Nina Hartley Rips ‘HIV in Porn’ Myths, Moralizing

 

nina-hartley-porn-star-hiv

Adult star and educator Nina Hartley responded aggressively to myths about HIV in porn after three performers tested positive. In a statement posted to her Fetlife board, and then picked up by the excellent Red Garter Club, Hartley talks frankly about porn stars, condoms, and victim-blaming — so we’re reprinting in its entirety. As both a 30 year adult industry legend, a registered nurse and one of the founders of the Adult Industry Medical Foundation (the predecessor to adult performer testing service FSCPASS), Hartley knows that the only way to fight HIV is with facts. Check it out.

Okay, back as promised to take this one on. It’s complicated and will need some explaining, so please bear with me, because this is one of the most important challenges our industry has faced and we need to clear the air around it as much as we can. It won’t be easy because that air has been pretty thick with misinformation and outright lies for a long time.

First, I’d like to address my thanks to the first contributors here:

@ashe58,

Cameron Bay has acquitted herself bravely and ethically and the terrible things that some have said about her remind us, sadly, of how badly stigmatized sex work still is. I can’t even bring myself to address some of the cruel and stupid attacks that have been made on her, so I won’t. I do think that she’s being a bit hard on herself in characterizing what happened to her as a result of irresponsible behavior. It was human behavior which is unpredictable and not always wise, but that doesn’t make it irresponsible.

It is a fact, and hardly a new one, that HIV has been with us a long time. New research suggests it existed in isolated pockets here and there forty years ago. Unless and until a vaccine is developed (and BTW, Aids Healthcare Foundation, the outfit largely responsible for creating not only the current controversy surrounding porn industry STD safeguards but also the more complex and error-prone system of safeguards we have now than existed before they made porn their favorite target, resolutely opposes funding for HIV vaccine research “because it will divert funds from treatment for existing cases,” which are the source of AHF’s $200 million per year income) that HIV is here to stay. It exists in the general population and no matter what safeguards are used, there will be occasional cases in the porn talent pool. There is no 100% fail-safe protection against HIV transmission, condoms included (read the label on the condom box if you don’t believe me because the manufacturers recognize the impossibility of making foolproof barriers), and porn performers possess no special immunity.

All evidence so far, including Cameron’s own courageous testimony, suggests that she contracted the virus through a personal contact not related to her work in the industry. All her professional partners since her last clean test in late July have tested negative and there is no reason to believe that new infections related to hers will appear in the porn talent pool. Medically speaking, female to male transmission of HIV, though not unknown, is rare, as the virus is mainly passed through blood and serum products (like semen) and present in only trace amounts in saliva and vaginal fluid. It would have been unlikely for Cameron to have infected any of her onscreen partners even during the window period between her last clear test and her first positive. Fortunately, she wasn’t working much at the time and her contacts were few. They’re out of the woods already and the industry has gone back to work.

I would question the assertion that newer, younger players are engaged in more irresponsible behavior than their predecessors. If anything, the events of the past couple of years have brought the issue of STD transmission very much to the front of all our minds and while there will always be those who behave recklessly, I still shoot scenes a couple of times a week and have close relations with many partners of differing ages. My impression is that, as a group, they’re far more risk-aware than their “civilian” counterparts. Whatever gets said on social media is not to be confused with fact, which depends on evidence rather than endless repetition to attain credibility.

I’m not quite sure what you mean when you refer to “risky behavior” when no sexual behavior can ever be risk-free. I’ve always disliked the term “safe sex” because physical intimacy with any other human being is not without risk and can never be truly safe in all ways. A jealous partner bursting in on a clandestine assignation and shooting the participants is a risk with a certain percentage of probability, fortunately not the highest but not negligible as risks go. There are various precautions that can be taken against the transmission of STDs but NONE are 100% effective. I’ll try and break that down in greater detail as we move on here, but the indisputable truth is that sex is not a risk-free activity; never has been and never will be.

As a sex educator, my initial response won’t come as much of a surprise. I think what’s needed is accurate and complete information for every sexually active person. The systematic destruction of comprehensive sex education in our public school systems by the relentless attacks of right-wing religious fanatics has endangered all young people and needs to be reversed. We need to teach ALL young people what the physical and psychological risks of sexual activity are in a science-based curriculum through public education. Equip them with the information they need to decide what level of risk they find acceptable and what methods of protection of the many out there suit their individual situations best.

That the industry is “taking a black eye on this” has nothing to do with the industry’s own practices, which are extremely meticulous when it comes to STDS, but rather because political groups with self-serving agendas keep punching us in the face for things that are simply untrue, as the punchers well know.

The fact in this case, as was true in the big “syphilis scare” of a few weeks ago and last summer’s “HIV scare” (which turned out to be yet another example of a personal situation that had no connection to the porn industry beyond the fact that one of those involved worked in it briefly) and even true in the two documented cases of on-set HIV transmission back in 2004, which were the only such cases in het porn since we began comprehensive testing in 1998, is that our hazard mitigation system worked brilliantly, exactly as it was designed to.

