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Should the Porn Industry Require Protection?

Making condoms mandatory, most agree, contradicts what porn should be about: Choice.

Should porn performers use condoms? Surely the answer’s obvious.

After all, responsible adults know condoms protect against a litany of life-threatening diseases. Porn performers have more sex with more people; so surely they have more need to use condoms.

But some of the biggest names in porn are against mandating condom use -- despite being the ones at risk. What’s their reasoning?

Porn: It’s a Dirty Job

The condom question arises because sex gets messy.

Working in porn, performers have frequent exposure to sweat, semen and ‘santorum’ (Google it!). As a result, bacteria and viruses spread between performers faster than kooties at daycare -- making porn a high-risk occupation.

That risk was proven in 2004, when performer Darren James tested positive for HIV. In the window between tests, he’d had sex with 12 performers, who then exposed another 22.

Within 30 days, the circle of exposure had spread so fast it lead to a virtual shut down of porn production, and by the end, it was revealed that James had infected three female performers. It demonstrated how dangerous a single infected performer could be in the ‘porn pool.’

Put a Rubber On It

Critics attacked the porn industry, demanding mandatory condom usage and beyond. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health even petitioned for latex gloves and eye protection (medical fetishists were thrilled!).

But the porn industry argued it was already self-regulated -- and the Darren James HIV tragedy proved the system worked.

In five previous years, no performer had tested positive for HIV. Compare that to almost 16,000 heterosexual Californians living HIV positive -- without having unprotected sex with multiple partners on a daily basis.

Sharon Mitchell, director at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, claims porn performers test positive for STDs ten times less than the national average.

But just because the statistics make it appear that porn is safer than ‘regular’ sex, it’s not actually safe. HIV is just the worst of many dangers a performer faces.

Goes with the Territory

In an interview with Rolling Stone, porn prodigy Sasha Grey coolly admitted that getting an STI on the job was as common as “catching a cold.” By 21 -- already an industry veteran -- she’d caught chlamydia once and gonorrhea twice.

Porn legend Belladonna now tests co-stars three days prior to shooting -- and admits, “It’s damn good to finally not have to spend every week at the doctor’s office, clearing up an STD.”

Most performers rely on standard 30-day testing -- more than enough time to catch something nasty between tests. And Belladonna warns: “People don't care. They'll work knowing they have an STD.”

Also worrying are things AIM don’t test for -- like herpes. Sharon Mitchell estimates that 50% of porn performers have HSV-1 or HSV-2. Italian Stallion Rocco Siffredi claims every performer does.

Why Risk Raw?

So STIs aren’t just a risk in the porn business -- they’re a ubiquitous part of it. Surely condoms are the way to go?

Surprisingly, performers like Belladonna argue no.

“Condoms just don’t feel good to suck on, or take in the ass. If required to use condoms, my performance would suffer.”

Porn producer Ernest Greene agrees:

“Condoms are fine for ordinary folks, but they’re not suited to porn. I allow two and a half hours to shoot a typical boy-girl sex scene. With constant stops and starts, condoms frequently tear -- and abrasion on female performers’ vaginas make them vulnerable to STIs.”

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