LOSING MY FAITH
Two years ago, my stance could not have been more clear. I believed the adult industry's testing practices were a sufficient safeguard against STI (sexually transmitted infections) outbreaks and that the state had no right to mandate condoms in porn.
Today, I hold the same beliefs. Mostly.
The slight waver in my convictions comes from the fact the arguments are no longer black-and-white.
We used to fear that a condom mandate would eliminate our self-regulated testing practices. But I see no evidence of that. Condoms or not, every performer and producer I know would never go through with a shoot without evidence of a clean STI test from everyone involved in sexual activity. In fact, shooting without condoms is already illegal in Los Angeles. Yet we're still doing it, clinging to our testing practices even more fervently. It's as if by sticking to our guns, we'll convince the rest of the world to leave us alone.
Except the world (mostly AHF) is still chomping at the bit. And it looks like we keep fucking up.
As much as I've argued that all the major (aka life-threatening) STI "outbreaks"that've occurred in our industry have come from new performers, people trying to get in, and non-performers who happened to test at one of our facilities, the exception to the rule has become a reality.
Officially speaking, a performer has tested positive for syphilis. According to rumor, he's a well-known guy who knowingly worked while infected with syphilis. If that last part is true, it means our self-regulation got tripped up. At the very least, it's been encumbered.
There's a reason for this. After the fall of AIM (Adult Industry Medical) in the 2010, the adult industry faced a period of time where no organization was really responsible for follow-up protocol in the case of an STI outbreak. Then the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) stepped up and established something called Adult Production Health and Safety Services (APHSS).
The APHSS system is "designed to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for performers and adult film professionals." It includes a HIPAA-compliant database, nationwide testing facilities, doctors who can provide follow-up treatment, guidelines in the case of an industry exposure, and more.
After allying myself with FSC and becoming a performer representative for APHSS, I've been made very aware that a portion of the industry STRONGLY distrusts both. And since Manwin - the largest, most controversial company in the adult industry (they are largely responsible for the "tube" sites that have financially devastated much of adult production) - has put their public support behind APHSS, the opposition has become even more vocal.
There's talk of monopolization. There's talk of political motivation. There's talk of a lot of things.
If you want to know the argument against FSC and APHSS, ask someone else. I don't totally understand it. I'm sure there are valid points to be made. But from what I've heard, I'm staying on my side of the fence.
In any case...
Talent Testing Service - a group of facilities that pre-date the APHSS system - has become the alternative choice for those who want nothing to do with Manwin, FSC, or APHSS. In fact, Talent Testing Service has taken their own position by refusing to be a part of the APHSS system, and further, by refusing to merge their test results with the APHSS database.
Wherever one stands on the issue, the fact remains that two databases now exist to house the STI results of adult performers. Two databases from two politically opposed organizations. This is all fine and good until there's an exposure incident. Like now.
It's a bit hard to follow because many of the reports are quoting second-hand information. But let's start with an XBiz article that at least covers some rumors of how this all started. There's a performer named Devon Savage who overheard a Talent Testing Service employee slip information regarding "four new cases of syphilis in L.A." Amongst these four cases is one "major male talent." This Savage guy is concerned that the rest of the industry isn't aware of the cases, so he makes some phone calls. Talent Testing Service won't release any information, and a doctor at another major LA testing facility, Cutting Edge Testing (associated with APHSS), doesn't seem to take the situation very seriously. So Savage starts texting everyone he knows in the industry.
Within a few days, word has spread. The Free Speech Coalition asks for a moratorium on production and that all performers get tested for syphilis.
Now, I'm not sure why the doctor at Cutting Edge Testing didn't respond with concern. But I'm not exactly sure what he said in the first place. We have no first-hand information of that conversation. And I'm guessing that whoever answered the phone at Talent Testing Service wouldn't release any information because it's against the law to release private medical records.
But the obvious problem is that Talent Testing Service did their duty and it wasn't enough. They tested the performer for syphilis. His results came back positive, so they recommended him for treatment. It wasn't until a third party got involved that the industry responded with a production moratorium to prevent the possible spread of infection.
This is because Talent Testing Service has no protocol for what to do in the event of an exposure. At least not beyond their legal responsibility. It's not even a medical clinic. It's strictly a testing facility.
Theoretically, if the performer had tested at an APHSS approved facility, the positive test result would instigate an immediate reaction. We wouldn't have to wait several days (or longer if no good samaritan broke the news) for a moratorium.
When AIM existed, there was a centralized database and a centralized clinic. Sure, it had it's problems. But it was easy to deal with the performer population in regards to STIs because all the information was going to the same place. Right now, who knows what information is falling through the cracks?
I understand people want a choice when it comes to their healthcare. Forcing a specific clinic or doctor on someone is not a popular decision. But without a centralized testing system, the adult industry has no safeguards to prevent STI outbreaks. We've already proved that we can't trust people on good faith. A centralized database holds people accountable. And right now, it doesn't exist.
Over the past few days, I've seen an enormous amount of criticism pointed at FSC and APHSS. To some degree, I think it's a good thing. If our system is not operating to it's highest potential, we should always work to better it. However, abandoning that system without offering a better alternative is - in my opinion - completely counterproductive to the future of our industry/community.
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.
I'm aware of the massive retaliation from performers, producers, etc... to the new moratorium rule that everyone must receive a penicillin shot prior to going back to work. It seems based on the fact that most performers will be receiving antibiotics without actually being sick. It doesn't take a doctor to understand that this will be horrible for most of us (biologically speaking).
And yet a group of doctors and an infectious disease specialist came up with this compromise to help curb the spread of syphilis in our industry without allowing us all to go broke. Why? Because syphilis has an incubation period of up to 90 days. The test we've been using does not detect acute (recent) infection. It tests for antibodies. This means that if we, as an industry, were to wait it out and be safe, none of us could work for three months. I personally don't have enough money in my bank account to wait that long. So yes, I'm willing to take my doctor's recommendation and get a penicillin shot so that I can reduce the chances of spreading syphilis to MY COMMUNITY and continue making a living with the profession I've chosen for myself.
If there is an alternative that makes sense - that is presented by a medical professional - I'm am all ears. But performers and directors with no medical background making posts on the Internet that "no real doctor would recommend this" is not a sufficient alternative. It is not an alternative at all.
If your opinion contradicts the moratorium rule, FIND A DOCTOR THAT CAN SUBSTANTIATE IT. I have a doctor who works with adult industry performers. He's telling me to get a shot. So I'm going to get a shot. I trust his medical advice more than an opinion on Twitter.
I'm going with the flow. It may not be the best choice. But I don't see an alternative. If you have one, present it in a way that will actually make a difference.
Because we're past the point of pretending everything is okay in this industry, that we've got it all under control. There is more fighting now than I can remember. Two years ago, I remember a united front against AHF. Now I listen to some performers who advocate condom use for porn.
And not that I think that's a bad thing. It just means that there's much less to fight with because not everyone's sure it should be a fight. The reasons I disagree with the condom mandate are becoming more personal. Because for me, the future looks like this:
Aside from a few companies who will abide by the condom mandate, I'll be spending most of my time sitting on set, hoping I won't be arrested. Or I'll be flying my way around the country to states where they can't afford to enforce something as trivial as a piece of latex on my dick. Either way, it means I'll have more stress in my life. And I'm not looking forward to it.
So make my life less stressful. Please. And if you're in porn, maybe think about "us." Even if you disagree with me, come up with something better.... That works. Because yelling at me for following the only rules we have is not helping.