Monday, November 5, 2012

The Big Lie Campaign For Measure B Ends With The Grandmama Of All Lies: The "Porn Stars Have More STI's Than Nevada Hookers" Smear

Tomorrow is Election Day, folks...and while most of the country will be busy enough with the spectacle that has been the Presidential campaign, folks in LA County will be putting the fate of the local adult industry literally in their hands with the proposed condom mandate proposal Measure B.

I have to say that whatever doubts I had about James Lee and the Citizens Against Government Waste have been absolutely doused by the yeoman efforts he and his group have done in leading the opposition to this proposal. With not much time and with a fraction of the budget that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has to pour into the pro-B campaign, and with none of the organized support of the political establishment in LA County (save for the opposition by the local Republican and Libertarian parties), they have done a tremendous job of raising awareness and organizing performers to defend their rights. I tip my hat to you for that, win or lose.

Plus....gotta do a shoutout for Sean Tompkins over at The Real Porn Wikileaks, Michael Whiteacre, Mark Kernes, Dr. Chauntelle Tibalis, Lydia Lee, Steven St. Croix, Kylie Ireland, Kayden Kross, Amber Lynn, Tanya Tate, Rebecca Bordeaux, Maggie Mayhem, and a whole host of other producers, performers, reporters, and other assorted glitterati for their efforts in educating the public on this legislation and how it will basically destroy the industry without any positive impacts on actual STI infections. It's amazing how political ideology tends to melt away when faced with a shared threat from outside.

It is to the measure of the principled opposition to Measure B that the proponents have been forced to engage in nothing less than distortions of facts and outright lies and cooking up of stats in order to sell their vision of a condomized industry "protecting" performers while driving them underground into less safe parameters and venues.

But, nothing beats the desperate final flail that AHF attempted to pull on the public this last weekend.

On last Friday, AHF and their champions at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released their contraption of a "study" of infection rates of porn performers during the past 11 months; concluding that the rate of infection for chlamydia and gonnorhea among performers was greater than not only the infection rate amongst LA County citizens as a whole, but also greater than the rate of infection of prostitutes working in Nevada's legalized brothels.

The study was released by an organization calling itself the American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association; and while the complete report is hidden behind a paywall, the abstract of the report pretty much gives away the ideological bias (bolding added for emphasis):

Background: Undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be common in the adult film industry because performers frequently engage in unprotected oral and anal intercourse, STIs are often asymptomatic, and the industry relies on urine-based testing.
Methods: Between mid-May and mid-September 2010, a consecutive sample of adult film industry performers recruited from a clinic in Los Angeles, California, that provides medical care to performers was offered oropharyngeal, rectal, and urogenital testing for Gonorrhea, and rectal and urogenital testing for Chlamydia.
Results: During the 4-month study period, 168 participants were enrolled: 112 (67%) were female and 56 (33%) were male. Of the 47 (28%) who tested positive for Gonorrhea and/or Chlamydia, 11 (23%) cases had been detected through urogenital testing alone. Gonorrhea was the most common STI (42/168; 25%) and the oropharynx the most common site of infection (37/47; 79%). Thirty-five (95%) oropharyngeal and 21 (91%) rectal infections were asymptomatic. Few participants reported using condoms consistently while performing or with their personal sex partners.

Conclusions: Adult film industry performers had a high burden of STIs. Undiagnosed asymptomatic rectal and oropharyngeal STIs were common and are likely reservoirs for transmission to sexual partners inside and outside the workplace. Performers should be tested at all anatomical sites irrespective of symptoms, and condom use should be enforced to protect workers in this industry.
Keep in mind that this study was taken during four months during 2010, when the main testing agency at that time for the industry, the Adult Industry Medical Foundation (AIM), was under attack by the very forces (namely, AHF and the LA County DPH) now saying that their testing procedures were (and by extension, those of the newly formed APHSS system are) totally inadequate for detecting and treating STI's, and that only mandatory condom usage and other forms of compulsory "barrier protection" would offer the highest form of "protection" for performers.

Even without that caveat, the holes in this argument can be spotted, and are enough to drive a whole fleet of Mack trucks through.

