Friday, Georgia gossip blogger, internet bully, dangerous amateur producer, defamer, liar, misogynist, escort outer and shamer, suspected embezzler, and failed talent agent Michael Strother aka Mike South called out adult performer Sheena Shaw for what he termed “unacceptable” risky behavior by her which “potentially expos[ed] her partners to HIV” by having “unprotected sex with an HIV Positive person while she was in the biz.”
While South’s poorly-worded screed does not specifically assert that Shaw did so knowingly or intentionally, that is his clear implication. After all, who could blame her if, hypothetically, she had been tricked? No, she must have been knowingly doing this, according to South’s reasoning, because the fact that her partner had tested positive decades ago is well known, and it has been said that Shaw was informed of this fact prior to the initiation of sexual contact.
The “HIV positive person” to which South refers has been named online (including by Shaw herself) as adult director John Stagliano, and to the best of my knowledge no one has ever even suggested that Shaw did not know that Stagliano had been diagnosed with HIV back in 1997 before allegedly having sex with him. Stagliano has been open about his status since he was diagnosed and, in fact, I am informed that all performers who interact with John in any direct way when they work for him are provided this information right up front.
Moreover, Stagliano (who has been on meds since the very the beginning) is reputed to have a viral load so extremely low that it is highly unlikely he could infect anyone.
Let us set aside for a moment the open (and material) question of whether or not Shaw was still working as an adult performer after the time she allegedly had unprotected sex with Stagliano. Also, for sake of this discussion, let us set aside the question of whether, despite South’s (unproven) assertion to the contrary, the two may have used protection which failed (for if using a condom which accidentally breaks, as condoms often do, equals “unprotected sex” then that means the condom mandates promoted by AHF and Cal/OSHA do not in fact provide “protected sex” and the term is rendered meaningless).
And finally, let us also set aside the fact that it has been well-established that South himself uses substandard testing protocols on his own amateur (Atlanta area hotel room) “sets”, which potentially expose his own performers to HIV and assorted STIs.
Instead, let us focus on the ‘meat’ of Souths argument: that Sheena Shaw should no longer be welcome in the adult industry because, in the past, she knowingly engaged in behavior that was too risky and reckless vis-à-vis HIV.
According to South’s reasoning, the adult world cannot trust her because of this, and she should be shunned.
I will not attempt to dismiss out of hand the logic of this particular assertion, as a principle, nor do I have the right to do so. The question of who should be permitted into, or excluded from, the talent pool is ultimately one for performers to answer, in conjunction with the most up-to-date medical information at their disposal.
What I take issue with, however, is the manner in which South is curiously selective of those whose behavior earns his scorn.
Allow me to illustrate my point about his double standard by suggesting others who, in logical terms, would also fall into South’s category of dangerous, untrustworthy people who have engaged in risky and reckless behavior vis-à-vis HIV, and otherwise..
At this point it is worthwhile to note that South has published homophobic posts on his website, and many of his screeds are openly hostile to adult performers who escort (despite knowingly hiring escorts and soliciting their clients for his own amateur shoots, but I digress). These are opinions of the gay community and escorts (of any gender) that we do not share at TRPWL.
Let’s begin with AHF employee Derrick Burts.
While actively working on the “straight” side of the adult biz in 2010, Burts also shot a ton of scenes with men that were outside the adult business’ testing system (then administered by AIM Healthcare Foundation). Burts was shooting scenes (usually as a bottom) with, as South and his commenters would be quick to point out, members of the group at the highest risk for HIV: men who have sex with men (MSM).
Burts ultimately contracted HIV — and not only that, he claims he contracted it on a Florida gay porn shoot where 1) testing was not required and 2) condoms were used, and 3) the other performer was HIV-positive. (So much for “protected sex” as a defense against HIV.)
Burts was part of the AIM system. He knew why it was in place. And then he willfully went outside the system to work with people whose HIV status was not known to him and could not be verified, and he engaged in the statistically riskiest of sexual acts with them (such as receptive anal).
When Burts turned to AHF after his seroconversion, his new handlers tried to pass the performer off as a naive all-american boy from the suburbs who, along with his beautiful blonde all-American girlfriend, was lured into the seedy porn industry with disastrous results.
That narrative came crashing down around their ears when it was revealed that Burts, who had been presented as straight (outside of his gay porn scenes) and in a monogamous heterosexual relationship off camera, had in fact offered escort services to men on Craigslist and RentBoy, was a swinger with males and females, and had performed in far more gay porn scenes than he admitted to at his debut AHF press conference.
It was later discovered that Burts was a fugitive from justice in LA County at the time he spoke at an August 2011 AHF press conference — one that he was only able to attend after AHF attorney Brian Chase bailed him out two weeks earlier using money loaned by AHF honcho Michael Weinstein himself! Another warrant was soon issued in his name in Orange County. In 2012, Burts was convicted of burglarizing and embezzling his employer, a hotel in his home town.
Even using AHF’s own narrative of how Burts seroconverted, under South’s definition what Burts did would certainly amount to risky intentional behavior than he should’ve known better than to engage in, and which recklessly exposed his partners on the “straight” side of porn (as well as in his private life) to HIV.
Does Mike South call out Derrick Burts? No, of course not. South’s a fan of his. Burts is pro-AHF, anti-porn, and pro-condom mandate. Instead of castigating him, South celebrates him as a courageous truth-teller.
It’s true that since Burts has revealed that he is HIV-positive, excluding him from the talent pool is an easy call, whether one follows South’s logic or not. The inconsistency here is: to Mike South, Derrick Burts is both trustworthy and a victim, not a predator who recklessly threatened the health of performers and his other partners.
