Read the full article by Stoya at Slate.com

 

Our industry stops everything during viral scares, for days or weeks at a time. It’s taught us how to live with systemic uncertainty.

A couple weeks ago, I was at rehearsal in Manhattan for an off-off-Broadway play. We were still proceeding as if COVID-19 might be easily contained, but one of the other actors was already stressed about a possible shutdown, and the loss of social liberty that might follow. It was frightening to him.

Around then, I realized I have a fairly unique perspective in the current novel coronavirus situation. As a pornographer, I’m used to “moratoriums,” as we call them, or quarantines, as the rest of the world is calling this one. An industry advocacy group, the Free Speech Coalition, calls for work stoppages when a positive HIV test comes back from a porn performer. They can last a day or weeks. Given the false positive rate of the tests we use to screen for HIV, and the volume of testing that happens in the professional adult performer pool, I expect one every 18 to 24 months. The system is voluntary, but it’s widely observed by the industry.

Obviously, this pandemic is on a much larger scale—and involves a much more easily communicable disease—than a biennial occurrence of a positive HIV test among porn talent (and these regularly turn out to be false positives, at that). And the current economic trauma people around the world are experiencing far exceeds a typical porn shutdown. But I think my community has some experience here that may be useful for others struggling with systemic uncertainty for the first time. I recognized the fear my fellow actor described—and I knew where it came from.

“Most people don’t know porn production, and sex work, in general, is a blue-collar job,” said Kimberly Kane, a director, performer, and occasional escort. “In the porn industry, we don’t have a union, paid overtime, matched 401(k), or anything that comes with an entry-level corporate job. Porn performing is a gig-economy job.”

“When our jobs stop,” she told me, “we don’t know when they’re going to start again, and there is very little safety net.”