It would be inevitable that Gail Dines would have a word or a thousand to say about the latest HIV porn scare ongoing. It would also be inevitable that she would retain her reputation for distorting, misassuming, and flat out lying about every bit of information that she massages to fit into her perfectly molded antiporn feminist agenda.
Nevertheless, her essay that she posted to her usual online abode over at CounterPunch this morning goes even beyond her usual high standard calling of twisting facts and events to sell the idea that the porn industry is merely the sexual version of Goldman Sachs led by the Delta House frat boys of Animal House, whose only mission in life is to decide how many women they can capture, rape, and abuse every day. Propagandists will do what propagandists do, but very few propagandists have quite the ability like Professor Dines to make a lie, a distortion, or an ideological misassumption out of every single paragraph she writes.
Let us break it down paragraph wise, shall we?
But first off, to the good readers of CounterPunch brought here by the timely link that Ms. Gail added to her article: I give you this welcome and brief intro:
Greetings, y’allz…my name is Anthony Kennerson. (Contrary to what Gail posted, it is NOT “Red Garter Belt Club”..that is not even the correct name of this blog.) By night, I work as a retail cashier, making barely above minimum wage. By day, when not sleeping or eating or doing what most two-legged carbon life forms do to get through, I blog on the issues that I care about the most….mostly dealing with progressive politics, sexual liberation, and sexual media. As you can tell skimming through this blog – and I really do hope you surf through what I write here — I am unabashedly Left of center on economic and social issues, and pretty much an antiauthoritarian on issues of sexuality. And that includes issues of pornography as well. I alsp edit and moderate another blog called the Blog of Pro Porn Activism, originally created by lovely and now retired Renegade Evolution, which seeks to defend adult sexual media as a legitimate art form and a basic human expression of a positive human need. BPPA is not funded by anything or anyone, other than the good will of Blogger to host it. Red Garter Club is sorta funded, but only by the $50 a month fee I proudly pay my webhost HostGator. (Although, anyone wanting to throw some love of the financial kind towards me would be greatly appreciated. Errrr…just kidding. Maybe.) Also, you will note that I am and have been a trenchant critic of Professor Dines and of the variant of antiporn “radical” feminism for quite a long time….please feel free to skim through all my essays debunking plenty of her theory and analysis.
OK, that out of the way…onward to Dines’ essay.
The porn industry, using its sophisticated, well-resourced public relations machine, sells itself as an avant garde, progressive, counter-cultural force out to empower us all with exciting images of an edgy, fun, creative sexuality. In reality, it is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business that functions like all global industries, especially when it feels under siege. The recent HIV outbreak among porn actors and the subsequent negative publicity about how the business treats its performers has revealed how this industry goes into attack-dog mode by discrediting, defaming, and slandering those who blow the whistle on what goes on behind the scenes.
This, of course, is standard Gail Dines boilerplate, where she dumps on “the porn industry” as this mighty corporate collossus of dirty old men rolling out an image of hip sexuality only to mask the mass brutality of “hate sex” that they make their megaprofits from. Of course, the reality is a bit different….but we’ll save that for later.
For years, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been fighting for mandatory condom use on porn sets. The porn industry has mounted a wholesale attack on the foundation, accusing it of fear-mongering, exaggeration, and stigmatizing porn performers. Ironically, one of the AHF’s main critics, porn producer Tristan Taormino—who accused the organization of propagating “negative stereotypes about sex workers” and using “inaccurate information to scare the public” —is now herself a target of a porn industry smear campaign for announcing on CNN that she will no longer shoot condom-free scenes.
Notice how Gail attempts to twist things around right away, depicting as a “wholesale attack” opposition to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s long time campaign to impose “barrier protection” — including mandated condom usage — on porn sets, and also replace the existing testing and screening system used by the “straight” side of the industry with the “trust that the condom doesn’t break” seromixing curretly the standard on the gay side of the industry.
