Friday, June 13, 2014

From Goddess Damn Lies To Straight-Up Agitprop Bullshit: The AHF "Porn Study" Debunked

You would think by now that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation wouldn't be able to bury themselves any deeper in their own assholes with all the lying in support of their condom mandate campaign. But, you quickly learn to never underestimate the ability of Michael Weinstein to raise the bar, deepen the ditch, and fill it up with more of his bullshit.

And this week, he managed to outdo himself.

On Tuesday, Weinstein had one of his many debriefings with the press where he updated them on the status of Isadore Hall's condom mandate bill, AB 1576, which was scheduled for its first hearing in the California State Senate later this month after passing the California Assembly earlier. However, this time, he also came armed with what he claimed to be the smoking gun that justified his campaign to force condoms down performers' throats against their will: a survey done by the UCLA School of Public Health which, according to Weinstein, proved that there was a "public health danger" involving porn performers having all kinds of monkey sex and catching STI's like dead meat catching maggots. The actual survey numbers are now posted as a PDF file online at AHF's website, but for the presser, Weinstein presented this "pictographic" which attempted to summarize the findings of that survey.

As you can plainly see, the attempt was to paint a picture of porn performers as oppressed, drugged out, abused, exploited, and basically unable to think for themselves on the subject of protection against STI's, such that the state absolutely had to step in and rescue them with condoms.

Never mind the fact that over 600 performers were lucid enough to sign a petition in direct opposition to Hall's bill, or the fact that, as we will prove, that this "study" is essentially cooked, seasoned, and topped with AHF bias from beginning to end.

Both AVN's Mark Kernes and The Real Porn Wikileaks have done fine efforts to debunk this agitprop, but there are some points that even their efforts do manage to miss which deserve additional attention.

First off, the background for the "survey" itself. It was first proposed by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health's "Performer Advocacy Group" in 2012, during the peak of the Derrick Burts HIV scare. That that particular group was one of the most boisterous supporters of the condom mandate outside of AHF, and whose hearings and seminars on the issue of STI/HIV in porn were mostly biased antiporn rallies featuring the likes of Weinstein and Shelley Lubben, might have just a bit to do with the assumptions they precooked into the analysis. Remember how one such meeting attempted to entrap Mr. Marcus (before his unfortunate encounter with syphilis) into an ambush, forcing Free Speech Coalition head Diane Duke to intervene to give Marcus cover?

The primary hook that UCLA offered for performers to take the survey was simple research into how the industry was affected by STI's as opposed to the general population....but performers were also induced to participate with the promise of $40 gift cards and free followup testing and treatment. In the end, a total of 366 performers lent their bodies to this survey during the August 2012- Jume 2013 time frame.

Another very intriging and disturbing background is the involvement of Talent Testing Services in the formation and development of this "survey". Talent Testing was one of the two adult clinics in Los Angeles which took questions for the survey (West Oak Urban Care Center, which does not test but does offer treatment for those already suffering from STI's, was the other clinic...more on that anon), and TTS head Sixto Pacheco is listed on the byline as a survey author..but only in reference to his main clinics in Miami, not his LA branch clinics.

In addition to that, TTS was at that time locked in a pitched battle with what was then their rival testing clinic, Cutting Edge Testing, which just so happened to have the backing of both the Free Speech Coalition through their then newly hatched APHSS screening/testing system, and the porn production syndicate Manwin (now Mindgeek). TTS had refused initially to join the APHSS system ostensively due to issues they had with database privacy, although it was more widely suspected that TTS back then was more worried about losing exclusive monopoly of performer testing, and that they were in cahoots with certain talent agencies that didn't want a consolidated testing system that could get in the way of shooting could any incident of infection occur. (APHSS ultimately refined themselves into the current PASS system, and the events of 2013 forced a resolution of issues in which TTS ultimately adopted in full the PASS protocols.)

