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Monkeypox is changing sex work and sex parties

As monkeypox became more prevalent, PASS began to receive more phone calls from the studios. The production companies wanted to make sure they were doing everything they could on set to avoid broadcast. But monkeypox posed a bigger challenge to the world of porn than other diseases. “Most of our strategy, as an industry, has really been based on screening and testing for infectious diseases before people are on set… this works really well for STIs,” O’Brien said. “Since the beginning of PASS [in 2011]we’ve never had a single transmission of HIV on set.” The detection system even worked “pretty well for COVID, [but] we couldn’t use the same strategies for monkeypox because there’s no screening test,” he said. “We discussed whether we should help with guidance on identifying potential injuries, but that felt a bit like playing doctor and asking people to be salon dermatologists.” Therefore, PASS issued guidelines urging artists not to work if they “develop any type of rash, lesions, or suspicious lumps, or ‘feel sick,'” to “clean and disinfect surfaces, bedding, and clothing,” and to treat to get the vaccine

“When the first guidelines came out, [the monkeypox vaccine] was available to gay men who have had rectal gonorrhea in the past three months [in LA]O’Brien said. “I understand the risk assessment there, but I don’t think pragmatically that’s how communities access things.” Also, porn performers couldn’t stop having sex for a few weeks without their earnings being affected. “Abstinence means something radically different to someone whose livelihood depends on sexual activity. So we decided we wanted to do something,” O’Brien said.

A few weeks ago, vaccines became more widely available in Los Angeles, after the federal government identified the city as having a fairly large number of cases. O’Brien made it a priority “to get as much access as we can to people who we think are at risk.” PASS Board Director James Bell is also director of sexual health services for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which received a significant supply of the vaccine from the Los Angeles Department of Health. “Jamie and the folks at the LA LGBT Center really advocated for being able to set up a clinic for people of all genders in sex work,” O’Brien said.

PASS held an event at the LA LGBT Center and immediately filled their 60 vaccination slots. Porn actor Shawn Alff stood in line to receive his monkeypox injection at the clinic, even though his work involves women and occasional threesomes with bisexual men. “I’m not a super hypochondriac, especially with monkeypox,” Alff said. “But it would keep you out of a job for at least a month. I was also planning on going to Burning Man.”

Alff said there is no longer a clear line between gay and straight performers in the industry.

“’Straight’ actresses are just as susceptible as ‘gay’ male performers [to monkeypox] … Almost all the female artists I work with also work with trans, gay and bisexual artists. So I just don’t see a divide, really,” she said.

So far, no performers have reported contracting monkeypox on set, although some performers do have it and stay away from work, O’Brien said. Sex workers are unfairly “seen as potential vectors of disease,” he added. Alff thinks that’s because society views the porn industry as a scapegoat. “Somehow it gives you this level of [psychological] protection, like, ‘Well, I’m not going to get it because the only people who get it are these people who have this moral failing,’” Alff said. The result, he said, is that the porn industry has to “self-regulate to a higher degree than other industries.”

O’Brien also gives tips on monkeypox to full-service sex workers. Jessie Sage, a Pittsburgh-based full-service sex worker, told BuzzFeed News that it’s important for independent sex workers to have access to the vaccine. “When I was working in porn, if I was working with other performers, I could see when they had their last PASS test and I could access their health records…When you’re doing full-service sex work, you can’t expect that from your clients. customers,” he said.

Sage spent days trying to get the vaccine, a journey he recounted for the City Of PittsburghPaper. First, she contacted an infectious disease doctor at a major hospital, who was unable to help her. Say then called the LGBT-friendly clinic that administers her PrEP, but they still didn’t have the vaccine. When she finally found a clinic that did, she explained that she was a sex worker. An employee told her that she couldn’t give it to him because he wasn’t a man. So she Sage called the Allegheny Health Department, which also said she couldn’t get the shot. “What do I have to do to qualify? Besides being a professional whore? she asked. The worker said that she had to be gay, gender non-conforming or trans; having sex with gay men was not enough.

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