LOS ANGELES—One doesn't have to read far into Dennis Romero's interesting piece in the current LA Weekly to get an idea of his mindset regarding the porn industry. Just five paragraphs, actually.
"Oh, Princess Leia—played by Vivid Entertainment's newest contract star, Allie Haze," Romero wrote. "If not for Haze strutting around the set, her hair in trademark buns, her obscene curves visible beneath a sheer white gown, it all would have been an absolute bore."
"Obscene curves"??? Not "sexy curves"; not "attractive curves"; "obscene curves." Of course, we're sure "obscene" isn't meant to be taken literally/legally. It's just reflective of mainstream journalism's too-frequent reaction to an industry that deals with the human race's primary activity since the dawn of time—sex—and the people who inhabit that industry.
Another clue? How about his backhanded put-down of adult performers who, concerned about AIDS Healthcare Foundation's ongoing attempts to drive the adult movie and internet business out of California, attended a meeting of the CalOSHA subcommittee that's considering AHF's petition to change the California Health Code: "You've never seen such tight jeans and structurally sound body parts in a Caltrans facility." Because, like, y'know, before considering what the performers might actually have to say about their own profession and/or health status, you've got to know they're too good-looking to pay serious attention to their words!
And then there's that long description of an industry get-together at R Lounge, where Romero obsesses on the fact that adult performers don't have the same kind of body modesty that, apparently, "decent people" have, since they have no problem showing bare tit or hiking up their skirts, revealing thongs underneath ... "and when the performers plop onto a low-slung couch there's no need for that wiggling wardrobe dance familiar to any woman who has worn a short skirt."
Of course, even biased reporters can turn in good stories about the object of their bias, but this isn't one of them. Romero's central contention is that because some adult actors also moonlight as escorts (which, for Romero, is "a kinder term for prostitutes")—some of whom "are almost assuredly not using condoms, then returning to local porn sets ... without a word"—it's only proper that the city or state or feds force them to wear condoms when they have sex with other performers.
And how does Romero know that "[s]ome [actresses] are most assuredly not using condoms" when they have sex outside the performer pool, whether with their current partners or people who might hire them for sex? The article gives no clue, and although AVN has not done a study of performers' off-camera sex lives, in this reporter's 20-year contact with the California-based portion of the industry, every actress with whom this reporter has discussed the subject has assured that she uses condoms. Why? Because each is well aware that while her on-camera partners are tested at least monthly for STDs, those outside the industry very well may not be, so they use condoms with those untested partners for protection.
And indeed, Romero has no idea how many actresses may be escorting, since he admits that although a couple of familiar names show up in classified ads offering "private meet-ups": "[i]t's not clear if someone is just capitalizing on the monikers of famous porn stars or if such ads are for real." Wouldn't it matter if they were "for real," if the central theme of the article were that porn stars were in fact escorting?
And who has this information, and are those "informants" reliable? Well, one of the accusers is AHF president Michael Weinstein, who's made it pretty clear that he has an ax to grind on this subject—and no problem making (to be kind) misleading statements in service of that agenda. Another source is retired actress Gina "Demi Delia" Rodriguez, who mysteriously showed up on a Nightline segment involving the most recent HIV scare along with Weinstein, so it's reasonable to wonder if she's in AHF's employ ... or possibly another Shelley Lubben/Pink Cross Foundation acolyte? And finally, there's the unnamed performer "who quit the business last year and is now a full-time escort."
But one thing Rodriguez said inadvertently made sense: "Even if the girls are using condoms when they're escorting, it's doubtful they're going to be kept totally clean. There's a lot of contact there." Really? So condoms don't necessarily prevent the transmission of disease, or at least not much (if any) better than the current testing regime? So the only way to escort—or make porn—safely would be to encase the partners in hazmat suits?