First off, 47 of 168 performers testing positive for chlamydia or gonnorhea still leaves 121 performers (72%) who tested clean of those STI's. In short, in a supposed "high-risk" industry where porn performers are assumed to be mindless sluts who fuck and suck anything that moves, 7 out of every 10 performers still manage to protect themselves and stay disease free without the need for condoms. Wouldn't you think that if testing was as much a failure as this study would assume, the rate of infection would be far greater than that??

Plus, as Michael Whiteacre has noted repeatedly, this "study" gives no background on whether those performers who were infected got infected on set during scenes, or through outside activities...or, whether they actually did perform scenes after their infections were caught. And, it may be that many of those who were tested and found to be infected didn't even perform any scenes until they were adequately treated, or were people just entering the industry engaged in their first test.

There's also the possibility of the same performer being tested multiple times in the same period through repeated follow-up testing, but being counted as seperate and distinct infections for the purpose of deliberate cooking of the stats to beef up the ideological case. Goodness knows, AHF and the Condom Nazis over at LACDPH aren't known for that, now aren't they??

Then, there is the distortion about the method of testing involved. The current testing regimen (and the former one used by AIM) utilizes urine sampling for their testing of chlamydia and gonnorhea (with oral swabbing available upon request of the tested performer); yet the "study" claimed that the system was flawed by not detecting oral or anal infection via swabbing of the throats or anuses of performers. At best, it's a call for broadening such testing to include oral and anal swabbing; but, that's not what AHF and LACDPH paid the producers of that "study" to promote; so, they just use that stat as just another club to slam the industry into compliance with the condom mandate.

Or, as Hymes and Kernes points out succintly in their debunking of the AHF/ASTDA "study":
Perhaps worst of all, the study is utterly disingenuous when it describes how and when performers get tested. Fully cognizant of the fact that performers are not allowed to perform on the overwhelming majority of porn sets without a valid test that is no more than 28 (or 14, depending on the studio) days old, the authors nonetheless included in their study 51 performers—nearly one-third of all performers tested—who had not worked in an adult film for more than 30 days, making the time and place of their exposure impossible to pin down, and very likely not on an adult film set at all.

That percentage is extraordinarily important, considering that of the 168 "adult performers" who took part in this study, only 47 (28 percent) had at least one undiagnosed STD—and that's 2 percent less than the number of performers (30 percent) who hadn't made a movie in at least 30 days, and whose infections, if they had sought film work while still infected, might very well have been caught by the normal industry testing, especially if they had any specific complaints and requested that an (optional) oral swab be taken and tested.
And also keep in mind that many performers even require a clean test as recent as 2-3 days before they accept someone to perform sex scenes if anything, the industry is even more stringent about screening for STI's than even the 14/28 day period that is the "gold standard". In other words, how many of the 48% who were found to be infected were also part of the 33% who had not performed for at least 30 days prior to getting tested? Again, this may support expanding testing to better catch orally and anally based infections, but that's not on the scope of AHF's it's simply ignored in favor of pushing Measure B. Nice diversion there, Mike Weinstein.

The main distortion, though, that has gotten the attention of the media, is the comparison of porn performers in LA County with Nevada brothel sex workers, who are claimed to be much, much safer due to the wonders of mandated condoms and government regulation.

Problem is, though, that in Nevada brothels, it is the clients who are required to use condoms, not the sex workers themselves. Also, the prostitutes who work in the brothels are subjected to far greater regulatory scrutiny while they work there; including far-reaching restrictions on whom they can have sex within their workplace, and strong discouragement of sexual activities outside of the brothel. Plus, they are screened for disease even before they are even allowed to work in the brothels to begin with. You simply can't compare them to porn performers, who do happen to have outside personal sex lives and, outside of their occupation, do in fact have intimate and personal sex lives.

Unless, of course, you are under the misimpression and assumption that by fiat ALL porn performers are by definition the embodiment of the caricature of the late and dearly departed John Holmes: namely, mindless promiscuous sluts who can't think of anything more than where their next daily or hourly serving of dick or pussy comes from, until they are either claimed by "the wages of sin" that inevitably comes with defying God (or the Goddess) or find the religion of Shelley Lubben (or Gail Dines) and "save themselves".

