PVV – mandatory condom use in porn?! (part 1)

On Tuesday June 29, 2010, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and a group of adult film industry representatives will attend a California Occupational Safety and Health Advisory (Cal-OSHA) meeting to discuss bloodborne pathogen regulations (read: condom use) in porn.

Oh condom use in adult films, what a complicated and tricky issue you are…

Now, as a person who reached sexual maturity (whatever that means) in the 1990s, I know that condom use is the most effective way to protect oneself from bloodbourne STIs. However, as an eminent pornologist, I also know that state-mandated condom use in adult films is a very bad idea. Umm…what?! you may ask. Let me explain.

As early as 1993, industry insiders and producers began working to protect talent from STI and HIV infection; and condoms began to appear in major productions during the mid-1990s. Then, in 1998, after a long-time talent Marc Wallice falsified an HIV test, performed condomless in several scenes, and infected at least three women he worked with, industry leaders took steps to formalize protection of both the business and its talent.

First, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) initiated establishment of the non-profit health care organization Adult Industry Medical (AIM). The way it works today is like this: AIM maintains a database that allows producers to confirm that talent are HIV/STI free. In order to make sure statuses are up to date and accurate, talent must get tested by AIM every 28 days (only tests from AIM are acceptable). Put simply, talent cannot –and do not— work in the adult film industry without documentation of negative HIV/STI status from AIM.

This system is incredibly effective and has even been praised by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). How effective? you ask. Well, since the Marc Wallice awfulness in 1998, only two active talent have tested positive for HIV. Let me say that again: only two active talent have tested positive for HIV in 12 years – Darren James in 2004 and “Patient Zero” in 2009.

And just because it’s so aggravating, a quick note about “Patient Zero.” A media firestorm erupted on June 12, 2009 when the LA Times reported that 16 (16!!) unpublicized/unreported HIV positive talent were working in the adult film industry. Now, this would understandably be cause for freak out if it had been true, which of course it was not. In fact, the LA Times retracted the story on June 17, 2009, stating the LA County Department of Health’s inaccurate analysis and reporting were responsible for their subsequent inaccurate analysis and reporting.

This is what really happened: only one woman –“Patient Zero”– tested positive, and she and those she worked with were promptly quarantined (I imagine this is where the amount 16 came from). Thus, due to AIM’s regular and rigorous testing mandates, no additional talent were infected. But do you ever read about that? Of course not. In fact, people still report on this set of circumstances as a 16-case outbreak in spite of the fact that the LA Times retracted the story almost immediately!! Argh!!

But back to AIM and testing… Now, most certainly, some people looking to become talent have a little something something before they ever get to Porn Valley; however, before any new person shoots even one single scene, they must be tested by AIM. Consequently, the vast majority of infections are caught before they are ever even introduced into the talent population.

Let me put it another way: HIV incidence (new cases) in the general US population was 22.8/100,000 in 2006. Considering five years of no HIV incidence among approximately 1200 active, yet constantly cycling, talent, HIV incidence among adult film talent is 1/6000 or 16.7/100,000 – lower than it is in the general US population. Interesting, no?

Now back to condom use… The second thing that happened after Marc Wallice in 1998 was this: six major adult film production companies immediately and voluntarily instituted a “condom-only” policy for sex scenes in their films. This self-imposed condom only mandate quickly became a complex issue though. On one hand, the health and safety of talent are major concerns, and condom use in all instances of penetrative sex is generally safer practice than occasional or none. But, on the other hand, the business of adult film production is negatively affected by condom use.

Ask yourself this – do you fantasize about that raw lusty unabashed Wild Orchid-type sex, or do you think about snappy opaque latex? (don’t lie!!) It has been reported that sales decline when condoms are in place, presumably because they shatter the fantasy that the vast majority of consumers are looking for.

Think I’m kidding? Well, when the Darren James/HIV situation occurred in 2004, only two of the original six “condom-only” production companies, Vivid and Wicked, had been able to retain the policy and keep their doors open. Vivid eventually went “condom-optional” (wherein talent are able to opt for condom or no) in 2006, leaving Wicked Pictures the sole remaining condom-only company around today.

So, this is what we have so far: an industry is aware of the potential health risks some of its employees face, so they take steps to devise a system that protects both the health of talent and the viability of the business. Their system is so effective that the HIV incidence rate in a population that depends on “risky” sex behavior (read: frequent sex with multiple partners) is significantly lower than it is in the general population. Yet for some reason Cal-OSHA feels that mandatory condom use is necessary… huh?

Are you as confused as me? Have something to add? Email me!

Tune in tomorrow for what’s up next – how mandatory condom use will entrap an industry into breaking all sorts of laws!

Oh and don’t just take my word for it – have some cites ;)

Center for Disease Control. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 9/23/05

Hall, H. Irene, et al. 2008. “Estimation of HIV Incidence in the United States.” JAMA 300(5).

Tannen, Terrell. 2004. “Profile: Sharon Mitchell, head of the Adult Industry Medical Clinic.” The Lancet 364.

Yoshino, Kimi and Rong-Gong Lin II. “More Porn HIV Cases Disclosed.” LATimes 6/12/2009.

Yoshino, Kimi and Rong-Gong Lin II. “LA County Backtracks on Reports of Porn HIV Cases.” LATimes 6/17/2009.

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*originally posted at www.pornvalleyvantage.blogspot.com (June 27, 2010)

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