Huffpost Los Angeles

Condoms In Porn: Common Sense Or Overreach?

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

In August of 2011, the adult film industry in Southern California voluntarily shut down production when a performer tested positive for HIV.

Less than a week later, more tests showed that the performer did not contract the often fatal disease, but the HIV scare gave momentum to a long-simmering movement to require all porn films in Southern California to use condoms.

At the beginning of this year, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed into law a mandate that all adult film productions shot within city limits be required to use condoms. The law went into effect on Monday, although there are still questions about how enforceable it is.

The movement to require condom use in adult films has also gone county-wide, as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation collects petition signatures for a ballot measure that would expand the law across Los Angeles County. A recent update from February shows that the foundation is more than halfway there to collecting enough signatures to put the measure on the November 2012 ballots.

The condom use reforms definitely have their critics. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich filed a lawsuit against the city-wide effort, saying it was unnecessary and a waste of time and money.

Citing already extensive industry-wide testing standards, porn companies deem the condom requirements unnecessary and have threatened to pack up and take their industry to less restrictive counties.

Some porn performers are also speaking out against the mandate, saying that the new requirements will drive porn underground, creating even more unsafe conditions. Other performers say that condom use for the extended period of time needed to shoot a film causes chafing and open sores, which will lead to an even higher risk of disease transmission.

An adult industry trade magazine estimated that, nationwide, the porn industry brought in $6 billion in revenues in 2007. Since San Fernando Valley is at the epicenter of the porn industry, it stands to reason that if porn companies leave Southern California in protest, they'll be taking their profits with them. On the other hand, the safety and health of the county's residents don't have a numerical value -- especially when it comes to incurable diseases like HIV. Is Los Angeles biting off more than it can chew when it comes to regulating the porn industry's condom use?

Step
1

Pre-debate poll:

Tell us your opinion before the debate starts to set the starting line

Condoms should be required in porn

Agree - Thanks for voting! Please proceed to read the debate below

Please vote to proceed to the debate

Step
2

Who makes the better argument?

Michael Weinstein President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation

The subject of condoms in porn can elicit giggles. People are embarrassed to admit they consume porn and by and large don't want to think about the consequences to the performers who they are watching. However, safety in porn is an important issue.

 

The knee jerk reaction of some is that consenting adults should be able to have unprotected sex if they want to and that we are seeking to control people's behavior. This is wrong on several counts. First, if people want to record themselves having condomless sex and show it to the world that is their right. However, when the people get paid to do it then they are employees and entitled to the same workplace protection that all other workers receive. Second, these performers if they demand that condoms be used will not get work and are therefore being coerced into compromising their own health.

 

Thousands of performers have been infected with thousands of STDs over the last few years according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department. That is not a small issue. Porn is the only industry in California where employees are forced to expose themselves to dangerous diseases in order to work. These performers are not disposable.

 

As important, is the effect that the films themselves have on public health. The fact that most straight porn is made without condoms sends a horrible message that the only kind of sex that is hot is unsafe. Some object that talking about the "educational" aspect of porn is a form of censorship. They make the analogy to Hollywood films that portray violence and say that it is wrong to try to control the content of art -- agreed. However, in Hollywood the violence is simulated. In porn, real actors are having actual unsafe sex with other actors and actually infecting them with HIV and other STDs, and the audience knows it.

 

The reason why the U.S. has higher rates of all STDs and unwanted pregnancy than other rich countries is that we are hedonistic in our behavior and moralistic in our attitudes -- which is a lethal combination. In other words, we keep telling people not to have sex but we are obsessed with it and use sex to sell everything.

 

Porn is a legal industry in two states -- California and New Hampshire. (It is illegal prostitution in the other forty-eight states). We are not opposed to pornography. We simply want it to be safer. State law in California prohibits the making of adult films without condoms under the blood-borne pathogen standards that were developed for health care settings. The California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (CalOSHA) is developing new regulations specific to porn. Porn producers have openly flouted the law knowing that CalOSHA has limited ability to police them. That's why we need a team effort between the city, county and the state to bring about safer working conditions in this industry.

 

Almost 71,000 citizens of Los Angeles signed petitions to place an initiative on the city ballot. As a result, the City Council adopted the law. Now more than 120,000 Angelenos have signed a county petition.  Getting the signatures has not been difficult. People of all ages, races, men and women, Republicans and Democrats understand that this is a simple issue of worker protection and fairness.

 

The porn producers will squeal that they will move out of town. Who wants them? They will say that the audience doesn't want to see condoms. Well, the vast majority of gay porn over the last 25 years has used condoms and that industry thrives. We will continue to fight as long as it takes to make this industry safer in the same way that we fought against treating gay men, drug users, or Africans as expendable. AIDS activism has eventually succeeded in everything that it puts its mind to over three decades. This will be no different.

