Porn Industry Turned Off By L.A. Mandate For Condoms On Set | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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Porn Industry Turned Off By L.A. Mandate For Condoms On Set

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In November, more than 1.5 million Los Angeles County voters passed the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act. The new law orders porn actors to wear condoms during sex scenes.

"The porn industry has been sending a very bad message by saying the only kind of sex that's hot is unsafe," says Michael Weinstein, CEO of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored the measure.

Sitting in his office, just over the hills from the nation's porn film capital, Weinstein says the new law was meant to protect both performers and those who watch the movies.

"I've been called a condom Nazi. So be it," Weinstein says. "The reality is, the most effective method of preventing sexually transmitted disease [is] condoms. This lowly piece of latex — it's amazing it's still so controversial," he says.

A Freedom Of Expression Violation, Industry Says

Lawyers for the adult entertainment industry in Los Angeles are now challenging the measure. Some porn producers plan to argue in District Court that the new law violates their First Amendment rights.

"We do produce constitutionally protected material," says Steven Hirsch, who heads the production company Vivid Entertainment. "We just don't believe there's any compelling government interest to come in and take away our freedom of expression, considering ... that over the last eight years, there have been over 300,000 adult scenes shot with not a single transmission of HIV."

Hirsch argues that viewers don't want to watch performers using condoms. He says 12 years ago, when he briefly made his company condom-mandatory, sales dropped by 30 percent.

"The performers don't want it, the producers don't want it and clearly the fans don't want it," Hirsch says.

Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, adult star Kayden Kross, says every performer she knows agrees that condoms are extremely irritating during shoots. "We have the right to use condoms," she says. "I did my first scene in 2006 with condoms and that was the last scene I did with condoms because it was so uncomfortable."

Like her co-workers, Kross says she gets tested for sexually transmitted diseases regularly — in her case, every 15 days. Before every shoot, actors show their test results to the producers and to each other. Kross says they don't feel they need to be protected by a voter-mandated law.

"We're the most tested population in the world. We are more aware of our bodies than anyone else," Kross says. "We eat organically and work out, and we take care of ourselves, and take care of ourselves, and take care of ourselves. And obviously as an extension of that, we make sure that we are sexually free of diseases at all times."

For County, An Enforcement Dilemma

While the new law goes through the courts, L.A. County officials are struggling with how they might enforce it. So far, the county health department has sent letters asking producers to apply for special film permits.

Kross and Hirsch make fun of the idea of a condom unit policing every porn set, lifting the covers to inspect. "Will we be required to wear hazmat suits?" they say.

The state of California has been working with adult film producers for the past few years on how to follow protocols.

"They could do simulation so there wasn't any exposure, or they can use condoms," says Deborah Gold, the deputy chief for health and engineering services for Cal/OSHA, which regulates occupational safety and health for California.

"They have to do some form of protection. It's a requirement to use engineering and work practice controls to prevent this contact," Gold says. "And where the contact still exists, to use personal protective equipment."

Gold says her department will respond to complaints on porn shoots, but there are no spot inspections. "We have to find the actual employer," she explains. "So the name on the DVD box or the website — it may require substantial investigation on our part to get down to who is the employer."

Attorneys for the pornography industry expect to move the case to the courts within the next month.

Meanwhile, Hirsch says production companies are not going to pay L.A. County for any special permits. And Kross says producers will go underground or move out of California, rather than comply with any condom laws.

"Part of the culture of porn is, 'Eh, we'll see if they catch us,' " says Kross. "Which is terrible to say, but also true. We're kind of like the renegade. We do what we want. We're the Wild West. ... Everyone's like, 'Catch me if you can!' "

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