.


    Anthony

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  60. Anthony, I hope you don't mind if I ask for clarification, because I'm not sure that your statement about IASHS's licensing is entirely correct.

    From the IASHS website:

    "Is the Institute an accredited academic institution?
    The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality is fully approved for graduate education in Sexology by the Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education of the State of California.
    "

    From the BPPVE website:

    "The Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act became inoperative on June 30, 2007 and was repealed on January 1, 2008. Currently, in California, there is no regulatory body with oversight of private postsecondary schools. Currently no approval is required."

    I looked and was unable to find any evidence that the IASHS is authorized, approved, accredited, or licensed in any way at the present time. It sounds like it isn't required to be. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

    For what it's worth, I once asked a friend about his experience with the school, since he attended around the same time as Sharon. He snorted and replied that they took his money and gave him very little in return. But like Sharon, he does claim the right to use the prefix "Dr" with his own name, and also the suffix "PhD." He does good work as a clinical sexologist, sex advice columnist, and pornographer. So I guess I can't begrudge him those titles, even though by his own assessment, the quality of his work is not especially related to the quality of that education. Sharon's situation is a little different because she represents a medical lab, and I'm not especially convinced that she should be using that title in that setting. It feels wrong. But I also can't find any fault with the way she or the other AIM staff have handled this latest situation. And I think we all agree that's the more important issue.

    Ernest's insights make a lot of sense to me. I'm glad he posted them.

    YD

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  61. YD....I stand corrected on that. Thanks.

    I guess another victim of California's budget crunches, correct??

    But, since ISAHS was validated when BPPVE was still valid, I don't really believe that that would invalidate Sharon Mitchell's credentials as a doctor.

    Of course, that still wouldn't prevent the likes of Tony Comstock from smearing her for whatever sins she has done against him.


    Anthony

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  62. For those having a hard time tracking this story. There is now a rumor about a possible defamation LS

    http://business.avn.com/articles/35610.html

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  63. "Finally, as to Sharon Mitchell's credentials: I always refered to her as "Dr." because she does have an accredited degree, however you may question the creds of ISAHS, they are legally licenced to give degrees."

    No, IASHS is *not* properly accredited educational institution. They have a license to operate as an educational institution from a California state agency with the long-winded title of Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, but that's simply the equivalent of a business license. It means nothing in terms of the credibility of its degree programs.

    IASHS is not recognized as accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the US Department of Education, which means one could not, for example, take out a student loan to enter their program, nor are their degrees recognized by other educational institutions as valid.

    Its not a matter of technicality or not filing the proper paperwork, either. A "PhD" from IASHS requires *no* prior degree and something like only 3 months of classwork, plus a written exam and some sort of undefined dissertation. That this falls far short of what is generally expected of someone to earn and advanced degree goes without saying. Basically, IASHS is, at best, a certificate program in sex education and has no business issuing "PhD" and "Master of Public Health" degrees.

    I second Christophe's concern about this, because although I don't think you necessarily need a degree to start a health clinic (I believe Michael Weinstein's only professional background before starting AIDS Healthcare Foundation was as a businessman) as long as you have an actual physician on staff as medical director (and if I'm not mistaken, AIM's medical director, Colin Hamblin, is an MD), the problem of using the title "Doctor" based on a completely non-accredited PhD is obvious. That problem is only magnified if you're doing this in a medical context, and even moreso if you're doing it in relation to a controversial industry. In other words, just on that simple, symbolic front, AIM is setting itself up for some really bad publicity.

    One of the main reasons I blog on this subject is not only an interest in the subject and a belief in an essentially "sex-positive"/libertarian perspective, but also because I come from academic/scientific background and see that the anti-porn/cultural feminist/social conservative side builds its case on a foundation of junk science and disregard for simple facts. And one of the things that would set my alarm bells off *big time* if I were looking at an anti-porn "expert" would be credential inflation, and its one of the first things I'd go after them for. I therefore hate to see anybody on "my side" of the issue doing the same thing.

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  64. IACB:

    All that is granted, and it does bring into issue why Sharon Mitchell calls herself a doctor...but on the fundamental point of her organization's effectiveness in protecting her clientele, it is still a bit moot.

    And given that she has been basically vindicated by the latest "retraction" by the LA Times that Outis linked, I'd say that she's on more solid ground.