And, Gail really does show huge cojones in attempting to bring in Tristan Taormino to prove her points…especially since Professor Dines is not exactly on friendly terms with Taormino or her brand of “feminist porn”, with or without condoms. Remember when Dines commented about the “biased” reporting of Daily Beast reporter Maura Kelly when she dared to report positively on last year’s Feminist Porn Awards?? I believe the term “sellouts” was used then. Not to mention the fact that Gail ripped into Taormino back then for having her seminal anal sex educational video, Tristan Taormino’s Guide To Anal Sex For Women, been produced by John Stagliano and Ernest Greene, whom she essentially labeled as “ugliest, most misogynistic pornographers”.
(Ernest Greene, BTW, is porn icon Nina Hartley’s husband of 15 years. He’s also a long time producer and director of BDSM/kink-themed explicit films, and a decorated activist on his own right. He gets his later on in Dines’ current essay..but that’s for later.)
Meanwhile, back to the current and how Dines misinterprets Tristan’s change of condom policy.
What a difference a year makes! In a Huffington Post article in October 2013, Tristan Taormino urged people to vote against Measure B, which made condoms mandatory, because it “will not make workers safer nor will it help stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”
Accusing the AHF of trying to destroy the porn industry, Taormino argued that she was against Measure B because she wanted to “empower performers to make decisions about how they will protect themselves.” On September 20, 2013, just 11 months later, Taormino stated on her blog that she still wants to “empower performers to make decisions about all aspects of the work they do.” This time, though, empowering them means refusing to work with those who won’t use condoms. While all of this may seem very confusing to the average person not acquainted with the inner workings of the porn industry, it actually makes perfect sense given the events of the last month or so.
Of course, only Gail Dines feels herself free to interpret Taormino’s change in policy as a 180-degree turn, especially since Tristan has said repeatedly since her initial announcement that she still opposes government-coerced efforts at mandating condoms, that her change only applies to her own production company and that she would respect the right of other porn production companies to dictate their policies as they see fit; and that along with requiring condoms, she would also require testing using the current screening/testing process that the mainstream porn industry uses. Hardly confusing at all, I would think.
Gail then goes into her breakdown of the events of the last two months in LA pornland (not to be confused with the barren wasteland that is her written propaganda tome:
Last month porn performer Cameron Bay tested positive for HIV, and since then three other performers have come forward, making a total of four who have been diagnosed with acute HIV infection. At first the porn industry expressed sympathy, but now they are circling the wagons and sharpening their knives, going after the infected performers who took part in an AHF press conference on September 19. At that conference, Cameron Bay described how, in her last shoot before testing positive for HIV, her partner’s penis was bleeding, and even though he wasn’t wearing a condom, the filming continued. She described another shoot in which one of the actors she was working with was cut. Rather than stop shooting, the director went on to film an explicit scene.
That would be a perfect morality tale of tragedy….except for the inconvenient points that:
(1) There were actually THREE, not four, HIV infections confirmed by the system of testing used by the “industry”; the 2 performers produced by AHF president Michael Weinstein at that presser could not even confirm that their infections were on set or a byproduct of the original 3 infected. (Both were gay performers whom were condom only, and one of the performers actually had negative tests since he claimed he tested positive.)
(2) The two initial performers confirmed to be HIV+ were intimately related to each other for a long while (Performer #2, Rod Daily, was and still is Cameron Bay’s long-time boyfriend), and both of them had been active on the side sexually (Bay as an escort and part-time performer in Arizona for two years prior to coming to the Los Angeles area to shoot videos, and Daily as a gay male performer who crossed over on occasion).
(3) And this is the important part that Gail kind of glosses over: susequent testing of all first generation partners of all three confirmed HIV+ performers have turned up no other infections. Everyone…including all of Bay’s partners and performers at that Public Disgrace shoot….even the guy with the bloody penis….and all of Daily’s onscreen partners, have been tested several times since their shoots..and all have been found to be HIV NEGATIVE. That’s testing incorporating the Aptima test, which is recognized by everyone to be the most accurate and up-to-date HIV test known to mankind, and which is so accurate that it can detect the HIV virus from a person’s RNA cells as soon as 8 days after infection.
