PVV – thinking about syphilis

The title of this bit is ironic because, you know, thinking actually/supposedly becomes impossible as syphilis advances in the human body.

Ironic. Or is it?

Lately, this whole syphilis thing has been happening. But, given my perspective as a sociologist and my space within the context of humanity, rather than talking, I’ve been doing a whole lot of observing and waiting for patterns and trends based on substantiated facts to emerge. And now, after many days of what can only be described as panicked chaos, here are some thoughts…

 

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial STI. It’s passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages (within on year of infection) with a single intramuscular injection of the antibiotic penicillin. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year. For people who are allergic to penicillin, other treatments are available.

The CDC says all this and more about syphilis here. Given that I am not an MD, a doctoral level researcher specializing syphilis and/or a syphilis-related area, or a qualified healthcare professional, I cannot speak to ways and means of the infection beyond these CDC statements. All questions about syphilis (and STIs in general) should be directed towards a physician – not a lab tech, not the internet, not an “anonymous healthcare professional,” but a reputable physician you can interact with directly.

 

Mr. Marcus

Mr. Marcus is an adult performer with almost 20 years worth of professional experience in the porn industry. Any personal tiffs aside, to my understanding, Mr. Marcus has always been regarded as a respectable member of the community. (Mr. Marcus’ IAFD listing here)

Until now…

Regardless of endless amounts of speculation, this seems to be fact: Mr. Marcus knowingly altered STI test results showing he had syphilis and then proceeded to perform in work-related sex scenes. He has since publicly identified himself and apologized for his egregious behavior.

Reactions to and speculations surrounding just about every other detail associated with this situation beyond these few logistical facts are seemingly endless – anything from “How dare he?!!” to “He will never work again!!” to “He is just a pawn in a larger plot…” to “What would compel someone with his experience and reputation to do such an evil thing?”

You can read some of these additional details and reactions via the links below:

AVN – “Mr. Marcus Comes Clean on Syphilis Incident” here

XBiz – “Syphilis-Positive Porn Performer Mr. Marcus Apologizes, Admits to Altered Test” here

Jacky St. James – “Things Mr. Marcus Should Be Held Financially Responsible For” here

News One – “Mr. Marcus Allegedly Admits To Starting Syphilis Scare And Lying About Positive Test Results” here

(there are at least one million others at this point though)

 

Responses: TTS, APHSS, and FSC

Mr. Marcus’ positive test – the one that he altered – came from a Talent Testing Services (TTS) lab.

Lately, TTS has been embroiled in a battle of wills over Adult Performer Testing Rights. On the other end of this battle is APHSS and, ultimately, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC). Basically:

One of the many criteria needed to be a member/partner/preferred service provider within the APHSS system is having a physician on staff. TTS doesn’t have a physician on staff, thus they are not an APHSS partner. At one point, because many performers prefer testing at TTS, APHSS and TTS attempted to find a common ground – having TTS provide performers’ “cleared” or “not cleared” data to the APHSS database. For a second, this seemed like it was going to work; but eventually, it ended up not.

(there are endless speculations attempting to ascertain why this relationship didn’t last; the relevant fact here though is that it didn’t)

Additional important points:

– TTS tests for syphilis as part of its standard panel of procedures: nothing extra to ask for, nothing extra to pay for.

I do not know where Marcus generally opted to test. It easily could have been at a TTS facility. It is not surprising though that, if the details of his syphilis infection are as he claims (see AVN and XBiz links above), he would have tested at a TTS facility immediately following the treatment course prescribed by his personal physician. Perhaps he wanted to see if syphilis was still present in his system without drawing attention to himself? I offer this speculation because…

Although they are now beginning to include it, Cutting Edge Testing (CET) – an APHSS partnered service provider in the Los Angeles area – did not test for syphilis as part of its standard panel of procedures. In fact, unless a special request was made, CET only tested for syphilis as part of an STI panel test during two months out of a year. (those “Syphilis Month” events may have cost extra too, I don’t know)

It is my understanding that, given the STI’s long incubation period, testing for syphilis every six months was some sort of maximum efficiency standard (most cases caught, least amount of tests done) set forth by health officials outside the adult industry (thus, technically reputable but definitely uninformed and disconnected from this specific community). I would assume that these standards, like most health and safety standards shaping our wider culture and sexual behavior, were NOT developed with the needs of adult performers (or even a working knowledge of the adult community) in mind.

– TTS is a lab only.

TTS facilities have no patient care provision services, nor do they have any plan in place to contain and control infections in the case of performer exposure.

APHSS is a system that has striven to correct problems embedded in the now shuttered AIM system: patient care, STI infection “outbreak” management, and protection of performers’ privacy. (privacy was a major hole in the AIM system)

Consequently, when Marcus was found by TTS to have syphilis… well, that was it. He was informed he had syphilis. No action was taken beyond that. Additional action is not part of TTS.

Rumors and allegations about syphilis (and Mr. Marcus), however, burned like wildfire through the adult community… especially after two performers made this statement to AVN. A handful of production companies stopped shooting on the basis of these rumors and allegations alone.

Many people also immediately began blasting APHSS and the FSC – why didn’t they call a production moratorium? Why weren’t they doooooing something???!!!!

Well, because legally they couldn’t. Not until the then-alleged performer came to an APHSS partnered service provider with his private protected medical information. When that person (Mr. Marcus) did, steps within the system were taken.

 

Handling the situation: shots and Manwin

You can read much about APHSS’ strategy for handling this situation here and here, but basically: performers were/are to get a prophylactic shot of penicillin (provisions for free shots were made, though performers could also go to their doctor of choice) or wait out syphilis’ 90-day incubation period before returning to work.

