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Brea Bennett at Twistys

August 23, 2011 12:48pm
APHSS Opinion Piece
Source: Courtesy of RichMoreland.com
by: Richard L Moreland

APHSS: Unity Must be the Goal

By Rich Moreland, August 2011

A generation ago in 1994, Bill Margold created Protecting Adult Welfare as a result of the Shannon Wilsey [Savannah] suicide. Margold’s self-appointed task was to prevent another Wilsey-like tragedy. An informal organization, PAW became a way to help performers through rough patches by sending a strong message of caring.

Later, another crisis spurred former actress Dr. Sharon Mitchell, with the assistance of Margold and others like Nina Hartley, to act once again. The impetus this time was the 1998 Marc Wallice/Brooke Ashley incident that resulted in a handful of HIV positive performers. The industry got its wakeup call and the now defunct Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) was established. Testing protocols ensured that STIs were dealt with as efficiently as could be expected and some studios offered condoms, at least in the short run.

Other minor HIV outbreaks occurred in 2004 and 2009, but were of little consequence to the industry despite garnering the attention of the media. AIM did its job monitoring blood testing and providing counseling. On the set talent and directors were vigilant by checking test results while gay porn filmmakers moved away from bareback shoots as a form of self-preservation.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the industry’s fight with AHF (AIDS Health Foundation). As the dust is settling on the latest mudslinging debate over protective barriers, AIM has fallen victim, shutting down and forcing the question of where to go next. Threats by performers to move elsewhere in response to a government imposed mandatory condom rule hardly seem logical or doable. Mexico — you can’t be serious, take your bulletproof vest! — Or Nevada where brothel testing is strict and making porn is not legal to my knowledge, don’t cut it. Shooting in Florida is passable unless the local gendarmes take an interest. Just ask Paul Little.

The only responsible and efficient answer is exactly what the industry has proposed: self-regulation with performer representatives assuming a major role in decision-making. Veterans Jessica Drake, Bobbi Starr, Danny Wylde, and Steve Cruz, along with the universally respected and outspoken Nina Hartley, provide expertise from the performer’s vantage point.

The cooperation of industry studios, talent agents, and legal counsel are vital to getting the whole project off the ground and maintaining its viability. But, it is the performers who hold the keys to its success. They roll the dice, putting their health and that of everyone they come in contact with on the line. Not to diminish the men — both gay and straight —who keep it up for the camera, but the Jessicas and Bobbis are the linchpin in this initiative because the women bear the greatest risks in hetero porn.

Talent understands there is an STI (sexually transmitted infection) risk in filming without condoms. It is a hazard they accept and they are willing to work without them. Thankfully, the performer community is small and testing provides a margin of safety. Performers also know that protecting a career is an individual responsibility. But, sometimes they want a little help in decision-making and knowing their rights.

Unlike the business world in which a disabled person can be of benefit to a company, porn doesn’t want the infected actor or actress.

This is where APHSS can break new ground. Let the performers set the testing and working parameters on the set. Allow them to establish the standards for educating and counseling their colleagues. Talent needs to have common understandings of what is expected from everyone, not tacitly, but upfront and personal in the manner of the Porn 101 videos produced by AIM. If peer unity comes from within, the system will work.

Once the system is in place and is financially healthy, perhaps APHSS (Adult Protective Health and Safety Services) can offer assistance to models desiring to improve their education, invest their money, or exit the business. Possibly condoms may appear as a choice for selective filming and Bill Margold’s "21 in 2012" might become an industry standard to ensure young lives are not painfully affected before they are mature enough to handle adversity.

APHSS is in a unique position to do all these things because it is a collective effort that is of the industry, not imposed on the industry. Best of all, it can keep its own statistics, the most effective way to counter charges of questionable STI rates and falsified records that have been issues in the past.

So for the time being, good luck to the Free Speech Coalition, APHSS, and the all-important database. I could not agree more with Joanne Cachapero. To keep the anti-porn moralists at bay and avoid regulations that bring onerous costs in time and money, self-governance is the only answer. That starts with the performers who put their vulnerabilities in front of the camera to keep the fantasy alive for the fans. In every way, the talent must be come first at this pivotal moment in porn’s history.

Though its critics will never be silenced, the adult industry is dusting off its spot in American culture. It has settled in and is not going anywhere—but it needs to be self-managed and to take care of its own.

Unity within the industry is requisite now more than ever before.

HardArt Films

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