Ignorance is the Disease: Thoughts on the UCLA Condoms in the Adult Industry Panel

Diane Duke

The only way to combat ignorance is with education, and never was that more apparent than at today’s “Condoms in the Adult Industry” panel hosted at UCLA’s School of Law. Thankfully, long-time performer Mr. Marcus and FSC’s Diane Duke were there to represent the adult industry. Otherwise, no one from the industry may have been there at all.

It was a last-minute gig.

It’s difficult to have an intelligent, open debate under the best circumstances. In this situation, the adult industry – which is what the debate was centered on – was allowed only two seats out of a panel of six. That seems suspect, but not to be unexpected since there was virtually NO outreach to the adult industry community to attend or speak at the meeting. Duke, who was able to muscle her way onto the panel at the last minute, aptly pointed out during the discussion today; the adult industry is not against workplace regulation – but we demand to be asked to the table in discussions that so greatly affects OUR industry.

It also is difficult to have a conversation when the audience (mostly UCLA law students, public health activists and members of the public) knows little on the topics being discussed. Except for public health activists and representatives, most people have very little correct information about sexually transmitted diseases or what the adult industry does in terms of self-regulation or business practices.

In that type of atmosphere, the danger is that misinformation will be spread or that agendas will be pushed, without the people whose interest are at stake ever being included in the discussion at all.

Aside from Marcus and Duke, the only other panelist that could comment on the adult industry from the standpoint of a former performer was Pink Cross Foundation’s Shelly Lubben – but more about her later.

Other panelists included UCLA Bixby Program Director Dr. Paula Tavrow, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Director of Public Health Whitney Engeran-Cordova, and Los Angeles County Public Health (LACPH) STI program Director Dr. Peter Kerndt. All of them were touted with full biographies including their many accomplishments and credentials.

Funny how Diane Duke’s bio – including her work as a director with Planned Parenthood and the American Heart Association – was somehow “lost” in the email so that she had to explain to the audience, herself, the credentials that she has in speaking on the topic of public health.

In fact, the audience could have learned a lot about sexually transmitted infections from the panelists today. Instead, the focus was on statistics for adult industry performers that LACPH has “gathered” from Adult Industry Medical Healthcare (AIM), since the AIM clinic is required to share data with the county. But how many people in the audience recalled that last year, after a performer was diagnosed with HIV, that LACPH claimed, since 2004, there have been as many as 22 cases of HIV in the performing population? The LA Times later retracted the statistic, presumably because it’s not verifiable. But by then, it was too late to stop the spread of misinformation.

No one on the panel spoke more about STIs than Pink Cross’ Lubben, who issued a laundry list of diseases that she claims she contracted “while working in porn,” including herpes, HPV, as well as “extensive reproductive damage,” 12 years of hemorrhaging and severe anemia, due to unprotected sex that she was forced to have on adult production sets. She used the word “rape” liberally to describe her on-set experiences. She also claimed to have contracted HPV during a gangbang shoot with four male performers. Lubben also claims that 66% of adult performers have herpes and that 111 adult industry members have died from AIDS – without citing the statistical sources for this information.

When an audience member forced the question to Lubben, that she had been a prostitute for six years prior to being in her first adult movie (and during her time as a performer, and after she retired from performing), Lubben replied that she had always had “protected sex” as a prostitute, but was “forced” to not use a condom on-set.

Well, here are some FACTS about various STIs from the Centers for Disease Control website:

• Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is so common, at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

• For those that choose to be sexually active, condoms may lower the risk of HPV… But HPV can infect areas not covered with a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.

• Results of a nationally representative study show that genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 16.2%, or about one out of six, people 14 to 49 years of age have genital HSV-2 infection.

And that’s the thing – the only way to fight ignorance is with facts.

It’s a fact that FSC and most in the adult industry are NOT against regulations for workplace safety. But we do demand to be included in developing industry-appropriate regulations that work to keep the industry safe and viable. Right now, the current CalOSHA regs require mandatory condom use and the on-set protocols are based on standards developed for medical settings like clinics. Well, when they developed regulations for the construction industry, did they base them on regulations for crab fishermen? And what industry would allow regulation to be imposed upon it, without having a voice in developing those regulations? FSC has been working with CalOSHA to make progress in developing industry appropriate standards.

And as long as we’re talking about the facts here, perhaps we should ask why UCLA, AHF and LACPH are so determined to see the adult industry regulated and by whom? Aren’t there other industries that also have risks inherent in employment? Are there are other sexually-active groups with higher rates of HIV transmission that may present a greater threat to the public health than the approximately 1,000 active adult performers in California?

AHF’s Engeran-Cordova wisely observed that the topic gets complicated when you involve sex, HIV and the workplace. That’s not a subject that can be fully discussed in an hour on a campus, or in four meetings with the CalOSHA Board of Directors, or without the input of the people who are most affected – the members of the adult industry.

As Mr. Marcus said, it really has to do with education. I just want to add that knowledge doesn’t come from an ivory tower and real communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Otherwise, ignorance will spread like a disease. – jc

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