STD testing does not prevent STDs. That’s not its purpose. It serves as an early warning system to exclude from the talent pool those trying to get in who are already infected with some contagious condition and alert us as quickly as possible if anyone who passes the initial screening later contracts such a condition. Because we test for not only HIV, but also gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis A and B at least once a month (the industry standard will soon go to twice a month to narrow infection window periods even further) contact tracing when a positive test for any of the above turns up is quick and effective. Performers agree to participate in an industry-wide database that other performers, producers and directors can access by computer to establish that any performer’s test data is clear and up to date. If the tests come up otherwise, the testing facilities contact the performer to come in and re-test immediately, provide contact information and begin treatment and counseling immediately.

There have been all kinds of false rumors spread about this system, but it has proven itself amazingly powerful for over a decade. During that time, the L.A. based het porn industry has turned up a total of two work-related infections in our entire talent pool. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles County, according to its own health department, has recorded nearly 30,000 new HIV infections during that same period.

Considering the age and demographic of porn performers, despite disingenuous claims about the danger we pose to the general public, it would appear that they pose a greater danger to us. Indeed, in the current case, it would appear that the virus was transmitted from the outside in, as the statistics would suggest.

Those who judge Cameron for doing what millions of others do, no matter what they may claim to the contrary, which appears to have been exposing herself to risk with a personal partner she trusted, are contemptible and I feel nothing but compassion for the additional burden she bears of absorbing all that hostility from people who should know better. She appears guilty of doing something human and will pay the highest price of anyone involved for having done so.

In terms of what the industry can do to make itself safer, no system is beyond improvement and improvements are being made. For many years, since Sharon Mitchell, Ernest and Dr. Steven York first established AIM, the community based, performer operated testing and treatment clinic back in 1998, and we relied on the PCR-DNA test for HIV proteins, which was absolutely the state of the art throughout that period. There’s been a lot of loose and downright dishonest talk about how this test works and how it’s distinguished from the “free” tests offered by various walk-in clinics.

The oldest and most common test, the ELISA, searches for HIV antibodies in the blood. It’s the gold standard in one respect. It never throws a false positive. If you have HIV anti-bodies in your system, you’re infected and your body has begun fighting back. However, you can be infected and contagious for up to six months before anti-body production begins. New infections are the most dangerous, as the body’s defenses haven’t mobilized against them yet, and viral loads for new cases can exceed 100,000 before ARV treatment is begun. That’s why it’s imperative we catch new cases sooner.

The PCR-DNA test looks for viral proteins in the blood, which show up no later than two weeks after infection. Two weeks vs. six months is clearly a superior standard. But we haven’t just accepted it as the best there is. Recently, we’ve moved on to the [Aptima] test, which is based on PCR-RNA analysis and is even more reactive sooner than its predecessor. The [Aptima] is now the only test whose results are accepted in the PASS database, where a clean result is required to certify a performer as available for work. Does everyone cooperate with this protocol? You bet. Any director or producer who puts a performer to work without that clearance is inviting major liability and performers as a matter of on-set etiquette show their test results to anyone they’re going to work with before doing so.

So one thing we’ve done is to upgrade the quality of the HIV test. We’ve also added some new tests to the panel we do. Hepatitis A and B, as well as syphilis and trichomoniasis are now standard along with the other conditions for which we had previously tested. We are also testing now for HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, and vaccinating those who test negative with Gardisil to make sure they stay that way.

We have not added either Hep C or herpes and there’s a lot of talk about that. The thing is that neither is a reportable STD. Hep C is transmitted blood-to-blood primarily through needle sharing among IV drug users, who are extremely rare in our community. The CDC does not classify it as an STD and clinics aren’t required to report it to health authorities as such. It’s a nasty, often fatal, disease, but it’s not a risk for single-contact sex performances and the hysteria drummed up around it by the Usual Suspects is medically indefensible.

As for herpes, it’s transmitted skin-to-skin and can be passed by contact at any part of the body. Condoms do little to reduce the risk (as is also the case with bacterial bugs like Chlamydia and surface viruses like HPV) and barriers won’t stop it. Indeed, since 70% of the adult population would test positive for either Herpes A or Herpes B according to the CDC, the harm reduction from testing would be minimal.

Remember what I said about it being impossible to create an entirely safe system. An error rate of zero is impossible, so you enter this business with some assumption of risk. We minimize it very effectively but we can’t promise to eliminate all risk.

That is true of any job. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ten most dangerous jobs in America are:

1. Fishing
2. Logging
3. Aircraft piloting
4. Refuse and recyclable material collection
5. Roofing
6. Structural iron and steel work
7. Construction
8. Farming
9. Truck driving
10. Mining

There are clinical deaths in significant numbers associated with every one of these trades.

Since porn was legalized in the U.S. 40 years ago there hasn’t been a single job-related fatality on any porn set. Even mainstream film loses half a dozen stunt players a year. Is porn completely safe? No. Is it dangerous in the way any of the jobs listed above are? Hardly.

But why wouldn’t mandatory condoms make it even safer?

It’s a logical question but the answer is counterintuitive. Porn sex is a performance. It’s not like the sex most people have at home. Depressingly, Masters and Johnson found in their groundbreaking studies a few decades ago that the average American couple typically completes an act of sexual intercourse in about eleven minutes from foreplay to orgasm. That’s a sad thing and the subject for a post all its own, but it tells you nothing about what sex on a porn set is like.

