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. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

  4. “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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?).

    • 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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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