Condoms in Porn Are Important

Porn performers are real people. They are the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins of people who live in our community. They deserve better as does the public health at large.
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The subject of condoms in porn can elicit giggles. People are embarrassed to admit they consume porn and by and large don't want to think about the consequences to the performers who they are watching. However, safety in porn is an important issue.

The knee jerk reaction of some is that consenting adults should be able to have unprotected sex if they want to and that we are seeking to control people's behavior. This is wrong on several counts. First, if people want to record themselves having condomless sex and show it to the world that is their right. However, when the people get paid to do it then they are employees and entitled to the same workplace protection that all other workers receive. Second, these performers if they demand that condoms be used will not get work and are therefore being coerced into compromising their own health.

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.

As important, is the effect that the films themselves have on public health. The fact that most straight porn is made without condoms sends a horrible message that the only kind of sex that is hot is unsafe. Some object that talking about the "educational" aspect of porn is a form of censorship. They make the analogy to Hollywood films that portray violence and say that it is wrong to try to control the content of art -- agreed. However, in Hollywood the violence is simulated. In porn, real actors are having actual unsafe sex with other actors and actually infecting them with HIV and other STDs, and the audience knows it.

The reason why the U.S. has higher rates of all STDs and unwanted pregnancy than other rich countries is that we are hedonistic in our behavior and moralistic in our attitudes -- which is a lethal combination. In other words, we keep telling people not to have sex but we are obsessed with it and use sex to sell everything.

Porn is a legal industry in two states -- California and New Hampshire. (It is illegal prostitution in the other forty-eight states). We are not opposed to pornography. We simply want it to be safer. State law in California prohibits the making of adult films without condoms under the blood-borne pathogen standards that were developed for health care settings. The California Occupational Health and Safety Administration (CalOSHA) is developing new regulations specific to porn. Porn producers have openly flouted the law knowing that CalOSHA has limited ability to police them. That's why we need a team effort between the city, county and the state to bring about safer working conditions in this industry.

Almost 71,000 citizens of Los Angeles signed petitions to place an initiative on the city ballot. As a result, the City Council adopted the law. Now more than 120,000 Angelenos have signed a county petition. Getting the signatures has not been difficult. People of all ages, races, men and women, Republicans and Democrats understand that this is a simple issue of worker protection and fairness.

The porn producers will squeal that they will move out of town. Who wants them? They will say that the audience doesn't want to see condoms. Well, the vast majority of gay porn over the last 25 years has used condoms and that industry thrives. We will continue to fight as long as it takes to make this industry safer in the same way that we fought against treating gay men, drug users, or Africans as expendable. AIDS activism has eventually succeeded in everything that it puts its mind to over three decades. This will be no different.

The porn performers are real people. They are the sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins of people who live in our community. They deserve better as does the public health at large.

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