    Anthony

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  65. Also...see my latest post over at the Boudoir on the scandal and the elitism of those calling for mandatory condom usage:

    The Lady Chatterley Boudoir: Sex Positive Elitism And The Latest HIV-Porn Scandal


    Anthony

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  66. Anthony –

    I agree with you that AIM's work is effective and needed, but that only underscores the case why Sharon Mitchell shouldn't be needlessly creating image problems for herself and, by extension, AIM.

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  67. Outis –

    Thanks for the link. Here's another from LA Times:

    L.A. County backtracks on reports of porn HIV cases

    And while I'm not a huge fan of defamation lawsuits, if there's ever been a such thing as libel, the story that Fielding put out to the press rises to that level. 1) There was little factual basis for the claim that 16 (or 22) new HIV infections took place in the porn industry since 2004. 2) That claim was a directly very harmful to the personal and professional reputations of a number of individuals. In other words, the two essential ingredients of libel.

    Fielding's only defense is that he made these accusations in good faith and believed them to be true. But considering that it wouldn't have been very hard for him to double check his numbers rather than rushing to the press, I have my doubts about whether this can be regarded as good faith. He should have known better, and even if he did have a bee in his bonnet, he could have pursued it without making accusations he ultimately wasn't able to back up.

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  68. I see some have already gotten the news in my new post. I have little to add on the comments regarding this latest revelation at this point (other than to warmly welcome YogaDame to our online community here) and to say that accountability is a two-way street.

    I think you're going to see some of that accountability on both sides of that street in the coming days.

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  69. Oh...and I also want to join Ernest in welcoming YogaDame to the BPPA family. She was a prolific and worthwhile contributor to Nina's old forum, and her perspective will be most welcome here.


    Anthony

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  70. A thoughtful, forceful post already that was improved by (many of) the comments.

    Certain Logical Unlikelies present themselves: it seems as unlikely that a porn company would pay someone to digitally wipe away a condom (because, apparently, the porn consumer doesn't like to watch condoms) as it does for the state to NOT create a double-O License to Discriminate against HIV + porn industry job seekers, even as that would de facto legalize sex work.

    You've changed my mind about condom use, Ernest. Glad you agree that testing intervals should be shorter.

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  71. Hello Gram!

    Thanks for coming by. Your comments are much appreciated.

    Agreed that no porn company is going to digitally delete condoms in post. It's a totally preposterous idea, in fact, and I'm happy to say it wasn't mine.

    It was, no surprise, Dr. Kerndt's. If you track down the PloS citation from which I took his quotation, you'll find a whole section devoted to this "practical" solution to the marketing challenges faced by producers attempting to sell condom-only porn, challenges that sank Christian Mann's company, sadly.

    Evidently, among the other things Kerndt doesn't know about porn is that we don't get the budgets mainstream features do. Digital de-condomization for a single scene would wipe out the entire post budget for a major X-rated release. Of course, if we really were the $12 billion industry that mainstream media and anti-porn crusaders like to describe us as being, that might not be the case.

    In the real world of ever-shrinking revenues, the chance of any porn company being able to make such an investment approaches the theoretical absolute zero.

    And you're quite right in noting that in order for the state to legislate an exemption for porn from anti-discrimination laws forbidding negative HIV status as a condition of employment, California would have to make an exception for sex work it won't make for health care. And it would have to do so in the face of fierce opposition from not only the ACLU, but also groups like AHF that have been so vocal on the condoms in porn issue to this point.

    No surprise that legislators aren't exactly lining up to put their names on bills of this type. Even if any would, it's doubtful such a measure would make it out of committee once the lawyers up north started trying to hack through the thicket of conflicting regulations that would have to be cleared in order to enact it.

    And there's still been no discussion from the advocates of such an approach regarding how it would be funded and what enforcement mechanisms would be created to put it into place. Nor has anyone bothered to consider, at least publicly, the years of litigation with all the uncertainties that litigation would create (much as 2257 has already) resulting from the inevitable court challenges.

    The closer you look at these factors, the less feasible the whole mandatory condom thing becomes.

    But more frequent testing is absolutely consistent with increased performer safety, preservation of the existing safeguards and concordance with existing bodies of law. There is some point of diminishing returns at which testing increases the economic burden on performers without significantly reducing their risks, but twice monthly seems perfectly doable, and some companies and some performers are already insisting on it.

    Not only do I think that would be a good idea for all, I would favor, at the very least, a co-payment fund underwritten by the producers, who benefit from testing as do performers, which would cover at least one of the two monthly tests.

    Producers will, of course, gripe about that idea, but if they consider some of the possible alternatives, it's a very cost-effective fix.