But at least, Talent Testing was a legitimate testing site. West Oak Urban Care Center?? Not so much. Quoteh Mark Kernes (emphasis added by me):
[A]ccording to the study, the surveys were provided to "adult film performers seeking testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at two clinics in Los Angeles." The study as it was released includes no mention of UCLA researchers themselves conducting testing or treatment. Also of note, one of the clinics mentioned in the study, West Oaks Urgent Care Center, is not a testing facility but a treatment facility. In other words, performers do not go to West Hills to get tested, but to get treated for conditions of which they are already aware.

In other words, unlike Talent Testing Service, which was presumably the other clinic that took part in the study, where talent does go to get their routine testing done, the performers who go to West Oaks Urgent Care Center are already either infected with something or seeking treatment for other ailments either work-related or not. But what the West Oaks pool of performers does not represent is a group of performers who, like the study claims, are "seeking testing for sexually transmitted infections." Put simply, as an already-infected or injured group of people, the West Oaks population used in the study are contaminated for the purposes of the study because, unlike the TTS population, there are no non-infected or uninjured performers patronizing West Oak. That contamination would, of course, also pollute the overall findings of the study by skewing them toward the very outcome that AHF wants.
One could only wonder what the results would have been if AHF and UCLA had allowed Cutting Edge Testing to be the other testing agency rather than West Oaks, thusly providing a much more accurate control group for their survey.

There is also this about West Oaks: its lead physican, Dr. Robert Rigg, Jr., was also listed on the byline as an author of the survey. Why is that disorienting? Because...

For one thing, among the people apparently identified as authors of the study, besides Talent Testing Services' (TTS) Sixto Pacheco, is Dr. Robert W. Rigg, Jr., owner of the aforementioned West Oak Urgent Care Center in Canoga Park. Also as mentioned, unlike TTS, neither Dr. Rigg nor West Oak are part of the adult industry's Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) nor was West Oak an approved testing site even during the AIM era—ask any veteran performer about Dr. Rigg's reputation in the industry. So it's unclear what contribution Dr. Rigg made to the study, since performers attempting to test there could not use said tests to be "approved for work" through the PASS system—an approval required by the vast majority of Los Angeles area adult producers.

It is also noteworthy that APHSS, the predecessor to PASS and the heir to AIM, had only been in operation since mid-2011, and TTS has only been an APHSS/PASS endorsed testing services provider since mid-October, 2012, though it had been sporadically providing some information to APHSS for about four months prior to that time. However, while the UCLA/AHF poster states that the study method was a "Cross-sectional study of adult film performers seeking testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at two clinics in Los Angeles, CA," Pacheco is identified as representing "BioCollections, Miami, FL"—TTS's home base—making it even less clear which clinics provided the data used in the study.
So....why would AHF and UCLA go so far to include Talent Testing Services in their "survey", yet exclude their LA-based testing facilities?

Then, there is the omission of what was one of the main justifications for the survey: HIV. That's an issue because the original request for grant funding for the UCLA "survey" was heavy with the pathos about how STI's - including HIV -- were wreaking havoc on porn performers  and then the general society at large. Here's the money quote from UCLA's Pamina Gorebach in her pitch for the $$$$'s:

Los Angeles is the largest center for adult film production worldwide with an estimated 200 production companies employing up to 1,500 workers at any given point in time and producing and estimated 10,000 films per year. Throughout the course of their employment, adult film performers (AFPs) are routinely exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and are at high risk for acquiring and transmitting STIs including HIV as a result of high-risk work including multiple and concurrent sex partners over short time periods, high-risk sexual acts such as anal intercourse, and lack of condoms or other barrier methods.