 

The porn performers are real people. They are the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins of people who live in our community. They deserve better as does the public health at large.

Steve Hirsch Founder, Vivid Entertainment

Vivid's entire business depends on the health and safety of our performers. We make that a priority and our methods have proven effective. 

 

The California Department of Public Health says that between June 30, 2008 and June 30, 2011 there were 6,447 new cases of HIV reported in L.A. County; of these, only two were adult entertainment performers. Both likely contracted HIV in their personal lives and there was no evidence of transmission of HIV during that time period while they were working in the industry.  There have been over 340,000 adult scenes shot since 2004, with zero transmission of HIV.  

We make sure that we test all of our performers for both HIV and STDs before they engage in any sexual activity in our movies.  Our performers rightfully demand and expect that everyone is tested and we fully agree.  Additionally, performers are constantly educated on how to avoid getting HIV and STDs.

This makes it even more puzzling why the Los Angeles City Council let itself be stampeded into passing an ordinance that has questionable value and potentially disturbing implications on a variety of fronts. This happened as the result of a publicity and lobbying campaign launched by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that was based on data an expert called "fatally flawed."

In fact the adult industry in Los Angeles has long been in the forefront of preventing and reducing sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. And we've always offered performers the option of wearing condoms if they choose, no questions asked.

According to an Associated Press report, condoms may be effective against the AIDS virus, "but data for their effectiveness against some other STDs is surprisingly spotty."

And yet, AIDS Healthcare Foundation claims this is a public health and safety issue, alleging that actors in the industry infect others.  This is blatantly false! In fact the adult industry has a better record than like populations when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But, the adult industry is an easy target for the AHF, which has skewed facts to back up assertions made during its campaign to have this ordinance enacted. An expert in epidemiology and biostatistics, Professor Laurence S. Mayer, M.D., Ph.D., says the data AHF relied on was "without basis in science, including epidemiology. Therefore, the conclusions, analysis and advice in these three presentations should be discarded." 

Apart from the fact that the ordinance tries to solve a problem that doesn't exist, the regulation would most likely have the unintended consequence of driving film production either out of the area or underground. The productions that would remain would likely be made by more marginal producers that would simply ignore the high safety standards the industry has already established.

According to a Feb. 21, 2012  L.A. Times article, the adult industry has provided "10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually to actors, makeup artists, camera crews, caterers and the like."  If the industry is forced out, many of these jobs will disappear. As a result the City will no longer earn significant revenues from permits and other taxes.

Dealing with how the City of Los Angeles can enforce regulations that are virtually unenforceable will lead to the predictable new committee tasked with solving the unsolvable. What does the City intend to do, deploy a battalion of Condom Police?  

The City most likely will need to defend the inevitable lawsuits that will stem from this government overreach -- wasting even more time and money. The City is currently facing an ongoing budget shortfall estimated at 0 million to 0 million in the next fiscal year. It makes no sense to focus on a problem that does not exist.

 

Our experience is confirmed by the fact that many of the leading performers in the adult industry have publicly declared that they feel safe with the system currently in place. And, why not?  With no transmissions of HIV within the industry in eight years, the program is clearly successful.  The L.A. ordinance is an example of government overreach, of regulation without knowledge, guided by misinformation and misplaced morality. 

 

Bottom line: the ordinance is a bad idea.  The City government, in the middle of a true budgetary crisis, has no business regulating sexual behavior between consenting adults, intervening into how films are produced, or invading our bedrooms -- real or pretend.

Step
3

POST DEBATE POLL

Did one of the arguments change your mind?

Condoms should be required in porn

VIEW DEBATE ROUND 1 RESULTS

Agree - Thanks for voting again! Here are the results:

Before

After

moreless AgreeDisagreeUndecided

Michael WeinsteinSteve HirschNeither argumenthas changed the most minds

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

Fox 11 News @ 10: Condoms in Porn Debate (10/18/10) - YouTube

Porn industry faces condom push in LA - New York Daily News

CBC.ca | The Current | Panda Diplomacy | Panda Diplomacy

Porn, HIV, and the Great Condom Debate - Sady Doyle ...

Got Questions? Get Answers.: Mandatory Condom Use in Porn?

LA City Porn Condom Mandate Goes into Effect

Porn studios weigh fleeing or fighting LA condom law

LA's great porn exodus

Porn industry may boogie out of L.A. over condom law

Los Angeles Condom Ordinance Goes Into Effect Today; Opponents Call It a "Very ...