Intertwined in this somehow is Romero's fantasy that the adult movie industry survives on "the money shot"—the visual depiction of men ejaculating on women (in hetero porn) or men (gay porn)—and that the real reason why the industry is so opposed to condoms is that if they were used, nobody could be shown cumming on anybody else.
Sadly for Romero, no one's ever made that argument, because it's horseshit: Even Wicked Pictures, one of the few (hetero) companies that mandates condom use in its productions, has no problem with male performers cumming on women's breasts, feet, thighs, arms—in fact pretty much anywhere but the eyes, mouth or internally, because as any actress will tell you, cum in the eye REALLY hurts. And even if a total "barrier protection" regime were implemented, male actors could still ejaculate on their partners, although the partners' faces would be protected from contact with the (harmless) semen by face shields, their hands by rubber gloves, and their pussies and asses (and any other body part) by latex dental dams or other plastic or rubber sheeting. Sure, it would look stupid, but it could be done fairly easily.
Finally, Romero shoots himself in the foot due to his ignorance of porn history—and as might be expected, his "history lessons" from former actor/agent Bill Margold didn't help.
For instance, Margold would have Romero believe that "[i]t wasn't until 1993, when another HIV outbreak hit the industry, that porn began to think seriously about how to confront the virus and other STDs." In fact, there was no "HIV outbreak" in '93; there was just one performer, Carrie Morgan, who, after performing in one scene, tested positive on an ELISA test (which was then the industry standard, much like it is the current AHF standard), and as a precautionary measure, six or eight people were "quarantined" until they could be tested. All were found to be negative, and although the incident occasioned an industry-wide meeting, essentially nothing changed. The ELISA test remained the "standard" until the 1998 Marc Wallice (actual) outbreak, after which AIM was formed and the much more reliable PCR-DNA test became the standard.
Other "facts" are wrong as well. For instance, Romero writes, "Of the 10 HIV cases in the porn industry that both the AHF and the Free Speech Coalition agree have cropped up since 2005, the industry says nearly all were contracted off-set, the implication being that many of the original virus carriers didn't work in the industry." In fact, there have been just two HIV cases "in the porn industry that ... have cropped up since 2005": The person known as "Patient Zero," who definitely did contract her infection off the set, and sometime-hetero performer Derrick Burts, who may or may not have contracted his during a gay shoot, or possibly from escorting, but definitely not on a straight porn set where performers are tested.
Romero also has his timeline wrong regarding the closing of AIM. He attributes that disaster to what happened "last spring, when a website called PornWikiLeaks put online, for the world to see, performers' medical records, apparently culled from AIM's database and sometimes matched with addresses that are federally required to ensure movie performers aren't underage." Actually, AIM's troubles began in December 2010, when it closed for a time before reopening under a new name as a private clinic. AIM finally closed for good in May.
In fact, AIM was driven out of business by both CalOSHA, which insisted through subpoenas that AIM compromise the medical privacy of Patient Zero, who sued both that agency and AIM to maintain her anonymity, and AHF, whose staff attorney Brian Chase offered to represent former performer Diana "Desi Foxx" Grandmason for free in a lawsuit claiming that she had been forced, through AIM's voluntary disclosure form, to violate her own medical privacy in order to perform in adult movies. Romero does mention AHF "complaints" against AIM, although AHF has never publicly described AIM's testing procedures as "the new enabler in the industry's denial about condoms."
Romero also seems to have trouble understanding the fact that—since hetero performers undergo regular STD testing while gay performers generally don't, and the gay porn industry generally has no problem using HIV-positive performers—there's a non-homophobic reason why hetero performers are leery of guys who "cross over" from hetero to do gay porn. So to give any credence to Weinstein's claim that "criticism of crossover performers [is] 'just code' for gay bashing" is just bad reporting.
There's plenty to take issue with in Romero's article, so consider the above just "food for thought." But one would think that in Los Angeles, of all places, the current home of the adult movie industry, a local publication as widely read locally as the L.A. Weekly would want to fact-check its stories about one of the Valley's largest industries a bit more closely.