For those who don’t know: Measure B will appear on Los Angeles County ballots in tomorrow’s election, and if passed would require adult performers to use condoms, gloves, and/or dental dams in all porn shoots filmed in LA County. It would also require the funding and deployment of LA County Department of Health employees to oversee the enforcement of this new measure. In case you’re not aware, LA County is currently one of the few “safe zones” for porn filming in America; whereas filming porn isn’t strictly illegal anywhere, in LA it is specifically protected speech. Therefore, most of the country’s multi-billion dollar porn industry is based in LA.
Here’s a short, easily-digestible list of reasons why, if you live in LA, you should vote against Measure B at the polls tomorrow. (Please note that there aren’t links to sources here as of yet, but I plan to add them as soon as I can get to my home computer.)
1) Measure B won’t actually protect performers. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has poured $1.6 million into campaigning for Measure B , making the seemingly-logical point that condoms protect people from HIV, and so condoms should be used on porn sets to protect performers. That seems to make sense… if you have no idea how porn works. The sex filmed on porn sets in and around LA county isn’t the kind of sex you have in your personal life–it’s not a few minutes of fun, during which a condom will protect you from fluid transmission. It’s a long, drawn-out process that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to half a day of filming. There are plenty of adult performers who prefer to use condoms on set, and there are also lots who don’t because condoms don’t hold up well in those conditions. They can cause chafing. They can dry out. They can easily break. During a normal porn scene, several condoms can be gone through, much to the discomfort of the performers.
Furthermore, while the testing system the porn industry used for years has recently been undermined (largely by the efforts of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation… suspicious much?) and there have been a few slip-ups as the industry tries to find its footing, professional porn protocol requires all performers to be tested for STIs at least every 30 days. Many performers are tested more often. Test paperwork must be shown before shoots begin. While there have been cases of STIs infecting performers in the past few years, the industry has regulated itself incredibly well using mandatory testing for years. As a matter of fact, recent estimates state that there is a lower instance of STIs within the porn community than in the non-porn segment of the LA population (although this has recently been disputed… by the AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION…), and most STIs come into the industry from outside.
If Measure B were to pass, regulations on testing would almost certainly become more lax, and then when a condom broke on-set after having chafed the skin of performers, untested performers would be much more likely to pass STIs–unknowingly–from person to person. Nothing is guaranteed, but the likelihood of performer infections skyrocketing if condom use is mandated is so high it may as well be written in stone.
2) Measure B will drain LA County’s economy in several ways. First of all, Measure B would require LA County’s Department of Health to enforce the new law. If it passes, LA county employees would be required to visit porn sets to ensure that all DoH protocols were being followed. While I’m not sure if this would require hiring more personnel, it would surely require taxpayers to fund these unnecessary excursions to porn sets. That won’t be fun for anyone, and it will be pricey.
Furthermore, if this measure passes, it is incredibly likely that a lot of the filming now done in LA will move elsewhere to escape these new highly restrictive and annoying requirements. (It’s not as simple as using barrier protection in front of the camera–if this passes and all bodily fluids are treated as potentially-hazardous waste, so: cast and crew would need to be wearing protective gear; biohazard equipment would need to be bought, set up, and maintained; etc…) That could drain the estimated $1 billion of revenue that the porn industry brings to LA county every year through taxes and local industry.
And even furthermore, there are an estimated 10,000 people employed directly and indirectly by the adult industry in LA County. If they lose their jobs or end up moving elsewhere to work, the income taxes they pay will disappear from LA. Between the money the county would need to spend on enforcement and the drain of a valuable industry’s tax and employment benefits to the area, Measure B could be ridiculously costly.
