Sex

Porn Star Tests Positive for HIV: Why HIV/AIDS Still Matters

I’ve discussed the porn industry before, but this recent news story is not a continuation of the critique of the industry–it’s a reminder as to why HIV/AIDS still matters.

 

 

On Monday, the adult film industry called for a moratorium on production after it was revealed that an actress who performs under pseudonym Cameron Bay had tested positive for HIV. Mark Schechter, owner of Adult Talent Managers L.A., which represents Bay, told The Times that she went in for her regular screening for sexually transmitted diseases last Monday and that the results came back inconclusive. She had a second test Tuesday with a new blood sample. Preliminary results came back Wednesday as potentially positive for HIV. Although her previous test results were negative, she had performed in shoots since.

 

Bay in happier times

Bay in happier times

 

 

 

Bay released the following statement: “As difficult as this news is for me today, I am hopeful that no other performers have been affected. I plan on doing everything possible to assist the medical professionals and my fellow performers. Following that, my long-term plan is to take care of myself and my health.

 

 

 

The news of Bay’s diagnosis has added to the debate surrounding a California law requiring porn actors to wear condoms. Many in the industry feel that the law is pointless as porn stars are required to undergo routine testing and report their results, but many public health organizations feel it’s a matter of health and safety. While I think it’s unfortunate that Bay contracted the virus, it is good that this story is making rounds on the news as a large portion of the general public has seemed to have almost forgotten about AIDS.

 

 

 

While there are plenty of messages out there encouraging safe sex, AIDS awareness seems to be nowhere near as high as it was in the nineties. It’s almost as if cancer has become the “trendy” disease, and AIDS has gone quietly in the background as treatments have vastly improved over the past thirty years. But we still need to talk about it, and not just on World AIDS Day. The statistics regarding HIV/AIDS is staggering:

 

  • There are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that one-fifth of those people don’t know they have it.
  • Since the start of the AIDS epidemic, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV and more than 600,000 have died of AIDS.
  • An estimated 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. each year.
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for the majority of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses although MSM comprise only around 2% of the U.S. male population. In 2007, a third of these MSM were younger than 30 years old.
  • New HIV diagnoses among MSM were more than 44 times higher than among other men and more than 40 times higher than women in 2008.
  • African Americans accounted for 44% of new HIV infections diagnosed in 2009, although they comprise only 14% of the population.
  • The HIV infection rate among African American women is 15 times higher than the rate among white women.
  • The infection rate among Latinos was two and a half times higher than the rate among whites in 2006.
  • In 2009, more than 25% of people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. were women.
  • The vast majority of newly diagnosed HIV-positive women contracted the virus through heterosexual sex.
  • In 2006, 34% of all new infections occurred among people aged 13-29—more than any other age group. (Updated October 2011)

 

 

And this is just for the United States. It’s stories like Bay’s and these statistics that prove that we still need to talk about HIV/AIDS. It’s easy to say, “Well, Bay’s a porn star, she knew the risks, what did she expect?” There may even be some cruel people who say she deserves it (which she didn’t.) But reading this, I say we need to stay aware. At this point in time, it’s safe to say everyone knows someone who has been affected by the virus. One of my great-aunts contracted the virus after a blood transfusion in the days before mandatory screenings. In a measure to save her life, she wound up losing hers. In case I can’t make this point clear enough:

 

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Celebrity, Women

Let Miley Cyrus Grow Up, Please

Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s MTV VMA awards have people up in arms–not because the performance was bizarre, but people are shocked–SHOCKED–that a twenty-year-old former Disney star is trying to be sexy. The Parents Television Council is upset by the former Hannah Montana star’s “provocative” performance, releasing the following statement:

 

 

“MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials — while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable. This much is absolutely clear: MTV marketed adults-only material to children while falsely manipulating the content rating to make parents think the content was safe for their children. MTV continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ‘twerking’ in a nude-colored bikini. How is this image of former child star Miley Cyrus appropriate for 14-year-olds? How is it appropriate for children to watch Lady Gaga strip down to a bikini in the opening act? How is it appropriate for 14-year-olds to see a condom commercial and a promo for an R-rated movie during the first commercial break?”

“This content would likely not be given a forum if it were on a broadcast network,” the statement continued. “Yet MTV continues to push limits because it’s a cable network. But that does not mean MTV’s decisions have no consequences, especially for the millions of children who were targeted by MTV. We urge Congress to pass the Television Consumer Freedom Act which will give parents and consumers a real solution for future MTV VMA programs – the ability to choose and pay for cable networks that they want vs. having to pay for networks they don’t want. After MTV’s display last night, it’s time to give control back to consumers.”

 

While the PTC does have the right to be offended, they’re clearly using this performance to push their act, and to keep their name in the news. It’s not just them, either–many morning news programs were also horrified that the young adult wasn’t wearing a lot of clothes and dancing in a provocative way with Robin Thicke. But I don’t think the real problem is her performance–the problem is that people are used to seeing her in a particular way. They’re used to seeing her as Billy Ray Cyrus’ little girl who was the live action version of Jem for five years on the Disney Channel.

 

It’s kind of like with Amanda Bynes–although Cyrus isn’t showing symptoms of mental illness, people are fascinated with her scandals as they can’t get past the fact that she isn’t a tween anymore. What she’s doing isn’t really new. Many former female teen stars either have a provocative film (Disney girl Selena Gomez in Spring Breakers) magazine cover (too many to list, although Jessica “Mary Camden” Biel’s topless Gear cover shoot at age 17 comes to mind,) or performance (remember Britney Spears’ “racy” VMA performance in 2000?) to help say “I’m not a little girl anymore! Nickelodeon/Disney can’t hold me down!”

