L.A.’s War On Porn

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
In this barely post-recession economy, name a 13 billion dollar industry not courted, cajoled, and coddled by local government. Here’s one: the porn industry. 55.9 percent of the good citizens of Los Angeles County have passed controversial Measure B, requiring  porn actors to wear condoms as they ply their trade. It also requires producers of porn to take a health class and obtain a permit complete with a fee used to hire condom inspectors. (Alert for all of you “health advocates”: Lines are now forming at the LA courthouse to apply for the inspector’s job). Violators of the ordinance would be subject to both civil fines and criminal misdemeanor charges.

Yes on Measure B, sponsored by the Los Angeles Medical Association, has vigorously supported the referendum arguing porn stars have explosively high rates of sexually transmitted diseases. It’s website claims it’s a workplace safety issue. Michael Weinstein, who heads the AIDS Healthcare Foundation argues in a Huffington Post article that the law is needed.

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.

However, many porn actors have spoken against the measure. “The idea of allowing a government employee to come and examine our genitalia while we’re on set is atrocious,” Amber Lynn, a longtime adult film actress, said at an anti-Measure B rally Sunday in North Hollywood.

And, according to main stream crossover porn star James Deen, the ordinance is discriminatory. “We are much like the homosexual, minority or female populations,” said the actor who stars opposite Lindsay Lohan in mainstream movie, The Canyons. “We are a community of tax-paying and law-abiding voters who are currently being persecuted. But our opinions do matter, and I hope one day we get respect as these previously-stated groups and others have begun to receive,” Deen added.

The porn industry argues the ordinance is unnecessary since it tests its actors for STDs every 14 or 28 days and if the actor doesn’t pass he/she can’t be listed in the industry’s “safe” database. “The adult industry takes this very seriously. This is how we survive as an industry,” said Steve Hirsch, who founded porn production company Vivid Entertainment in 1984 and argues that Measure B is unnecessary. “This is how these performers make a living. We’re talking about their lives.”

Apparently, the public display of sexual protection is a real buzz kill among porn affectinados, so much so, that the industry may be thinking of challenging the law in court on equal protection or First Amendment grounds. The Free Speech Coalition, the adult film industry trade group, has already written a letter to Los Angeles County to say compliance with measure B has “excessive costs,” is unconstitutional and should not fall to local government to decide. The letter said FSC will “challenge this intolerable law in court.”

The industry may have another solution as well – vamoosing.  Asks Deen, “Is it worth it to migrate to Las Vegas, which is said to be welcoming with open arms?Florida, and I believe Arizona as well, said something about wanting the billion-dollar industry. That’s going to be a huge hit to Los Angeles.”

Is this a solution in search of a problem? Does the government have a bona fide interest in inspecting actors’ genitalia for health reasons? Or, may the actors decide for themselves what risks they prefer to take in developing their craft free from the government’s probing eye?

What do you think?

Source: CNN; ABC

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

41 thoughts on “L.A.’s War On Porn

  1. “porn actors to wear condoms as they ply their trade”

    That’s it for lesbian porn then :(

    http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/320996/condoms-in-porn-proposed-los-angeles-county.pdf
    …seems to require condoms for *all* acts of anal or vaginal sex. It doesn’r seem to say where they should be worn.
    .

    If this is entirely about health – as opposed to a form of harrassment – what about a scene in which someone of any sex is performing oral sex on a female?
    They have to wear a condom?

    What about dildos? They have to be encased in a condom?

    I could go on…. but it’s getting dirty.

    If it defined the requirement by sex, what about transgendered?
    What about hermaphrodites?

  2. You know it does not take much of an investment to make money or set up a set….. I hear tell that some local municipal imports have inadvertently rented space to production sets…. Only to find that they are producing and distributing porn from the site….. Much to the chagrin of the authorities…. They have been required to buy out long term leases…..

    Mark, you didn’t say where one would apply for the inspector job…..