Contrast that view with how he writes of Shaw: “let’s not forget who this girl is,” he warns. (Does he say of the callous liar and thief Derrick Burts, “let’s not forget who this guy is“? Of course not.) South argues that, based on Shaw’s actions, what “she is” is reckless and untrustworthy. South makes it clear that he believes Shaw’s actions define her as a person, and thus she should be scorned and shunned.
“If she would do it then why wouldn’t you think she would do it again?” South asks. Although South probably posed the question rhetorically, I suggest that one answer might be, according to Shaw’s account she was romantically involved with Stagliano; she didn’t just jump willy nilly into bed with the first HIV-positive man she could find. If there’s evidence that sleeping with HIV-positive men is Shaw’s “thing”, or that she’s a “bug chaser”, I haven’t seen any.
Our next example is AHF employee David Cope.
Cope has identified as bisexual, and, under the nom de porn Patrick Stone, advertised escort services for men and appeared in numerous bareback gay porn titles in which he was the bottom. Under South’s standard, it would be difficult to call him “risk-averse”.
As readers may know, the gay side of the adult business does not utilize universal testing. Some performers and companies test, but with the exception of a few companies (none of which Stone appears to have worked with) the ones that do use testing usually employ the quickie, over-the-counter oral strip test — the least accurate (and least expensive) test on the market with the long window (eclipse) period associated with being an antibody test.
Stone, who resides in the Bay Area, applied for work at San Francisco adult studio Kink.com in 2013 under circumstances that in retrospect seem rather suspicious, and it was only because he failed to achieve erection that he did not have penetrative sex with the female performer he was hired to work with on the one Kink shoot in which he participated. Regardless of whether he failed at his job, he was there to have condom-less sex with a female performer.
When Cope appeared at a September 2013 AHF press conference to attack the adult business as unsafe, he made no mention of his bareback titles or his escorting, and in fact the evidence of his recent escorting (ads etc.) appeared to have been “stripped from the internet.”
Furthermore, Cope filed complaints with government agencies that stated he was present at Kink.com shoots he never actually attended.
Does South call him out? Does he say of this liar and apparent manipulator and concealer of evidence, this partaker or risky sexual acts, this employee of anti-porn organization AHF, this self-described “vocal opponent of the adult industry”, “let’s not forget who this guy is“?
No, of course not. Cope is pro-AHF, anti-porn, and pro-condom mandate.
Not only is Cope not the subject of scorn and derision by South, Cope is South’s buddy. Cope quotes South in legal documents. Cope shares information with South, and South has published emails sent by him. Emails received by Cope, redacted versions of his STI tests, and copies of his complaints about adult companies sent to governmental agencies have also appeared on South’s site.
Now, let’s take a look at Cameron Bay.
Cameron, who is now HIV-positive, had sex — including unprotected sex — FOR YEARS with a man (Rod Daily) who was having sex with men. As she well knew, Rod shot scenes with men, women and transsexuals. He also escorted, for men.
Bay confirmed to me that, in addition to performing in adult scenes, she too worked as an escort at various times. Speaking strictly in terms of Mike South’s standard, might this not count as “unacceptable” risky behavior which “potentially expos[ed] her partners to HIV”? Especially in light of the fact that South has spoken out against the alleged dangers posed by so-called “crossover” performers in the past.
Daily tested for HIV irregularly — and do you know why he tested under industry protocols the few times he did? Because the company South hates above all others, Manwin (now MindGeek), demanded such testing in order to appear in content created for men.com. Otherwise, there’d be no record of Daily’s testing history, nothing for his fellow performers to refer to.
Daily used condoms in all his scenes, but, as Derrick Burts teaches us, that’s not foolproof. And once again, as South and his commenters would be quick to point out, Daily was having sex with members of the group at the highest risk for HIV. As for what he was doing off-camera, Cameron told me she couldn’t be 100% sure because she “wasn’t always around him.” (If that phrase sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because it is — to the word — the same thing Derrick Burts’ girlfriend, performer Kaycee Brooks, told an interviewer in 2012.)
After Cameron Bay tested HIV-positive, Daily — who still preaches about condom effectiveness — eventually revealed that he too was HIV-positive.
Does Mike South call out Cameron Bay? Does he warn us to remember “this is who she is”? No, of course not. Bay is pro-AHF and pro-condom mandate.
He cheers Bay on, and runs her statements verbatim without any analysis or critical commentary.
So why then does South call out Sheena Shaw? Because unlike the others, above, she’s a part of the mainstream porn world he, like AHF, bitterly attacks every day — and also because, in his mind, this episode gives a black eye to another of his frequent targets: John Stagliano, a producer, director and entrepreneur who, unlike South, flourished in the world of adult.
AHF — the organization trying to destroy the adult business — cites South in its anti-porn press releases. South runs emails and documents submitted by an AHF employee (Cope/Stone); another man (Tim Tritch) who used to get a check from AHF is one of his site’s contributors. AHF’s Whitney Engeran-Cordova has commented on South’s site. Pro-AHF Cameron Bay has her version of events published without criticism or analysis. AHF employee Derrick Burts is lauded by South. Former AHF-associate Shelley Lubben and her sham nonprofit are promoted by South.
Is it any surprise that people who are affiliated with AHF get a pass? No matter what they’ve done, it seems, they’re still considered trustworthy, honest, unfairly criticized victims of the same adult business that refused to anoint him as a leader.
Once again we return to the same point: everything Mike South spews from his rickety bully pulpit is either nonsensical verbal diarrhea, a malicious smear, or propaganda designed to weaken faith in the adult business’ standards and institutions. Not only is it AHF-approved, it’s also delivered with South’s own peculiar brand of hypocrisy.