Outbreaks of STIs including HIV have been well documented in the adult film industry.  In 2004, three HIV infections were acquired during filming in Los Angeles, after a male performer infected three female performers.  There is additional data to indicate that as many as one in three performers have other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.  The STI prevalence among performers is extremely high and demonstrates that despite the industry's practice to routinely test performers for STIs, testing alone is not effective in preventing performers from being infected with STIs at endemic levels. Adult film performers are not an isolated community and performers may serve as a bridge population in passing STIs to and from the rest of the population.  Previous studies of AFPs show that the majority have at least one sexual partner outside of work and the prevalence of unprotected sex with these partners is high.   However, data on sexual networks, sexual risk behaviors, and the extent to which performers serve as a core transmitter group to the larger population is limited. 
It does seem that AHF went into the "survey" hoping that they would find some hidden HIV+ performers lurking within their control group pool....and having found none, they decided to switch the goalposts around and announce a general pandemic of "STI's"...never mind the fact that their original 2010 findings of rampant infections within the hetero talent pool have been proven to be quite fraudulent. It also does not quite square with the basic emphasis of pushing Darren James, Derrick Burts, Cameron Bay, Rod Daily, and other assorted HIV+ "victims" of the porn industry before every open microphone to prove just how the industry is pushing death and destruction on their talent, and only the strong wrapped fist of the government can step in and rescue them from their fate. Also, the original proposal was to also study the rate of syphilis, but apparently that effort failed because of lack of money to perform the necessarily tests.

Once again, though, all this is prelimanary until we look at and break down the actual numbers. AHF decided that the infographic pictured above probably wasn't enough information, so they decided to raid an Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV conference in Atlanta with a more detailed inforgraphic. A screenshot of the single page doc follows; the original can be found here.

First off, the base numbers: of the 366 performers who did respond to the survey, 274 were women (leaving 92 men, aside from the possibility of transgendered performers passing as either male or female); and 219 of them were White (though there's no specific racial breakdown of the participants).

Stunning number #1: 80% of the participants reported having done some shooting of porn within the past 30 days. That means that the other 20% -- which translates into roughly 73 performers -- did NOT perform any scenes within 30 days of participation. Of course, that says absolutely nothing about whether they were infected or not with any form of STI, or whether they engaged in some form of sexual activity in their private, not work life. In fact, the fact that one-fifth of the control group did not even shoot any porn to begin with should be the first red flag that something is just not right here...because how can you prove that porn performers are catching STI's in porn and then spreading it throughout society if a significant majority of performers don't even shoot regularly??

The breakdown of condom usage on set is as expected, with the overwhelming majority of performers choosing not to use condoms ever being 196. But, WHOOPS...there's something not quite right here. The percentage graphic listed shows 69% of performers not using condoms.....but my trusty laptop calculator comes out with only 53% (196 never used condoms/366 total sample). WTF?? Now, if you recalculated based on the denominator being those who shot scenes the past 30 days prior to being surveyed (366 - 73 = 293), then you get the posted percentage of 69%. So, why didn't the UCLA surveyors explicitly deliniate between the total sample group and the smaller group of those who had indeed performed scenes? I smell home cooking here, 'ya think?? Plus, there is the inconvenient fact of 30% of performers being able to use condoms at least part of the time while shooting. So much for the thought of "blacklisting" performers for using condoms.

The listing of sex acts performed is equally intriguing....with a distinct focus on the high risk "circus" acts such as double anal, gang bangs, double penetration, double vaginal, "creampie" (internal ejaculation in the vagina or anus) and fisting. Mark Kernes raised the issue, especially involving fisting, that many of those "circus acts" are more an enbodiment of gay male sex, where condoms are more used and HIV is far more prevalent. Considering the overwhelming female base of the survey control group, you could question that analysis.....but fisting is also a very popular act in some quarters of lesbian sex video making. The majority of acts listed, though, were the usual standards of creampie/internal ejaculation, followed closely by rimming, then gang bangs and DP. It should also be noted that the survey does not accurately measure whether any of those acts occur within the same scene or are part of seperate scenes....which would also tend to taint the sample percentage greatly.

Once again, all the percentages are somewhat inflated because they use the base of only those performers who were actively shooting within 30 days, not the entire base of performers responding.

That also impacts the "morals questions" that were asked of the surveyants, which seem to be deliberately put there as a means of propaganda.  Now, any producer who insists on unsolicited sexual favors as a prequisite for performers to shoot for them should be condemned properly and immediately by any respectable producer...but considering that sex is the actual occupation here, I'm not so sure that it should come to any surprise to anyone that extracurrucular activity would occur. As for "injury" during shooting sex? Well...getting your dick snapped by an overenthusiastic cowgirl ride is not the same as bumping your head against the headboard or pulling a hamstring attempting to sustain an anatomically difficult sexual position for the camera. Plus, the protocols specifically state that should someone test for any STD listed in the PASS protocols, they are immediately pulled from the available database to seek treatment. Any STD...not just HIV.

