If you grew up in the 90’s you probably remember these billboards being around. After the AIDS epidemic had hit there was a lot of press given to organizations that were pushing people to go and get HIV tests and to know their status.
Before I go off on My rant here I’d like to give you a little background info on Myself. My name is Bella vendetta, some people within the suspension community know Me as Bumble. I’m 32 years old, when I was 18 I had the distinct honor of being able to train for a year and a half as a professional Dominatrix at the world’s oldest BDSM training chateau, La Domaine Esemar. I’m lucky, because it was always drilled into Me at such a young age that being tested, knowing My status was extremely important. WHY? Well, because the work a Pro Domme does is dangerous, and being involved in a BDSM household meant that I may be exchanging fluids with more than one person, and I needed to respect those people enough to share My status with them.
A few years later I got more involved in the adult industry and started shooting porn. I’ve had some criticism from people in the suspension community for the way I compare the porn industry to suspension but to Me, there are so many similarities.
For one, we are a marginalized group of people who walk around with a very big stigma attached to us because of our beliefs and because of what we choose to do with our own bodies. For two: we are in an extremely dangerous line of work and are constantly being exposed to fluids from lots of different people.
SO why doesn’t anyone in suspension ever want to talk about getting tested? (for that matter most people in porn are not concerned about getting a full panel test but that’s a story for another day)
Let’s talk about getting tested. A panel test which you would get on a porn set, or even at most free clinics includes HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. Unfortunately this is NOT a full panel test. A full panel test also includes Herpes, syphilis and Hepatitis C. Everyone should of course ALWAYS be wary of HIV, but when asked most people who take a blood borne pathogen class say their biggest worry is HIV. You’re biggest worry My friends, is Hep C, which more people died from last year than HIV. Since this is Not included in a panel test a lot of people do not have an up to date Hep C test. These tests are generally pretty expensive. The cost varies form state to state, county to county and depending on whether or not you have insurance you could be looking at upwards of $150 for a full panel test even in tandem with a free clinic.
If you are curious as to what the cost would be for you and where these services are offered the best thing to do is call your local clinic or your primary car physician and ask!
Many states (including Massachusetts where I live) have taken away a lot of the free testing clinics EXCEPT for high risk groups. Generally speaking a high risk group would be IV drug users, gay males and prostitutes. Body modification practitioners aren’t included in that group of high risks, but in My experience if you call a free clinic and explain what it is we do they’ll agree to give you the three panel test for free. I know A LOT of suspension practitioners do not have insurance, and I’ve heard the excuse of the cost being too high used time and time again when people tell me WHY they are not tested. I know what you are thinking, “but, I’ve only been with my lover so and so for the last three years” And that’s wonderful, but open your eyes to the fact that if you are a suspension practitioner you are AT RISK. We touch the blood of strange people who we do not know on a regular basis, and yes of course all safety precautions are taken, so why not this one? If you care about your loved ones and sex partners show them you respect them enough by going to get tested together. Because while you may have only slept together, at least one of you has been exposed to a lot of other peoples blood.
In the event of a needle stick having your crews test results on file can help in backtracking to figure out where a disease came from, and lower the time you might need to quarantine practitioners before you figure out who gave who what.
Needle sticks happen. I personally do not know of anyone contracting a disease via a needle stick in the suspension community, but that doesn’t mean that it has not happened, or will not happen.
When a needle stick DOES occur, and both parties go to get tested, it’s going to be hard to track back where a particular disease may have come from if the practitioner hasn’t been tested. And that means people go into quarantine for six months. Yes, some strains of HIV take up to 6 months to show up in a test so there’s a big window for error and uncertainty.
As practitioners, suspendees, media and potential practitioners in training are looking to us to see how to act. Let’s keep this community safe by KNOWING YOUR STATUS. Because things happen, bandages fall off, blood gets exchanged sometimes even AFTER a suspension.
Since we all wear gloves and use other protective measures against fluid exchange you may think this is overkill. In porn, even when you are shooting with a condom and having protected sex you are still required to have a valid STD test. Why? Because things happen condoms break mistakes occur and the best we can do is be as safe as humanly possible.
Piercers, tattoo artists, body modification artists and suspension practitioners are all an at risk population, we should make getting tested regularly a priority!
Performers…don’t even get Me started. Performers have an even bigger ethical obligation to be tested. You are potentially exposing your audience to your blood when you are on stage. I’ve seen dozens of performances where people drip blood into the audience, throw an item of clothing that has blood on it into an audience and the list goes on. But I’m getting ahead of Myself here, the ethics of suspension performance shall be a topic for another day.
For now, I hope everyone will get tested so we can know our status as a community.
Hook wisely. (hookers who hook wisely always get tested. Pun intended)
Author Info – Bella Vendetta is a professional and lifestyle Dominatrix hailing from western Massachusetts. She has been a member of Rites of Passage Suspension Group since 2002 and is currently the head of the MA chapter of ROP. Bella is passionate about education and teaching others to do incredibly dangerous things in the safest way possible. Colleges and Universities frequently invite Her to come speak about creating ethical pornography, a feminist approach to the adult industry and harm reduction in BDSM play and negotiation. Bella has won awards for her adult films and been nominated for even more. In addition to her work as a sex educator She also moonlights as a journalist and writes editorials about the suspension community, kink, the porn industry and gets to interview her favorite metal bands, MMA fighters and tattoo artists for various publications.