Does anyone track the sex lives of porn stars?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Oct. 14 2010 6:46 PM

Porn Star Zero

Does anyone track the sex lives of adult-film performers?

How great is the risk of HIV for porn professionals like Jenna Jameson? Click image to expand.
Former porn actress Jenna Jameson

Los Angeles porn companies are shutting down temporarily after a male actor tested positive for HIV. Is there any easy way to figure out which performers the infected actor had sex with?

You'd have to ask him. While some independent databases, such as the Internet Adult Film Database (NSFW), maintain lists of porn films, there's no official industry database with complete, up-to-date information. Clinics and public health investigators therefore rely on the actor and his production studio for a list of recent professional sexual partners. (Every adult film studio has a custodian of records who keeps track of the actors' personal information.) When an actor tests positive, health care workers also ask him to report any sexual contact with people outside the film industry. To encourage honesty in this all-important interview, clinics try not to reveal the identity of the actor when informing sexual partners that they may be infected. If those partners test positive, the clinic then informs their partners, and so on.

The system is far from perfect. Industry standards require that adult film actors be tested for sexually transmitted infections every 30 days. Most actors go to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation in Los Angeles, which enters their test results into a database, Film producers can subscribe to the service and log in to make sure their actors have gotten tested recently. The problem is that HIV has a "window period" of 10 to 14 days, during which a person who has contracted the virus will not test positive for it. Public health officials have therefore long pushed for the porn industry to start using condoms.

While sexually transmitted diseases are common in the adult film industry—between 2004 and 2008, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department logged 2,847 STD infections among 1,884 performers—HIV is pretty unusual: About 22 performers have tested positive since 2004. That year, public health officials conducted an investigation after porn star Darren James contracted HIV. Of the 13 women he had sexual contact with in the weeks before he tested positive, three of them also tested positive. Based on interviews with James's partners, officials created a map of his sexual life prior to testing positive. (See slide 25 of this PowerPoint presentation.)


Got a question about today's news?  Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Ged Kenslea of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Mark Kernes of Adult Video News.

Like  Slate and the Explainer on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.