more perspectives on HIV & porn

People are still getting riled up around HIV & porn. And two bloggers whose opinions I generally click with have come to two very different places on this issue.

Tony Comstock has some interesting stuff to say about the safety of porn performers and the general lack of response from the sex-positive world. He makes some good points- my experience is that the sex-pos community has generally focused on the experience of watching porn and how it can affect people’s sexualities, rather than talking about the experiences of the people who make porn.  And he offers this:

I simply cannot see how the introduction of a camera makes it “sex-positive for performers to do things that we would decry in any other circumstance. Would a “sex-positive person claim that a sex-worker is exercising agency if she engages in unprotected anal intercourse with multiple clients? Or would we call this out for what it is, an unwise and risky practice? And when the sex positive community judges the “adult entertainment industry by a different set of safer sex standards than we offer in any other circumstance, we diminish both the concepts of sex-positivity and safer sex.

The sex-positive community has already had, on more than one occasion, self-satisfied three-minute hates about phthalates and anal-ease, where we congratulated ourselves on our modern and progressive notions about sexual health and our discriminating taste in sex toys. We have repudiated the makers and purveyors of these products for being unconcerned with the with the health of their customers.

Will the sex-positive community be able to muster the same level of outrage and reject the health risks that are currently accepted as part and parcel of making “adult entertainment? And if we did, wouldn’t that bring the world a little closer to a more grown-up and joyful understanding of sex?

and at the same time…

Ernest Greene offers a more in-depth look at the factors that make condoms challenging on porn sets than you’ll find in most discussions, such as long sex sessions leading to a higher failure rate, latex abrasions, and vaginal bacterial infections. He also offers the perspective that mandatory testing with no condoms is better than condoms with no tested. And if you want to know why it’s an either or, here’s his explanation:

Worse, if that’s possible, than Cal-OSHA’s plan for porn would be the means through which it would have to be put in place. Cal-OSHA has jurisdiction only over employees. Independent contractors, which is how porn performers not under contract to specific companies, are currently classed under state law, would not be subject to Cal-OSHA supervision unless reclassified as employees.

So what, you might ask, is so bad about that? After all, it would make them eligible for workman’s comp and provide them with a mechanism for reporting unsafe working conditions on the set.

There’s just one little hitch in this plan. It is against the law in California for any employer to require an HIV test, or even to ask about a potential employee’s HIV status, as a condition of employment. Doing so is considered employment discrimination and carries significant penalties to the employer.

In fact, if performers were considered employees rather than contractors, it would be illegal for a producer to hire a performer on the grounds that said performer was, in fact, HIV positive. That’s right. Producers would be required to hire HIV+ performers, and if other performers didn’t like working with them, those performers would be fired while the HIV+ performers would be allowed to remain on the set until partners could be found who would work with them.

I’d love to hear from someone else who’s well-versed in these issues on this, since I’m not a lawyer. I’m still sitting with all of this, but one thing is clear. There’s very little clear information on this. As was pointed out in a comment on my last post, a lot of the “reporting” is simply wrong, which makes it even harder to figure out what’s going on. Not to mention the sensationalizing that happens whenever porn hits the news. My hope is that we’ll get better information about this issue- I’d like a bit more clarity.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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