  3. Tell those actors not to ride on planes. A better measure would be to require porn actors or what we call film porkers to carry an ID like a sex offender adn to register as a porn actor. That way a young gal getting hustled by the porn porker can get a fix on his history or her history. Better yet, make them all get on US Air from New Orleans to Dc and get a cavity search by a perp from the TSA.

  4. “The idea of allowing a government employee to come and examine our genitalia while we’re on set is atrocious,”

    And how’s this different from TSA again???

  5. “Thousands of performers have been infected with thousands of STDs over the last few years according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.”

    This is all far beyond my expertise so I do not offer an opinion, only questions. But there are other statements floating around regarding this issue that suggest that the incidence of STD’s among porn workers is very low.

    Does anyone have any actual statistics regarding the incidence of STD’s among porn workers and is there any way to determine if those cases of STD’s were actually incurred through work rather than other personal activity? And how does the incident rate of STD’s among porn actors compare with similar rates among the general population.

  6. “But there are other statements floating around regarding this issue that suggest that the incidence of STD’s among porn workers is very low.”

    I’m with BFMike on this. The “thousands” of infected porn workers “over the last few years” sounds suspiciously like a made up statistic. Attacks against “pornography” through the years are often based on “suppositions and threats” to cover what is essentially censorship by those offended. Books of some of the greatest Authors of the Twentieth Century were banned for many years because they frankly described sexuality. James Joyce, Henry Miller and William Burroughs, to name a few. The reasons given was that they might fall into the hands of children and corrupt them. The truth is that for me, in my formative teen years, my reading of them not only expanded my horizons in a literary sense, but served as excellent sex manuals for my budding sexuality.

    Pornography in general is a very healthy and human activity. Those who are most vehement against it have always seemed to be the most sexually repressed among us. The standard that has been used through the years has been “redeeming social qualities” is trite and stupid. Without sexuality there is no human race, or to go further humanity itself. Those against it appear to me to be people who are of authoritarian mindsets, wishing to control the acts of others. I a society where people of color are repressed and where the people of little financial means are stuck at the bottom, surely there are more important issues to deal with, especially in L.A..

    The problem is that there has been such social opprobrium about pornography that ordinary people are reluctant to speak out in favor of it. Given this I must do so and categorically state that I am pro-pornography and its proliferation. Screw L.A. and move your business to a more welcoming climate.

  7. I too would be interested how the STD rate of p0rn actors compares to that of the general population.

    It used to be that in most German states prostitutes had to undergo monthly examinations and blood tests. In 2001 the federal law that authorized that was changed, because the STD rate of prostitutes who are so legal that they care about such regulations is significantly lower than the rate in the general population.

    It turns out that sex workers are, well, professionals who try to minimize their risks, and never “think with their small head (or clit)” in the heat of the moment.

  8. MikeS, I’m pleasantly surprised by your take. I know you’re a feminist as much as a man can be. The first generation feminists combined w/ the Jerry Falwell types in wanting porn abolished. My thoughts back then was when 2 groups as disparate as that get together they must be wrong. The 2nd generation feminists embrace porn on the grounds you just stated so well. My question is, what if an actor has a latex allergy?

  9. Maybe they should pass condoms out in county jails and prisons the rate of STDs has got to be higher there to. You know your elected officials have gone off the deep end when they start putting this stuff on the ballots.

  10. Based on the fine citizens of California also voting a tax increase for an out of control state govt., and now this which passed by a very similar %, maybe they only understand “yes.”

  11. I see how this measure won. The doctors and the AIDS activists who were behind this were pitted against the Hollywood porn titans that really treat their employees miserably.

