Thursday, June 18, 2009

New info about HIV and porn - and a call to action.

The LA County Department of Health has released new data about the 16 (now 18) "unreported cases of HIV". Apparently, they don't know if they were actually performers in the adult industry. They only know that the people were tested at AIM.

Mitchell said all previously unpublicized cases involved either a non-performer or an aspiring actor or actress who tested positive, then dropped out of the business.

She said the female actress who tested positive for HIV at their clinic earlier this month remains the only case detected in a working performer since 2004. At that time, a male porn star and three actresses with whom he had performed all tested HIV positive. An unrelated transsexual performer also tested HIV positive the same year. The cases shut down production in Southern California's multibillion-dollar porn industry for a month.


LA Times Article

Darren James
(the performer who turned up positive in 2004) has spoken out about condom use in porn - and why he thinks that condoms are a must. After his diagnosis, he went through some very difficult times, including a suicide attempt.

AIM has asked that the industry not accept any copies of tests, only originals and has changed the database in hopes of reducing the possibility of people performing with out of date tests.

Frankly, although it's great to see AIM taking these steps, they aren't ultimately responsible. The producers are responsible. A copy of a test isn't good enough. It's easy to alter a copy. The fact that they need to inform folks that copies aren't acceptable concerns me greatly. What the hell? Performer's lives at stake.

The testing that AIM performs is a critical part of preventing the transmission of disease in the porn industry. And, frankly, the industry's self regulation has resulted in an impressively low rate of transmission. But it's not good enough.

Condoms must be mandatory.

The fact that condoms are not mandatory speaks volumes about how our culture thinks about people who work in the sex industry. Pornography is one of the biggest industries in the United States. Our culture has a voracious appetite for the product. But most are perfectly happy to watch condom free porn and not think once about the consequences to the performers. There is a general level of disrespect toward performers that just doesn't make sense to me. You wouldn't want someone you care about performing condom free. So why is it ok for someone we don't know? People who perform in porn are working adults. Just like you and me. And they deserve to work in conditions that are as safe as possible.

I've certainly heard the argument that porn with condoms doesn't sell - I don't believe it. I've never seen any data to back that up. I know that the clients in the stores in which I've worked (Sugar and Babeland) aren't the core of the porn market, but I have never, ever been asked for porn without condoms. I have (rarely) been asked for porn with condoms.

As consumers, if we got together, we could demand that the industry change their rules. After all, it's a business. What sells, what the consumer wants, shapes the product.

Anyone with me?

4 comments:

Audacia Ray said...

Cheers to that. What do you think are the best next steps to put pressure on producers to step up and be responsible?

Do you think government mandating condom use in porn is a good idea? I'm a little on the fence about this and generally feel uncomfortable with government legislating sexual behavior, but I'm unconvinced that porn producers will step up.

Ell said...

Yes on the use condoms but I struggle with the figures and claims - how can an industry that relies on a "talent pool" of around 1500 be "one of the biggest industries in the United States." Bigger than what? Bigger than corn production, bigger than cheese production, bigger than sport fishing? I've yet to see reliable information on the size of the industry.

Jacq Jonese said...

@Ell - you're right it's hard to get an handle on exactly how large the porn industry is. And I did mis-speak (mis-type?) - it's one of the biggest entertainment industries in the US. But pinning down the actual number is almost impossible. These companies aren't publicly traded. The numbers vary from over a billion in annual revenue to 13 billion. Below are some links so that you can decide for yourself. The first link is old, but from a very reliable source and indicates that the numbers are inflated. The next link argues the opposite. I'd hazard a guess that the real truth is somewhere in the middle.
www.forbes.com/2001/05/25/0524porn.html

www.freespeechonline.org/webdocs/IndustryReport.06.v.pdf
(please note this is a report from a nonprofit that works to support the adult entertainment industry)

the average adult video from a mainstream het company costs around $30,000 to produce (marketing and packaging costs not included) - each DVD then retails for $30-75.

and - to answer your question - compared to the farm industry, the porn industry is tiny (1 to 12 billion vs 297 billion) but compared to other entertainment industries like football ($7 billion) or baseball ($6 billion) porn is right up there (if you go in the middle on the estimates)

Jacq Jonese said...

@Audacia Ray - Personally, I'd like to see the industry do it on their own. But I'm not sure why. Part of me thinks that OSHA should do it, because why should sex workers be treated differently than other workers?

I've been thinking about what would work to get the producers' attention - and make a change. And I'm still thinking. I have a couple of things rattling around in my brain, but nothing solid.

Do you have any brilliant ideas?