News Sexual Health

Porn Stars Will Head Back to Work With New Rules and No Condom Law

Martha Kempner

Despite the recent HIV outbreak among porn stars, a bill to require condoms on set died in the California senate. So porn stars will head back to work on Friday without condoms, but with new STD testing rules.

The question of whether condoms should be mandatory on all porn sets has gotten a lot of attention in the last few weeks as a number of adult film stars have tested positive for HIV. Advocates have pointed to the outbreak as proof that the industry cannot monitor itself, while industry insiders have insisted that its actors are safe on set without any outside interference or mandates. This week, the industry came out ahead when a bill that would have required condoms on set died in committee and the industry announced that filming would start again on Friday under new rules to better police itself. Advocates, however, are not convinced that the new rules will be enough and vow that the bill will be introduced again in the next legislative session.

As Rewire has reported, the porn industry halted production in August when actress Cameron Bay announced she had tested positive for HIV. The moratorium was lifted when all her on-screen partners tested negative. Then, earlier this month, Rod Daily, a star of gay porn movies who was in a romantic relationship with Bay, announced he had also tested positive. Though his announcement did not trigger a pause in production, because he was not tested through official channels and was not on set, a third unnamed star also tested HIV-positive, forcing the cameras off again. (A fourth case also made news last week, though there are mixed reports as to whether this case has been confirmed.)

Activists took to the media to argue that porn actors are in danger on set and will not be safe until condoms are required. Last year, the activists, led by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, got a measure on the ballot in Los Angeles County that would require actors in all permitted adult films to wear condoms. The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, known as Measure B, was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters last year despite threats from producers that they would simply take their operations—and tax dollars—elsewhere. The measure has yet to be enforced, in part because of a legal challenge (that was settled in favor of Measure B in August) and in part because the county simply can’t quite figure out how to implement it.

This year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation turned its attention to the statehouse in order to extend the measure statewide, and thwart producers who said they would just move their filming to other parts of the state. AB 640 was introduced by Assemblymember Isadore Hall III (D-Los Angeles) in March. It would have required the “provision of and required use of condoms and other protective barriers whenever acts of vaginal or anal intercourse are filmed,” as well as the provision of condom-safe lubricants to facilitate the use of condoms. The bill would have also required producers to pay for sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing, provide hepatitis B vaccines free-of-charge to all actors, and create a written health and safety plan. Interestingly, though condoms are required to be worn, the bill specifically notes that the bill “shall not be construed to require condoms, barriers, or other personal protective equipment to be visible in the final product of an adult film.”

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The bill died in the Senate Rules Committee as the legislative session came to an end, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Friday night. Though it is not clear exactly what happened at the closed-door meeting, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has accused Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), who publicly opposed the bill, of putting a hold on it and not letting the bill out of the committee. The organization called Gatto “a pornographer’s best friend.” Gatto scoffed at this and said he did not have nearly as much power as was attributed to him. In a statement to LA Weekly, he said, “It’s clear that AHF is trying to bully the legislature into spending taxpayer money, and that they don’t understand the legislative process. I would expect that Isadore Hall would explain to them that AB 640 is not before me, it’s before the Senate. There are two houses of government, and I don’t have a vote in the Senate, let alone control it.”

The industry, on the other hand, gave credit for its victory to a coalition of supporters. Diane Duke—CEO of the Free Speech Coalition, the trade organization that monitors STDs on set—said in a statement, “A number of people put forth a great deal of effort, to make sure this bill would not see the light of day. From our coalition partners to the performers and countless industry members who showed up in Sacramento to protest, we owe you all a debt of gratitude. This was truly a team effort, thank you.”

She added, “Thankfully, science won over scare tactics. Three performers did test positive for HIV in the past month, but none of them contracted it on an adult set. Politicians tried to use concern about HIV to push through a mandate opposed by both performers and producers.”