3) Measure B might actually endanger performers. I’ve already pointed out some of the more glaring physical dangers to adult performers if barrier protection is valued above testing in the industry, but there’s a wider ripple effect to consider here. If, as I just mentioned, a lot of the industry currently based in LA County were to move elsewhere, performer safety would be put in danger from a variety of new angles. As I said above, LA County is sort of a safe haven for porn production: as I understand it (and I don’t have much of a mind for law, so take this with a grain of salt), it’s explicitly legal to produce porn there, and that comes with a host of protections. It’s not likely that you’ll be arrested or held for making it if you’re doing it with a permit in the county of LA. It’s likely that if you work with an LA-based company, that company will follow industry protocol that will keep you safe and healthy and get you paid in a timely fashion (not guaranteed, of course, but more likely).
If filming moves elsewhere to escape the restrictions of Measure B, however, the same protections don’t exist in other places. It’s far more likely that a person involved in a porn shoot outside LA may be arrested on any number of charges. And because the same climate of porn-friendliness doesn’t exist in other places, it’s also more likely that the relatively high standards of professionalism, cleanliness, and safety found on many sets around LA won’t be found elsewhere. Less oversight and less industry tend to equal poorer working conditions in an industry that is already frowned upon in many places. Porn shoots may be driven somewhat “underground,” to less safe places with less safe working conditions and with much less access to STI testing and healthcare. Performer health and safety stands to be put into serious danger if this happens.
4) Measure B is the beginning of a slippery slope where the First Amendment is concerned. While there’s a legitimate argument to be made, as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has pointed out, that porn sets should be held to the same standards of workplace safety when it comes to biohazardous materials as other places of employment, there’s another side to that coin. Namely that if the LA County government is given the go-ahead to mandate what types of actions are allowed to appear in porn films, this could be the gateway to a whole boatload of First Amendment violations. Right now, porn is protected free speech in LA County, but if regulations start to go into effect about what can and cannot be filmed (even if everything being filmed is legal and consenting), what could happen next? What if someone in power doesn’t like cunnilingus? Body hair? Kissing on film? Freedom of speech is just as important in pornography as anywhere, and potentially more important since it’s easier to roll the porn industry over than it is to take on all of mainstream film. It’s a foot in the door of government oversight of art. I don’t like it. Smells like Big Brother.
5) Showing safer sex in porn films won’t promote safer sex the way you might think it would. Think about the porn you’ve seen recently. If you follow this blog or like Cindy Gallop or Courtney Trouble or Madison Young, there’s a chance you saw some porn that showed realistic body types and the mundane details of safer sex practices (getting the lube, putting on the gloves, etc), but the statistical probability of you having seen porn that shows anything in a very realistic way is… pretty damn slim. Most of the humdrum details of what it’s really like to have sex are edited out of the vast majority of the porn you see. Like the fact that most men don’t walk around with 24/7 raging hard-ons, most women aren’t wet and ready and orgasmic within ten seconds, and so on. Porn masks the less-fun things because it’s produced to be a fantasy. And while it’s admirable to want to show adult performers engaging in sex practices that are safer in the hopes that the viewing audience will pick up those same safer sex practices… what are the chances that the way barrier protection gets depicted in porn will be any more realistic than anything else? I’m willing to bet that even if safer sex becomes the norm in porn (which it won’t–production will probably just move elsewhere to escape Measure B), we’ll be more likely to see condoms magically appearing on penises with no how-to, dental dams being miraculously easy to figure out and use, and latex gloves that seem to require no lube. They might help get the idea that safer sex is still sexy across, but I don’t think porn featuring safer sex practices will add a whole lot to the knowledge base of aspiring boners than anything else porn does. Which says a lot, and very little, all at once.
But really, the idea that people will do what they see in porn, at its very root, is ludicrous. Porn performers shouldn’t be tasked with teaching the American public how to have sex, because the American public should know that porn is not real life. Mandating that porn reflect “the correct” way to have sex, according to so-and-so (ahem, AIDS Healthcare Foundation), implies that it is not the responsibility of parents or educators to make it known that pornography and private sex are different, and that’s a slippery slope we’re already so far down I don’t even want to consider giving us another push.
Also, just listen to these guys. They know their stuff.