Tristan Taormino talks to Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about the recent HIV scare in the adult industry and her decision to go condom only. Check out the video piece here and the longer written article here.
Recently, three adult industry performers tested positive for HIV, and there are unconfirmed, conflicting reports that there may be other performers who’ve tested positive. My heart goes out to all of them because it’s a life-changing diagnosis. I’m not interested in debating whether they contracted it on or off set, and I’m dismayed that people within the industry continue to engage in assumptions and finger-pointing about the now HIV positive performers. The important thing is that in the (albeit short) window of time between contracting the virus and receiving a positive test, they could have exposed other performers. These revelations—along with the recent syphilis scare and rumors that a male performer with Hepatitis C has been working without disclosing his status—have once again stimulated the public discussion about condoms in porn. These events, along with feedback from performers who said they’ve felt pressured not to use condoms in the past out of fear of losing work, have caused me to rethink my position.
From now on, I will require all performers I work with to test for STIs according to industry standards and to use condoms in their scenes. Until now, I have adhered to industry standard STI testing and my sets have been condom optional, which, for me means that performers truly can choose to use condoms or not and I always have condoms available. I’ve shot several scenes with condoms (and other safer sex barriers), but the majority of the scenes have been condom-free. Because I want to empower performers to make decisions about all aspects of the work they do, I have respected their decisions in the past not to use condoms. I still want performers to have choices, and they can choose not to work with me if they don’t want to use condoms.
As a feminist pornographer, part of my mission is to support fair labor practices and create a positive work environment on my sets. The health, well being, and safety of the performers is my priority, and I believe that using condoms in addition to rigorous testing is the best way to prevent STI transmission. In the past, I have publicly spoken out against Measure B (as in this piece for The Huffington Post). I am still against mandatory condoms and government regulation of the adult industry. I still believe that the current fight is all about politics, not workers’ safety and rights. But my position on the use of condoms in my own productions has changed. I am not leveling judgment against producers, directors, or performers who choose not to use condoms. I am making the best decision I can based on my dedication to feminist and ethical production practices.
Condoms are not the only answer and not without issues. Performer, registered nurse, and activist Nina Hartley gives a compelling argument about why she believes that condoms can do more harm than good (briefly: she argues that condom use on porn sets causes “condom rash” leading to internal tissue damage that could increase the chances of STI transmission). Condoms don’t protect against every STI including herpes, chlamydia, and HPV, but they are an effective barrier for others STIs including HIV. Some people have latex allergies or sensitivities, and some can develop an allergy after repeated exposure to latex. There are several non-latex condoms, which many people report don’t have the same abrasive qualities as latex. Unfortunately, these alternatives don’t come in the range of sizes that latex condoms do, and, let’s face it, one-size-fits-most doesn’t apply to porn guys. I have always consulted with performers about what I can do to make their job safer and better. I will do the same when it comes to working with condoms. I will strive to find creative ways to decrease the amount of intercourse they have, thus decreasing wear and tear on their bodies (especially the bodies of female performers). I will consider requests by fluid-bonded couples who don’t want to use condoms. I will be a part of an open and ongoing dialogue and adapt as testing technology changes and safer sex practices evolve.
Safer sex issues have been a part of my professional life since I became a sex educator. But the news of HIV in the industry has a very personal dimension for me. My father, a gay man, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1993, and he died in 1995. That was before the good drugs, the cocktail, when AIDS was a death sentence. This hits far too close to home for me, and I’ve got to make a change as a result. Plenty of people say that no one wants to see condoms in porn. That no one cares about the safety of the people who make the images they masturbate to. I hope to prove them wrong, and I hope you, my audience, will help me do it.
P.S. On this subject, I’m quoted in this piece by Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on CNN.
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Because this is ultimately about the sex workers, their bodies, and their labor, I think it’s important to feature their voices in this discussion. This week, I publicly asked performers to anonymously respond to this question: If the choice was entirely yours—not a mandate, not law, not what viewers want, just completely up to you—would you use condoms when you perform? Why or why not? Here are some of their responses. Some of them have been edited and excerpted for length.
