On Kink.com’s Shooting Protocols

Last week, a performer tested HIV+ through the industry PASS (Performer Availability Screening Services) system. We immediately halted production while performers could be re-tested and protocols examined. We take the health and safety of performer’s extremely seriously, and no matter where the performer contracted HIV, it’s our responsibility to make sure our safety protocols are inviolable.

In this case, as they have for Kink’s entire history, the protocols worked. (Despite filming thousands of scenes each year, the straight adult industry itself has not seen an on-set transmission of HIV in the United States since 2004.) But that hasn’t stopped fear-mongering, HIV hysteria or willful misunderstanding of what happens on a Kink set.

I do not want to attack those who are concerned about condoms on adult sets or those who believe that our protections are not enough — those people, too, are concerned with safety of adult performers. But it’s important for me to talk about how we conduct ourselves at Kink.

For kink.com’s gay sites, all shoots are condom-mandatory. On the straight side, we only work with performers shown cleared for work in the PASS (formerly APHSS) database. This means they have tested negative for a slate of STIs in the last 30 days, including HIV via the highly sensitive RNA test.

All of our performers have the right to ask for a condom to be used at any time during a shoot, for any reason. Earlier this year, in response to performer feedback, we instigated a double-blind condom policy. Performers confidentially choose whether they want condoms to be used, and when directors hire a performer, they do so without knowing that performer’s condom preference. (Some of our biggest stars, like Lorelei Lee, consistently use condoms.)

On sets like Public Disgrace, which are open to non-adult performers, we do not allow anyone who has not been tested to do anything that might transmit an STI. If a performer has indicated in writing that he or she is comfortable with it, we allow these persons to perform activities such as touching, slapping or fondling, but this is entirely up to the performer. Negotiated consent is the central tenet of BDSM, and it’s part of the foundation on how we built Kink.com.

These past few years, we have worked closely with the STD Prevention and Control division of the SF Department of Public Health on training for employees and providing a safe workplace. We also host free bi-annual screenings and STI counselling for all local performers whether from a studio or independent. We have documented Blood Borne Pathogen and IIPP protocols which include rigorous cleaning of all toys used etc. We carry worker’s compensation insurance which covers all performers. And we’ve worked with Cal-OSHA to do on-set inspections. We are committed to helping keep our community stay safe and healthy.

This particular performer performed at Kink.com on July 31st. She tested negative on July 27th via the most sensitive HIV tests available, and was thus shown as cleared for work in the PASS database, as were all those persons she performed sexually with. Additionally, those same people she performed sexually with tested negative for HIV again after that July 31st shoot.

Anytime someone tests positive for HIV — whether an adult performer or not, whether through sex work or not — it is devastating for the person concerned. However, that doesn’t mean it should be a reason to demagogue from either side, to blame the victim, people’s sexuality or what they choose to do for a living. We work hard to protect our performers, and it’s important to us that anyone in the Kink family — fans, performers or staff — know the truth about our protocols and standards.

If anyone has any questions about the particulars, I’m happy to answer them. But the issues are too serious to allow opinion, speculation and politics to take the place of fact.

6 thoughts on “On Kink.com’s Shooting Protocols

  1. GayPornGossip

    Greetings Peter,

    I would assume that if a homosexual/bi-sexual performer or a “cross-over” performer (one who has performed in both m4m and m4f productions), that performer could be cast in a condom-less scene “on the straight side” of Kink Studios if that performer is cleared for work in the PASS database?

    What motivates your studio to distinguish it’s condom on/off policy between straight content and gay content?

    I’ve long been under the impression that several factors sometimes influence the making of such distinguished practices when it comes to the use of condom. I’ve heard things such as:

    Performers that are often used in gay oriented content websites pose such high risk that there is no confidence in the accuracy of testing results, and or there is a lack of available performers used for gay content from the pool of performers registered in the PASS database thus recruitment must be sought outside of that base.

    A studio who produces mainly straight content and has a very strong presence in the straight video industry but also produces gay content may be able to vacillate better relations with various factions of the ‘straight’ adult video industry who oppose performers who do cross-over work based on the beliefs that the ‘gay’ men pose a serious risk due to the overall and generalized nature of perceived sexual practices of gay men and/or the protocols used by gay industry studios with their recruiting methods and relaxed production protocols falter so significantly that no confidence can be had in those having associated with them AND OR the studio wan to assure it’s is not subject to ridicule by various stronger (more widely accepted) factions of the gay community who believe that safe sex is a paramount value of their causes – and may not patronize the product when it goes against that belief/norm.

    According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) sexually transmitted diseases certainly pose health challenge in our country, especially among women, who disproportionately bear the long-term consequences of STDs than men. For example, untreated STDs cause infertility and untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death in up to 40% of cases. I would think in light of issues with proliferation the risk extends well beyond the mere safety of an individual.

    As an adult I believe you are free to taste, hear, watch and feel whatever you like. I also believe in responsibility on everyone’s part.

    My own personal opinion is that performer safety outweighs any marketing/profitability table and in terms of a business model the profiteer carries the burden of responsibility internally and to a fairly certain degree that responisbility I believe extends even into the public marketplace.

    I also understand consumer end users tend to significantly gravitate to the condom-less product as clearly shown in the present trends reported by a variety of sources who are publishing lists denoting popularity of niches, titles, performers etc. I’m also hearing more these days that in order to maintain a profitable business an adult content producer has to be competitive by offering comparable product that encompasses what is considered to be in demand by the audience – thus as in this instance topic we see studios shedding the condom in their productions when otherwise they would have maintained safer practices.