Typically, because we shoot multiple angles on multiple positions, in addition to shooting stills, wrangling lights and cameras and other gear and dealing with technical problems of all sorts. It takes about two hours to shoot a good hardcore scene. Condoms were never intended for that kind of industrial use. Hard-ons come and go. Condoms roll down, come off, dry out, split and otherwise fail on sets about 30% of the time. I know this because I work mainly for Adam&Eve, one of the companies most supportive of performer choice when it comes to condom use, and Ernest and I have shot miles of condom footage. We’re left with little confidence regarding the efficacy of condoms for this application.

And speaking personally, I can tell you that they have, for many female performers, a serious drawback. I’ve taken a lot of crap for saying this in other places, but facts just refuse to conform to PC ideas of how things should work. Condoms, no matter how lubricated and how designed, create more internal friction on a woman’s intimate anatomy than human skin, with which it’s evolved to tolerate contact. All-condom players, and I’ve known many of them tend to turn up at clinics with raw internal tissues and multiple surface infections. This we call “condom rash” and it’s more than an annoyance. Intact tissues are the first line of defense against infection. If your insides are compromised by friction burns and low-grade bugs of whatever sort, you’re that much more vulnerable to whatever might be turned loose should a condom fail.

Those who have never worked as performers love to dismiss this as bullshit urban legend. Those who do that have zero experience with the realities of shooting a hardcore scene. Condoms make everything take longer. They make everything less comfortable for male and female players. They can’t be trusted to operate as intended. They create conditions conducive to contagion. These circumstances are unique to porn and I wouldn’t suggest the general population abandon using condoms, though I do think testing for non-sex-workers is still an excellent idea and recommend it highly, if only for your own peace of mind.

The safest sex you can have, on or off camera, remains sex with an uninfected partner, and this is where things get dicey. I ask those who favor mandatory condoms in porn this question: If you knew you were HIV-, would you knowingly have intercourse with someone who is HIV+, condom or no? Anyone who honestly answers yes to that question has a very different notion of safe behavior from mine. I prefer to know that anyone I have sex with has been tested with the best available methods and carries no communicable disease. In fact, I accept no less for either work or play. I see a current test or intercourse doesn’t happen.

Given all this, why is there such a huge battle being fought over this issue here in Los Angeles?

The answer is political. Epidemiology, as any doctor will tell you, is a highly political form of medicine. There are always those willing to use the threat of epidemic to push some other kind of political agenda having nothing to do with health.

In this case, Aids Healthcare Foundation, the largest HIV service organization in the world (and a stakeholder in the world’s largest condom manufacturer, BTW) has taken it upon itself to come after the porn business in order to force condom use on performers who overwhelmingly prefer to make their own choices of protection methods and bitterly oppose the idea of having government agencies tell them how to do their scenes and protect their own health. This has been a big generator of publicity for AHF, which not only hauls in $200 million a year but pays its director, Michael Weinstein whose face has become so familiar from this controversy, over $600,000 a year to act as its front man. It’s a huge enterprise that claims non-profit status but is currently under investigation by Los Angeles County for Medicaid fraud.

Mr. Weinstein et al think that Porn, by showing barrier-free intercourse acts as, in his words: “commercials for unsafe sex.” He and his supporters in the UCLA working group and at Cal-OSHA think that porn should be compelled by law to make safe sex commercials. Sorry, but this thing called The First Amendment not only prohibits censorship, it also prohibits compelled speech. If AHF wants to make porn with condoms to push its own ideas about sex, it has more than enough money to do so. What Measure B and all of AHF’s other machinations cannot do is force pornographers to include content in their products that they don’t want there.

Yes, money is a factor for both sides of this dispute. The porn buying public overall doesn’t want condoms visible in the picture because it detracts from the fantasy of perfect, carefree sex they pay to indulge. The one company in het porn that requires condoms (and that company, which gets a lot of head-pats from AHF and others only requires condom use for its contract performers and not for any of the day players they use in their many, many other scenes) is uncompetitive in DVD sales by its own admission and makes most of its money off cable softcore, in which condoms aren’t an issue. No company that has attempted to market all-condom products to het audiences has managed to stay in business.

Likewise, AHF also has a dog in the fight. Not only do they manufacture and sell condoms, for which they would force us to make commercials, but they also make no secret of their willingness to “consult” for a hefty fee in instituting an all-condom protocol in the porn industry. AHF has sued its way into lucrative consulting jobs like this before. When Pfizer first introduced Viagra, AHF “offered” to consult with the company so that Viagra users would be properly advised of the risks of unprotected sex with this new product. AHF wanted $5 million for that service. Pfizer declined. AHF sued them for $50 million alleging unsafe marketing practices. Pfizer caved on the consulting deal. The lawsuit mysteriously faded away. Now Viagra commercials carry teeny-tiny little disclaimers warning consumers that it doesn’t protect them from HIV or other STDS. That’s what Pfizer got from AHF for its $5 million, along with immunity from litigation.

