Porn Stars as Safe Sex Role Models? Measure B’s Educational Opportunity

Author’s name withheld by request

Many of us grow up emulating our favorite movie stars. But what if those movie stars were porn stars, and by acting like them we were preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia? LA County lawmakers behind Measure B, or the “Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act” perhaps had that idea.

In a recent study by Rodriguez-Hart et al., 28% of adult film actors in a 168-participant study were found to have chlamydia and/or gonorrhea 1.This statistic is more appalling when compared to the negligible percentage of legal prostitutes in Nevada with the aforementioned STDs 2. The study continued by describing how these diseases are transmitted, blaming unprotected oral and anal sex in addition to vaginal intercourse. Of the 47 (28%) participants with the STD, only 11 (23%) of them had STDs detectable through urogenital testing alone. In addition, over 90% of the oropharyngeal and rectal cases were asymptomatic. The study concluded that undiagnosed asymptomatic STDs were common and easily transmissible to sexual partners. The authors strongly believed that every performer should be tested for STDs at all anatomical sites and should have to use condoms for sex scenes. Measure B, which thoroughly addresses both of these concerns, was passed with 56% approval during the most recent election.

Although Measure B was passed to ensure the protection of adult film actors from STDs, it may have a collateral effect on its viewers by promoting safe sex. It would be interesting and potentially beneficial to study the effect of this legislature on the sexual activities and use of condoms of its viewers. It is no secret that many American teens have watched pornography on the Internet despite it being technically illegal for minors. It is almost impossible to completely avoid some aspect of pornography during a lengthy web session. I hypothesize that the use of condoms in the adult film industry will be mirrored in its use by the general public due to the increased perception that using condoms is normal and even encouraged by the sexual partner. Unfortunately, the idea that pornographic activity is “normal” has led to many problems, including women being seen solely as sexual objects and other forms of female degradation, as well as unrealistic expectations of both sexual activity and performance; however, these concerns are the subject of another paper.

According to the Healthy People 2020 Initiative website, sexually transmitted diseases cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $15.9 billion annually 3, placing further stress on the fragile healthcare system and the taxpayer. STDs can cause “reproductive health problems, fetal and perinatal health problems, cancer and facilitation of the sexual transmission of HIV infection.” It is clear that sexually transmitted diseases are an important issue in public health and has many aspects that must be addressed, including education, prevention, and treatment. It is difficult to engage the concerns related to STDs because sex is an inherently private matter. However, the adult film industry is capable of exposing the public to the private by exposing privates to the public.

Lawmakers should consider supplementing Measure B to further promote safe sex. If there is a health warning on cigarettes and a “do not try this at home” disclaimer on television shows, there should be a similar disclaimer on pornography. This is a great opportunity to educate the public by quickly warning that engaging in the behavior shown in the upcoming film may be risky and potentially hazardous to the viewer’s health. These warnings could also include links to sex education websites and information about sexually transmitted diseases. While it is understandable that a viewer of pornography may not want to see this warning, it is important that the information is attainable. The adult film industry should be held to similar standards as other institutions in our country, especially because its products could have a profound effect on public health.

Measure B addresses several concerns of the Healthy People 2020 Initiative. It affects biological factors of STD transmission, such as the asymptomatic nature of STDs, and social and economic factors, including access to appropriate health care in the adult film industry. However, the potential collateral effects of Measure B may positively affect the sexual choices of the public, and therefore ameliorate the detrimental effects of sexually transmitted diseases on individuals and society as a whole.

This post was originally written as an assignment for the Intro to Clinical Medicine: Clinical Experience course at Einstein.

References

1. Rodriguez-Hart et al., “Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing of Adult Film Performers: Is Disease Being Missed?” http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/std/docs/afi/KerndtAFISTD.pdf. 2012.

2. Lin II, Rong-Gong. “L.A. porn stars have more STDs than Nevada prostitutes.” Nevada prostitutes.” L.A. Now. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/std-rates-in-la-porn-stars-higher-than-in-nevada-prostitutes.html. October 31, 2012.

3. “Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” Healthy People 2020. http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=37. September 2012.

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