On Monday, Duke’s organization announced new rules for monitoring STDs on set. The new rules will require STD testing every 14 days, rather than every 28 days. Though this may help detect certain STDs sooner, the rule may not have had an impact on the current HIV outbreak, as it can take up to eight weeks post-infection for HIV to be detectable. Duke also noted that her organization needed to do a better job of helping performers learn how to protect themselves on and off set.

Roundups Sexuality

This Year in Sex: We’re Living in the Future

Martha Kempner

Between the high-tech sex toys, transplanted uteri, lab-grown penises, and perils of hookup apps, 2014 sometimes sounded like a science fiction novel. But we can't forget the news about IUDs and STIs that came out this year, either.

This Year in Sex takes a look back at the news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and other topics that captured our attention in 2014.

The HPV Vaccine Works, It Doesn’t Cause Promiscuity, and There’s an Even Better One Coming

HPV and its vaccine made headlines many times this year. The upsetting news is that two new studies came out suggesting that we had been underestimating the number of both HPV cases and cervical cancer, but as far as the vaccine itself was concerned, things were looking pretty good.

First, and most importantly, it appears to be working. A 2013 study found that despite the fact that only half of teen girls had gotten one dose of the vaccine—and fewer than a third had gotten the recommended three doses—the proportion of teen girls infected with the HPV strains that the vaccine addresses has dropped by 56 percent. This year, another study confirmed this success when it found that states with high rates of HPV vaccines have lower rates of cervical cancer, and vice versa.

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Additional research this year should (though probably won’t) also put to rest the idea that giving young people the HPV vaccine encourages them to engage in sexual behavior. One study found that young women do not change their attitudes or behaviors toward safer sex if they get the shot, and the other showed that girls with the vaccine are no more likely to get pregnant or be tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection than their unvaccinated peers.

More good news: Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new version of Gardasil, one of the two HPV vaccines on the market, which will protect against more strains of the virus. The original vaccine protected against strains 11 and 6, which cause most genital warts, and strains 16 and 18, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancer. The new vaccine, called Gardasil 9, will protect against these four strains in addition to five more cancer-causing strains—31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Public health experts are hopeful that this added defense can prevent 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers.

Wins and Losses for Those Who Want Condoms in Porn

Last year ended with a shutdown of filming—the third of its kind in 2013—in the porn industry after another actor was found to be HIV-positive. So it should be no surprise that this year included numerous rounds in the battle between producers who say no one wants to see condoms on film and public health experts who insist safer sex should start on set.

An effort to get California to pass a statewide law mandating condom use ultimately failed after facing a lot of opposition from porn company representatives, who threatened to take their business to a friendlier state, and porn stars who said it would force their industry underground and make their work more dangerous.

Defenders of the ban, however, did get an end-of-year victory this week when Measure B—a Los Angeles County ordinance requiring condoms on adult industry sets—was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A lower court had formerly upheld the measure, though it has yet to be systematically enforced.

The IUD Gains Supporters and Users

The intrauterine device (IUD) was once one of the more popular methods of birth control available. Then one model, the Dalkon Shield, came on the market with numerous design flaws that caused many users to become infertile, even resulting in several deaths. Though the dangers were unique to Dalkon Shield, women and physicians became suspicious of all IUDs; for many years, very few women—and only those who had already had children—would use them for contraception. In the last few years, however, IUDs have started getting more attention as providers and public health experts note the safety of newer models and the unparalleled efficacy rates.

This year, the IUD gained even more supporters, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, which came out with a recommendation in October suggesting that IUDs be considered a first-line contraception for sexually active young people. Three months prior, research out of Colorado suggested that increasing the number of young women at Title X clinics using long-acting reversible contraceptives (which include both IUDs and implants) had led to lower than expected fertility rates among low-income women ages 15-to-24 in the state.

Other states, even conservative ones, decided this year that fixing the way Medicaid pays for IUDs—to make it possible to obtain one in a single visit, or even while still in the hospital after delivering a baby—could help prevent unintended pregnancies.

All of this support seems to be translating into increased use of the method. The National Survey of Family Growth found that 6.4 percent of contraceptive users were using an IUD in 2011-2013, compared to just 3.5 percent in the 2006-2010 survey.