See, we know all about AHF’s litigation practices first hand. Internal emails between Weinstein and AHF’s chief counsel Bryan Chase (this has all been posted online if you care to check it out) decided early on that the effectiveness of our existing system as administered by AIM was the Number One obstacle to AHF’s political ambitions and had to be destroyed if AHF’s claim that performers worked without protection was to be made credible. Toward that end, AHF used tax-free funding to hire AIM’s lab messenger as a spy to dig through AIM’s operations in search of dirt that could be used against it. AHF and Cal-OSHA initiated a series of nuisance litigations against AIM, a tiny non-profit NGO that tested at cost and often barely had money to keep the lights on at the clinic, leading to AIM’s ultimate bankruptcy. AHF did its best to create the threat, not previously there, upon which they built the Measure B campaign that’s raised millions in funding and made them constantly visible in the media at the expense of increasing my risk.

The Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s trade organization, which answers mainly to producers, stepped in to help create a new database to replace AIM’s, which has been very helpful in the Cameron Bay case to be sure, still does not operate a full-service, centralized clinic of its own. It depends for reporting of test results on the cooperation of private clinics that don’t all have the same methods of testing and reporting, which leaves us with a less effective means of monitoring the entire talent pool simultaneously and opens the door to possible test report fraud because of lack of uniformity in the reporting forms used. This opens the door to new dangers that have already been hinted at in recent months by confusion over confirmatory tests for suspected STD cases conducted at different facilities.

Thanks, Mr. Weinstein, for your demonstrations of concern for all of our wellbeing. That you enjoy virtually no support among actively working performers should tell you something. But no, absent all tangible evidence to support it, AHF has now filed a complaint with Cal-OSHA against kink.com simply because that was the last place where Cameron Bay shot a scene, even though at the time she shot it her tests were still all negative.

Should Measure B remain on the books, much less be extended to the entire state of California as AHF would like, the result will be an erosion of the testing system. The great advantage porn in California enjoys over other forms of sex work in other places is its legality. We can call 911 if we have an accident or an altercation on set (not that these are common occurrences by any means) and not get arrested for doing so. If we are named as contacts in a potential contagion pool, we can be asked to confirm that we were or were not contacts without admitting to violating the law because we didn’t use condoms, and in admitting this, subject our employers to potential legal consequences that would put them out of business.

The result of this is already obvious. We used to pull permits from L.A. County so we could get production insurance and shoot legally in a state where doing so is not prohibited. We used to tweet from sets talking up the projects we were working on.

Now we’re back to shooting in secret without permits and asked to keep our cell phones off because we know that the gang from AHF is monitoring some of our feeds and using that information to try and organize set inspections.

This is all going to be sorted out at great expense in court eventually. Last week in the first round of FSC’s challenge to Measure B, the judge chose not to take up the constitutional issue of compelled speech, but stripped Measure B of most of its enforcement powers on the grounds that they would require what amounted to a blanket search warrant of all sexually explicit shoots without a warrant, which the judge viewed as trampling all over The Fourth Amendment. Both sides have already appealed.

Meanwhile, this battle rages in the media on sites like this one to the detriment of people like me. I like being in a legal business. I like being able to shoot on nice locations in the open without fear of arrest. I don’t care to go back to clandestine operations for a perfectly legal business. And I don’t trust those trying to push their program on me to protect my health as well as I can and my fellow performers will if left to do so as they have been for the last dozen years.

Do I think the industry bears no blame in all of this? Hardly. Contrary to accusations certain people loooove hurling at me that I’m an enormously wealthy shill for the producers (yeah, right, so where’s my check, boys?); I have my share of gripes with them. Ernest and I warned the leadership of the FSC six months before AIM was put out of business that this would happen if those who could afford to resist AHF’s malicious lawsuits failed to do so. They failed to do so and AIM closed. We also warned them they’d face political challenges from AHF for which they were unprepared. They paid no heed and ran a truly inept campaign against Measure B, which was qualified for the ballot with questionable petitions that should have been challenged but weren’t. Instead, showing a complete ignorance of L.A. politics, the FSC campaigned against Measure B in a Democratic, pro-labor, pro-regulation stronghold with arguments about lost revenues, lost jobs and lost tax money that would have gone over much better in Orange County than in bright blue Los Angeles. And instead of letting performers speak for themselves, which they do most articulately and from the most immediate personal concerns, they let the producers do the talking to the media. Swell idea. Everyone loves porn producers, right?

This is and has always been about our health and safety as performers and frankly I don’t think anyone else has much standing to address it. Between them, our friends and our enemies have managed to make us less safe and less able to earn our livings and there’s no good outcome in sight. AHF will never back off for as long as they can get airtime with their crusade. We will never effectively push them back until we let performers and doctors take the lead for us and stop whining about lost revenues when lives are at stake.

And until this issue is resolved, you’re going to see every isolated case like that of the unfortunate Ms. Bay turned into a political football by people who don’t care a bit about her, me or any of us.

It’s a long post, and I thank those who took the time to read it. When next you’re confronted with all the usual lies, half-truths and distortions that have been spun around the real issue of performer safety, feel free to quote Nina Hartley, former AIM board member, RN and sex-worker advocate when you let the hot air out of their dishonest and cynical propaganda.

There are lives at stake here, including mine. Nobody should be playing politics with them.

Nina Hartley Speaks Out On The Latest HIV Porn Scare (Or…How Truth Is The Only Lysol For Rumor And BS (TheBlogofPro-PornActivism.com via Red Garter Club Blog)

Editorial Note: The test to detect HIV proteins in the blood is Aptima, not Abita as previously reposted. 