“Perhaps I was delusional, but there was a time where I really trusted everyone in porn. I thought we all had this secret handshake, like none of us would ever jeopardize each other’s health and we all agreed to the same code of conduct off camera. I will admit I was pretty sexually irresponsible before porn; I had a lot of partners and I rarely used condoms. Once I started doing porn, all of that behavior stopped. I knew I couldn’t do that anymore because I didn’t just have to think about myself anymore. For some reason, I assumed everyone else was the same way. I felt really safe in the industry for a long time and if anyone were to ask me about using a condom on set I would have laughed, and said they would be uncomfortable and unnecessary. Condoms to me were things that you used if you were having a one night stand with someone you didn’t know—not things you used with people you knew and trusted. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that way anymore. I think condoms are necessary now. I wish it wasn’t that way but it is. I blame a lot of this on piracy. All the tube sites and the torrent sites have made all the studios make less money. A lot of people feel less inclined to adhere to a certain code of conduct, because they just aren’t working that much or they are working for less than what they want, etc. It’s a bad domino effect. I don’t love the state that porn is in at the moment and perhaps these HIV outbreaks were a good wake up call to anyone who is irresponsible, but I think we have to adapt with the times, and now, I think condoms are necessary.”
“I don’t think this question can be answered in a vacuum. If you were to ask me whether I prefer to have sex with condoms in general, the answer would be, ‘No.’ It’s not even the sensation. I don’t like the smell. That said, I’ve had plenty of condom sex. Prior to porn becoming a significant part of my life, I always used condoms. They were never a deterrent from sex. I feel like porn has allowed for condom-less sex as a sort of privilege. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s been over three years since I’ve had sex with someone who wasn’t a recently tested, industry performer. As a man who has sex almost exclusively as a top (at least in regards to who is penetrating who) at this point in his life, I’m honestly not too worried about contracting STIs like HIV or Hepatitis. However, I understand that my partners may feel differently. Women who do boy/girl scenes in straight porn (and men who bottom in gay porn) are at a higher risk of contracting non-curable, potentially life-threatening STIs like HIV. So I have to ask myself whether using condoms is going to benefit the industry as a whole. I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. The industry is in flux and many things have yet to play out. All I can say is that I’m happy to use condoms when it is an option and my partner feels safer with them. I don’t believe hot sex and barrier protection are mutually exclusive. However, I don’t see a direct correlation between a lack of barrier protection and the current problems plaguing the adult industry. STI exposure incidents will continue to put a hold on production regardless of whether condoms are used or not. It is my opinion that economic disruption of adult media is driving many performers to unregulated forms of sex work that put them at higher risk for contracting STIs. The testing system is doing its job to keep these performers—once infected—from re-entering the talent pool. It just so happens that major flaws were discovered in the system over the past six months. As a result, testing protocol has become increasingly strict. While the kinks are being worked out, I commend producers who will allow performers the option to use condoms.”
“I’m not interested in performing with condoms, though I occasionally do so, whether it’s my scene partner’s preference, the producer’s rule, or (rarely) because I don’t trust my partner’s lifestyle choices. In that case, or if she doesn’t seem well, or depending on the freshness of her test, I have requested condoms, and I have never experienced pushback from a director on my choice. All-natural sex on camera is more intimate, exciting and trust-based. That’s what I look for in a scene as a viewer and that’s what I try to create as an artist. I want to be a safe place for my scene partner to let her sexual instincts express themselves. With condoms there is literally something between us, and the instinctual fantasies are dulled. HIV is not a major concern for me. In 500-plus scenes, I have never contracted an STI, though I tend to shoot with established and/or professional, safety-conscious scene partners…We need standards. Agents and producers are betraying their talent when they promote performers who don’t respect the work we’re doing. I think performers doing privates/prostitution and heavy drug use is a far bigger issue than this current condom debate.”
