Adult performer Silver Steele visited a few bars over the Fourth of July weekend to enjoy the holiday with some pals. He claims that when he and his pals went dancing, they all rubbed up against one another and gave each other hugs and kisses. The following weekend, he took a flight from Houston to Austin and spent some time boating on the lake and basking in the Texas sunshine.
A few days later, Steele discovered several unusual white lumps on his top lip. Although they appeared to be whiteheads, he observed that popping them was challenging. Oh, is that razor burn, I thought to myself. In the back of my mind, as the whiteheads became larger and began to blister, I kept thinking, “Monkeypox,” “Monkeypox,” Steele visited the doctor for a test when he began to experience the classic flu symptoms, including sensitive lymph nodes, fever, chills, and sore throat. He took the test on a Friday, and the following Monday he learned it was positive.
In an effort to warn his 39,000 followers about the dangers of getting monkeypox, Steele tweeted a picture of his lesions on July 24. He also urged them to be vaccinated. Many people were horrified by the images and expressed disgust, but Steele insisted that this was exactly his goal when he posted them online. I want it to be retweeted. He claims, “I want my face and lesions to be seen so others can see how serious it is.” He faced a barrage of criticism, primarily from trolls or others who wanted him to keep publishing porn. But he also got a ton of texts from others in his field praising him for speaking out.
Workers in the sex business and adult entertainment, especially those who identify as LGBTQ, have frequently been obliged to take the lead, demanding funding and developing safety measures to battle illnesses that can be contracted through sexual contact. According to San Francisco-based dominatirix Domina Yuki, safer sex practices among sex workers and the LGBTQ community were forced upon them. Because our government has historically failed the LGBTQ and sex workers community, we are left with the burden of caring for both ourselves and our community.
Although anyone can contract monkeypox regardless of gender or sexual orientation, instances of the disease have increased in recent months among communities of men who have sex with men (MSM). More than 3,500 instances have now been documented in the United States. With conflicting advice from healthcare professionals, social stigma, a severe vaccine shortage, and exclusion from vaccine eligibility, sex workers and adult performers who have frequent close physical and sexual contact with others or who have multiple partners are currently looking for ways to protect themselves and their communities.
Many sex workers and organizations that support the sex industry are speaking out in the fight against monkeypox, holding vaccination drives, publishing revised standards for photo shoots and client interactions, and using social media, like Steele has, as a platform to share their knowledge and experiences. They have to navigate a difficult maze of anti-LGBTQ and anti-sex work stigma associated with the virus, which far-right pundits have been only too glad to spread.
Images 1 and 2 provided by Silver Steele
SEX IS SAFER WHEN IT IS YOUR JO
International health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) currently advise persons in high-risk groups to get immunized and cut back on the number of existing or potential partners. While the majority of public health initiatives have concentrated on expanding access to the vaccination for MSM, some localities, including Washington, D.C., recognize that classified sex workers are also a high-risk category for monkeypox and are urging them to get vaccinated.
Some companies and regulatory organizations are making efforts to decrease transmission in the adult film industry. Although there hasn’t been a confirmed instance of on-set transmission, Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS), a testing company for the adult industry, released new guidelines earlier this week with the intention of lowering the risk of transmission and enticing performers to get immunized. Ian OBrien, the executive director of PASS, previously told Rolling Stone that we are a group that has always taken public health and our own health extremely seriously. A immunization drive was started by PASS in Los Angeles on Friday.
Florida-based production business FabScout Entertainment revealed on Thursday that it had given 30 dosages to models as part of a joint operation with the Broward County Public Health Department.
A Monkeypox Info Sheet for sex workers has been developed by Domina Yuki and Mistress Ophelia Margaux, two dominatrices based in San Francisco. It contains details on the virus and its transmission, advice on how to screen potential clients, and suggested protocols for sanitizing their workspace or dungeon between clients. The document goes beyond advice from health organizations to include specific actions persons working in the sex industry should take to lower their risk of transmission, like client screening questions and dungeon protocol recommendations. I observed my gay and lesbian friends advocating for more monkeypox vaccinations, testing, and education on the part of our federal, state, and municipal governments, says Ophelia. It seemed crucial to not let them do the difficult tasks by themselves.
Ophelia claims that she and Yuki intended to educate sex workers and customers about the possibility of contracting the virus in anyone, not just MSM. And after looking through numerous government and medical sites, I discovered that there was not much information available to help sex workers deal with the monkeypox pandemic.
Yuki wants people to consider all of this and how they might wish to put some of the ideas and practices we mentioned in there into practice.
Yuki is concerned about access to care. In these circumstances, privilege is always at play, she claims. Whether it be for gay men, sex workers, or performers and industry workers, communities still face many barriers to medical care. These barriers include things like finding transportation, waiting in line outside clinics or pop-ups, and not having access to the internet or social media to stay up to date on vaccine availability.
