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Sharon Mitchell on 20/20 – update

Porn Valley- AIM’s Sharon Mitchell was profiled on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night. But you wouldn’t know it if you go to the 20/20 website There’s no mention of the segment’s airing. Besides that, there were at least two erroneous pieces of information dished out- one stating that Stormy Daniels was shooting a high end movie for Vivid, Daniels being a Wicked contract girl. The ABC report also makes a note to say that Vivid is only one of two companies that will use condoms.

“Roughly a third of the industry fails to practice safe sex,” says the ABC report. Okay do the math. if Vivid is only one of two companies practicing safe sex, how does it account for being two-thirds of the porn industry, then?

The other comment totally out of whack was ABC’s reporting that ten years ago, porn was illegal.

John Stossel hosted the segment noting that because of AID’s, the sex business has become “riskier” but that the sex workers have found an advocate in Mitchell who’s on a “mission” to protect them. “The reason she cares so much is that she used to be one of their co-stars,” Stossel says. From there, reporter Juju Chang does most of the commentary.

The report, narrated by Chang, goes on to state that Mitchell is an unlikely hero that started a clinic which is now “the gold standard for sexual health care throughout the world.”

“There was no one else to do it and I don’t think anyone could do it,” says Mitchell of herself. Asked why her, Mitchell states that she had the background and the trust of the porn community. That trust, says Chang, comes from Mitchell’s 20 year career of having sex in front of the camera. Mitchell explains her career noting that she once had sex in a vat of spaghetti. “Once I played a secret doube agent spy…”

Fred Lincoln, an off-screen lover of Mitchell’s in the past, is interviewed for various soundbites, noting that Mitchell was sex on wheels.

For her part, Mitchell says she felt a sense of comraderie in the industry. “Like I fit in, like I hadn’t fit in anywhere else.” The report goes on to note that Mitchell was a nice Catholic school girl from New Jersey and asks Mitchell the question how is that. “Like many young girls she dreamed of being a star. She lost her virginity at the age of 12, dropped out of high school and made her way to New York City as a model and part time actress.”

Mitchell claims she didn’t have to go into porn. So she’s asked by Chang what made her turn the corner. “My agent said to me one day,” Mitchell continues, “she used the word star- she said you’re a star in this movie. And I said STAR?!”

Mitchell said she then went into a porn theater and saw her genitalia 16 feet high on the silver screen. “I thought, that’s me. Wow. That’s impressive.” Mitchell says she was proud of that fact and liked the idea. “I felt like I had it all. I was doing drugs. I was partying at night in a rock n’ roll band.”

Chang notes that after decades, Mitchell’s lifestyle began to take its toll. Mitchell says it got to the point that she would do drugs to forget about what she had just done. “To pay for her $300 a day heroin habit, Mitch danced in a local strip bar,” reports Chang. Lincoln is quoted as saying Mitchell’s life at that point was gone. “I thought it was over,” says Lincoln.

“What seemed like a hopeless, dark time in her [Mitchell’s] life was about to get a lot worse,” Chang continues. “Mitch who had made a living in the sex trade was about to fall victim to it in a horrifying way when she came face to face with a crazed fan after work on a night that would change her life forever.”

The same story is told with greater, more colorful detail in the Legs McNeil book, The Other Hollywood However, a sanitized, abbreviated account is offered up by Chang. Mitchell states that a fan had been talking about Jesus Christ and S&M. “My S&M movies in particular,” continues Mitchell, “and how I should die. I kept dancing, thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah…”

The story relates how at the end of her dance set, Mitchell left the club and got high on heroin which let her guard down. Mitchell says the guy followed her home and proceeded to rape her and beat her. “He broke my nose in five places and knocked out a couple of teeth,” she says. “It was a brutal, horrible attack. I thought, my God, I’m going to die.” Mitchell said to herself this wasn’t going to happen this way, particularly with the way her life had been to this point. Mitchell said there was a knock on the door and it was the police.

“Her physical wounds would take weeks to heal but her addiction to heroin and porn still threatened to destroy her,” Chang says. [Note the little comment about Mitchell’s addiction to porn threatening to destroy her.]

Mitchell amplifies it by stating that she knew she had to get clean and out of the sex business. Mitchell kicked her 20 year heroin habit, says Chang. “But the attack proved to be a turning point in her life. She went back to school to study public health. When AIDS hit the adult film industry, this reformed porn star turned Ph.D. candidate was in a unique position to help.”

Mitchell said she had friends who were getting HIV and dying. Consequently, according to Chang, Mitchell created a new system to track sexual history and test results.