“If the choice were completely mine, I would use a condom for EVERY scene/performance. I believe that it is safer for performers to use condoms, period. I do not accept the arguments put forth by FSC and other industry leaders/lawyers that condoms are more dangerous to a performer’s health. I do not accept that condoms being used in our industry would significantly hurt sales, in fact I believe it would benefit our industry’s image. The only reason I do not request condoms, outside of Kink.com or Wicked (who support condom use), is because I know I will not be rehired IF they even honor the request at the time. I have witnessed talent blacklisted by companies because the girl has asked to use a condom. I think it would be more responsible for our industry and our industry’s reputation to promote safe sex practices to the general public. Personally, I don’t feel that the anti-condom sentiment expressed by the industry reflects the true feelings of the performers, especially female performers.”
“If the choice was mine and when the choice is mine, I choose to use condoms. I still think testing is critical and that testing should be much more frequent. An STI test that was taken the week of the production coupled with condoms and gloves would be ideal and would be closer to mirroring what I want from a new partner in my personal life. I think condoms can be sexy. Safer sex can be sexy. I want condoms and a test when I’m having sex with a partner on or off screen. A couple of reasons play into this including greatly reducing risk of STI transmission, doing what I feel is necessary to protect my body, feeling confident and turned on by the fact that we are being healthy and aware of our bodies, feeling turned on by communicating, stating boundaries, and sticking to boundaries and limits that are set to protect both myself and my partners, and lastly feeling a certain obligation knowing that the sex I’m having will be viewed by others and that if I can make safer sex sexy then I can encourage the use of gloves and condoms (on cocks and toys) for the general viewing/porn consuming public.”
“My ideal situation is presenting a clear, basic STI test of 14 days, being able to communicate with my co-star about any other known sexual health concerns, AND the use of safer sex barriers such as condoms and gloves. I prefer testing AND condoms, and I want this preference to not only be the choice made by me and my co-star, but also be a choice that is fully supported by the production team. My experience with the majority of productions that were “okay” with condom use for heterosexual scenes have demonstrated to me that condom use is uncommon in porn at best, and discouraged/prevented at worse. I’ve shown up on sets where no condoms were available, and once a crew member offered one of his own, stored in the hot glove compartment of his car. (For obvious reasons, I immediately started bringing my own safer sex kit to shoots.) In queer/feminist-minded (what I’ll simply call “GOOD”) porn environments, condoms were not only allowed, not only encouraged, but actually SUPPLIED…Ultimately, how I shoot is up to me, yet I often have to compromise safer sex practices due to perceived marketability. It has always been a disappointment. I would appreciate the opportunity for myself—and anyone else—to work the way I want.”
“Most mainstream companies are not willing to allow performers to chose whether or not they use condoms in their scenes. Burning Angel has decided with all of the recent unfortunate happenings in the industry, that it should be at performers’ discretion as to whether or not they want to use condoms in their scenes…I am super appreciative that they have made this choice to benefit their performers’ health and safety at any cost. I feel that this choice demonstrates a lot of what I stand for in this industry, which is to promote boundaries, consent, and healthy sexual choices.”
“If the choice was entirely mine, I would not use condoms when I perform. Condoms and my vagina don’t get along so well. I always get very irritated internally after shooting a scene with a condom. From what I understand, this makes me more, not less, susceptible to STDs and infection. Also, I don’t completely trust condoms to prevent STDs. Condoms break and fail. I would never have sex with someone, on or off camera, with just a condom and no test.”
“To me, the idea of using condoms—or not—is a very personal choice. When used correctly, condoms do lessen the spread of HIV and certain STIs, but they don’t protect against everything. While there are a select number of companies that will “allow” talent to use condoms (and one company that has been 100% condom ONLY for 14 years) many companies discourage the use of condoms because their sales will suffer. I also think it is VERY important to realize that no one entity can possibly be the voice for all performers and say that ALL talent wishes they were condom only. For example, even on a condom-only set, performers complain about having to use condoms and try to remove them during the softcore portion of the filming, citing discomfort for both players, as well as a struggle for the male performer to stay erect. I would like the choice to use condoms without the government mandating what I must do with my body while I am engaged in a very intimate act. I think that educating performers will be the key to enabling them to make informed decisions about their personal safety.”
