Monday, October 18, 2010

Another HIV Porn Scare: Shall We Dance The Same Tune Again??

So, once again, we have a panic in Porn Valley.

A performer tested positive for HIV last week, and all his primary and secondary contacts are now being tested, with the results pending.

And, the usual suspects, on cue, are chirping the same tune as last year about mandating condom usage.

Unfortunately, this time around, there is a distinctly more vicious tone to the debate, because the potential "Patient Zero" just so happens to be bisexual, and has been rumored to cross over into the making of gay male porn as well.  So now, we get gay bashing on top of the ususal shit-throwing debacle.

The reactions are already fast and furious. Many performers, including some A-listers like Lisa Ann, have now instituted explicit condom-only rules for their future scenes; others (like Avy Scott) have gone further and announced that they would eschew boy/girl scenes altogether.(It should be known, though, that Avy made her decision before everything went down.)

As with last year, the debate has been reenergized over whether AIM-MED has squandered its last chance of protection and whether the government should step in and impose the Weinstein program of mandated condom usage and alternative testing. Of course, the fear that such regulation would be the final blow to porn production in California (and, to a lesser extent, Florida) due to collapse of sales already depressed due to piracy and the recession, is the gravest concern of most porn performers and producers.

On the other hand, one person's fear is another one's opportunity: and some sex-positive intellectuals and activists, as well as even a few porn pros on both sides of the camera, may see the resulting storm as a silver lining that finally liberates  porn production to become more humane and progressive.

The dilemma here, as it always has been since we have had these panics, is balancing the well-meaning aims of those who want to provide the maximum protection for performers with those who don't necessarily see condoms as the end-all cure-all for STD prevention,  and would much rather have a say in their own profession.

As for BPPA's position on this issue??  Well, it remains the same as it has been...Ernest Greene's original rebuttal to the last scare in 2009 that was posted here remains as solid today as it was then.(I will add a link to that particular post and the ensuing comment thread it instigated to the sidebar here soon for easy access.)

But the best case against simply throwing condoms around as the ultimate panacea without actually listening to those who would have to actually use them comes from none other than Nina Hartley, who posted this at her website forum in response to similar calls last year:

Since then, the usual talking heads have gotten their panties in a wad about how Porn Sets Bad Example For The Viewing Public, and Porn Is A Menace To All Who Work In It, and Those Poor Women Who End Up In Porn: What Shall We Do To Save Them?

For the best response to all of this, do a search for "the blog for pro-porn activism," and read the 5,000 word essay that Ernest so generously took the time to write. It tells it like it is much better than I can, so why duplicate work? It won't take long to read, trust me.

In a nutshell, performers as a rule don't care for condoms for several reasons. For most of the men (with few exceptions), condoms make for a very-much-more difficult scene; just one more huge distraction to add to the host of other ones on the set: uncomfortable set, no chemistry with the female player, asshole director, late/early hours, too hot/cold, bad food, personal issues, etc.

For the women, there are just four words: rubber rash/friction burn. Not only do I have to work harder for him to feel anything, the scene takes much longer to get through, with the changing out of condoms, needing to give the guy a break and suck him again, and the total passion-killer that is on-set condom use. It's hard enough to create a real connection, so the scene doesn't feel to the viewer like we faxed it in, on a set as it is. If all of our energy is focused on our working parts, there is none left over to actually connect and show a spark, which is what the people at home want to see.

There are a few men who are voluntarily condom-only and so have little trouble with them, and their work is cut by 2/3, at least.

I know it sounds harsh, but it's not porn's job to set a good example to the viewing public. It's an entertainment medium like anything else out of Hollywood, and mainstream entertainment is not held up as needing somehow to set a good example. It's a shame that our country does such a piss-poor job of educating its young people so that they're driven to view porn to try to get a clue about sex. Except when a movie is expressly done as education-the Guides, Tristan Taormino's movies, etc., their job is to arouse and entertain, period.

I hate it when those who are made uncomfortable by sex or porn project their issues onto our business.

Porn is pretty safe. If a player says "no" to the most egregiously stupid acts (cream pies, whether anal or vaginal), then he or she is unlikely to get a deadly disease at work. People do get the non-lethal ones, but they get treated, as do their partners, and they get to work again when their new test comes back clean.

Of all of the dead porn stars on the Dead Porn Star site, most have died from auto accidents.
And then, there is Belladonna, who adds her nickel's worth on the responsibility of porn performers to protect themselves:


First of all, I’d like to say that I am thankful that the adult industry has become exceptionally safer since I first started performing back in 1999. Back then, testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea was not required, which I found to be ridiculous since those were the most common STDs. However, I do believe that if the 30 day window were shortened to at MOST, 7 days, we could BETTER prevent the spread of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, not to mention HIV.

Since I started testing people that I have sex with 3 days prior to our engagement, it has been over 5 years since I’ve contracted Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. I knowingly caught over a handful of performers with STDs by using this rule. As a female in this industry, I can say it feels DAMN good to not have to spend every week at the doctor’s office clearing up an STD and being out of work. I feel like I’m more excited about having sex and performing, knowing that I’m going to be STD free. I also think it would be smart for new performers in the business to be required to get a full panel test, prior to performing, not only for themselves to see where they stand, but for our industry as well. I think a lot of performers get into the business and already have the herpes virus and don’t know about it and then try to blame it on the industry.

Performers in this business need to be safer when having sexual relations OUTSIDE of the industry. They need to be more responsible with safe sex because they DO know more than the average person when it comes to STDs and safe sex. If this were happening, the spread of STDs inside the business would be a fraction of what it is now. As for condoms, personally, I can only be as safe as I can be without diminishing the value of what I’m trying to accomplish. Condoms just don’t feel good to suck on, or to take in the ass, hard and fast. If I were required to use condoms, my performance would most likely suffer, and in the end I would suffer. I’m not trying to debate with anyone here, I’m just saying, if my co-workers were more responsible, we could all make some great porn and be STD free at the same time.

Now, the prevailing attitude of those wanting mandatory condom usage would probably be that women like Nina and Belladonna are merely elitists and paid shills for "the industry" who really don't give a damn about the risks of other female performers (and, if the likes of Shelley Lubben are to be believed, are in denial about the risks to Lubben's recent crackback -- referenced here -- about Nina "being infected with chlamydia four times" in her porn career shows).

My response to that would simply be: Well...better them who have to take the risk themselves than those who simply talk about it. It's their asses and pussies and mouths that are on the line, now isn't it??

Oh...and one other thing: The only response that will be allowed here for "Patient Zero" regarding his sexual orientation is empathy and support. Those who will exploit this situation to spread unconfirmed rumors or vent their homophobia and rants about the "gay menace" simply will get no love or even bandwidth here. Until the actual test results are made public, the best thing is to wait and see, and make the necessary precautions.