Is The Porn Industry Doing Enough To Support Its Performers?

Three days ago, adult film actress Olivia Lua was found dead at a rehab facility in California. She was 23.
Lua, whose stage name is Olivia Voltaire, is the latest in a string of deaths in the porn industry. Four other young porn performers — retired performer Shyla Stylez, 35, Yuri Luv, 31, August Ames, 23, and Olivia Nova, 20 — have died since November. The timing of these young women's deaths has raised questions. Is this just a coincidence? Or does it signal serious problems with how porn performers are treated, both in and out of the industry?
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Although we can't know for sure, it seems to be a little bit of both. It's likely a coincidence that all five women died in such a short time span, which has prompted many people to start asking questions at all. But there's little doubt that adult film performers are at greater risk for mental health problems due to the stigma of sex work, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) said in a statement about Lua's passing.
"Compounding that with the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the pursuit of mental health support, we see the intersectional challenges that our community faces," the statement reads. "The sex negativity, violence, and harassment performers face online and in real life is condemnable. We ask that our community practice compassion, sympathy, and empathy with one another because there is so much outside of our industry working against us."
Online violence was particularly present in Ames' death. The star faced harassment over Twitter and other social media platforms after refusing to do a film with a man who had previously performed in gay porn. Her refusal to work with him was taken by many as a sign of homophobia, and she was then inundated with hateful messages. Her husband, adult film director Kevin Moore, blames the bullying for Ames' death by suicide.
Several of the other deaths have also brought into question how the porn industry is working to support its performers' mental health. Lua battled drug addiction and was in rehab when she died, and rumors of drug addiction and cyberbullying also swirled around Yuri Luv's death. These stories have prompted other performers to rally online to call out ways in which the industry could do better. Kelly Pierce, secretary of the APAC, tweeted that there are many ways the industry is complicit in performers' mental health struggles.
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But more than just mental health has been called into question. After a coroner stated that the cause of Nova's death was a urinary tract infection that had turned septic, many are wondering how the porn industry supports its performers' physical health, as well.
The APAC has a union doctor, who they called upon after news of Nova's death to educate the community about UTIs and their symptoms. But how many adult film stars are educated about infection risks that come with sex? How many are offered protection in the form of condoms or dental dams? How many are provided with health insurance? And how much of this is the responsibility of the porn industry?
For now, it seems that it's performers who are taking care of other performers, rather than the porn industry at large. Performer and director Nikki Hearts told Rolling Stone that she and her wife, porn entertainer Leigh Raven, have opened their home to other performers who are in need of a place to decompress.
"Female performers are suffering because we're not being taken care of by the industry that we give everything to," Hearts said. "There's no person saying, 'What you're dealing with is really difficult mentally, it's taking a toll on you.'"
So she and her wife have taken it upon themselves to be those people, and are so loved that many other performers have begun calling them "mom and dad." It's a role that someone needs to fill, and it's wonderful that people like Hearts and her wife are willing to do it. But it's high time that the porn industry take some responsibility, too.
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