“If the choice was completely up to me, I’d use condoms in porn with almost everyone, and use my discretion with the partner I’m fluid bonded to. Frankly, I’d *still* want to get tested, and have any sexual partners get tested (condoms break, after all); but hormonal birth control messes my body up and I’d rather use condoms as a form of barrier. Plus, I like to be an example to others and prove that safer sex can and is hot in the context of sexual experiences! I honestly find it sexy and want to demonstrate why on film so others can see that for themselves. I wouldn’t want to be forced to wear condoms without testing being required, which is what could happen, or have porn companies not hire me because I prefer to use condoms, which is what happens now. I’d prefer to make my own decisions.”
Industry standards for testing are constantly evolving. Currently, a performer must test negative every 14 days or less for gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis A and B, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and HIV. The testing period was decreased from 30 days to 14 days just this week.
This Friday, September 13th at 5pm PT / 8 pm ET, I interview educator, ritualist, and founder of the Academy of S/M Arts, Cleo Dubois. Dubois enjoys guiding both newcomers and experts on sophisticated techniques related to kink and BDSM and she’ll discuss how consensual powerplay is a valid path to self-discovery, intimacy and healing. We’ll get a peak inside her popular intensive weekends for dominants taught at the San Francisco Citadel and hear highlights from her blog, In Kink With Heart, true stories of her 30 years in the scene.
This week’s show is live, so find out all the ways to listen here so you can call in with questions at 1-866-472-5788, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or e-mail me via tristan(at)puckerup.com and I’ll read them live on the air!
Cleo Dubois is a BDSM Educator, ritualist, and creator of the Academy of S/M Arts. A versatile sadomasochist , she came out in the San Francisco Leather Scene in the early 80s. She made two popular docu-films, “The Pain Game” and “Tie Me Up,” & presents at local and national leather events. She offers, with Eve Minax, Erotic Dominance Intensives Weekends focused on connecting heat, heart and spirit in our consensual power play. Helping new comers embrace their kink and mentoring couple play in the privacy of her dungeon are her specialties.
We featured a bunch of fantastic bondage toys in my latest instructional movie Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Bondage for Couples, and I’ve compiled a guide to all the toys by scene, complete with links to the exact products as well as similar items and some of my favorites.
Scene 1: Samantha Ryan and Michael Vegas
Scene 2: Adrianna Luna and James Deen
Bondage cuffs from the Sportsheets Sexy Slave Kit
Sex & Mischief Sex Sling
Scene 3: Skin Diamond and Derrick Pierce
Scene 4: India Summer and Danny Wylde
The last time I shot India Summer was for The Expert Guide to Threesomes, although she also appears in the photos in my book The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation, shot by the wonderful photographer Holly Randall. I was looking forward to working with India again in Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Bondage for Couples, since she has one of the best attitudes in porn; she truly loves sex and her job. She was paired with Danny Wylde, who was so stellar in Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Kinky Sex for Couples with Lyla Storm.
The scene begins in a doorway, where Danny has tied up India with door jam cuffs and has his head buried between her legs. After a hot orgasm, India turns the tables, and puts Danny in the very same bondage he put her in. She returns the favor with a sloppy blow job. That’s right folks, it’s a switch scene! Switch scenes, where the dominant/submissive roles are fluid and shift, are still too rare in porn movies, and I want to see more of them, so I am glad I included one in this movie. On the couch in the living room, they used purple silky scarves and took turns tying each other up.
At one point, we took a break to replace a camera battery and India was on top grinding into Danny. Just before the cameras started rolling again, Danny turned to her and said, “Can you do more of that?” These are the moments I just love (and wish I could capture on camera, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, it’s the nature of porno). It was genuine and sexy as hell to see Danny turned on and asking for more.
Their scene culminates in the Fetish Fantasy Spinning Swing which was suspended from a steel bondage frame (many thanks to Stockroom for a major hook up to get this in time at a reasonable price). This is a pretty elaborate swing that hangs from a single suspension point with a bungee cord that gives it lots of bounce. It took a little time for India and Danny to get the hang of it but they had a lot of fun having her suspended in mid air.