Comments

  1. timkinch says

    very well written and informative it is a very dangerous profession for other peoples enjoyment mine included i have the upmost respect for all performers the general public probley does’nt even know about the moritorium .Wishing all performers safe returns

  2. says

    Thanks for spreading the word about Nina’s essay.

    One caveat, though: the Red Garter Club blog that you referenced is actually my personal blog; I originally posted Nina’s original Fetlife comment/essay first at the Blog of Pro Porn Activism, which is geared towards public outeach on issues regarding porn and such.

    The repost at BPPA can be found here:

    http://bppa.blogspot.com/2013/09/nina-hartley-speaks-out-on-latest-hiv.html

  3. says

    Hi!

    Thanks so much for reposting this. I appreciate the word getting out to everyone. Thanks, Anthony, for putting this up on the Red Garter blog.

    One thing I need to mention is that, when I talk above about the kind of test we’re using now to detect HIV proteins in the blood, the correct test name is “Aptima,” NOT “Abita.” In subsequent posts the “Abita” was properly removed.

    Just to be clear, the Aptima test is what we use in the business. “Abita” is a brand of beer and NOT used in any testing!

  4. Olive says

    I actually found this really troubling

    1) condoms don’t significantly reduce the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea? really? I’m a sex worker myself and I’m pretty damn sure they do otherwise sex workers in Australia (who have some of the highest rates of condom use in the world)wouldn’t have a lower rates of STIs than the general population. I find that assertion incredibly irresponsible and I think you’d be hard pressed to find any medical professional who would agree. The repeated digs at condom use including for people outside of the sex industry is wildly irresponsible from a health professional.

    2) Porn performers have almost no IV drug use. Um, why are porn performers exempt from IV use? That sounds like some apologist, shamey bullshit. Drug use doesn’t have any correlation with any profession.

    3) In this particular case, Bay herself said she wasn’t given the choice to use condoms and would had if she’d been able. Surely how she feels about this should come into it at some point and it should be a choice.

    4) Queer and feminist porn often makes a point of using all kinds of barrier methods, not just condoms, as a way of normalizing safer sex in the general community. The argument that “porn consumers don’t like it” seems pretty weak if even small enterprises can do it and still run a profitable business. Surely there is a degree of responsibility to all media outlets to promote best practice. On that note, the point that “the safest sex is with someone who doesn’t have an STI” makes no sense on the ground in the real world where many people don’t know if they have an STI, don’t get tested every two weeks (or months!) and often don’t even have access to affordable, confidential STI screening. Again, in the general community the best STI prevention IS use of prophylactics, and this article seems to be really anti-condoms which again is irresponsible.

    • says

      I’m sure that Nina is more than capable to respond to Olive’s critique of her position, but I feel the need to give a counter of my own, based on some assumptions, and some misassumptions, I fear, that she has made of Nina’s positions.

      I will take them on point by point.

      1) condoms don’t significantly reduce the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea? really? I’m a sex worker myself and I’m pretty damn sure they do otherwise sex workers in Australia (who have some of the highest rates of condom use in the world)wouldn’t have a lower rates of STIs than the general population. I find that assertion incredibly irresponsible and I think you’d be hard pressed to find any medical professional who would agree. The repeated digs at condom use including for people outside of the sex industry is wildly irresponsible from a health professional.

      I do not doubt your legitimacy as a sex worker in Australia, Clove, but you totally miss Nina’s point. She is NOT comparing STI infection rates amongst porn performers in the USA to sex workers in general (which would include legalized street prostitutes and in-house on call escorts, for whom condom use with them is mandated by the state); she is specifically basing her opinion on porn performers in the USA. Porn performers are an entirely different entity from prostitutes, even though they share common traits. Porn performers are paid to engage in sexual acts with other pro performers, not the general public; and the detailed STI testing regime that porn performers are mandated to engage in is designed specifically to catch and screen out potential threats.

      It is true that legalized brothels do have a lower rate of STI transmission, but that is mostly due not only to the fact that the clientele is required to wear condoms, but also the requirement of standard STI testing. This is perfectly logical for on call prostitutes and escorts, because unlike porn performers, they engage directly with the broader public.

      And, it should be said that NOWHERE in Nina’s essay does she ever denigrate the use of condoms in “civilian” life, nor does she in any way oppose performers who voluntarily use condoms as part of their defense against STI’s. She is specifically opposed to the state MANDATING them as the one and only and exclusive means allowed, due mostly to the concerns she has more than adequately raised.

      You have every right to disagree with her; but please don’t insult our intellegence by misinterpreting her position and inventing straw people.

      2) Porn performers have almost no IV drug use. Um, why are porn performers exempt from IV use? That sounds like some apologist, shamey bullshit. Drug use doesn’t have any correlation with any profession.

      Really?? Do you have any evidence that says that porn performers are of higher risk of drug use than any other profession?? You can’t say that Nina’s statement is “apologist, shamey BS” and infer the opposite, then claim that there is no corelation.

      And in fact, you could make a serious argument, one that Nina does NOT make, that there is a corelation between IV drug use and the HIV pandemic in the gay male community…which is important because the gay side of the porn industry relies exclusively on condoms and seromatching, and essentially allows for mixing of their talent pool with HIV+ performers.

