Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Compleat Danny Wylde Essay On The Upcoming Cal-OSHA Hearings

Danny Wylde has now given me permission to repost the entirity of his excellent essay on the upcoming Cal-OSHA hearings  -- scheduled on June 9th 7th  -- concerning the proposed rules on porn workplace safety....which could include not only the dreaded condom mandate but also requirments to wear dental dams, goggles, and other means of "barrier protection".

Anyone interested in hearing the performer side of the story should read this...and then, if they can, pack that meeting. It's that important.


The Condom Debate (As I See It)  (http://trvewestcoastfiction.blogspot.com/2011/05/condom-debate-as-i-see-it.html?zx=fc0bdfc0b507a937)

The most important part of this post comes first.

If you are a member of the adult industry and located within the vicinity of Los Angeles, California, I believe it is in your best interest to show up to this:

Medical Meeting with the Cal-OSHA (California Division of Occupational Safety and Health) Board of Directors Addressing Adult Industry Regulation
June 7th, 2011
10am
CalTrans Building
100 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Now I will attempt to explain why it's important to attend this meeting.




Most adult industry professionals have by now heard about the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) increasing efforts to mandate condom use in all US-based pornographic productions. Given that the majority of US-based porn is produced in California, efforts have consisted of filing complaints with Cal-OSHA against production companies for failing to adhere to the “same section of state workplace safety law that requires nurses to wear protective gear to spare them exposure to blood-borne and fluid-borne illnesses.” “One of the complaints filed by AHF in September has resulted in Hustler/LFP being fined more than $14,000 for violating condom regulations, and Forsaken Productions cited for more than $12,000 in violations.”

The (heterosexual) industry's defense of it's predominantly condom-less sex practices is this:

“Vivid Entertainment founder Steven Hirsch has said that such moves could force filming to leave California, causing a blow to the multi-billion porn industry that has many operations in the San Fernando Valley.
Hustler Video head Larry Flynt has said audiences don't want to see actors using condoms because it interrupts porn viewer fantasies with a reminder of disease prevention and birth control.”



But are these concerns – stated by Hirsch and Flynt - valid?




I wrote a blog entry in October, 2010, titled, “Protection.” In my post, I stated (in regards to the fear that condoms might hurt sales), “It's a little difficult to confirm this speculation given that few productions have tested the waters.”

Well, it turns out my statement was false. Production companies have tested the waters. It just happened prior to my involvement in the industry.

During my interview with former AVN editor and current adult producer/director/cameraman, Eli Cross, he told me that shortly after the 2004 HIV outbreak, “All the companies went condom only. Well, the only one that has survived shooting condom-only is Wicked, and Wicked only survived shooting condom-only because Wicked's not really in the business of shooting porn. Wicked is in the business of making these big budget movies that they can sell as R-rated, straight-to-video features in Europe, and in India, or wherever. And that's how Wicked survives. Nobody buys Wicked movies here. You know why? People don't want to see condoms in their porn. In straight porn, they don't want to see condoms.

Everybody tried it, and nobody bought the movies. And the problem is, it's not like we can just say, 'All porn is going to be condom only.' Guess what? Europe is never going to shoot with condoms. It's not going to happen. Suddenly now, miraculously, European porn was outselling American porn, three, four, five to one. Nobody went back to shooting without condoms because they wanted to. They went back to shooting without condoms because they had to.”


I've since heard this claim repeated by several other industry professionals who out-rank me in industry experience. And while there are no financial public records available for adult industry production companies, I have no reason to distrust these people. If anything is at stake, it's their jobs. I have a hard time believing that, beyond financial incentive, producers have some malicious intent to prevent performers from using condoms.




Okay, so here's an argument. Maybe in 2004, porn consumers didn't want to see condoms. But it's been about seven years. In terms of market demographic, it's possible a lot has changed.

Maybe the modern consumer doesn't mind condoms in their porn. Okay. Say this is true. As a business owner, would you be willing to take that chance?

Bear with me on this completely unrealistic scenario. Because I think the point is still valid.

Say you own a restaurant in which spaghetti with marinara sauce is your number one selling dish. And say this special brand of marinara sauce can – under very unlikely circumstances – blow up in the kitchen and severely injure one of your cooks.

Okay, so seven years ago, your kitchen had an accident, and a few of your employees were injured by explosive marinara. You – the responsible business owner - decided to no longer serve spaghetti with marinara. Instead, you served it with pesto. Because the pesto was a much more stable sauce, and much less likely to explode.

Well, no one bought the spaghetti with pesto sauce and your business almost folded. So you went back to using marinara sauce and kind of hoped for the best.

During the course of seven years, only two more cooks were injured (most likely outside of your kitchen). But now the local government wants to ban marinara sauce. And they say, “It's fine, because you can just serve spaghetti with pesto sauce.”

