“Business Before Pleasure?”

Should porn performers enjoy the same workplace protections as other Americans? Matt Siegel raises the issue for The Advocate (8/12/09):

Business Before Pleasure?

…Tony Malice of JM Productions, a straight porn production company, says the business isn’t really set up for performers who refuse to work on camera without a condom: “If a girl only wants to work with a condom, she can seek out that work … same for men. But it will be much less work…”

The use of condoms on gay porn sets makes the issue of HIV status a moot point to some producers, enabling a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But rumored government regulations mandating that all California-based porn studios test its performers has studio heads running scared.

Though there are no scientific statistics, there is a quiet acknowledgment among adult industry professionals that a significant number of gay male porn performers are HIV-positive. A survey conducted by of nearly 100 gay male performers says 30% of them responded as being either HIV-positive or status unknown.

Mandatory testing of gay porn stars would all but bar HIV-positive performers from appearing in films…

Stephan Sirard of is one of the very few studio heads who requires condoms and monthly testing for all: straight or gay, male or female, for partnered or solo scenes.

“Condoms break. Condoms come off. And with testing there are window periods. Combine both for best practices. Studios that don’t use condoms and don’t test should be in court for murder,” Sirard says.

According to a report from the Los Angeles County health department, between 2004 and 2008, nearly 2,000 porn performers contracted almost 3,000 cases of various STDs. That said, the county department recommends but does not require condom use on porn sets.

“Right now it’s the policy of the county of Los Angeles and the state of California to look the other way,” says the president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein.

The AIDS group is currently suing the department in an effort to make it require condom use…

California Occupational Safety and Health is responsible for enforcing state laws and regulations such as the blood-borne pathogen standard, which requires employers to protect workers exposed to blood or bodily fluids on the job…

See also:

Hampden Superior Court Lets Capital Video Reopen Viewing Booths in Springfield; A Proposed Solution (9/30/08)
How much does Capital Video care about the health of its customers? A search of the term barebacking on its website today brings up the following and more:

Bisexual Barebacking #6
Barebacking Tag Team
Unsafe Sex with Transsexuals Barebacking #2
Raw Bois #3 – A Twink Barebacking Adventure
Adventures in Barebacking

The title below was prominently on display at an store in Massachusetts on September 28. The character at the bottom of the box cover says, “Go Forth And Be Unsafe My Son!”

Los Angeles Times: “Groups to file complaints against 16 porn companies” (8/20/09)
The [AIDS Healthcare Foundation] sued Los Angeles County last month alleging that public health officials had failed to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and to enforce laws requiring employers to protect workers against exposure to bodily fluids. The suit was filed after the disclosure that an adult-film performer had tested positive for HIV…

Cal/OSHA officials declined to comment because the complaints have not yet been filed. They said they continue their own investigation into the most recent HIV case, as well as 18 additional HIV cases since 2004 reported to them by the Southland porn industry’s primary health clinic. The state has subpoenaed patient records, but that access is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has alleged a violation of patient privacy…

Former adult film performer Shelly Lubben, founder of the Pink Cross Foundation, said she contracted herpes and became infected with the human papillomavirus, or HPV, while working in the industry and had to have half of her cervix removed.

“…It’s illegal for bodily fluids to touch skin, and yet it happens every single day in the porn industry.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation: “Tell Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky that LA County Must Enforce Condom Use in Adult Films!” (8/31/09)
In a written legal response to AHF’s lawsuit, the County showed its complete disregard for the well-being of young people who working in the porn industry and who are continuously threatened with STD and HIV infections. County lawyers wrote, “…the adult film industry employs approximately 1,200 adult film performers at any given time. The population of Los Angeles County is approximately 9,850,000. Thus, AHF is seeking that the County be compelled to take certain actions in regard to less than .01% of the population….Plainly, the public need here is minimal.”

You can be absolutely certain that if 1,200 Los Angeles firefighters, nurses or schoolchildren came down will other illnesses or infections, government health officials and politicians like Yaroslavsky would be scrambling to speaking out—and resolve—the public health threat in a heartbeat.

There is no firewall between porn actors and the general public—many performers have sex with people outside the industry, including boyfriends, girlfriends, casual partners and those who may pay them for sex.

Ex-Porn Star Shelley Lubben Talks about Days on the Set: Tedious, Intoxicated, Painful, Risky
…At the time I caught herpes, I had no help and no one to help me deal with the disease. But since AIM came on the scene, the organization has lowered some of the spread of HIV in the adult industry, and has certainly increased awareness among performers. But the truth remains, porn actors continue to risk their lives and the lives of others. Nothing is more devastating than to receive a positive test for a sexually transmitted disease. For me, it was the final blow.

Condom Use Below 20% in American Porn Movies
“In any sexual interaction where condoms are used, consumers tend to drift from that,” said Graham Travis, head of production at Elegant Angel Video, a production company that turns out as many as eight new releases a month. “What the consumers want to see is performers without condoms, something that’s as real and intimate as possible…”

Sharon Mitchell, a former adult-film actress who earned a Ph.D. in human sexuality before co-founding the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, said on Monday that condom use in the industry had gone up after the H.I.V. outbreak to 23 percent from 17 percent and that it was now back to about 17.5 percent.

