educational

Porn & Privacy

Stephen Yagielowicz

Whether it’s a revelation about a porn star’s HIV status, a government debate about what you can enjoy, or Larry Flynt on National Public Radio, the issue of “privacy” is in the headlines – and in my home...

An Unexpected Announcement
A firestorm has hit the adult industry this week and spread out into the mainstream with the unexpected public release of a veteran performer's HIV status – and the uncertain status of a dozen other popular performers who have had sex with the infected actor since his last negative test.

The controversy began when AVN broke the story about Darren James' positive HIV test and the steps that AIM (the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a group dedicated to testing, educating and protecting adult industry talent) was taking to "voluntarily quarantine" additional talent who might have been infected by James.

While some observers expressed outrage over the public announcement of so "personal" a matter, others applauded AIM's actions and AVN's role in spreading the word. Arguably, the general public has no need to know about these events; but as a trade publication with a broad reach, the AVN report might have been instrumental in alerting "third generation" contacts to the potential danger. These 'indirect' liaisons might have been casual, “friendly fucks” or relationship-based sex amongst lovers beyond the scope of adult content production who might have otherwise not known they were at immediate risk. Like the old shampoo commercial went: “...and she told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on...” Geometric progression on a lethal scale – that those involved have a legitimate right to know about.

In response to all of this unfolding drama, a growing collection of production companies have voluntarily ceased production for the time being (and for upwards of the next few months), as a group of apprehensive performers wait to see if they ‘dodged the bullet’ once again – or not. This calculated move isn’t simply one of “caring for our talent” – though it will be doubtless painted so – but is also one of legal liability; and I dare say that some of the companies who are taking a break from production are doing so at their attorney’s “recommendation.” Still, a moratorium on ‘professional’ sex is a step in the right direction, even if it’s a step that can be easily undone through ‘personal’ sex – or is anyone naive enough to believe that a group of porn stars will abstain for the next two months?

While the more caring among us might believe James’ case to be “an unfortunate occurrence that could happen to anyone,” the more callous might opine that for a porn star, AIDS and other STDs are simply “the cost of doing business,” and indeed, since this story has hit the mainstream, it has become in some camps an illustration of “the wages of sin” and an example of someone “getting what he deserved.”

In this context, the human tragedy, painful reality, and overwhelming uncertainty of what the principals are facing is only magnified by the public knowledge of their plight. While this realization might provoke an increased outcry over the invasion of Darren James and the other named talent’s privacy, it’s important to remember that although protecting one’s privacy is important in theory, in practice, especially when other people’s lives are involved, the lines between right and wrong easily become blurred, and can even be relegated to factors of ‘convenience’ and ‘inconvenience,’ for the parties involved.

A Personal Invasion
My interest in the James story is only superficial, however, and merely on a ‘human decency’ scale as I am not personally or professionally affected by the plight of Darren James, et al. Instead, I dealt with a personal invasion of my privacy this week, and another “unexpected announcement” that has me asking “Why don’t people mind their own business?” – and wondering whatever happened to personal privacy.

While my personal drama was not life threatening, it was substantial: this past Sunday I called my mother to wish her a Happy Easter, and was informed that she was quite distressed to receive a package addressed to her and my father. There was no return address, and I have yet to see the contents of this anonymous “gift” – but I am informed that it contained information about my involvement in the industry, my work here at XBiz, printouts of articles, and of course, the revelation of my wife being an amateur porn star... Yes, it appears that mom will never watch me eat ice cream with a wooden spoon again without bursting into tears – thanks to someone who wanted her to “see what her evil son is up to!” I can only label this assault on the innocent as “terrorism” – and if my investigator is able to uncover the source of this attack, the responsible party will be severely dealt with.

But is the fact that I work in this industry, or that Darren James and his fellow performers are porn stars, or that some “actress” was high as a kite at Internext make us fair game for gossip, character assaults and an invasion of privacy? And if so, where does it end? In many communities, prostitutes – as well as their customers – are shown on public access cable TV after being arrested; an often amusing diversion for bar patrons waiting to see their friends, co-workers or neighbors on “the just say no channel.” Would it be as funny if it was a list of customers who visit porn sites being posted in the newspaper by your local ISP?

While our actions and afflictions are our own business – unless they harm, or can potentially harm others – privacy, or the lack of it, is everyone’s business. Have an opinion on privacy that you want to share? Simply click on the link below. Stay safe! ~ Stephen

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