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  72. Ernest- do you have a link re the effects of trying to sell condom-only porn on Christian Mann's company?

    Thanks!

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  73. I think this piece has been linked before, but here it is:

    http://business.avn.com/articles/35591.html

    Mann is one of the smartest, most decent guys ever to run a company in this business. He really did hold out on the condom policy long after bigger companies that had made bigger promises had given it up. He's very much landed on his feet as GM at Evil Angel and deservedly so, but some producers are likely to view his story as a cautionary tale.

    However, Steve Orenstein's experience at Wicked, the only company that remains 100% condom, could just as easily be read to the opposite conclusion. His company continues to produce big hits year after year.

    The make-or-break difference in the economics of condom use lies in the audiences. Feature audiences don't care much about condoms one way or another. They want to see the biggest players and the highest production values. They are into sexual intensity, and they don't necessarily shy away from things feature producers often fear they will - IR, anal, kink - if these things are presented with some style. But they're not into raunch for its own sake.

    The gonzo audience, on the other hand, is all about the anatomy. They like it up-close and unobstructed. That's where the resistance to condoms is most determined. Contrary to the relentless bullshit of anti-porn evangelists of all persuasions, this audience does not rule, and there's evidence that it's shrinking as it ages. It's smaller to begin with than the aggregate feature audience. However, it's steadier and cheaper to get. Condoms are, to be charitable, a very hard sell to producers serving that market.

    This is where performers have to make some economic choices also. And choices is what they are. The fact that a decision may cost you money doesn't mean it isn't a decision. Very few regular players in porn conform to the pitiful, drug-addicted victim stereotype. They tend to have done some homework before coming out here, and one way or another figure out which market is going to be the most lucrative for them. Risk is related to earnings in many fields and porn, to some extent, is one of those. If you're completely money-driven as a performer, you may choose to engage in higher risk behavior that pays better, or can be had more frequently, or both.

    Perhaps this is my own libertarian streak, but I don't believe there are level playing fields in life, or fair fights either. There are various privileges and advantages to be sure, but beyond those, there are also individual decisions.

    I'd have made a lot more money myself over the years if I'd been willing to make any kind of picture for any kind of company. Though I was never blacklisted over the condom thing - there is no blacklist in this business - I did have to pass up a lot of gigs as a result of insisting that performers always have the right to use condoms on my shows if they wanted. I've never really missed that money. I don't like being micro-managed on my own sets, even by those whose budgets I'm spending.

    But performers have more often than not chosen to pass on the condom option, and another thing I won't do is not hire them because of that. It's between individual players and their partners. If they're not using them on other sets and/or not using them in their private lives, my insistence that they do so for the camera becomes about appearances and not safety. I don't roll that way. I'm making pictures with grown-ups for grown-ups. They choose their partners. They pick their positions. I set up the situations and shoot them.

    Every judgment call costs somebody something. That's capitalism, and whether we like it or not, it's the governing system here.

    As Ren likes to say, the industry is not a monolith, and that's why no monolithic approach to reforming it is going to work.

    Just ask Christian Mann.

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  74. Found this on the news feeds this AM.

    http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-porn-star-hiv,0,7952960.story?track=rss

    OSHA paid a visit to AIMS yesterday. I don't know how good ktla is as a news source--

    just FYI

    Outis

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  75. They're still running with the "16 new infections" figure even after the LA Times story? Ridiculous.

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  76. Has anybody else read Tony Comstock's latest post concerning the source of his animus toward Sharon Mitchell: link.

    Its about her services as "expert witness" in a 2004 rape trial, in which she was hired to give testimony (never used) that an on-camera rape of an unconscious girl was consensual amateur porn shoot based on a very cursory viewing of the tape. I haven't heard Sharon Mitchell's side of this, but its if what is reported as true, its pretty damning and makes her sound incredibly mercenary.

    Apparently, it hasn't been just Tony Comstock who was down on her for this, but there was a blowup about it on Adult DVD Talk back in 2004: link. This is the first time I've heard of it, myself.

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  77. Comstock certainly seems to be going out of his way to discredit not only AIMS but Mitchell as well.

    Thanks for sharing

    Outis

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  78. IACB,

    I have to wonder what good it does to Xpost this nonsense here. The personal attacks on Mitch, which are about as rare out here as smog and about as informative, are irrelevant to the current case and lll-informed regarding AIM's standards and practices and how the impact the porn industry.

    Yeah, okay, some people don't like Mitch and are prepared to drag anything ugly they can dig up or make up to discredit her.