Los Angeles Times: “In California’s Unregulated Porn Film Industry, an Alarming Number of Performers Are Infected With HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. And Nobody Seems to Care.”
The Adult Industry Medical HealthCare Foundation (AIM), an industry-backed clinic in Sherman Oaks, administered voluntary tests to a group consisting primarily of adult film workers. Of 483 people tested between October 2001 and March 2002, about 40% had at least one disease. Nearly 17% tested positive for chlamydia, 13% for gonorrhea and 10% for hepatitis B and C, according to Sharon Mitchell, a former adult actress who founded AIM…

For chlamydia, 101,871 cases were reported for the year [in California as a whole], or about three-tenths of 1%–a rate health officials consider epidemic. The chlamydia rates in the porn world are about 57 times higher than those epidemic proportions…

Types of Porn and Their Occupational Safety Risks (explicit)
The list of STDS on the AIM handout includes: “HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphillis, Hepatitis, A,B,C, Herpes, Genital Warts, Molluscum Contagiosum, Crabs, Trichomonis, Bacterial Vaginosis, Rectal Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, Gonorrhea of the throat.”

Penn State Law Professors Trot Out ‘Female Porn Leaders’ to Whitewash Realities of Adult Industry (explicit language)
As D.A. Clarke wrote in Christine Sparks and Rebecca Whisnant’s anthology Not for Sale, most porn performers work under conditions more akin to sweatshop labor than to professional-level jobs. Sex workers receive very little of the profits made from their bodies; they have no social standing, no health care benefits, heightened risk for STDs and addictions, and little protection against sexual harassment and violence.

Martin Amis: “A rough trade”
“I have herpes,” said [porn actress] Chloe as she drove me to a smoker-friendly bar. “After you’ve been in this business for a while, you have herpes. Everyone has herpes…. My movies are all-condom, but condoms won’t protect you from herpes. They don’t cover the base. Sometimes when you’re doing girl-girl you’ll say, ‘Honey, I think you should go and see someone.’ It can be a very stinky scene down there….”

All employers must comply with OSHA regulations on working with/cleaning up certain bodily fluids. Report non-compliant adult enterprises to OSHA.
The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard [link added] covers employees exposed to bodily fluids including blood and semen. Some of the sections of this standard require the employer to develop a written exposure control plan, offer exposed employees the hepatitis B vaccination series, provide personal protective equipment (gloves, etc.) and provide training to employees.

You can make an anonymous complaint to a federal OSHA office [link added]…

2004: Cal/OSHA issues citations to adult film companies for failing to protect employees from health hazards
SAN FRANCISCO – Cal/OSHA, the state’s occupational safety and health program, yesterday issued its first-ever citations to employers in the adult film industry. Two employers, Evasive Angles and TTB Productions, each received citations totaling $30,560 for violations of health and safety regulations related to the exposure of three employees to HIV.

“Employers in the adult film industry must know how to protect their employees from health and safety hazards and understand the consequences of failing to comply with state regulations,” said Vicky Heza, Cal/OSHA’s deputy chief of enforcement.

Both companies are based in Van Nuys and both company names appear on the credits for the motion picture production during which some employees contracted HIV. It’s unclear at this point which company employed the workers who were exposed.

Evasive Angles and TTB Productions received citations for failing to comply with the state’s bloodborne pathogen standard, failing to report a serious work related illness to Cal/OSHA, and for failing to prepare and follow a written safety and health program, known as an injury and illness prevention program. The citations for failing to comply with the bloodborne pathogens standard and failing to report a serious illness carried the maximum penalties–$25,000 and $5,000 respectively.

Porn Worker Conditions: “Who failed Lara Roxx?” (explicit language)
Lara Roxx (aka Laura Roxx, Lana Roxx and Lara Coxx), who began her career in porn three months ago, has HIV…

There is nobody (with legal authority, at least) even to say to the industry, “You idiots. Start using condoms at the very least…”

Workplace Regulations for Porn Performers: A Dialogue with Renegade Evolution
Even Carol Queen, sex-positive heroine, thinks it’s time for hetero porn to put on a condom:
As good a job as porn has tried to do in preventing its No. 1 occupational hazard, it falls short for a reason that should be instructive to everyone. Its antipathy to condoms puts performers at risk, pure and simple.

Extremely risky acts are safer when condoms are correctly used. To porn fans for whom the sight of a condom is pleasure-squelching, I say: Get used to it. The (heterosexual) adult industry has for 20 years shirked an opportunity to help normalize condom use. This doesn’t just put its own talent at risk. It puts viewers and their partners at risk as well.

Sexual Ecology: Porn, Promiscuity, and AIDS (explicit language)
Rotello observes that all infectious diseases are ecological. The human behavioral environment is as important a factor as the biological properties of the virus. Variations in technology and culture explain why the same virus will remain rare in one population but start an epidemic in another…

Today’s mainstream heterosexual porn similarly promotes rates of partner change (“50 Guy Cream Pie”) that are far beyond what any society has considered sustainable for sexual health. The one community that adopted this porn myth on a massive scale–gay men in developed countries–was hit with a devastating epidemic within a generation. Nonetheless, porn continues to hold out extreme promiscuity as the universal and natural state of male sexuality, so central to male identity that critical analysis of its historical and ecological contexts is taboo…

Porn films reverse the status equation that Rotello sees as necessary for ecological survival. Monogamy is mocked as stifling or impossible. Unprotected sex with alarming rates of partner change is the ideal. Now that women as well as men consider it acceptable, even cool, to enjoy porn, will the widespread acceptance of porn myths produce a heterosexual STD epidemic to rival AIDS? Rotello’s important book challenges us to treat ourselves, our partners and our sexual ecosystem with more respect if we want to survive.

Porn: A Deadly Occupation
RAME, “the official website of rec.arts.movies.erotica”, keeps track of porn stars who have died. Here are many of the performers from their list