Over that seven year period, the economy has begun to slump. And customers aren't coming out in the droves they used to. So you're already making less money than you're used to. And now the government's telling you to try something that nearly ruined your business in the past.

Maybe things have changed in the past seven years. But are you really going to take that chance? Or are you going to move your business to some place else where marinara sauce is still legal? Because everywhere else in the world, people still buy spaghetti with marinara sauce, and everywhere else in the world, there are cooks willing to make it.




My point is that even if consumers have changed their minds about condoms, the fact that producers are so scared about it makes the change irrelevant. No one wants to run a failing business. And let's keep in mind: this is a business. You can make the argument that porn has positive and/or negative effects on the world, but no one can say it's a charitable operation. We're not doing this out of the goodness of our hearts. We're here to make money.




Okay. But there are plenty of business operations around the world that are completely unethical, dangerous, and/or illegal: sex traffickers, arms dealers, corporations that use sweatshop labor, etc... Is this at all relevant to the adult entertainment industry operating out of the San Fernando Valley? I would argue, “No.”

My experience suggests that the vast majority of performers working in this industry are doing so of their own free will. And when they are working, they are earning livable wages. Further, they are arguably causing harm to no one.

Moreover, there are industry-regulated, monthly testing practices already in place to help curb the spread of STIs. If any performer honestly feels that he/she is risking his/her life on every shoot, I've yet to hear it. And if he/she feels this way, there is always the option not to participate.




Now consider this:

For the past ten-plus years, an organization called AIM (Adult Industry Medical) provided testing and health services to adult industry performers. Both AHF and Cal-OSHA have had a hand in shutting down that organization permanently. There is no longer any industry-specific clinic that provides medical services.

But the adult industry is still following testing protocol through a facility called Talent Testing Service. It is also in the process of setting up a new testing protocol with help from The Free Speech Coalition.

Basically, AHF and Cal-OSHA are shutting down our medical facilities, and The Free Speech Coalition is attempting to help facilitate our testing practices.

So while AHF claims to not have an anti-porn stance, I along with many other industry professionals, question their motives.

The Free Speech Coalition may also have ulterior/financial motives, but at least they're willing to work with us in a way that does not jeopardize our livelihood.




Now, a case has been made for why condoms may not be financially viable. But how about the more practical reasons?

Veteran performer, Nina Hartley, explains on her blog why many performers prefer not to use condoms:

“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...

...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...

...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.”





Moving on, let's forget the grievances mentioned above. At least for a minute.

There has been a common argument that even with mandatory condom use, consumers won't have to see them in the films. Because if consumers really hate condoms in their product, the financial incentive will force producers to pay FX gurus to digitally remove them from every scene.

This seems great in theory, but the argument obviously comes from someone with no film production or FX background.

I don't claim to be an FX specialist, but I do have a degree in cinematic arts from one of the most prestigious film institutions in the United States (The University of Southern California). From my production experience, the best way to do something like digital condom removal requires a process called rotoscoping. In a frame that is not locked-off, which consists of a moving object that continually changes size and shape (a penis with condom in the midst of penetration), this is literally a frame-by-frame process. In most video, each second consists of 24-to-30 frames. The amount of work that would go into removing something for an average of twenty-to-thirty minutes per scene is astronomical - as would be the cost of doing so.

For example, I shot a spec commercial last year that required a similar process. I paid an FX guy $500 to do this for several seconds of footage. He was straight out of film school and interning at an FX house. So I was even getting a good deal.

This is not cost effective in the least. And it is a completely ridiculous suggestion.

My friend told me that at the last Cal-OSHA meeting, someone stood up to support this notion with an argument like this: “Look at what they did with that Avatar movie.”

Avatar is a major motion picture with a budget of over $200 million. The average pornographic feature film costs less than $25 thousand. Suggesting that we have the budgets to do extensive FX work is unrealistic to the adult industry business model and, in my opinion, completely ludicrous.




Further, even for those who believe that the performers will cope with the added annoyance of condoms, and consumers will get over their appearance in movies, Cal-OSHA's mandate of condoms means more than just slapping on a rubber.

According to the Huffington Post, “Cal/OSHA officials provided the Associated Press with a 17-page draft proposal that contained sometimes graphic details of the bodily fluids, waste matter and other materials that porn actors must protect themselves against to avoid infection...

...The draft says porn producers must provide and require 'use of condoms or other barrier protection to prevent genital and oral contact with the blood or (any other bodily fluids) of another person.'”


This means condoms during oral sex, the strong possibility of dental dams, and exclusion of “cum shots” from US-based pornography.

Obviously, such practices would facilitate a safer environment. But let's take off our political hats for a moment and really answer these question: Have you ever used a condom during a blowjob in real life? And when is the last time you broke out a dental dam?