      The basic fear here is that those who are pushing the condom mandate want to impose the system used by the gay side of the porn industry (no testing, mandated condoms, possible seromatching) on the “straight” side. As Nina pointed out, such a move could be potentially calamatous, because without the use of the screening power of detailed testing, it would be all too easy for an HIV+ performer to be matched unwittingly with an HIV- performer, with only the condom as the sole barrier against transmission. As the Derrick Burts episode in 2011 points out, the results could be tragic.

      Also, it should also be noted that IV drug use, regardless of profession, does weaken the body’s defenses enough to allow greater risk of STI/HIV infection. So, it is very much relevant to the issue.

      3) In this particular case, Bay herself said she wasn’t given the choice to use condoms and would had if she’d been able. Surely how she feels about this should come into it at some point and it should be a choice.

      Actually, Cameron Bay had said that she WAS given the option of using a condom for the scene, but at the time she refused, citing the fact that her on screen partner for that Public Disgrace scene had tested negative. She did say that in retrospect, she would have asked for a condom.

      And, it should be noted that every performer in that Public Disgrace shoot other than Bay and her boyfriend has tested negative for HIV several times, both before and after the shoot. Likewise, all of Bay’s and her boyfriend’s (and the confirmed HIV+ third performer’s) firstgen shooting partners have also tested negative. The assumption that Bay was indeed infected during that scene or through any porn shoot has been thus far shot down by the facts.

      No one, again, and not even Nina, has said that there should be no choice regarding using condoms…in fact, the majority of porn performers often choose to rely on updated tests as well as condom usage as their prefered means of protection. The issue is forcing condoms as the EXCLUSIVE option, and ignoring the issues Nina has raised.

      4) Queer and feminist porn often makes a point of using all kinds of barrier methods, not just condoms, as a way of normalizing safer sex in the general community. The argument that “porn consumers don’t like it” seems pretty weak if even small enterprises can do it and still run a profitable business. Surely there is a degree of responsibility to all media outlets to promote best practice. On that note, the point that “the safest sex is with someone who doesn’t have an STI” makes no sense on the ground in the real world where many people don’t know if they have an STI, don’t get tested every two weeks (or months!) and often don’t even have access to affordable, confidential STI screening. Again, in the general community the best STI prevention IS use of prophylactics, and this article seems to be really anti-condoms which again is irresponsible.

      Once again, Olive, you confuse the process of porn production with sex in real life….as if the only purpose of sexually explicit media should be to express political and socially responsible goals. Just because Wicked Pictures and a few other niche production companies have florished being condom only does not change the fact that several companies whom have attempted to go condom only during the 2000’s have seen their profits vanish…and that doesn’t even begin to cover the rampant piracy of bareback hetero porn that has wreaked havoc with industry profits. Your position is akin to the conservative meme that since Walmart has profited with their low wage system, every retailer should emulate them to the letter for the good of society.

      Queer and feminist porn does have a legitimate place in our society as alternative spaces of art and of education, and no one has said that performers or producers who wish to sell condoms as a harm prevention tool should be denied the right to market their product to whomever would purchase them. It is the mark of paternalism, though, to suggest that those who would offer a different means of protection should be denied their right to the marketplace solely based on dislike of their position…especially when their system has been proven to be as effective as the all-condoms regime you are selling.

      Yes, the system used by the porn industry may be economically out of reach of most average citizens…but I’m guessing that porn professionals make enough to afford the testing regime. But, guess what else is out of reach for most civilians?? Treatment for HIV is far more expensive than the $280/mo cost of a standard PASS test panel…and considering the pandemic now taking place of HIV in the civilian world, I’d say that it’s far safer to be a porn performer now.

      It is legitimate and even proper for medical health professionals to recommend condoms as a prophylactic, and I have no issue with sex educators offering condoms as one line of defense. I have a real issue, though, with those who want to use porn performers as coerced guniea pigs for free condom placement ads which more than likely will NOT change popular sexual behavior one bit, will not protect them any better than the current system has done, and even forces them underground into much less safe venues. It’s not condoms I and Nina Hartley oppose; it’s forcing them down her throat.

      • Ernest Greene says

        Full disclosure first. I’m Nina’s husband of twelve years and partner in video production. Not a bit coincidentally, I’m also, with Nina, a founding board member of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, which provided testing, monitoring and treatment to the porn performer community for 12 years until it was submarined by nuisance litigation from the mandatory-condom pushers at AHF. For six years, I was AIM’s chairman of the board of directors. I like to think Nina and I know a bit about health concerns in the porn industry after 28 years working in it and it is to those concerns AND NO OTHERS that Nina addressed her comment.

        It would seem that some unfamiliar with the differences between the porn performer community and the surrounding population have weighed in here, demonstrating their misunderstanding of what she said and the subject to which she addressed herself.

        First, Olive, as a sex worker, I’d think you’d know a little more about the realities of different STDs than is evident from your post. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread by non-serum bodily fluids. Condoms are not effective against it as those fluids can be conveyed by any contaminated body part, or even a sex toy. Fingers, tongues and other areas of the body not covered by condoms can transmit Chlamydia just as they can herpes, MRSA, HPV an numerous other conditions spread by vectors other than blood, semen or pro-seminal fluid.