“Companies or production managers will type in the encounters of the day,” Mitchell tells ABC. “Who they shot, who works with who, what type of sex they had.” Chang says that Mitchell then took a revolutionary new step of doing away with confidentiality. “The results of mandatory monthly blood tests were now shared with every sex period within a certain period. The system cut infection rates from 12% down to 2%. Far beneath the national average of 10%.”

Lincoln tells ABC that AIM gave Mitchell redemption. “It gave her a place to go,” says Lincoln. “She all of a sudden realized that she could help people. She could do something with her life that was meaningful and worthwhile.”

Chang notes that Mitchell’s clinic serves as a model for sex workers globally.

“We have the right to release test results,” Mitchell tells ABC which then airs the famous soundbite of Mitchell stating that anyone with Viagra and a hi-8 camera can be a pornographer. ABC notes that Mitchell has also produced an educational tape called Porn 101 designed for newbies to the industry. “The tape is mandatory viewing for freshman porn stars,” states Chang. “Like an 18 year-old Kayla Marie who began her career making porn movies like Bellbottoms, just months after graduating from high school.”

Kayla Marie is interviewed and asked what her first porn experience was like. “At first I was a little scared because I didn’t know what was going on,” Kayla Marie tells the ABC cameras. “But I kind of got the flow after awhile and then I just went with the flow.” It was also noted by ABC that it’s amazing that Kayla Marie can’t legally drink [which doesn’t stop most porn stars]. “But here you are in the adult industry,” Chang states. Kayla Marie agrees but is then asked about her brush with reality last spring when she wound up on the quarantine list.

“Last spring a prolific adult film star got HIV during a visit to Brazil,” Chang reports. “After returning to the US his virus went undetected for two weeks, during which time he had sex on camera with 13 different people. One of them was the 18 year-old Kayla Marie.” Kayla Marie says she got a call from AIM. “I was like, whoa. I just tested like a couple of days ago, and I just worked with somebody yesterday.”

“But did Kayla Marie actually catch the deadly virus?” asks Chang, the way the D.A. would beg a question in the courtroom. “And could this former porn star, former heroin addict have the power to halt production on a multi-billion dollar industry?”

Now in dramatic overdrive, Chang states say that Mitchell could see that a massive tidal wave was about to break. “The AIM clinic quickly contacted a dozen performers, like the then 18 year-old Kayla Marie.” Asked what her reaction was to the fact that she might be HIV positive, Kayla Marie says she thought her life was over. “How am I going to tell my parents?” Kayla Marie was subsequently placed on a 3 month quarantine, reports Chang, commenting erroneously: “Putting a number of actors under quarantine is one thing; shutting down the entire porn business is another. Remember porn was illegal just ten years ago.”

Chang goes on to note that the “multi-billion dollar” porn industry is still populated with rebels who don’t take kindly to authority. She then interviews Tim Connelly.

“The industry didn’t seem to take any sense of responsibility- medically and socially,” Connelly states. “The guy trying to make a movie really doesn’t want Sharon Mitchell getting in the middle of his face and telling him that he can’t shoot today.”

Change observes that Mitchell’s only weapon at hand was her credibility among porn stars. Chang tells Mitchell that she singlehandedly shut the porn industry down. Mitchell replies that she told everyone to take a breather. “Let me get to the bottom of this.” Chang repeats the notion that Mitchell shut the business down. “But lives were lost,” says Mitchell. “And more lives could have been lost.”

According to Chang, 95% of the industry took Mitchell’s warnings seriously and stopped production. It is also noted that Kayla Marie “despite having unprotected sex with Darren James” did not get HIV.

“Three other women were not so luckly,” reports Chang. “But, remarkably, within weeks of clearing a quarantine, Kayla Marie was shooting new videos. Having unprotected sex, earning, she says, an average of $3,000 a week.”

Chang asks Kayla Marie if it occurred to her just to leave the business after she got an all-clear.

“Actually I thought about the money more than I did that,” Kayla Marie laughs. “The money was really good.” Kayla Marie goes on to say how she’d have a “hardship” paying her monthy cellphone bill and others like that with another occupation.

“But it’s exactly that false sense of security which shows that Mitch still has a long way to go to fully educate,” states Chang. “She’s quick to point out that the test result is only good on the day the blood is drawn and offers zero protection against future sexually transmitted diseases. Mitch is both crudader and den mother to hundreds in the porn business. Today she’s starring in the role of a lifetime- one that she created for herself.”


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