    I can tell you that over the years at AIM, we've grown thick skins and learned to ignore personal attacks in order to keep our eye on the ball.

    It would be better, in my opinion, if we did the same.

    There are crucial issues under discussion here and Mitch's testimony in the Heidl case isn't one of them.

    Comstock, who I respected at one time, has sunk to tabloid gossip levels in his febrile fuming on this whole topic.

    By slinging the same old mud, he does nothing to discredit AIM, but much to discredit himself as any kind of credible source.

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  79. Yup, I saw it, IACB.

    Tony and I were once better friends. I still like his work well enough that I occasionally buy and recommend it, but we no longer see eye-to-eye on several critical issues. I submitted some comments to his blog (including a post which is still waiting approval in moderation) because I still have some issues which I wish to discuss with him.

    I'm not especially optimistic that my arguments will change his mind, though, or that his will change mine.

    YD

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  80. YogaDame –

    I saw your comments over there, and thumbs up for engaging him with some good points. I haven't seen him respond, and I'm not sure he's really up for discussion on it. I'm not clear if its his intention to create some division split "mainstream porn" and "the sex positive community" (which are both pretty amorphous concepts, anyway), but I really don't think few angry postings mostly directed at one individual and institution are exactly a persuasive case for such.

    Ernest –

    I bring it up the Comstock posting about Mitch because, even though it doesn't have a lot of relevance to the present situation (beyond calling Mitch's judgment into question), its a pretty serious accusation, and one that I think may keep coming up, especially since Comstock has given it a new lease on life. I didn't want to look like I was simply paying it no mind.

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  81. Actually, he has responded to my first post by mixing his responses (in Italics) into my comments (plain text). I know that's slightly confusing, but it's his blog, and he gets to make the rules.

    He hasn't approved my second post yet, and that's the one which has stronger points. So those comments are not yet visible for public consumption as I type this. It's the weekend; he's probably busy and will get to it later.

    I don't fully understand his intention either. Tony does have a highly developed sense of conscientiousness, but he's also extremely abrasive in a way that tends to cost him allies. Most of the questions I asked him were born of genuine curiosity, but several are there to needle him a bit. ;-) As a porn fan, I don't especially like being told that we don't care about the health of the performers.

    In any case, it's probably best to leave it alone. I'm going to turn my attention back to finishing my review of a good movie, which is way more fun anyhow. I'll leave the experts to sort out the more important issues.

    YD

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  82. "I don't fully understand his intention either. Tony does have a highly developed sense of conscientiousness, but he's also extremely abrasive in a way that tends to cost him allies."

    I know the feeling. :)

    But as for his sense of conscientiousness, I have gotten the sense from interviews I've heard with him that he errs almost too far in that direction. What I mean is that one of the things he didn't like in most porn was that it involved having strangers fuck, and that that was in some way emotionally dangerous. Which is why he has real-life couples in his films. His reasoning came across overly cautious and paternalistic to my way of thinking, since, of course, in real life, near-strangers hook up and fuck all the time, and that to me, if sex-positivity implies anything, its being OK with sex that's not part of a romantic relationship.

    Of course, if he wants to make relationship-centered porn, that's great, because that's one of the many niches that really isn't covered in most porn, and certainly two people who know each other do bring something special to the sex act. But I certainly would pose it as a negative value judgment against hookups or porn pairings, either.

    Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'll have to dig up the interview again.

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  83. Whatever Comstock's virtues as either a filmmaker or a spokesperson for what he percieves as "the sex-positive community," he does himself no credit by dragging in a matter utterly irrelevant to the current situation to smear Mitch, citing as his source the notoriously right-wing O.C. Register.

    I have no intention of being sidetracked into a discussion of the pros and cons of Mitch's testimony in that case, as Comstock would like us all to be, but I think it would behoove anyone with an interest in the question of whether or not her participation in that trial impeaches her judgment overall to look into some less biased and more reliable sources from the time.

    Comstock's attempt to paint Michell as a rape apologist with the language of a right-wing scandal sheet is hardly consistent with the high-road approach on which he so prides himself.

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  84. Not to split hairs, but the story he cites is from the OC Weekly, not the Register. I have no idea how OCW falls out editorially, though it is sister publication to SF Weekly, and I know only too well how reactionary that paper is when it comes to sex industry-related news.

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  85. Hmmm....so, the best that TC can do to smear Sharon Mitchell is to reset that old "rape apologist" libel from the now dead and buried Heidel case???