        And before you come after someone for saying something you might want to read what they actually said. Re gonorrhea Nna DID NOT say that condoms were ineffective against it. They are effective against gonorrhea and syphilis when used correctly because those are blood-borne pathogens present in ejaculate, which is what condoms block. As she points out correctly, they are not effective against herpes, HPV and other skin-to-skin spread conditions because they don’t cover all the real estate where those things exist. Condoms are most effective as contraceptives and if you read the box, that’s what the manufacturers tell you.

        There are no “digs” whatsoever in Nina’s post against condom use by the general public. She and I both advocate it for any partners whose health status is unknown, which includes everyone from dating couples to sex workers who work with that general public. That’s a completely false and quite ugly accusation and i invite you to prove it with an excerpt from Nina’s posted comments. If you can’t, I invite you to withdraw it.

        For the record, or for those whose reading comprehension skills need honing, here is what she actually said:

        “I wouldn’t suggest the general population abandon using condoms, though I do think testing for non-sex-workers is still an excellent idea and recommend it highly, if only for your own peace of mind.”

        Clear enough?

        And BTW, Olive, porn performers also have a much lower rate of STD infection than the population at large as a result of testing, so our system seems to work pretty well without condoms.

        IV use is rare among porn performers because it’s rare in the demographic from which they come. There are very few IV drug users in this part of the world and they don’t gravitate to porn for an obvious reason. Porn requires people to get naked on camera and if you’re shooting up, the camera will reveal it. Performers with tracks don’t get hired by producers and other performers won’t work with them. It’s a non-issue here. Drug use of other kinds is a more significant problem, but unrelated to STD in this context.

        You’re quite right that drug use has no correlation with any industry, but porn-bashers love to claim otherwise when attempting to portray performers as pathetic drug addicts who are driven into the industry by their addictions. That’s why it’s necessary to point out the very thing you say.

        You’re wrong again on the question of whether or not Cameron Bay had the option to use a condom in her scene at kink.com. Unfortunately, many companies don’t allow performers to make that choice and Nina and I agree that’s inexcusable. But kink.com DOES let performers decide. Had she chosen to she could have used a condom her scene there, as some others do. She chose not to. We have consistently maintained that all performers should always have that choice and that none should lose employment over whatever decision they make with their partners. We oppose denying employment to condom players and to non-condom players on the basis of their personal judgment, which we think should be honored.

        But more importantly, Cameron chose not to in her private life, which is where she contracted HIV from her primary partner. She did not pass the virus to anyone she worked with and after repeated re-testing, no other HIV infections have turned up in the het talent pool, which tests universally as opposed to the gay talent pool which relies on barriers rather than testing.

        During the dozen years het porn has relied on testing there have been exactly two verified instances of on-set HIV transmissions. During that same period in the gay porn industry here there have been 177 AIDS-related deaths. The numbers don’t argue for a change in the way we’re doing things now.

        I’m not concerned with the question of profitability. I’ve refused to direct for any company that doesn’t allow condom used since 1993 and I’ve sold plenty of videos. That’s not my issue. The companies I do work for sell into a market that clearly doesn’t have a problem with them. I do have an issue, a very big issue, with any attempt to compel us to produce this or that kind of content for the benefit of society. No other entertainment medium is subject to such obligations by law, nor should they be. Porn, other than the niche of adult sex education for which Nina and I have produced about forty titles, is not an educational medium. You don’t expect to take driving lessons from Vin Diesel when you go to the movies and you have no reason to expect porn performers to teach you how to have responsible sex. It’s not our job and The First Amendment forbids attempts to legally compel speech in this country, just as sit forbids censorship. They’re two sides of the same kind, The argument that we’re morally obligated to make condom commercials as entertainment produces is odious.

        And you’re certainly no one to instruct the public on sexual hygiene if you think that barrier protected sex with someone whose immune status is unknown is safer than sex with an uninfected partner. Access to testing of the kind we use is prohibitively expensive for most people, but most people don’t make their livings fucking so they don’t need that level of constant and extensive testing. However, basic testing is available at little or no cost to nearly everyone in this country and even our adversaries at AHF offer it and urge everyone to use it. I would suggest that for those who test minimally, condoms are certainly a wise precaution, but they don’t guarantee anything anymore than testing guarantees anything. Condoms can and do leak, break, roll off and otherwise fail with some regularity even for ordinary folks and relying on them as a sole means of protection can’t be termed safe. Sorry, however Un-PC that is, it happens to be a medical fact. Ask your doctor the same question Nina posed and see what answer you get.

        Nina’s post is not anti-condom. Nina is not anti-condom. I’m not anit-condom. Maybe you should actually read what’s on the screen instead of reading into it.

        To Michael, I have a different answer. Sex within a relationship is very different from sex on a porn set. Sero-discordant relationships are not comparable to single encounters on porn sets that require two hours worth of position changes, lighting adjustments, multiple partners and other physical factors that reduce the effectiveness of barrier protections. Having shot as much condom footage as any non-gay director in the business, I have to say that the failure rate for condoms in shooting is about 30%, double that of condoms used in ordinary situations. It’s an apples and oranges comparison. That’s not a myth. That’s an empirical fact based on observation and other directors who work with condoms will back it up, which is one reason why I think the gay side of the industry, whether or not it wants to continue using condoms, still needs to test.

