While on the surface porn may seem like an inherently accepting, progressive community, decades-plus worth of evidence has proven it to be an especially rough industry for bisexual — also known as 'crossover' — male talent and their partners. Without fail, every one recounts getting ghosted on roles and scenes due to the latent fear surrounding gay sex and potential HIV transmission. And it's a situation that married performers Lance Hart and Charlotte Sartre know all too well.

"People who used to be in porn would tell me, 'Ah, you're screwing yourself. Stop now with all the gay stuff, you could probably be a straight pornstar,'" Hart says, while Sartre mentions that she's "definitely lost work" due to their relationship.

"It's getting better, but there's still a disconnect. [If a straight performer] becomes HIV-positive, no one in straight porn is going to work with them again," Hart says. "Everyone learns in middle school that HIV is the worst thing ever. You're dead, you'll get cancer, stay away. That fear is still there."

And while Hart admits that the stigma has actually led to him "making a lot of money" via his independent gay and femme-domme clip stores (as the supply for crossover talent doesn't meet audience demands), he does admit that the straight side of porn is inherently skittish about certain sex acts that could even vaguely be interpreted as "gay." As he explains, there are still a lot of rigid rules of conduct in place if you're a straight male pornstar. For example, any form of rectal insertion (fingers belonging to women included) is frowned upon and kissing a woman if you've ejaculated on her face beforehand is a hard no-go.

But why? Especially given all the scientific advancements and societal progress we've experienced over the past few decades? Well, as Chris Zeischegg — who used to perform as a crossover under the name "Danny Wylde" — points out, it's likely the lingering effects of incidents like the Derrick Burts scandal, which rocked the porn world in 2010. Burts, a former crossover performer, contracted HIV on set from a "known positive" male actor he had worked with on a gay shoot where condoms weren't used for oral sex — an incident that led to intense scrutiny of the sexual practices on the gay side of the industry, which didn't require testing at the time.

"A lot of people on the straight side felt that if you did gay porn or had sex with men, due to CDC statistics, you were putting everyone else at risk for HIV," Zeischegg says, recalling the time he was told he was put on an industry blacklist. "I got a call from a prominent agent, because I had been dating one of his girls, and he said, 'Hey, I got this email from another agent that you and a handful of other guys are on a list of at-risk people for disseminating HIV within the porn community and they recommend that no one hire you.'"

"If your comfort is based on prejudice, that bothers me."

In fact, this stigma was part of the reason why Zeischegg decided to move away from gay porn. In addition to finding it difficult to earn that much more for gay scenes (though many male performers are able to earn a significant amount more), his girlfriend at the time — a straight, female performer — "was mad, because it put her 'at risk.'"

"[Her rationale was], it complicates my ability to get jobs," Zeischegg explains. "Like, '[You] fuck fags, and I may get HIV too.' But I don't think she was alone in that sentiment."

And though this happened to Zeischegg over a decade ago, unfortunately, the extension of this stigma to the real-life partners of bisexual performers is something that's continued into the present day. According to Sartre, many female performers are fed misinformation by their agents who say working with crossover talent will "ruin their career" or that "all the bi guys are a higher risk for HIV and you need to be scared of them."

Sartre also laments the fact that "there are a lot of girls I will never get a chance to work with," as they won't work with crossovers or people visibly working with them. Additionally, as someone who's around a "lot of people on the straight side of porn," Sartre says she's noticed a stark difference in the way she's now treated within the industry compared to the way people interacted with her before she dated Hart, especially after moratoriums are issued — which is when someone in the porn industry contracts HIV.

"Every year or year-and-a-half [a moratorium will happen], and people always text me and Lance like, 'Hey, do you know who it is?'" she says, before recalling an incident in which she was supposed to shoot with a company, who "suddenly" cancelled a shoot on her after a moratorium happened.

"I suspect it had something to do with the moratorium [and the fact I'm with Lance]," she says, though she's quick to add that her relationship is an aspect of her life that she's not willing to compromise on, even despite the stigma.

"She was trying get with a fancy agency, and she didn't want to be seen with a bi dude, because it would affect her work."

"I'd much rather be upfront about it and lose out on work than hide my life just to get extra bookings," Sartre says, before mentioning an ex-girlfriend of Hart's who "wouldn't even walk the red carpet with him at the AVNs [Adult Video News Awards]." Why? "She was trying get with a fancy agency, and she didn't want to be seen with a bi dude, because it would affect her work."