    Never mind that Mitch's main testimony was NOT in any way to smear the alleged victim of said rape, but to merely point out the motivations for some to make amateur videos of women for their own pleasure??

    And Comstock certainly can't aim any guns at the prosecution for tanking the case, or to the actual jury members for reaching their decision to acquit the men accused.

    Oh, no...just blame Sharon Mitchell because she was minor "support witness"....and because she was a porn starlet.

    And it wasn't just right-wingers who were foaming at the mouth....there were plenty of radicalfeminists who were equally steamed at Mitch's role in the acquital.....and some of them are the biggest boosters of imposing "condom only" rules and draconian safety requirements as a means to wipe out the industry through attrition.

    However "sex positive" Tony Comstock may see himself, in this case he is decisively traveling with the most reactionary elements around.

    And I'm thinking it's not just out of selfless alturism, either. Think about it, if Comstock gets his wish and condom-only rules and Cal-OSHA and LA Health Care regs are instigated industry wide, and major companies are forced out of business or underground, then who do you think would profit the most from getting their rivals out of the way??

    Wouldn't you think that there might be some back-door dealing going on between the LA health officials, certain "condom-only" advocates, and condom companies to gain political protection while the rest of the industry is decimated??

    "Sex positive", my ass. Maybe in the way the Progressive Policy Institute of the Democratic Leadership Council is "progressive"..but not in any genuine way that I know.


    Anthony

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  86. Anthony –

    Actually, I'm pretty sure 1) the Heidl case resulted in a conviction – the jury didn't buy that what they saw on the tape was consensual, and 2) Sharon Mitchell's testimony was never admitted, so it ultimately never influenced the outcome. The argument of Comstock and others who are outraged over Mitch's testimony was not that it ultimately had any effect on the outcome, but that the perpetrators of the case were clearly guilty of a brutal rape and that Mitch's testimony comes across as more or less a rape apology.

    Then again, I haven't heard Mitch's side of the story, nor seen a direct transcript of her testimony (as opposed to the parts selected out by OC Weekly), so in that regard, I'll reserve judgment.

    I'm not sure I'm ready to throw Comstock out of the "big tent" of sex-positivity quite yet (I've seen enough of that kind of policing from the more doctrinaire feminist side of the sex-positive milieu quite honestly), but, yeah, like a lot of Figleaf's writing, his views are definitely on the more, for lack of a better word, conservative side of that spectrum.

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  87. IACB:

    I stand corrected on the details of the Heidl case...my mind must have slipped me there. I still don't see how Mitch's testimony there -- even if it was ultimately discarded -- proves anything about her lack of concern about rape victims....especially since SHE was, if I remember correctly, herself a victim of rape??

    As for Comstock's "sex positivity"...I'm not trying to be doctrinaire in anything, since it's not as if I have any power whatsoever to change TC's opinions. I just consider his hypocrisy in calling himself "sex positive" while simultaneously promoting such reactionary notions of sexuality being privileged to married, monogamous couples while everyone else is considered to be inferior, if not dangerous, to be quite telling. In my understanding of what I believe in as "sex positive", that is highly problematic...but, that's only me. As the acronym goes, YMMV.


    Anthony

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  88. And I stand corrected on the O.C. Weekly v. the O.C. Register. My apologies to the good folks at the Register, who are also extremely conservative, but are models of objectivity compared to the gang at the O.C. Weekly, at least in their treatment of this case.

    But if we must rake this muck again, as Comstock has maneuvered us into doing, let's make sure we have at least a couple of other important matters straight.

    Yes, the defendants were convicted in a retrial after the first trial ended in a hung jury, which had nothing to do with Mitchell's testimony, as it was not admitted at either trial. The attempt to tar her with the original mistrial was utterly unfounded in anything except prejudice, and Comstock's introduction of it here is simply an inexcusable ad hominem attack utterly irrelevant to the current situation.

    As for the content of Mitchell's testimony, which is a matter of public record, she testified as an expert that the behavior she saw in the video, which was all she had to go by, was not wholly inconsistent with the woman's deliberate participation. She was hired as an expert for the defense, whose job it was to focus attention on whether or not the tape constituted irrefutable evidence or might be subject to reasonable doubt. The standard for conviction in criminal proceedings specifies guilt beyond a reasonble doubt. In Mitchell's expert opinion, the tape did not meet that standard. This is why opposing sides hire different expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are the only witnesses allowed to speculate on the stand and their speculations often conflict.