    I guess what I’m getting at is — IF females pose as much or as equal of a risk as a gay/bi-sexual man … why not test and use condoms too on the “straight side” as your studio does with its gay content?

    I’m not in anyway attacking your practice(s), but attempting to get a clearer understanding between the significant difference in the safety practices of Kink Studios in regards to gay and straight … I elaborated above more than generally would be necessary in asking a question to perhaps give you a better understanding on the issues of which give rise to my asking this question and in hopes for a more defined response of which perhaps I could share in a future article for the readers of my own gay adult industry related blog, GayPornGossip.

    Many thanks in advance for your response.

  2. Peter Acworth

    Thank you very much indeed for these questions. There is a lot of misinformation about how the gay and straight sides of the industry work. Kink.com is in a relatively unique position doing both forms of production so I am in a good position to be able to address this.

    The straight side of the industry is typically condom-optional but testing-mandatory. The vast majority of studios follow these guidelines, and all the talent agents demand it. A central database (formerly AIM, and now PASS) track which is available for work.

    In contrast, the majority of the gay studios, including kink.com’s gay division, are condom-mandatory but testng-optional. The reasons for this are complex — the gay industry went to condoms in the late 80s, and its been the industry standard ever since. This also eliminates issues around HIV discrimination — a historically sensitive issue for gay men.

    So yes — a ‘crossover’ gay performer could work in the straight side of the business, but only if he tested negative and was marked as available in the PASS database.

    The industry tends to demonize so-called crossover stars — part of that is the historical homophobia, which if you read blogs and user comments is still very much on the surface — and part is fear of HIV. We treat any performer — male, female, trans, gay, straight, bi — who comes on our straight set the same. They are tested, they are cleared, they are asked what they are comfortable doing, and they are offered in private the option to request a condom for any reason at any time through the course of production.

    The reason I can state with confidence that the last time HIV was transmitted on a straight set in the US was in 2004 is because during that timeframe the testing on the straight side of the industry has been so vigorously followed. There have been several positive tests during that timeframe, but on each occasion it was possible to definitively say that the transmission did not occur on set by testing each of the other performers. Because the gay adult uses condoms rather than testing, it is not possible to make such a definite statement.

    At the time of the 2004 transmission on a straight set, I was sufficiently troubled that kink.com went condom-mandatory for about a year, as did other studios such as Vivid. This move was unpopular among performers, to the extent that kink.com conducted a survey and found that a substantial majority of both female and male straight performers wanted condoms to be optional, citing alergies, abrasion, and, saying quite simply: “it doesnt feel as good.” As a result, condoms then became optional for straight shoots at kink.com in 2005.

    Creating content with a mandatory condom requirement in place was indeed challenging as you point out. kink.com closed down a product line, ‘realfuckingcouples.com’ as the real-couple-amateurs in question simply could not perform with condoms. For kink.com, these challenges would be mostly manageable since our core product is BDSM. In the event of a new law requiring condoms, we’d manage. However, for companies whose core product relies on penetrative sex, I think a mandatory condom ordinance would essentially put them out of business. Such companies would initially be forced to shoot out of state (some are already moving to Vegas as a result of measure B). If a US wide law were to go into effect, I fear production would go underground or overseas where there would be no regulation, not even testing.

    To reiterate and be completely clear, what I am saying is this: I believe mandatory condoms would essentially criminalize the production of straight pornography and force production underground or overseas. I additionally fear this could jeopardize the current mandatory testing protocols that appear to have done an exceptionally good job of preventing on-set HIV transmission since 2004.

    This is my personal belief and you are free to disagree of course. I certainly respect anyone who is engaging in this debate because they are concerned about performer safety.

  3. Johan

    When did testing become mandatory in the “straight” porn side?

    By the way,not all gay porn companies use condoms. Some specialize in bareback(condom free such as Treasure Island Media,Eurocreme) and some are sometimes bareback(Bel Ami, Sean Cody).

  4. Mike

    People need to read and research for themselves rather than following someone blindly, this Weinsten guy works for a company that manufactures condoms which i read so im sure if AHF should win this court case. It will mean more for him and his posse. Secondly how can you hide an hiv positive individual claiming his privacy, how about the general public who dont him, whats the sense in hiding him and for what reason or purpose, never will i understand and i dont want to sound insensitive but you guys should have asked for condoms before begining your career and not after being infected and dont let this weinstein guy take you for an emotional ride to fuel his own ambitions, after all we all have a reason for being on this earth. And i am sure his is not about campaigning for safe sex, how about the number who are not performing what are you doing for them mr weinstein or whatever your name is, you toiling with people’s livehood and emotion.

  5. mharris127

    Johan, I do not work at Kink (and mandatory testing pre-dates Peter starting to do penetrative sexual roles at Kink IIRC) but can say that testing using PCR-DNA (a ten day test) and more recently PCR-RNA (a nine day test) became mandatory after a talent member gave six people HIV in 1997-1998. Before that some studios required testing (albeit a method that was cheap but did not detect for at least 90 days after infection) and others did not. The central database came about at the same time because in the 1998 incident the “Patient Zero” actually forged a negative test for one of the few studios that required testing multiple times. Testing was every 30 days from 1998-2013 and is now every 14 days. Studios are free to require more frequent testing as Belladonna did with her studio (I think she required testing every 3 days). Recently the slate of tests required expanded from HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea to now include Hepatitis B and C and syphilis as well. Herpes testing is not required as a general rule.


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