  12. The San Diego zoo was having a problem. They had a female gorilla in heat but didn’t want her to breed because the female gorilla had health problems that would make the pregnancy dangerous. So, the gorilla experts, vets, and zoo director had a meeting on what to do. With Jazmine, the female gorilla getting aggressive and violent, something needed to be done. A light bulb went on w/ the expert. She said, “You know Carl the maintenance guy is the only person who can get near Jazmine, they’ve always had a good relationship. Why don’t we have Carl mount her and calm her down.” The group was initially shocked by the suggestion but realized no one had any others. So Carl is called in. They explain to Carl the dilemna w/ Jazmine. Carl expressed concern saying he’s afraid she’s going to hurt herself w/ the violent outburst. The zoo director then makes the proposition. “Carl, she needs to be mounted, for $500 will you do that?” Carl is taken aback. The group continues to explain to Carl this is the only solution. So, Carl thinks a moment and says, “I’ll do it on 3 conditions. Number 1, nobody can know about this, I’ll be ridiculed by everyone.” The zoo director quickly says, “Absolutely..no one but us will know.” Carl then says, “Number 2, I’m not going to kiss Jazmine.” Again the zoo director chimes in, “Of course not Carl, you’ll be behind her anyway, there’s no missionary position in the animal kingdom.” Carl then gives his last condition, “I’m going to need a few days to come up w/ the $500.”

  13. In LA, if you want to do porn, you have to buy condoms. In NY, if you want to drink a lot, you have to buy two small drinks instead of one big one. Where is this going?

  14. @Malisha

    But in NY we don’t need ‘FEMA’.

    In NY we don’t need any help with just about the biggest natural disaster since Katrina because we have Bloomberg and lots of volunteers.

    We can’t trust citizens to decide how much they should drink. But when it comes to finding food and fuel, rebuilding shelter, getting the electricity turned back on, we don’t need any government help with that.

    We’ve got all that covered with volunteers – even though the volunteers are hungry and cold just like everybody else.

    I have a modest proposal: how about if the politicians who make such statements volunteer to help clear rubble, hand out blankets. serve soup and sleep in shelters or in the open till everyone is back in their homes?

  15. Here’s one: the porn industry. 55.9 percent of the good citizens of Los Angeles County have passed controversial Measure B, requiring porn actors to wear condoms as they ply their trade.

    The same should apply to the CIA and the State Department as they ply their trades.

  16. Does the government have a bona fide interest in inspecting actors’ genitalia for health reasons? Or, may the actors decide for themselves what risks they prefer to take in developing their craft free from the government’s probing eye?

    What do you think?

    I bet even TSA does not want to rub them the wrong way when they fly.

  17. If the CIA and the State Department employees need to wear condoms in service of their country, I want to know exactly what they are doing with our tax dollars.

    I’ll take a pass on that porn, but I sure would like to see another one of those government reports.

    Who knew being a wonk could be so interesting and satisfying – ahhh, that’s better.

  18. Nick,

    You got the story fairly close, but here is the real scoop:

    During the recent election the Romney campaign was trying to figure out a way to appear environmentally friendly. They heard about a problem at the San Diego Zoo from Karl, a maintenance man in the Gorilla Department who was a staunch Romney supporter.

    Here is the full MSM story out on the AP:
    ——————————————————————
    The San Diego zoo was having a problem. They had a female gorilla in heat but didn’t want her to breed because the female gorilla had health problems that would make the pregnancy dangerous. So, the gorilla experts, vets, and zoo director Rush had a meeting on what to do. With Claudia, the female gorilla getting aggressive and violent, something needed to be done. A light bulb went on w/ the expert. He said, “You know Karl the maintenance guy is the only person who can get near Claudia, they’ve always had a good relationship. Why don’t we have Karl mount her and calm her down.” The group was initially shocked by the suggestion but realized no one had any others. So Karl is called in. They explain to Karl the dilemma w/ Claudia. Karl expressed concern saying he’s afraid she’s going to hurt herself w/ the violent outburst. The zoo director Rush then makes the proposition. “Karl, she needs to be mounted, for $500 will you do that?” Karl is taken aback. The group continues to explain to Karl this is the only solution. So, Karl thinks a moment and says, “I’ll do it on 3 conditions. Number 1, nobody can know about this, I’ll be ridiculed by everyone.” The zoo director Rush quickly says, “Absolutely … no one but us will know.” Karl then says, “Number 2, I’m not going to kiss Claudia.” Again the zoo director Rush chimes in, “Of course not Karl, I do it that way too, you’ll be behind her anyway, there’s no missionary position in the republic of the animal kingdom … like with the Colts.” Karl then gives his last condition, “I’m going to need a few days to come up w/ the $500.”

