This article is a little different to my usual writing. I have been in an introspective and philosophical mood in recent times and when I heard the news that California had recently refused to implement new rules that would reduce adult films shot in that state to little more than this:
I felt compelled to write about it. While it may not directly touch on what I do as a male escort, I hope that on reading it people will understand the broader point and how it relates to sex work – and in fact pretty much all of our lives.
The Californian Occupational Safety and Healthy Standards Board recently failed to pass new regulations that would force porn performers to use condoms, dental dams, and even goggles to protect them from the risk of sexually transmitted infections while making films and images about sex.
It was a win for that most elusive of beasts: common sense and incidentally for the concept of “harm reduction”. Even if only marginally (the board failed to achieve a four to one majority by just one vote).
The adult film industry in California already has a system for ensuring the health and safety of its performers. It is called PASS (Performer Availability Screening Service) and is administered by the Free Speech Coalition. It provides bi-weekly STI testing for performers, the results of which are held in a secure, private database, and allow producers and agents to see the availability of performers (but nothing detailed about their health information). It also provides performers with access to both testing, and – in the case of an infection being detected – support and treatment services.
It’s a good system. From what information I can find online, it works. Under that system there hasn’t been a case of HIV transmission on the set of an adult film in California in over 10 years (2004 was the last recorded time in California, which prompted the shift to bi-weekly testing with higher sensitivity testing methods).
There was an on-set transmission of HIV between to male performers in Nevada in 2014, however it appears that it happened under less stringent testing standards – which really just re-inforces the point. PASS works, less rigorous testing does not.
So what has all of this got to do with sex work and my blog? The short answer is: the PASS system is a good demonstration of sensible, tolerant attitudes toward dealing with a real risk (STI transmission between performers).
It accepts that there is a risk and that it needs to be taken seriously, and it sets out to minimise that risk without creating unintended adverse side effects. This is classic “harm reduction”. Continue reading