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Condom Wars: Porn performers seeking choice - By - June 10, 2015 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Condom Wars: Porn performers seeking choice

Dozens of doctors, dominatrixes, porn stars, and lawyers flocked to a public hearing in San Diego late last month to speak out against proposed Cal/OSHA regulations that could require condoms, dental dams, and even goggles on all porn sets in California.

Along with testimonies from performers who would be affected by the regulations, advocates had a long list of recommendations on how the workers would like to see Cal/OSHA's standards on blood-borne pathogens amended to protect them while on the job.

“We're here to present amended regulations that make sense for performers and are based in reality, rather than stigma,” San Francisco director/performer Maitresse Madeline Marlowe told the Free Speech Coalition (the adult industry's trade association) shortly after the San Diego hearing May 21.

Assembly Bill 1576, which would have put similar regulations on the adult industry, was defeated in the state Senate in August 2014 after fierce opposition from those who would be most affected by the law: porn performers themselves, who traveled to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to dismiss the bill.

But Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who backed both AB 1576 and Measure B, Los Angeles County's condom mandate that became a law in 2013, seems to never tire in his quest to become what the Free Speech Coalition calls “a state-subsidized porn czar.” Weinstein's recent recommendations include a scheme in which state taxpayers would pay him to watch porn, so he can be extra sure that each and every production complies with his standards.

While the industry has come out in droves to oppose his efforts, performers are certainly not anti-condom. Many choose to use condoms when they shoot, and even giant studios like Wicked Pictures are using condoms on all its sets.

Still, many performers, myself included, want more than one option.

I have shot scenes with condoms and without, and like many other performers, I often choose to shoot sans condoms for scenes that include prolonged rough sex. I've found that, particularly for scenes where I am on the receiving end of vigorous anal sex, I prefer to shoot without condoms to minimize discomfort and possible tearing in that delicate area.

Instead, I use the industry-regulated Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS), which administers comprehensive STI testing for porn talent. Performers who test negative for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are available to shoot for up to 14 days. PASS, which has prevented on-set transmission of HIV from occurring since 2004, was outlined in the list of recommendations presented to Cal/OSHA by the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and its supporters, including the ACLU and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

New PreP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs, like Truvada, are another option I've considered, as someone who has chosen to have sex for a living. It's a once-a-day pill with minimal side effects (dry mouth, upset tummy) that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by more than 90 percent.

“Condoms slip off. Condoms rip. And they get stuck inside. They aren't built to withstand our shoots,” porn legend and registered nurse Nina Hartley told The Huffington Post in 2013.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy recommend combinations of prevention methods to reduce transmission of HIV, yet the proposed Cal/OSHA standards rely on only one.

Weinstein insists his crusade is about making the industry safer for workers. And yet he rejects both the comprehensive testing practices that have proven to reduce the transmission of HIV within the industry and the PrEP medication that Weinstein has referred to as nothing more than a “party drug.”

It seems misguided, and honestly, a little creepy, that the founder of an AIDS advocacy organization has so obsessively focused his efforts on the adult industry, which has had zero on-set transmissions in over a decade. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that every nine and a half minutes someone is infected with HIV, resulting in an estimated 56,000 new infections every year domestically. The percentage of these transmissions that occur within the adult film industry is negligible.

From an epidemiological standpoint, it's absurd that the AHF has poured so much money into lawsuits and lobbying against porn, rather than focusing on populations with far higher rates of transmission that are in desperate need of those resources.