It’s no secret that Derrick Pierce is one of my favorite performers, and he did a great scene with Asa Akira in Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Kinky Sex for Couples. In Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Bondage for Couples, he’s paired with Skin Diamond and they two of them really go to town on each other. I’ve wanted to direct Skin Diamond from the moment I laid eyes on her. She is so stunning, plus she’s smart, funny, and actually showed up EARLY to the set. Unheard of in porno land, but definitely a way to score points with me! We had a last minute replacement for hair and makeup and this guy usually does mainstream work; you don’t have to do much with Skin, but he put her hair into this unbelievable updo twist thing that made her even more gorgeous. We goofed around a lot shooting stills.
She and Derrick have done many scenes together before, so they have this dom/sub dynamic that they slipped quite easily into. He began the scene by blindfolding Skin and tying her to the bed. He immediately started lots of verbal domination, something he’s so good at, setting the tone for the role play. Then he slipped a ball gag made of candy into her mouth, which made her drool sticky saliva all over her face. She said it didn’t taste that bad when she first had it in, but after awhile I am sure she was dying to get rid of it! Then he started teasing her, where he put a vibrator on her pussy just out of reach of where she really wanted it.
They also used a door swing that doesn’t require any special hardware, it just goes over the door. They really rocked the swing and had lots of fun. It was easy to set up, but I wanted to lock the door so it wouldn’t swing open by accident. We had to lock it from the inside since it was the door to the bathroom, but my lighting guy assured me he’d be able to pick the lock from the other side. Luckily, he did!
Adrianna Luna is a rising star in the world of adult, and it’s easy to see why. Don’t let her tiny frame and voice fool you – she’s a sexual dynamo. James Deen has been getting so much mainstream press lately that it was probably a miracle he was even available to shoot for me, but I am so glad he was. Because the bedroom where we were shooting their scene for Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Bondage for Couples was so small, I was crammed with the monitors in a bathroom. This was one of those scenes where everything just fell into place: James brought his A game, Adrianna was 100% into it, and my camera guys were really on, capturing every moment beautifully. The three of us talked about what toys they would use in the scene, but then I left it up to them to set the pace, incorporate the various toys, and basically do what they wanted.
James began by using the Under the Bed Restraint System to put Adrianna in a spread eagle position on the bed, then he went down on her until she came like crazy. Then, he put her in these cuffs with tethers attached to them and actually tied a vibrator to her hand, then to her body making it impossible for her not to come. When James Deen tortures you, apparently you get lots of orgasms out of the deal.
I wanted to incorporate this Sex Sling, which is essentially a thick strap with loops for your feet. I wasn’t quite sure how it would look or if it would add anything to the sex, but James got creative and put her in this cool position, where he twisted her body and tied the tethers to the sling itself. He just kept making shit up as he went along, keeping us all guessing about what he’d do next. When it was all over, I flew out of the bathroom screaming compliments at everyone!
Pioneering Sex Positive Retailer Invites You to Get Cheeky with Educational Workshops & Timeline
SAN FRANCISCO (August 1, 2013): August is “Anal Pleasure Month” according to Good Vibrations, the trusted San Francisco-based company that takes pride in providing accurate information on sexuality and toys for grown-ups. In celebration of this theme they have put together an impressive timeline of the history of anal sex, along with a month of workshops and events in California to bring know-how and pleasure to the people.
“While anal pleasure is widely enjoyed, it is still considered taboo, so access to clear and accurate information about it is sadly limited. Good Vibrations declared August to be Anal Pleasure month as a way to illuminate the subject and make information available to interested adults. You can see how the cultural conversation around anal sex has evolved in our anal history timeline –- it’s fun and fascinating!” says Staff Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen.
Good Vibrations has also teamed up with famed sex educator and author Tristan Taormino to celebrate Anal Pleasure Month on her Sex Out Loud Radio show where she’ll be discussing the ins and outs of safe and fun anal play. Tristan directed The Expert Guide to Anal Sex and has her own collection of favorite sex toys at Good Vibrations, including “Back Door Beginner” kit and Beginner Pegging Kit and also contributed to Good Vibrations’ anal history timeline. This and other anal safe toys will be featured in the month of August.