  19. “Is this a solution in search of a problem?”

    Probably.

    “Does the government have a bona fide interest in inspecting actors’ genitalia for health reasons?”

    Maybe.

    “Or, may the actors decide for themselves what risks they prefer to take in developing their craft free from the government’s probing eye?”

    Workers should have a say in what they consider reasonable assumption of risk in pursuing their craft but that needs to be weighted against the public good. It’s not as if everyone is compelled to have sex with porn starts other than perhaps Charlie Sheen. How many people outside the industry do they expose to this risk unknowingly is a relevant factor here. And therein lies the rub. The industry takes self-imposed remedial action against the risk in the form of the self-mandated checks and the database.

    Do porn stars who by the nature of their profession run a higher risk of STDs pose a health hazard to those not willing to assume the risk, a.k.a. the general public, is a key question.

    I’m thinking the answer is no.

  20. Speaking as a journalist for Adult Video News, the primary trade magazine of the adult industry, I’m sorry you have been so misinformed about Measure B. For one thing, despite the banner across the top of the “Yes on Measure B” page, the measure’s sponsor was NOT the “Los Angeles Medical Association,” unless that organization is a front group for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Over the past year or so, AHF has spent $4 million hiring signature gatherers to put their “forced condom” initiatives on, first, the LA City ballot (a tactic which was obviated when, after enough signatures had been gathered, the City Council passed the measure as an ordinance, thus preventing the city from having to spend several million dollars [their estimate] to incorporate the measure on the ballot) and then on the LA County initiative which was just passed.

    Another flaw in your story is that despite the wording of the ballot measure’s summary, Measure B is not just about condoms. The text of the measure states that in order to be in compliance with the terms of the “public health certificate” which all producers in the county will need in order to be able to shoot porn legally, those producers will have to comply with, among other things, California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193. If you look at that code section, you find that porn performers will have to wear “personal protective equipment that includes, but is “not limited to, gloves, gowns, laboratory coats, face shields or masks and eye protection, and mouthpieces, resuscitation bags, pocket masks, or other ventilation devices. Personal protective equipment will be considered “appropriate” only if it does not permit blood or OPIM [other potentially infectious materials] to pass through to or reach the employee’s work clothes, street clothes, undergarments, skin, eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.” Sadly, I suspect that most people who voted for the measure were not aware that the measure essentially requires the performers to wear hazmat suits while having sex.

    Also, it is established fact that there has not been one single transmission of HIV on a hetero adult porn set anywhere in the country for over eight years, and when it was revealed that AHF’s main claim that Measure B was needed to prevent HIV transmission in porn, they switched tactics and claimed that no, it wasn’t necessarily HIV but all the other STDs they claimed performers were infected with. That claim had been destroyed a year earlier in a report by noted epidemiologist Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, who looked at statistics promoted by staffers at the LA County Dept. of Public Health and found that those figures could not substantiate that infections among performers were any higher than those of similarly aged and similarly sexually active LA County residents.

    One thing that is correct in your article is that porn made with condoms (much less all the other “protective equipment”) does not sell. Producers tried going “all condom” after a small HIV outbreak in 1998 (before regular testing was common in the industry) and again after the small 2004 outbreak (that performer returned from working in South America and was tested too soon after returning, so his infection was not found—a flaw in the testing procedure that has since been corrected), and they found that most porn buyers simply would not buy product with condoms being used. I attribute that shocking state of affairs to the incredibly poor sex education most of them received in high school, but it is nonetheless true that they won’t buy condomized porn.

    All of the above has been covered in my articles at avn.com, but the point is, the porn industry cannot survive under Measure B, and it WILL move wherever it has to in order to avoid such measures—including “going underground” where the health department’s inspectors will never find shooting locations—and which may mean that fewer performers will participate in the just-short-of-mandatory testing procedures, thus making shooting porn significantly less safe than it currently is.