Lab-Grown Penises and Transplanted Uteri

The future of reproductive health may include penises grown in a lab and babies born from transplanted uteri.

This year, the first baby to grow in a transplanted uterus was born to a 36-year-old Swedish woman whose name is being withheld. The woman, like the nine others who began the trial, had functioning fallopian tubes but was born without a uterus. After she received a donor organ from a friend of the family, doctors put her on anti-rejection drugs immediately. She became pregnant using IVF and had a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy, though the baby was delivered at 32 weeks when she showed signs of preeclampsia.

The medical team who undertook the trial hailed this as great news for assisted reproductive technologies, but others have expressed worry that the procedure is too invasive for both the donor and the recipient. Two of the nine women in the original study had to have their donor uteruses removed.

Meanwhile, no one has yet to be given a lab-grown penis, but new research on rabbits publicized in October suggests that it’s just a few years off. The process starts with a donor organ that is first stripped of its cells, then seeded with two different types from the genitals of the intended recipient. By making the penis out of the recipient’s own cells, scientist say they are reducing the chance of organ rejection. The procedure was tested on 12 rabbits; all successfully tried to mate using their engineered penis, eight were able to ejaculate, and four impregnated their bunny partner.

Truvada Dominates HIV-Prevention Discussion

Truvada is a combination of two antiretroviral drug used to treat individuals who have HIV. When used daily in HIV-negative individuals, these drugs have been shown to prevent transmission of the virus. The FDA approved the use of Truvada as a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) in 2011 and it has been gaining popularity ever since.

This year, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization released guidelines suggesting that those at high risk of HIV infection—including injection users and men who have sex with men who are not in a monogamous relationship—consider using Truvada.

The method is highly effective. Studies have found that men who take it every day can reduce their risk of HIV infection by as much as 92 percent.

Still, some HIV advocates are concerned that those who choose Truvada—which can cost as much as $10,000 a year and needs to be taken every day—will stop using condoms, putting themselves and their partners at increased risk of other STIs, such as gonorrhea or syphilis.

The Dangers of Mixing Sex and Technology

The intersection between technology and sex got a little tricky this year as officials pointed to a dating app, Grindr, as being at least partially responsible for a syphilis outbreak; meanwhile, a jury in California found that an STI dating site called PositiveSingles had been sharing private information.

Grindr uses global positioning technology to help users meet other users nearby who are interested in getting together, presumably for sex. Grindr is marketed to men who have sex with men, but similar apps exist for heterosexual couples and women who have sex with women. This March, the popular app was at the center of an outbreak of syphilis in Onondaga County, New York.

A few months later, research in Los Angeles found that men who have sex with men who met partners on apps like Grindr had a 25 percent greater incidence of chlamydia and a 37 percent greater incidence of gonorrhea than those who met men in person at a bar, club, gym, private sex party, or even an online dating site. There was no difference in HIV rates or syphilis rates based on where men met.

The online dating sites, however, might pose another problem, at least according to a California jury that awarded 16.5 million dollars last month to a man who says the dating website PositiveSingles—which advertises itself as a place where people can meet other people living with STIs—violated consumer law and committed fraud by sharing information among many other niche websites owned by the same company. As the plaintiff’s attorney put it: “[my client] is not Black, gay, Christian or HIV positive and was unaware that [the] defendant was creating websites that focused on such traits that would include his profile, thus indicating that he was all of these things and more.”

Always a New Sex Toy

Finally, lest anyone worry that we will get bored heading into the new year, we take a look at the sex toys that emerged in the public eye in 2014. There’s the Svakom Gaga, a new vibrator introduced by a Chinese company that comes equipped with a camera and a USB port—plug it into your computer and star in your very own vulva video.

Of course, if you’re not ready for your close-up or you live far from your partner, you could instead turned to the OhMiBod, a vibrator that can be controlled from an iPhone via Bluetooth.