Follow along online as Anal Sex Month highlights useful resources and information, normalizing and celebrating anal pleasure. Good Vibrations’ Social Networks including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google Plus, and even Instagram and Vine with hashtag #analpleasuremonth.
As a follow up to Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Kinky Sex for Couples, I directed Tristan Taormino’s Guide to Bondage for Couples for Adam & Eve, which stars Skin Diamond, Derrick Pierce, Adrianna Luna, James Deen, Samantha Ryan, Michael Vegas, India Summer and Danny Wylde. It was also lots of fun to make, and I want to share some stories from the set along with photos. The first scene features Samantha Ryan and Michael Vegas, two performers I’ve never worked with before who’ve been on my wish list.
Their scene together kicks off the film with some of the simplest do-it-yourself bondage, including a neck tie (yes, we used the Grey Tie, the one from Fifty Shades of Grey) and Samantha’s stockings. I decided to bring an unopened package of a personal pair of Agent Provocateur silk stockings to use. They wound up being incredibly difficult for Samantha to wrangle: they didn’t have the give that stockings usually have, so they were hard to get on and off and would wrinkle in odd places. So much for luxury! A pair from the drugstore probably would have worked better!
Samantha and Michael also used one of my favorite accessories: bondage tape, which is incredibly versatile. The pair has wonderful chemistry, and the sex and bondage is playful and romantic. They are well matched because they both enjoy passionate sex that unfolds spontaneously. Michael is a total lover — warm, sweet, and funny. Samantha is insanely intelligent and we had a really heady conversation after her scene while we ate lunch. I really liked both of them and cannot wait to work with them again.
SAN FRANCISCO (June 28th, 2013): Good Vibrations, the trusted San Francisco Bay Area based multi-channel retail company that takes pride in providing accurate information on sexuality and quality sex toys for grown-ups, is delighted to announce a new partnership with Tristan Taormino. Taormino is an award-winning author, sex educator, speaker, filmmaker, and radio show host.
Good Vibrations and Taormino have joined forces, inking a one year deal to collaborate on several projects including Good Vibrations as the exclusive sex toy retail sponsor for the second season of Taormino’s popular radio show, Sex Out Loud.
Taormino will act as a brand ambassador for Good Vibrations for the next twelve months. In this role, Taormino will promote Good Vibrations during public appearances and college events, write original content for the Good Vibrations online magazine, promote exclusive kits and her favorite recommended toys for the stores and website, and spearhead Good Vibrations’ annual campaign about ‘backdoor’ pleasure- Anal Pleasure Month in August.
“Good Vibrations is the original sex-positive sex toy store that dramatically changed the sex education landscape. I’ve recommended them for years because of their commitment to quality products and exceptional customer service. I’m thrilled to have Good Vibrations be the presenting sponsor of Sex Out Loud, and excited to represent such a wonderful company,” says Taormino.
Good Vibrations Executive Vice President, Jackie Strano had this to add: “We are so pleased and elated to be working together. This is a perfect partnership of two brands that deeply care about people’s pleasure and sexual health. Besides being a wonderful human being, Tristan is a powerhouse sex positive feminist mover and shaker. It’s going to be a fun year!”
About Tristan Taormino®
Tristan Taormino® is an award-winning author, sex educator, speaker, filmmaker, and radio host. She is the author of seven books and has edited 25 anthologies. Taormino is the producer and host of Sex Out Loud®, a weekly radio show on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network. She has directed and produced twenty-four adult films that have won more than a dozen awards. She has appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry, Joy Behar: Say Anything, HBO’s Real Sex, The Howard Stern Show, Loveline, MTV, CNN, NBC, MTV, Oxygen, Fox News, and The Discovery Channel.
Sex Out Loud premiered in 2012, and is the top-rated show across the entire network. It airs live every Friday at 5:00 pm Pacific time and 8:00 pm EST.
ABOUT GOOD VIBRATIONS
Good Vibrations is the San Francisco Bay Area based retailer trusted for more than three decades to provide a comfortable, safe environment for finding sex-positive products and educational materials to enhance one’s sex life. Good Vibrations offers its products through its retail stores and website. Stores are located in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, CA and in Brookline, MA.