    FYI: The industry WILL be suing to stop implementation of Measure B.

  21. From the article and the additional info from Mark K, I am convinced this is more of a ploy to outlaw the porn industy under the color of health code regulation.

    Washington State is a good example of a government being not able to do certain things due to common law restrictions then turning to mandating licensing for everything under the sun and using the threat of suspending that license as a measure to control behavior.

    In our state a person can have their driver license suspended for not paying child support or for drinking alcohol when under age 18 illegally. None of those two things have anything to do with the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle but nevertheless the state uses the license against people.

    Perhaps Nevada might be more accomodating to the pr0n industry. It would serve Cali justice to lose all that revenue.

  22. Mark Kernes, Thanks much for an informed perspective. Your beat has to be more interesting than covering county water distict meeting or city council! However, I will refrain from making some stale joke, I’m sure you’re sick of them.

  23. Mr. Kernes,
    Thanks for the clarification. It is interesting that California didn’t just add a health tax to the porn movies(or is that in the ordinance already?).

  24. MikeS

    was/is pro-porn.

    I was an actor, once. When needy, take what you can get. My girlfriend and I needed the cash, well paid..

    Odd ending: I fixed the producer, an Israeli student at the University, up with the girl who became his wife, one of my formers.

    The unexpected on-set viewers were all Israelis, more girls than guys. I could have gone for a couple of them, but so liberal were they not, nor perhaps I so attractive.

    Those were the days when porn became legal in Sweden.

  25. Mark K:

    Thanks for the clarifications. One clarification to your clarification is that the Calif. Medical Association sponsored the “Yes on Measure B” website (as I linked) not the measure itself though they were a chief advocate. Also I mentioned the permit requirement and the class. The prevalence of STDs among porn stars is an established fact as I linked in the article and now here:

    http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1396

    Data from 2004 through 2008 showed that 18% to 26% of performers were diagnosed with at least 1 infection of gonorrhea or chlamydia each year, 72% of those being among women.15 Nearly 25% of all STD cases among women were reinfections within 1 year, compared with 15% of women seen in family planning and STD clinics. When comparing performers to other Los Angeles County residents of a similar age range, the chlamydia prevalence among performers was more than 7 times greater and the gonorrhea prevalence was 15 times greater than typical Los Angeles County residents..

    I appreciate a good advocate such as yourself but facts are facts and you need more to paint the picture.

  26. Nope, no tax in Measure B; however, the measure makes it a crime (misdemeanor) to shoot without a permit. Violations start at $500 per violation for a first offense, and can reach $1000 per subsequent violation, as well as six months in jail.

  27. I appreciate your comments, but our experience has been that the mainstream reports of infectivity have generally been wildly skewed. For example, for about a decade, the primary testing facility for adult performers was the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, known as AIM. However, while AIM tested almost all (hetero) performers in the Los Angeles area, it also tested anyone else who walked through the door, including non-porn sex workers or just anyone who wanted an accurate HIV test that could detect recent infection. (The “rapid” test available at the time had a four to six month “window” during which one could be infected and still test negative.) So while AIM reported all positive test results to the county health department, those figures didn’t distinguish between whether the infected person was a performer or wasn’t, but as the industry’s main testing clinic, the health department assumed that all results reported were from porn stars. In fact, according to that clinic’s owner, former actress Sharon Mitchell, infection rates on a “good month” were 1.8%, and on a “bad month,” 2.4%. The county’s totals far exceeded that, so Mitchell brought in epidemiologist Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, who examined the statistics provided by health officials Drs. Robert Kim-Farley and Peter Kerndt as presented to a CalOSHA hearing officer. Dr. Mayer’s conclusions (and a link to his report) can be found here:

    http://business.avn.com/articles/video/Doctor-s-Report-Blasts-Health-Department-s-STD-Statistics-437880.html

  28. Brice and Darren, maybe that was the plan all along; some in that county decided that they didn’t want porn filmed in their jurisdiction and knew a measure like this would cause the industry to go elsewhere.

  29. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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