Also….Dines skips gleefully over the fact that Kink.com — the company who directly owns the Public Disgrace label — has detailed and strictly enforced protocols that say that in all of their scenes, any partner has the right at any time to abort a scene if it gets too intense for their likin, and that in hetero scenes, any partner can request that a condom by used. In an interview she did for the Huffington Post, Bay stated that she was indeed given the option of a condom, but she refused, citing her faith that the person she was engaging in sex with had tested negative. She also said that the shoot was temporarily halted upon the sight of the bloody penis, but was allowed to continue, she gave no word even then or at the AHF press conference whether she raised any objection to continuing. She did say that upon retrospect, she would request a condom for future scenes.
Then again, Gail Dines isn’t exactly in love with Kink.com, either. Two words: “Torture porn.”
In the press conference, Cameron’s partner, also a porn performer and one of the four who tested positive, blasted the industry for continuing to shoot scenes without condoms just one week after a performer tested positive. Hitting the nail on the head, he told the reporters that “Ultimately, it’s a business, and their main concern is money and not their performers.” Indeed. Rather than closing down all production and investing in the healthcare of their performers (AHF is paying for all the healthcare needs of the four performers because none of them has health insurance), the industry is busy pouring money into a PR crisis-management campaign.
Actually, Gail, “the industry” (I suppose she means the Free Speech Coalition’s Performer Accessibility Screening Services (FSCPASS)) did impose a moratorium TWICE and shut down LA production wherever they could. They also tested and retested all performers to ensure that the talent pool wasn’t contaminated. Though, there was strong criticism from many corners of the industry that the original moratorium was lifted too early due to the short time frame of the testing.
And it is so kind of AHF to agree to open up their sizeable money safe to agree to pay the full costs of Cameron Bay’s and Rod Daily’s treatment in exchange for their boosting of the condom mandate. I wonder how Gail would feel if “the industry” had done the same in exchange for opposition; would she have praised that altrusitic moment?? Or, maybe Gail’s just jealous that Stop Porn Culture can’t get some of that good green gravy to fight the Great Porn Corporate Complex???
Finally..it’s so touching that Gail is on a first term basis with anyone she thinks she can use as a crutch for her antiporn crusade….but can’t be arsed to say even the name of a MAN who happens to be an equal victim. Say it with me, Professor: ROD. DAILY. DERRICK. BURTS. DARREN. JAMES.
Following the press conference, The Free Speech Coalition (the lobbying arm of the porn industry) did what most industry organizations do: blame the victim. According to Diana Duke, the CEO of FSC, “While producers and directors can control the film set environment, we can’t control what performers do in private. We need to do more to help performers understand how to protect themselves in their private lives”. That the performers contracted HIV in their private lives is now the official line of the porn industry. Mouthing almost the same words, Steven Hirsch, CEO of Vivid Entertainment, is quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, we can’t control what people do off-set”.
Let us set aside the fact that Dines is in such a rant mode that she can’t even wait to spellcheck Diane Duke’s name (or, CounterPunch must be too poor for fact checkers to actually factcheck proper names). The real issue is her implication that to say that porn performers and the general public might want to exercise some discretion and discipline over whom they engage in sex with on or off scene in order to avoid getting those nasty infections is the equivalent of “blaming the victim” and avoiding the alleged responsibility of “the industry” for causing female performers to be infected with STI’s as part of their general mission to degrade and damage women.
And remember, what the FSC recommended was more education and persuasion of performers to be more careful with their personal lives…which is a tad different from both AHF’s dictates of “Shut up and wrap up, and hope the condom doesn’t break”, or Dines’ prefered method of “Just blow the whole damn industry up with a nuke.”
The Real Porn Wikileaks has claimed that porn actor Derrick Burts is wanted for outstanding warrants for reckless driving, as if this explains how he got HIV, and has posted Cameron Bay’s juvenile arrest record on the website above the question: “Is Cameron the kind of person who would lie to evade responsibility for her actions? Let’s see what Maricopa County and the State of Arizona have to say about that….”
Oh, good…she actually name drops Derrick Burts. That’s progress.
Of course, Derrick Burts’ credibility as AHF’s most used missionary and his unwillingness to lock in a legitimate excuse as to how he got infected with HIV in a gay porn condom only scene is totally irrelevant to Gail, as is Cameron Bay’s past history as an escort and her criminal record. But, I’ll gladly let my friend Michael Whiteacre take that portion of Dines’ rant on, since he is the owner of that critique.