The world exploded.

Many performers quietly went and got treated just in case, others grumbled on their way to the clinic, and many people offered up all sorts of questions and concerns: why take medications unnecessarily, what will this do to antibiotics’ effectiveness in general, what do I do if I’m allergic to penicillin, you can’t tell me what to do (!!!!!!), and I am not doing anything or participating in any system supported or funded by Manwin!!

Complicated.

The Manwin critique is, in my opinion, the most compelling. It is absolutely no secret that I have no love for the thieving entity that it PiracyWin. Manwin has managed to level the adult industry in a way that many would have thought impossible a few years ago, apparently with no conscience or regard.

But lately, Manwin has been… doing things. Things like being a major contributor to the performer subsidy fund (here), donating an Aptima machine to CET (here), and putting up a lot of money to pay for these shots. Whaaaat??? Why Manwin, why so nice now!!? And why the hell should anyone trust you or the group you are feeding money and resources to (read: APHSS)?

Here’s the thing… In my research of social movements and rights expansion (which is beyond extensive and rigorous), persons and entities reallocate power, resources, rights, funds, etc for many reasons. They could just be being nice, they could be being forced (like, in the instance of their power being taken away, a paradigm shift, or a structural change), and/or they could be doing it for strategic development purposes. Since no one seems to be taking any of Manwin’s power away anytime soon, this series of moves must be purely nice, strategic, or both.

Maybe Manwin woke up one day and realized: “Everybody hates me. No one talks to me because they want to be my friend, they just don’t want to lose their asses in my next buyout. I’m lonely, and I’m sad.” I’ve seen enough mean girls-type movies to know… it could totally happen!!

So maybe Manwin has realized the damage they’ve done and is trying to give back? Or maybe they really care about performers? Or maybe Manwin is trying to help for strategic purposes..? Because if there are no performers, Manwin can’t work. And if there’s no adult industry (due to external regulations, for example), then Manwin can’t work either.

In a nutshell, if the industry gets shut down, then so does Manwin.

I am willing to entertain the idea that Manwin’s new community benevolence leaf may be a little of both (craft and care), though I am inclined to believe it’s all strategic. The main point though is – who cares?

Who cares?!!

Would it be better if there was no APHSS equipped the best possible STI testing resources? Would it be better if APHSS wasn’t there trying to work out the kinks that were present in the AIM system while offering performers as many choices as humanly possible and still maintaining some form of consistency and cohesion? Would it be better if Mr. Marcus’ test was just sitting a file somewhere? Would it be better if there were no prophylactic treatments available for people who choose to take them? Would the adult industry be better without a centralized system, supported by Manwin or not?

The answer is no.

Everyone has the right to their own choices and lives and explorations, yes. But without a centralized system that monitors performer health and a community that is fully committed to said system, there will cease to be an adult industry wherein people have the opportunity to engage some of those choices and explorations.

And it’s not fair – it’s not fair that performers have to be monitored in this way, but it is a necessary part of the occupation and series of risks performers choose within the context of our society today. Performers must be protected, the risks that come along with their occupation must be mitigated, and the entire industry must be invested in this endeavor.

Because guess what? The adult industry has much bigger problems in its face right now. In no way shape or form am I trying to minimize the amount of stress performers must currently be going through, but everyone in the adult industry is going through syphilis-stress… from the performs who need to work to the thousands of other folks who may not be in front of the camera but need to work just as badly. Their livelihoods have been put on hold, too.

Classic tools of war and destruction always include dividing and concurring. The adult industry is pretty much divided at the moment (thanks greed, politics, and community in-fighting!! thanks clueless, over-reaching outside entities!!), and it is so about to be conquered.

So in the words of Danny Wylde, a performer who seems to be focusing on the bigger picture:

APHSS – however corrupt and politically-motivated you may believe it to be – is THE ONLY system actively working to ensure adult performer safety. I have been approached numerous times within the past two years to be a part of organizations that aimed to provided benefits to performers such as healthcare and community outreach programs. None of them were able to get past a few meetings. Because it requires a lot of hard work and a tremendous amount of resources. Very well-meaning people give up because it seems like an impossible fight.

I will be the first to admit that I have neither the time, resources, nor desire to dedicate my life to such a noble cause. But I will support an organization that’s doing its best. Especially when it’s THE ONLY one trying to help.

So my plea to our industry is this: be realistic. Politics invade every form of regulation. And where money is involved, I’m sure that no one is working out of the goodness of their heart. But the alternative to working within our system is abandoning it. If that is your solution because you hate Manwin or don’t trust FSC, then “Fuck you.” Go do something else. If you think there’s a massive problem with our current system, come up with a well-researched alternative and present it to our community. You can make your case through any one of our media outlets and I guarantee you it will catch on if you back it up.

The bigger picture is, in my view and at the moment, what every member of the adult community must be focused on.

Did I miss anything? Let me know!!

 

PS and FYI: I am a sociologist. I study gender, work, organizations, and social movements (among other things). I am also a human being with a subjectivity that is shaped (in part) by a deep commitment to social justice and autonomy for all persons. I am not a lawyer, physician, public health official, sexologist, psychologist, or any other sort of “X-ist.”

I offer these statements as some form of clarification regarding where I am coming from, nothing more.

 

* * *

Like what you see? Follow PVV on Facebook and Twitter and/or follow Dr. Chauntelle at @DrChauntelle!!

You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”

PVVOnline – Critical Commentary on Adult Production