Nevertheless, the publicity accomodating the "study" has had some impact on some public particular some progressive personalities whom had originally came out against Measure B. One in particular is Ana Kasparian, blogger and YouTube diarist connected with Cenk Uygur's popular progressive network The Young Turks, whom originally came out opposed to Measure B last week in a video..but was convinced to flip to the other side by one of her colleagues, Jayar Jackson, following the release of the AHF/ASTDA "study" via the Huffington Post.

This is in spite of the fact that contrary to the notion of porn being a right-wing libertarian outlet of "rugged individualism", there is actually a genuine diversity of political ideological positions within the community of porn performers and producers. For every Jenna Jameson or John Stagliano, you will find a Nina Hartley or an Amber Lynn; there are quite a few porn performers and producers who are staunch liberals/progressives or even centrists as there are "libertarian conservatives". Of course, personal political ideology should not affect the quality or the merits of the arguments for or against Measure B; but the fact that so few progressives have seen fit to even take a stand for or against this initiative speaks wonders about the broader Left's lack of education or commitment on core issues of sexual freedom, sexual civil liberties, and respect for personal choice. (A strong criticism of the TYT turnaround and of the "study" can be found here.)

The other blowback from this "study" is the newly created propaganda campaign by some of the original propaganda boosters of the condom mandate to distort the claims of the opposition and launch personal adhominen attacks on their opponents. One such propagandist is Tim Tirch, who has been well known for his drive-by slanders against all who oppose the AHF agenda, and whom had actually been exposed as a serial troll who menaced blogs picking fights with particular condom opponents. Over at Cindi Loftus' Luke Is Back blog, a commentor ID'd as "XXXMed" (and whom is suspected to be Tirch) has been posting guest editorial posts maligning opponents of Measure B with, shall we say, very personal attacks. One such editorial went after Nina Hartley and her husband Ernest Greene (whom, as you know, is a frequent contributor to BPPA and one of the principled opponents of the condom mandate) for hypocrisy in their current stances, since they were during the 1990s both advocates of condom usage. (That Nina and Ernest's stance back then was predicated on the lack of a testing and screening system for STI's that does exist today, and that both have consistently defended the voluntary use of condoms as well as the discouragement of more high-risk sexual acts more suspectible to STI's, seems to escape the synapses of this fool.) More recently, "XXXMed" has been involved in an exchange of posts with Mark Kernes in which the former has defended the AHF/ASTDA study as legitimate proof for mandating condoms, implying that Kernes has been "trivializing" the rate of STI's among female porn performers, and that he slandered a rival testing agency to AIM by implying that they were the source of performer tests in the aformentioned study. (One of the authors of that "study" just so happened to be the founder and lead doctor of that testing agency.  See the original Kernes story for background.)

But, the greatest revelation about this latest final propaganda push is how it reveals the shifting goalposts of the condom mandate campaign, and how it conflates different STI's for blatant propaganda purposes.

Remember that the main spokespeople for Measure B just so happen to be the last two performers who happened to contract HIV...namely, Darren James and Derrick Burts. Of course, the fact that there has been NO instance since 2004 of HIV being transmitted on set by a porn shoot in LA County (remember, Burts has admitted he was infected in a Florida gay male set where condoms were actually used; and James has been reported to have been infected on a trip to Brazil just prior to the infamous shoot where 4 other performers were infected with him) really messes up the meme of an HIV pandemic. So, here comes Plan B: expand the STI "panic" to include other infections like chlamydia and gonnorhea, which were tested as part of the former AIM regimen....except that unless you cook the books to invent multiple infections, you can't prove that that exists, either. So, onward to Plan C: simply invent a crisis by implying the lack of testing of other STI's such as Hepatitis C or HPV or herpes, and then scream about how the "pornographers" are putting wimmen's lives AT RISK because they care more about their money or the "selfishness" of the consumers than about public safety. (Because, of course, the lives of gay men who already suffer from STI's in spite of already using condoms is inmaterial to the proponents of Measure B.) And, if all that fails, exploit the recent syphilis scare to seal the deal...never mind that syphilis can be easily spread even with a condom through mouth sores that condoms can't even cover.