To me, this is not sexy. And I don't think I'm speaking out of turn to say that for most people, barrier-protected oral sex is outright inefficient and actually a turn-off. If you disagree with me, feel free to say so.

Further, if we remove any contact with semen from pornography, we are eliminating a vast amount of niche and mainstream product. Like it or not, the “cum shot” has become an integral part of porn. The Cal-OSHA condom mandate eliminates blowbangs, facials, cum eating, cum swapping, creampies, and basically the end of every straight sex scene released in the past discernible history. To say this would have no impact on sales is a very presumptuous statement.




But as a pornographic performer, why should you care? Most of these concerns are for producers. If you don't mind using condoms, and don't particularly care to be splattered with semen, then what is the big deal?

Well, I'm going to assume you've become a performer to make money – and to make the most money possible. You and I both know we're not raking in millions. Even the very top performers are not making more than $200 thousand a year (strictly from performing). In fact, plenty of contract stars don't even reach an annual six figures.

So even if some of the production companies stick it out and try this condom-mandated means of production, how many companies have to leave before you're losing out on one, two, three, four, or five thousand dollars a month? Do you think it's worth it to feel a little bit safer? Are you even concerned with the current risk involved?

We all take a risk going to work every day. In my opinion, it's a managed risk. And it's something I choose to participate in so that I can get a paycheck at the end of my day.

So when I feel that someone else who doesn't really understand our industry is coming in to take away that paycheck, I get kind of pissed about it. And I'd like to have a say in the matter.




I'm asking that regardless of your opinion on the subject, you make it to the June 7th meeting, that you post this information (with whatever you'd like to add or detract) on your blog, website, Twitter feed, Facebook, etc... And that you show that we have a voice.

Because from my perspective, the industry performers (myself included) have been predominantly oblivious to what's going on, uninformed about the previous meetings that have already taken place, and in some cases apathetic. It's not completely our fault, because I don't know that there's any real avenue for all of us to get this information. But if you help spread the word, we can all be informed and approach Cal-OSHA with an actual stance.

My stance should be clear. And I'm of the opinion that many people share it. But if I'm completely off-base, show up anyways and tell the world we want to use condoms.

Whatever the verdict, our bodies are the ones at stake and we should have a say in the matter.

I hope to see you on June 7th.

 
 I will also post this at my own blogs (Red Garter Club; SmackDog Chronicles, and encourage all porn performers to promote Danny's essay and, if they can, attend the meeting. As I said, it's that important.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eleven Days To LA Porn Judgment Day: Danny Wylde Makes The Definitive Case Against Condom Mandate...But Will It Matter?

Well...eleven days from now, on June 9th, Cal-OSHA will have their hearing where more than likely we will see the first action to impose the dreaded condom mandate on porn shoots.

On the eve of such, Danny Wylde -- bi porn performer and filmmaker -- just posted over at his Trve West Coast Fiction blog an extended essay post that restates the case against the mandate and for personal performer choice. His words probably will fall on deaf ears, given the collusion between Cal-OSHA and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in developing and boosting the condom mandate, but at least it gives those of us hope that at least some truth will be given a hearing.

The full essay can be found here; but here are some snippages for langiappe.


I wrote a blog entry in October, 2010, titled, “Protection.” In my post, I stated (in regards to the fear that condoms might hurt sales), “It's a little difficult to confirm this speculation given that few productions have tested the waters.”

Well, it turns out my statement was false. Production companies ave tested the waters. It just happened prior to my involvement in the industry.

During my interview with former AVN editor and current adult producer/director/cameraman, Eli Cross, he told me that shortly after the 2004 HIV outbreak, “All the companies went condom only. Well, the only one that has survived shooting condom-only is Wicked, and Wicked only survived shooting condom-only because Wicked's not really in the business of shooting porn. Wicked is in the business of making these big budget movies that they can sell as R-rated, straight-to-video features in Europe, and in India, or wherever. And that's how Wicked survives. Nobody buys Wicked movies here. You know why? People don't want to see condoms in their porn. In straight porn, they don't want to see condoms.

Everybody tried it, and nobody bought the movies. And the problem is, it's not like we can just say, 'All porn is going to be condom only.' Guess what? Europe is never going to shoot with condoms. It's not going to happen. Suddenly now, miraculously, European porn was outselling American porn, three, four, five to one. Nobody went back to shooting without condoms because they wanted to. They went back to shooting without condoms because they had to.”

I've since heard this claim repeated by several other industry professionals who out-rank me in industry experience. And while there are no financial public records available for adult industry production companies, I have no reason to distrust these people. If anything is at stake, it's their jobs. I have a hard time believing that, beyond financial incentive, producers have some malicious intent to prevent performers from using condoms.

 Wylde's essay also includes an extended quote from Nina Hartley (actually, not from her blog but from her site journal from back in 2009 during an earlier HIV porn "outbreak"), which dispatches the practical reasons why many performers oppose mandating condoms during porn scenes.