And, for the fitness buffs who aren’t satisfied knowing that they took their 10,000 steps a day, there is the kGoal, a U-shaped device that counts kegels. Women put one side of the device inside their vagina and the hook the other to their phones and are able to know exactly how many times they squeezed their pelvic floor muscles. Known as kegels, these exercises have been shown to help during childbirth, prevent or control urinary incontinence, and improve orgasms.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: HIV Tests, Cameras in Vibrators, and Porn Producers Threaten to Leave the Golden State

Martha Kempner

This week, a new study shows that just one in five sexually active high school students has been tested for HIV; a porn producer with a large presence in San Francisco threatens to move to Las Vegas if a condom law is passed; and a vibrator lets you record your vagina during masturbation.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Too Few Teens Getting Tested for HIV

A new report based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance concludes that too few young people are getting tested for HIV. The report, which is scheduled to be presented on July 23 at the International AIDS Conference, found that only one in five sexually experienced U.S. teens has been tested for HIV. Researchers say this is especially concerning given that one in four new HIV infections in this country occur in young people between the ages of 13 and 24.

Laura Kann, chief of the CDC’s school-based surveillance branch, told HealthDay that these numbers are disturbing: “We have too many kids in this country at risk of HIV infection and we have not enough kids tested for HIV, and we need to do more.” She added that we don’t quite know why so few kids are getting tested but acknowledged that the modern perception of AIDS as a chronic but treatable disease may be part of the problem. “Young people today were not around in the early days of the epidemic and did not see the havoc that it wreaked. And there is just not the same emphasis in our society there was previously, so some amount of complacency is there,” she said.

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The CDC recommends that teens and adults ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime as part of routine medical care. Those with risk factors should be tested more often.

Porn Company Threatens to Flee California in Advance of Condoms Bill

As Rewire has been reporting for a number of years now, there is a battle raging in California over whether adult film stars should be required to wear condoms during filming to protect themselves, each other, and their off-screen partners from sexually transmitted infections and HIV. A local ordinance that passed in Los Angeles County has yet to be enforced but a proposed state law that has been unsuccessfully introduced many times has a better chance of passing than it ever has before. AB 1576, introduced by Assembly member Isadore Hall, has passed the full assembly and one of the two state senate committees to which it is was assigned, meaning that it is just two votes (by the appropriations committee and the full senate) away from passage.

Each time advocates for condoms in porn make progress, industry leaders threaten to take their business elsewhere. And this week one of the larger producers in the state showed its intention to follow through by spending time in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kink, which specializes in films on bondage and fetishism, has a large presence in San Francisco. In 2007, the company bought the National Guard Amory complex in the Mission District, which had been vacant since 1975 for $14.5 million. In 2012, the company bought the nearby Armory Club and turned a dive bar into an upscale night club. Despite these ties to San Francisco, the company’s CEO, Peter Acworth, has said he will move out-of-state if the law passes. He issued a statement saying that he and his staff were in Las Vegas this week where they shot two feature-length films and looked into the state’s permitting rules.

This seems like a warning shot sent out to senators: Pass the bill and risk losing jobs and tax revenue in your districts.

The Vagina Videos: New Vibrator Comes With Camera

We’re now used to cameras in our cellphones, but how about in our sex toys? A Chinese company has invented the first vibrator with a built-in camera and light so that you can get an up-close-and-personal view of your genitals, presumably during masturbation or perhaps partner play. The vibrator, called the Svakom Gaga, comes with a USB port. Plug it into your computer and watch your own larger than life vulva and vagina videos. If you’re feeling really adventurous or in the mood to share, your partner can download a wireless app to let him or her control the vibrator and video from afar.

Though super close-ups don’t sound all that appealing to those of us at “This Week in Sex,” the company suggests that watching leads to learning. According to the company, Gaga “shares the exclusive right of gynecologist with you. Not only making you a better understanding and attention of your lover, but also making much fun for you.”

Like with any other sex tape, we should remind you of rule #1: “It always ends up on the Internet.” That said, we’re guessing no one will be able to recognize you from this particular angle.