The "perform a sex act that you didn't want to do" question seems troubling...until you realize that many people in porn will often choose to do an act that they personally may dislike in real life simply to move themselves up the totem pole, to satisfy the demand of their fans, or simply to attempt to extend and expand their personal boundaries. They can also easily refuse to do such acts simply by not patronizing such producers.

The "not paid at the end of the job" thing is simply irrelevant pile driving, since that has nothing to do with condoms or STI's, and because it is a fact that most performers are paid for their scenes indirectly through third-party processors, through checks that can appear days after the completion of shooting.

Then we get to the "porn performers are such sluts" portion of the "survey", where the measurement of their private sex lives are supposedly exposed. Problem with that for AHF is, though, that the results reveal a quite passive group, with the overwhelming majority of performers sticking with their significant other or having only one or two other sexual partners for off-the-clock funtime. Naturally, they are usually condom free with their SO's; however, bear in mind that even off the clock, a small minority do choose to use condoms in their private lives.

But that's not all....UCLA and AHF aren't satisfied with merely slut-baiting performers; they must also drug-bait them as well. Hence, the inclusion of data about "substance abuse"...though the main  and most popular "drug" is listed as marijuana, which is only abusive to folk like Maureen Dowd and Puritan wannabes. As it stands anyway, only one-third of all performers are found to be hooked on drugs, and if you add the stoners to the list, you come up to 53% who are either drug free or using what is a relatively harmless product, even maybe legally as medicine. (Also...Xanax and Vicodin are included, but not alcohol???)

And even that is just a prelude to where the tornado really hits the septic the actual results of testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia. The box score tells the tale:

Actually, it doesn't tell the whole tale, because the raw numbers reflect sampling rather than actual totals based on active testing. Also, the numbers may reflect the same person having multiple infections in different areas being counted as standalone infections to deliberately inflate the count.

Compared to the AHF "infographic", the UCLA graph looks benign in comparison...especially since it breaks down by area of infection. Thing is, though, it only gives percentages, not the total number people who were found to be infected. That's a serious flaw, and potentially fatal, because it has already been established by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that it is simply impossible to determine the etiology of a particular infection. Remember that one of the facilities used for the survey was a care center specifically for those who have been found to be infected and are undergoing treatment. That alone would introduce crippling bias into the system because the majority of the outside performer pool would avoid getting infected in the first place by screening and testing using the PASS protocols, which West Oaks simply does not use.

But what really grabs your attention is the flip side of what is being said: if 23.7% of adult performers are infected with either gonnorhea or chlamydia at one point in time, that means that 76.3% of adult performers are not infected. Considering Weinstein's assumption that porn performers are supposed to be so controlled by their dicks and clits that they run around fucking and sucking anyone and everyone in sight, the fact that they still remain relatively STI-free is both a testimonial to their discipline and the success of the PASS system.

Besides that, someone may want to pass on to Weinstein that chlamydia and gonnorhea are both relatively treatable and temporary infections which do not even incapacitate a performer for that long, as long as they are consistent with getting the proper treatment. It's not like HIV, which can essentially disable you for the rest of your life. Yes, I am well aware of the latest strains of chlamydia and gonnorhea that are more resistant to antibiotic treatment and are more dangerous, and that should also be taken into consideration when deciding how best to protect yourself, whether you be a porn performer or a civilian.

Basically, the bottom line for Michael Weinstein and AHF and their lackeys at UCLA is that because slightly less than one-fourth of the hetero porn talent pool risks getting infected from STI's, the other three-fourths must be forced to wear condoms and other forms of "barrier protection" for their own good and that of the general population. This isn't just the tail wagging the dog; this is the hair at the end of the tip of the tail wagging the dog.