“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...

...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...

...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.”
Once again, I strongly recommend you read the entire post over at Danny's blog. It's long overdue.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Presente, Adult Industry Medical Foundation (AIM); Sexual Swiftboating Finally Claims Its Victim

Well..the other shoe finally dropped.

One of the most direct ironies was that it was Violet Blue (the sex blogger notorious for taking the name of a porn performer) who passed on the fatal news today.

Nevertheless, here's how she reported the story of the shutdown of the AIM clinics:

AIM (Adult Industry Medical) Healthcare Clinic Shuts Down


Porn performer  Juliette Stray just tweeted about the sudden closure today of AIM (Adult Industry Medical) Healthcare Clinic. According to  Raincoat Reviews, the Free Speech Coalition (a porn industry legal org) called an industry and member-only meeting last Friday to discuss Workplace Safety, Performer Testing. As you can see by Sarah Shevon’s tweet, only seven porn performers attended the meeting. Apparently at the fateful meeting, they quietly decided to abruptly close the clinic responsible for standardized STD/STI testing, health certificates and community testing enforcement in the mainstream adult industry. AIM was also used by non-porn people for its top-rate tests and fast results.

AIM has not issued a press release nor made any comment or hint on their website that they have closed. Disturbingly, their site AimCheck.net has been taken offline. This means anyone who had good tests can no longer access the test results or have them accessed – the online proof and verification of having clean tests is gone. AIM’s Get Tested link is also broken.
 Considering everything that has happened to them: the HIV scares of 2004, 2009, and 2010, the continuous assaults on their integrity by the likes of the LA local health care establishment, Michael Weinstein's AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the antics of the Pornwikileaks crew in hacking their database and revealing sensitive information, and antiporn activists such as Shelley Lubben and Gail Dines wanting to blow up the testing regime that had worked pretty well to contain sexually transmitted infections amongst the performing community, it's hardly surprising that they would be able to withstand such pressures for too long.

It doesn't make the news any less saddening or tragic, because it shows beyond doubt what a scare campaign built on nothing but fear and lies can do when not directly confronted.

Far worse, though, is the "I got mine, and fuck everyone else" mentality that seems to have infected members of the performer/producer industry when it comes to protecting their rights. Only six performers could be induced to attend a meeting on their very survival as an industry???

In any case, I'm sure that the champagne bottles are popping over at Mike Weinstein's place, since it's a given bet that they will be able to exploit the chaos of not having a standardized testing regime for STI's (though Talent Testing Services is well positioned to take over AIM's duties for the moment) to continue their push for mandating condoms in all porn scenes. I'm just as sure that the tube sites will be celebrating as well, because all this will do is increase the value of stolen bareback scenes ripped to tube sites and stored on PC's and servers, and force performers and producers into venues of less protection and greater risk.

But who the fuck cares, I guess?? Such are the wages of sin..or at least, that's how the usual naysayers and trolls will say it. Porn performers are a bit like children, "illegals", and poor Black men: stepping stones to be used for personal gain and money, but not quite good enough to speak for themselves.

Maybe it's high time they organized themselves and demanded to be treated as humans. And, maybe producers might want to take a very long look in the mirror and see what their foolishness and misplaced pride has gotten them, and get back to what got them their audience in the first place.


Update: The Free Speech Coalition just issued this press release at their website regarding the closure of AIM. I will simply repost it in its entirity:


FSC Responds to Closure of AIM

Last week Free Speech Coalition (FSC) was made aware that AIM Medical Associates (AIM) was in danger of closing its doors. In order to avoid a significant gap in health services for performers, FSC has drawn up preliminary strategies to fill the gap with possible options for performer testing protocols. The FSC Board of Directors will meet tomorrow for an emergency meeting to consider options.

“It is our understanding that AIM is now closed. Our hearts go out to AIM and its dedicated staff. We know that it has been a very difficult time for them,” FSC Executive Director Diane Duke said. “Rest assured that FSC is committed to making sure that the industry and its performers are well-protected.”
Last Friday, FSC conducted three separate meetings for producers, agents and performers to gather feedback and discuss options with industry stakeholders. The response from those meetings was successful in gathering suggestions from industry members on which options to pursue and for taking action.

AIM has suffered a two-year campaign waged by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and is currently a defendant in litigation associated with AHF involving patient medical privacy. AHF also has struck out at several companies and talent agents in their attempt to mandate condom use on adult sets.

FSC has been working with industrial safety regulation agency CalOSHA to develop industry-appropriate regulations for adult production sets. The next CalOSHA Committee meeting addressing regulations for the adult industry will take place in Los Angeles on June 7. The meeting is open to the public, and scheduled to be held at the CalTrans Building in downtown Los Angeles, at 100 Main Street (at the corner of 1st and Main).