And this all continues to happen despite the current industry's incredibly rigorous testing standards, which utilize some of the most accurate systems modern medicine can provide. According to Hart, all performers must get tested bimonthly and results are posted on the PASS system — which will not approve undetectable performers, even though "there is no risk of passing on HIV if your doctor has confirmed that you are undetectable (or virally suppressed)," per experts — or a talent testing database, which verifies that a performer is undetectable.

"In the past 15 years in the US, there have been no on-set HIV transmissions, everything's happened off-camera in a performer's personal life," Sartre adds. "Our testing system is so accurate. We get tested every 14 days, and we use a really expensive RNA test, which detects the virus seven to ten days before you can transmit it. If you go to the doctor, they'll do an antibody test, which detects HIV in [about a month] and isn't as accurate."

"More often than not, it is a gay or trans person just because of life circumstances and lifestyle stuff, and thats totally fine," Sartre says, "But I think if you want to be nervous about working with someone because of an HIV risk, you have to treat everybody with the same amount of risk, because you don't know what people are doing in their personal lives."

Explaining that everyone in the industry does "extracurricular shit," because "porn doesn't make you enough on its own," Sartre contends that many "straight" performers — herself included — also moonlight as hookers or escorts. Not only that, but she knows of many instances where "straight male talent" will try and hook up with "other dudes or trans women off-camera."

"It's unfair to scrutinize one group of people when we're all pretty much doing the same shit," Sartre says. "You can try and be safe in your personal life and be safe on set, but at the end of the day, you don't know what people are doing."

For his part, Zeischegg agrees with Sartre's sentiment and says this issue has more to do with your sexual practice than your sexual identity.

"The idea of masculinity and machismo has changed substantially since when I was in porn."

"During my career, it did seem like fluid men were singled out," Zeischegg says. "There are other risk factors for HIV like intravenous drug use or sex without a condom, but rumors would circulate about all sorts of thing… but you never saw a girl dropped for any of those reason. It was only men who had sex with other men."

However, another issue that pops up is the prevalence of the argument that "everyone has the right to choose who they want to work with," per Zeischegg. As an example, he points toward the story of the late performer August Ames, who died by suicide in 2017 after her tweet about canceling a scene with a crossover performer caused half the industry to "straight up attack her and call her a piece of shit." What followed was a reactive backlash to the "cyberbullying," which argued that female performers have the right to choose who they have sex with.

"It became this complicated as fuck thing, because there's a certain amount of the industry that says, 'We don't want to stigmatize men who are fluid,'" Zeischegg explains, "But then there's this whole other issue of, 'If you're a woman, and you're actually concerned about this, who's to say that you need to fuck a guy who has sex with men?'"

However, Sartre has a slightly different view of the issue and argues that there's a possibility for that rationale to act as a cover for latent prejudice — something she says is a problem for performers of other races, sexualities, and gender identities at times.

"You can argue it's your body and it's whatever you're comfortable with, and I can get behind that, but if your comfort is based on prejudice, that bothers me," Sartre says, before adding, "If you're really that worried about getting HIV, either get on PrEP or don't do porn."

As for the big question of whether or not residual homophobia is an underlying factor in the stigma, Zeischegg is hesitant to assign any definitive cause-and-effect.

"I don't know if it was greater in porn than any other part of the culture," Zeischegg says. "The AIDS crisis of the 80s has lingering effects on the culture. I understand why people are freaked out, and I think information about PrEP and things like that just moves slowly across the general culture."

"You have to realize a lot of people [in the industry] are coming from the Midwest or Florida," he continues. "You can't just expect them to be up-to-date."

That said, Zeischegg does believe that things are looking up. After all, when he was still performing, "if you were to meet a straight male performer and they did a solo scene for a gay company, it would be assumed that, 'You're a fag.' And all because, 'you're trying get the attention of men,'" Zeischegg explains. "Now, huge male performers…who fuck women for a living [do that on their own]."

And why does he think that's the case? "The idea of masculinity and machismo has changed substantially since when I was in porn," Zeischegg says. "You wouldn't be caught doing that 10, 15 years ago. Now it's [par-for-the-course]."

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photography: Nikki Hearts

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