And apparently, Weinstein isn't even content with merely regulating porn performers' lives on set, either. Another quote from Mark Kernes:
Weinstein also quoted one of the study's (or at least the poster's) conclusions that, "Given that most performers had sexual partners outside the industry with few reporting consistent condom use within the context of any partnership, targeted intervention strategies to limit the spread of STIs both within and outside of adult film work are needed." Weinstein used that "finding" to state that "the concern here goes beyond the adult film industry and that this is leading to a spread of STDs outside the industry as well as within it," but considering the (hetero) industry's testing procedures, isn't the problem more likely the other way around: That outsiders may be bringing STDs into the performer population?

Certainly, Weinstein and AHF have been derided previously as the "condom police," but does Weinstein and/or the study really seek to require adult performers to wear condoms even in their personal lives?
In other words, is Michael Weinstein's real goal to use porn performers as unwilling forced guinea pigs for "safer sex" practices in the general community as a test run for intimately regulating the sex lives of everyone?? That goes far beyond condom policing...Weinstein himself made up the more appropriate term for that kind of policy: "Condom NAZI".


One final quote from Mark Kernes displays the sheer arrogance and totalitarianism inherent in Michael Weinstein's worldview, as directed towards one of his sternest critics, Nina Hartley, who probably forgets more about sexuality in one day than Weinstein knows in his entire life. His beef was with Nina's concern of excessive condom usage during long shoots leading to "friction burn" and micro vaginal tearage that could potentially invite even further infection.
By the way, the bulk of the 15-minute press conference was spent hitting many of the points dealt with above, but Weinstein went out of his way to bash vocal AB 1576 critic Nina Hartley and several other actresses when he stated, "In discussions by the industry about condoms, [it's said] they're inappropriate because they create a chafing... I won't go into graphic detail here, but you look at a lot of the practices that are being filmed and these defenders are involved in, obviously their bodies took a lot more abuse than would be there with a condom, and this idea of chafing is something that's really unheard of in the public health community." Really? Is there some other statistical group that has sex as frequently and for as long a time period—typically 1-2 hours at a time—that the "public health community" is familiar with and studied? No? So Weinstein really has no idea what he's talking about, does he?
In other words, what Weinstein is saying to Nina Hartley, Kayden Kross, Kylie Ireland, and other female performers who would rather make that choice for themselves, is essentially the equivalent of "Shut the hell up, b*tchez, and take that condom, because a little burn is a small price to pay for saving your wretched life from sure death from deadly disease. What's the matter, you scared of a little lube???" As if Nina isn't a bonafide member of the "public health community" through her years as a sexual rights and women's health activist, or a certified Registered Nurse with an actual college degree in nursing? As if Nina hasn't written books and done videos on safer sex and sexual health during her 30 years of service??

Needless to say, Ms. Hartley had a response to Weinstein's nonsensical whackery. As in, both barrels, and a stiletto boot up Weinstein's ass for good measure.
Hartley herself agrees: "I find it interesting that a man who does not own a vagina, does not work in adult entertainment himself, has not been on a heterosexual adult entertainment shoot deigns to comment on my body and the bodies of my co-workers as to our experience with condom shoots," she told AVN in an interview. "We're sick of Michael Weinstein mansplaining to us our own bodies and our own experiences. He's just a bully; he uses false information, he uses trumped-up stats, he uses non-existent studies to promulgate informatioin he knows is false for his own political ends. It's despicable and he is despicable.

"We are sick of hypocritical politicians like Isadore Hall, whose very own district is full of people who need help with HIV prevention, education and treatment," she continued. "I find it disgusting that there's no AHF clinic in all of Hall's district where they're desperately needed, and yet, Weinstein is still touting a solution in search of a problem, which is the presence of deadly diseases on adult film sets, and that we pose a risk to the general public. We do not. The stats show it, the results show it. Why doesn't he just let it go? Mainly, I'm really upset that he's telling me that my experience with my own body is somehow false or that I'm making this up. It's just astounding."
When Nina Hartley drops "mansplaining" on you, you've been thorougly and properly served.

Memo to Michael Weinstein: You're choking in your own ditch on your own poop. Stop. Digging.

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent complement to my own article! You picked up on a lot of stuff that I didn't. A first-rate job!