They are happy that San Francisco, where they live, has made vaccines available to sex workers, but Ophelia is still concerned about access in other places. What is true, according to her, is that sex workers urgently want the protection required to do their jobs as safely as possible, regardless of the place in which they live. Ophelia concerns that those who run the risk of not meeting tight requirements will be forced to make a qualifying claim, such their sexual orientation, whether or not it is real.
Howard Andrew, President of FabScout Entertainment, emphasizes the need to provide resources to sex workers given that the risk of transmission between clients and workers could cause a spillover of the infection into other communities. These are the people that need to be pushed ahead of people because they are selling sex.
The fear of monkeypox is also causing financial hardship for the sex industry, particularly since the majority of sex workers are independent contractors without access to paid time off, health benefits, or insurance to cover medical expenses. Ophelia claims that stress and worry related to working with in-person clients and helping my boyfriend run a dungeon have been greatly influenced by worries about the repercussions of catching monkeypox. Monkeypox adds to the stress of navigating Covid, which is already complicated. I value my own safety above all else, along with the safety of my clients and the other dungeon tenants.
According to Sparky Baxter, an OnlyFans creator who caught the virus a few weeks ago while filming a scene and has avidly followed its development on social media, “I haven’t been able to visit clients, therefore it’s impacting my pocketbook.” I am unable to shoot or escort. In order to make ends meet, he has primarily relied on modifying and sharing already created content to his OnlyFans. He has opened a GoFundMe to ensure he can pay his rent for the upcoming month.
FINGER-POINTING IS NOT SUFFICIENT
Public health professionals and the LGBTQ community have been particularly sensitive to the media’s portrayal of the illness because monkeypox has so far spread mostly among MSMs. To make matters worse, right-wing commentators like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who falsely claimed on her podcast that the virus is carried by gay men only, have contributed to the myth that monkeypox is a STI. via gay sex orgies. Monkeypox was designated Schlong Covid on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program during prime time.
The misconception that monkeypox can only be spread through sexual contact is the landmine of stigma, as is the quick-draw instinct to criticize the social dynamics of those who are most affected. Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at UCLA who has spent more than 20 years researching monkeypox epidemics in central Africa, claims that while there are a number of ways in which monkeypox can spread, sex is one of the most effective one. According to her, intimate contact by definition is sex. Therefore, it stands to reason that the closer the contact, the greater the chance of infection.
In light of this, Rimoin is concerned about the stigma associated with a disease that, while it can be communicated in a number of ways, is currently spreading predominantly through sexual contact. She says that we should be modest about what we do and don’t know about this virus. Pointing fingers won’t solve the problem.
Yuki thinks health organizations like the WHO and CDC need to be careful about how they present information to the public, balancing the need to provide immediate aid to the most affected communities with the responsibility of not deceiving people into thinking you don’t need to worry about MPX if you aren’t a gay, bi, or trans man having sex with men.
Actors like Steele have come under fire from his own group for speaking out about his personal experience. What are you doing to us, I hear you ask? He claims that everyone believes it is a gay sickness. But those who believe it to be a gay disease will continue to believe it to be. In actuality, this is a more common trait among gay males. Just now, we received this. What is, is what is. However, “the virus” is searching for people, not homosexual men.
Sexually transmitted diseases or viruses are not in any way more filthy than other diseases or viruses, according to Yuki. However, internalized shame prevents them from having the candid discussions that are essential for determining danger and reducing spread. In order to make everyone feel comfortable, she wants her work to mainstream having a greater knowledge of one’s own body, discussing safety issues with sexual partners, and jointly practicing harm-reduction techniques. Open discussions about medical history, consenting to the preventative measures partners take, and removing judgment from sexual health discussions are a few examples.
Steele is concerned whether it is enough that sex workers are speaking out about their experiences with the virus and what their sector can do to safeguard itself. Steele thinks that performers should be obliged to take a test and that industry leaders should be more outspoken about urging individuals to get immunized, notwithstanding the recently approved PASS standards’ suggestion that performers respond to a series of screening questions prior to reporting on set. He claims that sex is the focal point of the entire industry. And one method of transmission for the monkeypox is sex. I do wish that the popular homosexual pornographic systems would speak up more and strive to promote.
I objected to the stigmatization of sex work. Right now, Steele continues, studios and content producers do have a duty to make sure they are staying secure. Many of the top gay porn actors I know who are struggling with this are saying, “Thank you for being a voice; I can’t be a voice right now.”
However, with the public being inundated with frequently misleading public health and media messaging about the virus and many places having grossly insufficient vaccine supplies to meet demand, Steele is hopeful that by sharing his story, he might contribute in his own tiny way: People see a porn star with a hideous facial condition; fantastic, there will now be stigma connected. But uninformed people will continue to remain ignorant. I can only try to educate as best I can.