But enough men for Gail to digest…back to attempting to glam off Tristan Taormino.
Not surprisingly, Taormino, the only porn producer who has acknowledged that there may well be health risks on porn sets, is now being hung out to dry as a traitor to the industry. She was until last week the golden girl of the porn industry because she branded herself as a fun, cool, hip “feminist” who could build a female consumer base (even though she has been filming condom-free anal sex scenes for a decade and seems to have shown no concern whatsoever for the health risks until now). Now the industry is after her like a pack of wolves, arguing that her condom-only policy is a cynical PR ploy aimed at building an image of herself as a feminist pornographer who cares about performer safety.
Riiiight, Gail…”the only porn producer who has acknowledged there may be health risks on porn sets”??? Why, because she is the one you can currently and conveniently use for your antiporn crusade, in spite of her otherwise being a “sellout”??
And in fact, Taormino has gotten nothing but praise from most of the performer pool for her change of stance, including from many of the leading performers and producers, who see her as a guiding light and a leader for changing and transforming the industry.
Oh, wait….I see what she means by a “PR media campaign”…she means…well, read on.
Ernest Greene, a well-known director of violent porn (Roxie Loves Pain, Jenna Loves Pain, McKenzie Loves Pain) and one-time Taormino collaborator, wrote a scathing article accusing the latter of jumping ship because “she tacks with the political wind however she perceives it to blow”. Similarly, the blogger Red Garter Belt Club denounces Taormino for putting “her own personal enrichment and political posturing above the principle of defending true performer choice and the actual facts and merits of protecting performers,” but doesn’t actually explain how performers are better served by having unprotected sex.
(***cue up “Deeper Than The Night”***)
OH MY GODDESS…THAT’S OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN’S MUSIC!!!
Awww….BOOOOOOM!!!!! I’ve been EXPOSED!!!!!!!
Except for the fact that she botches up this blog’s name and does not even cite the person behind it. Ahhh, Gail, I know you read my blog, because I’ve been digging at you for close to 5 years now. I even have top Google search mentions, for Goddess’ sake. Surely, you would have the knowledge to both mention my name and/or get my blog name right.
And secondly, Gail, nowhere in any of my essays do I defend the act of “unprotected sex”, which is a red herring anyway. I defend the right of performers and all people to protect themselves by whatever means they see fit…but I also say that since the majority of people and majority of performers are NOT HIV+ or even high risks for getting HIV, they and they alone should decide for themselves what level of protection they will use.
Not that you will even listen to either my words or Ernest Greene’s detailed rebuttal of Tristan’s decision, since you probably just blow us both off in the same way you blow off any man who does not fit into the Robert Jensen/Richard Leader/John Stotenberg self-hating mold: as dirty old men jacking off in our mother’s basements, plotting our next mass rape. Too bad that we don’t fit into your easy bipolar assumptions and that we dare to defend ourselves.
And, of course, I won’t even mention those two dirty curse words that so rile you, Gail, into fits of apoplexy: N**a H*****y.
Anyways, here’s how Gail concludes this bit of fraudery.
Whatever the reasons behind Taormino’s decision, I have to agree with Greene (and this is a first!) when he says that “I doubt [that] Gail Dines is likely to find this abrupt conversion credible.” For over a decade, Taormino has been an integral part of an industry that has shown callous disregard for the well-being of performers, one that shamelessly spits out women (and men) once finished with them, goes after whistleblowers with a vengeance, and has fought, like other global industries, any attempt to regulate conditions…all in the name of profit. Far from being counter-cultural, this industry is built on the degradation and debasement of human beings, and no amount of PR can render invisible the violence it does to the bodies of real people.
So, basically, Gail thinks that the $750 MILLION (guesstimate according to the LA Times) corporate enterprise that is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is currently facing a unionization insurrection from its underpaid and overworked staff, is really a wonderful populist institution that is helping to break the back of the evil corporate porno complex. And in other news, the sky is really purple, the moon is really made of brown cheese, and Gail Dines is really a socialist.
Or, for that matter, a credible expert on porn, STI’s or even truthtelling.
BTW…my apologies to Olivia for bringing her good progressive name into this. Couldn’t help myself.