        And in the same way I don’t care about the money, and don’t care about someone else’s idea of what kind of behavior we should be modeling for the public, I don’t care if you believe that our refusal to work with HIV+ partners for pay is somehow stigmatize to those who choose to do so in their private lives.

        How about this? We don’t tell you how to protect yourself in your private lives and you don’t tell us how to protect ourselves on the job?

        Clearly, from the comments I’ve read here, no one knows enough about anyone else’s circumstances to be making such decisions on their behalf. That’s why we oppose and will continue to oppose attempts to compel us to adopt protocols unsuited to our unique situations.

  5. Michael Kurt says

    “If you knew you were HIV-, would you knowingly have intercourse with someone who is HIV+, condom or no? Anyone who honestly answers yes to that question has a very different notion of safe behavior from mine. I prefer to know that anyone I have sex with has been tested with the best available methods and carries no communicable disease. In fact, I accept no less for either work or play. I see a current test or intercourse doesn’t happen.”

    I was enjoying this article until I got to the section quoted above. I am involved in my third long-term sero-discordant relationship: 5 years, 10 years, and 1 1/2 years and counting. All three partners remain HIV-. With this statement, Ms. Hartley perpetuates a myth she purports to debunk, and also perpetuates the stigmatization of HIV+ individuals.

    • Ernest Greene says

      The situations of committed zero-discordant partners and porn performers who work with different partners every day are not comparable and to conflate them is illogical.

      Likewise, there are differences between casual sexual encounters and long-term relationships that it’s only sensible to consider when contemplating sex with someone new.

      It stigmatizes no one to recognize that there are differing levels of risk in differing types of sexual associations.

  6. Pete says

    I learned a lot from reading this article and appreciate all of the thought that went into it. The manufactured debate about condom use in the adult film industry reminds me of the manufactured fear around anthropogenic global warming. In both cases, we are soothed by commercial media into believing that the well-funded interest groups involved are motivated solely by philanthropy.

    I find myself longing for the days of my youth when lust was untainted by encyclopaedic medical knowledge of pathogens and hygiene.

  7. Fauna Franchesca says

    I’ve been reading all I can about this, as I’m interested in working as an adult performer. I found it strange (and hope to god the general public will be so discerning) that my search on HIV and porn only came up with pro-Measure B slanted articles, and very little voice from the performers. One article even stated they’d talked to “many” performers who were against Measure B, but only gave a short quote from Nina Hartley as evidence. They didn’t link to any commentary from performers (except for Cameron Bay, of course).

    To represent the argument against Measure B, they focused on the unappealing argument from directors that they would lose money if condoms were used. Ms. Hartley is right, what lack of judgement induced them to use that as their main argument? They really should have encouraged and assisted the performers to make their perspective known.

    • Ernest Greene says

      Nothing strange about it. AHF has a hundred million bucks a year to play with and is well-connected in mainstream media. They pound their message into everyone’s heads 24/7. When challenged anywhere, such as on newsblogs like HuffPo, the send forth their surrogates to spout the party line and defame all who oppose it. In short, they get the best press money can buy.

      Performers have been speaking up. They turned out in great numbers for the big Cal-OSHA public meeting down here last year and, not surprisingly, spoke out overwhelmingly and passionately against Measure B. The newly-formed organization Adult Performer Advocacy committee has made opposition to mandatory condoms (and acceptance of voluntary condom use) cornerstones of its philosophy. The problem is that frauds like Shelley Lubben play to the prejudices of people who don’t know anything about porn and therefore tend to butt to the head of the line when soundbites are given out. Also, some big “news” organizations, like ABC, have clearly taken a side on this thing and slant their coverage AHF’s direction.

      However, this issue will ultimately be decided in a court of law and not the court of public opinion and AHF’s record in front of judges conveys no bragging rights. I think they’re about to get kicked down the steps by the federal bench here, but we’ll see soon.

      Meantime, I couldn’t agree more that the campaign against Measure B was terribly misguided and mishandled. Performers’s choice and performers’ safety should have been out in front from the beginning. Arguments pitting financial considerations against people’s health, which is very much how it looked during the election, are very foolish, especially here. Los Angeles is overwhelmingly Democratic, liberal, pro-labor and sympathetic to regulation. Running a right-wing libertarian campaign focusing on the economic consequences of Measure B was an inexcusable mistake demonstrating just how far removed the bigger players in porn are from the community in which they live. The also failed to challenge the petitioning process that put Measure B on the ballot in the first place, which was ridden with deceptions and violations of campaign regulations.

      In short, AHF didn’t so much win that contest as the “leadership” of the porn industry handed it to them. After three decades in the porn business I’m still amazed at the general lack of competence prevailing in the big offices. This should have been a no-brainer, but I guess it took more brains than were available to do the job.

      I hope they learn something from this experience, but I don’t count on it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Why not just use condoms? Unfortunately, condoms aren’t perfect. They break. In the shoots that can take several hours, they can cause abrasions known as “condom rash,” which, paradoxically, can make it easier to transmit an infection if one does break. For this and a host of other reasons, performers generally prefer to rely on the testing system over condoms. You can read more about that here. […]

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