    Mitchell is not only a survivor of sexual assault, she also survived a nearly successful attempt on her life by a demented stalker and has counseled sexual assault victims compassionately and effectively for many years. I doubt many of them would be sympathetic to Comstock's low-ball attempt to discredit her as a clinician by portraying her as a rape enabler. His suggestion that, as a result of the Heidl case, our industry needs to "examine" our relationshisp with AIM goes more to his motives than to Mitch's.

    And while on that subject, here's something I've never understood about Comstock's constantly dislocating his arm while back-patting himself on his strict condom standards.

    He claims to shoot only "real" couples. If those couples are, in fact, real, would not the majority of them also be fluid-bonded by the time they get in front of his camera? Do they, of his knowledge, consistently used condoms at home?

    If not, is his insistence on their using of condoms in his videos, in fact, a complete contradiction of his insistence that what he's showing us are "real couples having real sex" if the sex they're having isn't the sex they have on their own?

    If they're not using condoms anywhere but on his set, he's not protecting them from anything. He may be protecting his own conscience from some concern if one or the other of his players turns up infected. He might also be sanctimoniously inflicting his porn-as-a-safer-sex-PSA philosophy on both his performers and his viewers, but if that's the case, his gripe with the way the rest of the industry operates certainly appears more personal than objective, and his recent behavior certainly seems personally motivated.

    If he really wants to call attention to what he sees as a clear and present danger to the health of performers, exhuming Sharon Mitchell's testimony in an unrelated legal proceeding several years ago would appear a rather indirect way of going about it.

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  89. Well, being a bit of a masochist, I was also poking around the anti blogs for their posts on the topics. There was a note similar to the one at RATM about our blog, but what really caught my attention was this gem by the ever-delightful Sam Berg:

    "This is what I don’t comprehend.

    'If laws are passed requiring condom use, they said, porn production would be pushed underground or outside California…’The market determines whether or not this will be shown. A government agency the size of Los Angeles couldn’t stop it.'

    Since threats of turning legal California prostitution into an illegal black market are being issued by pimpographers, how about a group of us threaten that if CA pornographers don’t start using condoms 100% of the time we’re going to find them and put AIDS-covered bullets in their brains? I’d rather business weren’t conducted by might-makes-right, but if them’s the rules I’m getting a plane ticket to LAX, a rifle, and the porno version of Back Stage.

    Any 'businessmen' who boasts about how they’re going to treat their employees in illegal, dangerous ways if authorities don’t back the fuck off with safety regulations should be arrested on charges of intent to commit a crime."


    If anybody is wondering to whom to address a restraining order, that's Samantha M. Berg of Portland, Oregon....

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  90. Yes, well, death threats from rad-fems don't rate as news to this pornographer. They're given to that sort of threat.

    It's easy to dismiss that kind of raving as simply the spewing of a cracked brain, but some cracked brains aren't content with mere hate speech. That's why I call out this kind of talk whenever I see it.

    Sooner or later, if this keeps up, somebody is going to try to be a hero to this crowd (and I'm betting it will be a guy) by playing Travis Bickle.

    If and when that happens, I hope the hate speakers will get equal treatmet to that dished out to Randall Terry in the murder of George Tiller.

    After all, this particular bunch is very big on how speech influences behavior. Direct incitement to homicide has a history of proving rather more influential than dirty pictures.

    Like the AIDs-covered bullet thing too. Nice. Very sensitive and compassionate to those whose disease she proposes to weaponize. My, my, what lovely fantasies occupy that skull.

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  91. Oh, NICE. I knew that it wouldn't be long before Samucutus and the GenderBorg got themselves into this.

    Gee..."AIDS-covered bullets"?!?!?! And where, pray tell, will Sam and her allies get those...from those bathhouses who happen to have been protected by the LA authorities??

    And how touching that people who openly call for full criminalization of consumption of sexual media and for basically putting male consumers in jail for merely looking at a picture of a naked woman (remember, porn + prostitution = "pornstitution" according to these folks), now seem to have such a general concern for performers safety that they would impose condom usage 100%.

    By next week I'm totally expecting Melissa Farley to break out a presser with Weinstein and the gang waving some flimsy study "proving" that "95% of all 'pornstituted' women want to get the hell out....and the other 5% are merely paid shills or liars".

    Hey, Tony Comstock: are THESE the allies you really, really want???

    I say it again: "Sex Positive"?? My. ASS.



    Anthony

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  92. Ernest,

    I can vouch that Tony does indeed shoot real couples. They're not generally monogamous couples--of the four movies I've seen, three of the couples are porn performers and one couple is into swinging.