Note also the essential fact that unlike HIV (or herpes or HPV) chlamydia and gonnorhea are mostly asymptommatic infections, in which those infected usually don't even notice any known symptoms of the infections (sores, rashes, pain, swelling, etc.) Therefore, you really can't even tell if you even have the infection until it shows up in testing. The fact that most of those in the study who were infected were also found to be asymptommatic raises a real question about the entire logic of the study: How could they know that those 3 out of 10 performers who were infected actually were infected on the job?? Or, do they just ASSUME that they are, in order to justify their premade biases and conclusions?

It simply shows that ultimately, underneath all the flowery cover of "concern" about "protecting performers" and all the firery rhetoric about "the pornographers", it all comes back to the same pile of bullshit that sex workers have had to endure for far too long. The essential argument of Measure B proponents can be reduced to this:Porn performers who don't dance to our tune are simply too stupid or too slutty to be able to fend for themselves as consenting adults, so we saviors of the State just have to act as their virtual parents and save them ourselves through condoms. Oh, and make us a shitload of money through packaging of condom sales and buying off whole government agincies, too...because what sells better than "safer sex"??

Again, people of Los Angeles County, please don't fall for this nonsense.

I'll leave you here with Michael Whiteacre's comment response to another attempt to distort the record.

That’s right – an old misanthrope in Georgia who can’t even spell “y’all” correctly (and who still contends that AIM made a $90 profit on a $110 / 120 test) has all the answers about the L.A. porn industry.
What the hillbilly Phony Libertarian does’t seem to grasp is that we Americans have certain inalienable rights and liberties by default. Those defending their rights against an attack need not convince anyone of anything. The legal BURDEN is on those trying to infringe upon those rights to establish the requisite state interest.
Every issue, every controversy of public consequence, is a balancing act in which the pro’s and con’s must be weighed. Competing interests must be balanced.
However Michael Weinstein is an authoritarian with an absolutely totalitarian worldview. To him there are no competing interests — you can hear it in his rhetoric: this is “simply” a matter of workplace safety, or public health, or whatever. He will not deign to consider any arguments about counterbalancing, and he brooks no dissent.
When it comes to people’s rights, to constitutionally protected liberties – he doesn’t wanna hear about it. The first amendment, and the liberties protected under Lawrence v. Texas, DO NOT MATTER to him — he doesn’t even think they’re part of the calculus. Weinstein is totally single-minded — as all authoritarians and fascist dictators are. He TELLS US what the problem is, and he prescribes the solution by decree.

1) In order for the government to act, to restrict people’s CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARANTEED AND PROTECTED rights and liberties, the government must demonstrate a state interest.

2) The government ONLY has an interest in things it can PROVE.
It is essential to understand these two points.
AHF is attempting to use workplace safety laws as the means to attack the adult industry, and to infringe upon the rights of performers and producers, but AHF clearly lacks a clear understanding of how these rules work as a matter of law.
If a performer who its a sexually active person has contracted a common STI such chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV or herpes, there is NO WAY to prove that it was contracted on set. These infections are comparable to the flu. Only rare infections, things such as the HIV virus, can be traced to a patient zero.
In the end, all that this new study shows is that, x number of performers sought testing / treatment over that 4-month period. The data does NOT show what IF ANY number of performers WORKED while infected, or contracted an STI while AT WORK. The authors ask voters to ASSUME that these infections may all be traced to workplace exposures — and the fact that AHF and the authors of this study have made the comparison to STI rates among Nevada brothel workers is also instructive.
Nevada brothel workers often live on the premises and, per the house rules, are prohibited from having sex outside the prostitute/client relationship. In this regard they represent a separate and distinct population from the surrounding general population, much like the incarcerated, or military personnel confined to a base.
Adult performers, by contrast, are not a population separate and distinct from the rest of the population. Performers are a SUBSET of the general population. LA County performers are members of the population of LA County. They interact with the rest of the population, as well as with each other, off set.
Regardless of one’s profession, NO test can demonstrate that a common infection was contracted by a sexually active adult at work. Correlation does not equal causation. If the government cannot prove that work was the cause, it lacks the requisite state interest to ban an entire type of work.
And remember, Clones...this isn't just for porn sets, either; it's for webcammers, homemade porn sites..even married couples making porn vids for their own pleasure. In other words, it's about EVERYONE.

I don't need to say it, but I'll say at anyway, Los Angeles County peeps...Vote NO on Measure B. Don't let these fascist lying bastards win.

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