Pro/Con: Los Angeles creates law mandating condom use in porn

On January 17, 2012 Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed an ordinance stating that pornographic actors, working within the city of Los Angeles must wear condoms.

PRO

by Wynter Eddins

Two years ago, Derrik Burts entered the porn industry, appearing in both homosexual and heterosexual films. Just months into the business, he contracted the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that he contracted it from a “known positive” actor during a scene.

Burts is not alone. According to the 2010 Annual HIV Surveillance Report by the Public Health department of County of Los Angeles , nearly 26,000 people today are living with AIDS within Los Angeles County, compared to the 15,000 cases just 10 years ago.

The new condom ordinance should have been enacted years ago. The San Fernando Valley is the nation’s porn capitol, and according to New York Daily News, California and New Hampshire are the only places where pornography production is not considered prostitution by the federal supreme court.

Since the law was enacted, adult film production companies are threatening to move out of Los Angeles, claiming that condoms would decrease viewers. Steven Hirsh, founder of the adult film company Vivid Entertainment, told the LA Times in an interview that if he were to move the company out of California he wouldn’t have to worry about the new ordinance.

In most pornographic films, the actors don’t wear condoms. The reason, according to Hirsch, is because the viewers would get distracted. Hirsch says viewers are more interested in the fantasy aspect in the films.

However, the danger inherent in unsafe sex in adult films is more important than viewers’ preferences. Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported 17 cases of contracted HIV involving porn actors, according to public officials. Besides HIV, STDs are a risk according to Shelly Luben a former adult actress who stated on her website, Pink Cross Foundation that she contracted HPV which led to cervical cancer performing in 30 films. California Watch, a news website founded by the center for Investigative Reporting,  reported in 2010 that the number of people in the adult entertainment industry who are actually infected with HIV remains unknown, since in gay adult films, the actors are not required to be tested for HIV.

It may be more enticing to watch films where there are no condoms present, but the reality is that an increasing number of people in the industry are exposed to STDs.

The nearly $5 billion porn industry has a large influence on its viewers, and with more than half of the profits coming from online, the videos are accessible to nearly everyone.  Forbes magazine indicates that every second, nearly $4,000 is being spent on the industry, and every 40 minutes, another pornographic movie is being created.

According to statistics from the Los Angeles Department of Health, those in the industry are 10 times more likely to contract an STD than other members of the population. The spread of AIDS is on the rise, specifically in Los Angeles County, and the adult industry is important in creating awareness considering the number of viewers. Porn star Ron Jeremy told the Daily Beast that he was tested every 28 days for HIV and other STDs, but the worry is when the actors have multiple sexual partners in a day, monthly testing is not enough.

The usage of condoms in the industry could also be a positive message to those who view it regularly. If the argument is that the viewer would prefer that no condom be present, then there is a solution. There are already talks of creating an “invisible condom” according to The Globe and Mail news site, which could possible serve as an alternative to the condoms used today. The adult industry can promote safe sex, and still keep its viewers.

The city of Los Angles is trying to protect the health of those who partake in a large industry and make it a bit safer. The agencies should be held accountable each time a video is aired, and if the actors are not wearing condoms then actions should be taken.

Condoms ensure that those in the industry are practicing safe sex. Just as doctors are required to wear gloves, those in the porn industry should have to wear protection. Those in the industry should be grateful that the law cares about their health. If this law was not enacted, stories like Burts’ would become reality for many others.

Wynter is a junior communications majoring in communications, minoring in journalism and VP of Radio Television Digital News Association and is a member of the CSUN Speech and Debate Team.

 

CON

by Jack Harryman

Mr. Villaraigosoa did not choose this battle out of the blue; the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been lobbying for the law to be passed for several years. The question is, will the new law ensure a safer working environment for these adult actors and actresses? It depends on whom you ask.  Many porn stars believe that the law will simply cause the porn industry to move outside the boundaries of Los Angeles County and into the underground, creating a far more dangerous and unregulated work place.

Porn actress Ela Darling stated, in the AVN article More Performers Speak Out Against Cal/OSHA Sanctions, “As an individual and as a performer, I would rather have unprotected sex with someone whom I know for sure has been tested for HIV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia in the past thirty days, than have barrier-protected sex with someone whose STD status is either unknown or positive.”

Until May last year, the Adult Industry Medical Center ran mandatory nationwide STD testing services that certified performers as STD-free before they began working. Michael Weinstein, head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, backed a lawsuit against the Adult Industry Medical Center, putting the AIMC out of business and leaving a vacuum in the health and safety sector of the industry. Perhaps Weinstein believed that by ridding the industry of any health protection services, legislators would be forced to pass the ordinance.

Many of these pornographic performers and producers, like Ela Darling, have nothing against the usage of condoms in their films, but rather oppose regulation of condom use throughout the state or city because it does not necessarily guarantee the decrease of HIV and AIDS in the industry. This makes the $4.4 million ordinance, paid with taxpayer money, one big failure in ending the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Just like the movie industry, the adult film industry is taxed on every movie they make. The adult film industry, as a whole, is a multibillion dollar industry. Currently 90% of all pornographic films are made in Los Angeles County. If the porn industry moves, is the city of Los Angeles really prepared to lose the tax revenue from a multimillion dollar industry at a time when the state of California is on the verge of bankruptcy?

But not only is the AIDS Healthcare Foundation spending Los Angeles and California’s scarce financial resources, they are also squandering their own funds. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has spent millions of dollars putting an ordinance in place, yet the ordinance only encompasses one city.  That money could have been spent on HIV and AIDS education or research, which would benefit numerous counties across the state.

Furthermore, according to adult film performer and director Lorelei Lee, during the decade in which the Adult Industry Medical Center was up and running, only six out of thousands of performers tested positive for HIV and AIDS, and only three of them contracted their diseases on the set. Studies from the International Planned Parenthood Federation show that condoms are only 80% effective against the spread of HIV or AIDS, while testing is nearly 100% accurate. Despite the facts, Weinstein insists on advocating condoms over testing.

Besides the backing of the ordinance being a complete waste of resources, it does something far more sinister—it legislates morality and in doing so, forces needless government intrusion on the lives of private citizens.

Individuals of consenting legal age video taping their sexual escapades can and should understand what they’re getting themselves into by engaging in what amounts to private, consensual sexual activities. As free citizens of the United States of America, we should take responsibility for our actions instead of resorting to criminalization and government enforcement to do it for us. Do we really need one more law that forces us to put a jacket on in the rain?

Jack is a sophomore majoring in geology and is a member of the CSUN Speech and Debate team.