    The breakdown of condom/noncondom scenes in his movies, when taken out of context, is not unlike a parody of certain attitudes in the porn industry. The gay couple uses a condom, whereas all of the straight pairs choose to go without (and one of those pairs climaxes internally). I tried to drop a hint about the irony of this pattern in Tony's movies via a facetious comment or two, but I don't think he caught my drift. He's very secure in his position that he just asks couples to do what they normally do.

    In any case, he's not ultimately in favor of mandatory condoms. He is in favor, however, of an exhaustive screening process, in which he interviews his subjects multiple times before he proceeds to film them. Among other things, he does inquire about their sexual habits outside their primary relationship. Which is an interesting and blameless approach. It's just an approach that would hardly be practical for anyone else.

    I think IACB summed it up the best, in the comment "What I mean is that one of the things he didn't like in most porn was that it involved having strangers fuck, and that that was in some way emotionally dangerous." That is also how I perceive Tony's view, and I asked him to respond to that very concern in my follow-up post. I haven't been over to his blog yet today to see if he's addressed that. This stuff makes my head hurt.

    I did also address the ad hominem attack, incidentally, and its irrelevance to AIM's efficacy. I've been critical of Sharon and AIM myself at times in the past, and even I can clearly see the fallacy in his argument. I'm not sure anything else really needs to be said, and I doubt there'd be any benefit to anyone else taking this up with him. I've chatted with him by phone in the past and know his work probably better than most.

    YD

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  93. This is a BRILLIANT post, Ernest - and might I just add what a big fan I am of all your work (I recently reviewed 'Surrender of O' and it was magnificent.

    You stated your case with logic and fact. It's just a pity hot-headed people ignore the reality and prefer to pursue their own blinkered agenda. People don't necessarily want what's best for people or public health - they just want to be right.

    Belladonna wrote a great post about this so-called crisis and she, as a prolific performer, shared your thoughts of the practicalities of using condoms in mainstream porn.

    I hope the industry resists the pressure for ignorant, outside agencies.

    Good luck, and I admire everything you do.

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  94. Just a final update about my conversation with Tony Comstock...

    I've dropped out of the discussion and haven't returned to check for a reply to my last comment. My husband found out I was talking to Tony. Mr. Yoga has asked me several times in the past to no longer speak to him. Mr. Yoga finds Mr. Comstock to be a wee bit overbearing.

    The thing which drives me most crazy is the way Tony frequently produces the exact opposite effect to what he intends. When he takes the attitude of "you in the biz are inept and your health care protocols are fatally flawed and there will be a disaster and you're all gonna have blood on your hands," that just shuts people down. They stop listening. If he has any good ideas, they go unheard. So he ends up reinforcing the status quo. If anyone does take a closer look at his position, they're likely to notice that while he expresses a lot of pro-condom sentiment, condoms are rare in his work. He also worries aloud a lot about performer health, yet he talks very little about anything concrete he's done to improve their working conditions. Except for the couples he films himself, I mean. He does in fact take very good care of the people who work with him. He's not a hypocrite. He's just exasperatingly ineffective in the way he makes his arguments.

    The one good thing to come out of this confrontation is that I've made a donation to AIM. My first ever, in fact. I think their record in handling the 2004 crisis is mixed. But I do understand how difficult it is to operate under that type of pressure. I also understand how easy it is to criticize, and how hard it is to do the work that needs to be done. And if it comes down to a choice between supporting the clinic which is providing actual services to the performers, versus siding with government regulations that will likely have an adverse effect, that's an easy choice. AIM has a PayPal button at their website which makes it even easier.

    Thanks again, Ernest, for taking time out of your busy schedule to let us know how things stand. You've opened my mind on many subjects over the years.

    YD

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  95. To be fair to Tony Comstock, his last post on the subject (link) was more nuanced than what he'd written earlier, and its probably the kind of thing that he should have led off with.

    Also, I've seen a bunch of other editorials, from within the porn community calling for major reforms of AIM, but they weren't based on the idea that AIM should be shut down and control and enforcement of testing and sex practices be handed over to OSHA or a public health establishment that seems woefully uninformed about the situation and downright hostile to the entire industry. Taking the latter tack isn't going to get you much of a hearing in the larger porn community, which is already feeling besieged by these people.

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  96. IACB,

    I'd like to see links to those other editorials from within the porn community and what reforms they have in mind.

    AIM, as I always say, is imperfect and strives to improve its services. If the suggestions are constructive - and possible - I'm sure AIM would be amenable to them.