 

Cyrus is doing the same thing–the haircut, the dancing, the songs–she’s announcing that she’s no longer a child. Although she’s going about it in a not-so-great way (many are unhappy with her appropriation of black culture and her denial of it) she’s still a human being. She’s growing up. Not all of us make the right choices, but it’s a part of the growing up experience. Cyrus’ is just on blast for the world to see/hear. Come on, when you were in between being a teen and an adult, did you make the best decisions? I know I didn’t–5’3″ me tried to out drink a 6’3″ guy when I was 19 (he was cute, I wanted to impress him. I know, I know…) He got drunk off several beers. I vomited two double vodka/Red Bulls with a Jack Daniels chaser in my purse during the cab ride back to campus. Yeah, not my finest moment. But it was a growth experience, and I’m not the only person with a story like that. The performance also provides news outlets something to talk about, to help rile up parents. Cyrus isn’t the first starlet to go through this, and she certainly won’t be the last.

 

We do, however, need to slow down the talk. How about focusing less on the lack of clothes and more on how bad the actual performance was (what are her dancers wearing? Why did she need Robin Thicke and his Beetlejuice suit?) How she’s using black cultural appropriation to stay in the limelight and lashing out against her critics instead of being more aware of her privilege? About how we need to just say “Oh, her performance was weird. Let’s move on” instead of freaking out about her dance moves and wardrobe. She wants to look like an ass, let her. But don’t shame her. If people would just let her grow up, perhaps she wouldn’t have to resort to ripping off a teddy bear swimsuit thing to announce her womanhood.

 

What’s your take, LivLunatics? Is the press focusing on the wrong things? How do we let female tween stars grow up? Does the PTC have a case of Helen Lovejoy-itis?

 

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Celebrity, Women

The Women of The Wolverine

I went to see The Wolverine last night, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t that I thought the film was going to be bad, I was just surprised to see that women played such a big role–and not just as a sexy villain or damsel in distress.I’ve mentioned before that women in comic book movies are kind of a mixed bag. While they’ve come a long way from just being the love interest/damsel in distress and are also the heroes or love interests with awesome careers, there’s still an element that comic book movies are meant for men.

While I’m not going to call The Wolverine a feminist film by any means, it was a nice surprise to see that women were such a major part of the story, and not just as a prize of sorts. Before reading further, here’s a quick summary of The Wolverine for those not familiar with the X-Men/Wolverinefilms as I can’t write one myself without giving too much away and pointing out differences between the comics and the movies the way my inner Comic Book Guy wants to.  If you’ve seen the film, you’re good to go.

The Wolverine has four major women: Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Mariko (Tao Okamodo), Yukio (Rila Fukushima), and Dr. Green/Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). Now, I know there may be some people who are confused as to why I’m celebrating these choices when Jean Grey haunts Wolverine and spends her time in the film in a lacy white nightie, Mariko is a damsel in distress and gets kidnapped more than once, and Viper’s powers are sexualized (she uses her tongue a lot, I’ll leave it at that.) Again, I’m not saying that The Wolverine is a feminist film by any means, but without these women, there would be no story.  And the women put twists on the tropes.

Jean in a nightie is more than just serving as eye candy to the men in the audience–it’s a symbolic choice, as she is dead. She is at peace, and the white suggests a rebirth as she was downright evil in the last X-Men movie she appeared in. Mariko, while initially presented as a docile, innocent woman, is not a typical damsel in distress. Unlike when Rogue (a mutant with the ability to really mess people up by stealing their memories/powers, mind you) got kidnapped in the first X-Menfilm and screamed her head off while waiting for Cyclops and Wolverine to save her, Mariko fights back. She’s not afraid to stand up to Wolverine, either. She is proficient in knife throwing, and is super important to the climax of the film, which I’m not about to give away as the film just opened last weekend.

While Viper is sexy, she is not one to be messed with. She is a mutant who is immune to every poison known to man, and is responsible for infecting Wolverine, who is supposed to be an immortal quick healer, making him invincible. She is also a brilliant biochemist, not just a woman who uses sex to get what she wants. She is cold, she is uncaring and doesn’t have a change of heart at the end, which is refreshing. I was also impressed with her final fight scene, after expecting to be disappointed (again, the film just opened last weekend, I can’t give too much away!)

rsz_yhdfjsfuyohiI haven’t even touched on Yukio, who may be my new favorite character. A mutant who is able to foresee death, she is also an assassin who is very proficient with a sword. While it’s easy to dismiss her as an anime character come to life, she is not a stereotypical giggly school girl meant to annoy Wolverine–she’s a serious warrior meant to assist him, yet is not cold and heartless, she has personality, which is rare–female sidekicks either have to be stone cold bitches or goofy cartoon characters. Yukio hits the balance.  At one point in the film, she tells Wolverine that she is his bodyguard, and is also a decent part of the climax, which I loved. She’s also featured on the Russian theatrical poster (pictured, left) along with Viper–however, unlike Viper, who appears to be modeling the latest in green raincoats, Yukio is ready for a fight, not gazing adoringly at Wolverine.

While women still have a ways to go in terms of comic book movies, I feel that The Wolverine is a step in the right direction, perhaps taking a cue from the Joss Whedon directed The Avengers, where the women actually fought instead of just being eye candy princess-y types. While the audience for comic book movies will always be largely men, it’s nice to see that they’re realizing that women like comics and comic book movies too. (I’m pretty sure they included a scene of Wolverine getting a bath and haircut to appeal to women, not gonna lie.) Maybe soon, we will get that Black Widow or Wonder Woman movie!

So, LivLunatics, what’s your take on the women of The Wolverine? Are they a step in the right direction in terms of women in comic book movies?

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