    The problem that many don't understand is that AIM is already constrained by a number of laws that apply to all health care facilities and some of the changes that are sought might run counter to those laws.

    But I'd still appreciate any links.

    Thanks.

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  97. I second Ernest. Links would be most welcome.

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  98. From your description, IACB, it sounds like TC has recentered himself and is now writing in a more positive, or at least a more balanced, fashion. I'm really happy and relieved to hear that. Thanks for letting me know. Maybe the discussion did more good than I thought.

    I'd be curious to read more about any proposed AIM reforms, as well.

    YD

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  99. The two posts that stand out concerning AIM and the response to the recent events are:

    Thomas Roche: Fucking Bullshit Considered High Risk for HIV Transmission

    Mike South:What Will Happen Next

    Thomas Roche pretty much calls out both everybody on all sides of the issue, and I think has some important things to say. Mike South is, well, Mike South. But one thing both articles are calling for is that AIM needs more independence from the "the industry" even as it continues to serve industry performers.

    The Tony Comstock article I linked to most recently (link again) also rounds up a bunch of recent articles from various porn and sex-poz blogs.

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  100. Interestingly enough, I rather like Roche's overview of events, at least as of his posting date. I think he pin-points some weaknesses in the system that could stand a bit of shoring up. It's far from perfect and I don't think anyone has ever claimed otherwise.

    Overall, though, as he makes pretty clear, it works quite well when people follow the rules. And he admits that there's no sure-fire way to make certain everyone always will. He rightly singles out both those with good intentions who may simply have failed to communicate information effectively and those who appear to have knowingly behaved irresponsibly.

    And I'm obliged to him for clearing up some of the misconceptions about what AIM does and does not do, and what it can and cannot make public. The law dictates to a great extent what may be said by whom when it comes to medical matters, and what must be reported to which agencies in what form.

    Of course, he's right that AIM is not indepedent from the porn industry, but does not go so far as to directly imply that the industry, or more specifically its commercial interests, have ever compromised AIM's operations.

    As for his critique of the way the story has been covered, well, I don't see where he disagrees with me that the press has been all over the lot with unchecked assertions and unverified statistics, many subsequently retracted. Agreed that industry media haven't done much better, though they've managed to avoid the worst blunders of their mainstream counterparts.

    Overall, I don't think this comes across as a call for reform at AIM, but rather for an appropriate understanding of AIM's real functions and limitations by everyone involved in the industry and, above all, for everybody to follow the rules. For a voluntary system to work, there must be voluntary compliance. Obviously, that has been true for the overwhelming majority of performers, producers and directors.

    It's equally obvious, as Roche points out, that somebody clearly broke those rules with this incident, most likely more than one somebody at that. He treats this behavior with the disapproval in merits, and he's not alone.

    This story is not over by any means. I'll be starting a new thread with some fresh information in the next day or so, and it will cast an interesting light on some claims that have already been made, and continue to be passed around as accurate, by some who were very insistent that they knew things they did not and are now quite repentant regarding those claims.

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  101. I am bumping this comment thread and this post up to present time (May 2012) because it is perhaps the perfect background for everything that has happened in the three years since the original HIV "panic" of 2009.

    The only difference is that the Big Lie of "22 porn performers infected by HIV since 2004" has now exploded to "36 performers" thanks to the efforts of ideologues like Shelley Lubben; and of course AIM is now no more, due to the attacks from AHF and LACDPH. Its services have pretty much been absorbed into the FSC's APHSS and Cutting Edge Testing.

    There is also plenty of questions about all the players in the condom mandate campaign: the collusion between AHF, CalOSHA, and ultimately the LA City Council on priming the pump of propaganda in order to pass their law; the roles of the original Porn Wikileaks and the Pink Cross Foundation in providing both means and people to the campaign; and the inaction of major sectors of the industry to this threat until it stared them in the face in the form of the condom law.

    When all the dust clears, in my personal view, this whole tragedy will be seen as another wing of the neoliberal movement to regulate sexual content and behavior -- similar to and with shared goals and objectives of the "sex trafficking: movement -- but using far more "liberal' and "progressive" rhetoric as compared to the moralism of the Religious Right. (The addition of fundamentalists like Shelley Lubben notwithstanding, of course.)

    Nevertheless, this is the most recent and far more dangerous threat to sexual expression and adult consensual sexual behavior we have faced...and if the industry cares one bit about its integrity and livelihood, it should set aside its controversies and fight like hell to defend themselves from the slander thrown at them. If not now, when, and if not us, who??

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