On November 6, Los Angelenos will vote on Measure B: Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act -- an ordinance that would mandate new rules in porn, including: all performers (including spouses) must use condoms and other barriers while filming; everyone must comply with hazardous substance workplace regulations; and producers must pay thousands of dollars for an additional public health permit (we already pay for filming permits). I urge all L.A. county residents to vote NO on Measure B.
While I'm a strong advocate for safer sex and fair working conditions for sex workers, passing Measure B will not make workers safer nor will it help stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Here are some of the reasons why Measure B is a bad idea:
No Sex Worker Input: This measure was developed without input from adult industry professionals and does not reflect actual working conditions, realistic risk assessment, or the opinions of the people it is supposedly designed to protect. It reeks of typical campaigns to "save the sex workers" without asking them if they want to be saved or what could make their job safer or easier. Many performers prefer not to use condoms for many reasons: condom scenes take longer to shoot and are harder on their bodies.
Remember: the average person has intercourse for less than 10 minutes, while the average performer based on my experience as a director for 10 years does it for more than an hour. Using condoms in these extended sessions can cause genital tissue abrasions, which puts everyone at greater risk for STI transmission.
I'm not arguing against the use of condoms in porn. I am against government-mandated condom use. I want to empower performers to make decisions about how they will protect themselves.
Unrealistic Hazardous Waste Standards: Part of the ordinance would require compliance with California Code of Regulations Title 8 §5193, a workplace regulation related to hazardous substances. Everyone on set must learn and practice strict "blood-borne pathogen" exposure protocols that are designed for workers in hospitals, clinics, and labs. I read an internal report created for one adult film studio by a compliance consultant. It included such recommendations as: all performers' clothing must be confiscated by producers, laundered, then returned to them; and all sex toys (regardless of material or use), lube bottles, and anything else a performer touches must be thrown away.
Waste of Money: If Measure B passes, according to MarketWatch, it would:
Create an unworkable system of on-set inspections and enforcement by county personnel. The county estimates initial start-up costs for the program to be in excess of $300,000, but acknowledges that regardless of the level of compliance by the adult film industry, there would be significant cost to the Department of Public Health.
A study by the Los Angeles Fire Department found that "more than 100 condom cops might be needed to adequately enforce the law, at a cost of $1.7 million or more a year."
The Driving Force Behind It Doesn't Care About Performers: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the organization behind this crusade, is on a mission to destroy the adult industry. AHF has spent over $4 million to promote mandatory condoms, rather than using those resources to benefit people who are living with HIV/AIDS. AHF propagates negative stereotypes about sex workers and blatantly uses inaccurate information to scare the public.
AHF director Michael Weinstein was instrumental in shutting down the centralized testing agency Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Healthcare, after a privacy lawsuit contributed to AIM filing for bankruptcy. AIM was an invaluable non-profit organization that was able to take rapid action if a performer tested positive for an STI. Since its closure, the industry has relied on multiple testing facilities without a central database. If AHF is committed to performer safety, how did shutting down AIM accomplish that?
System Already in Place: The adult industry is self-regulating and requires all performers to be regularly tested (every 30 days or less) for STIs including gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV. Most performers also test and get vaccinated for HPV and Hepatitis B. The typical HIV test for an everyday person is the Elisa/Western Blot (which has a three month incubation window). The industry requires the more expensive PCR/DNA test, which has the highest level of accuracy and the quickest detection time -- approximately two weeks from exposure. Statistics prove that this regular testing protocol works: the rate of STI transmission on porn sets is significantly lower than average rates in L.A. From 2008 through 2011, there were 7,952 new cases of HIV reported in Los Angeles County.
Only two of these were adult performers, and they did not contract the disease on a set. There is a real fear that if condoms are mandated, this rigorous testing will stop, which is incredibly dangerous, especially since condoms do not protect against all STIs. Performer Maggie Mayhem argues, "Those concerned about HIV/AIDS should consider how many free testing clinics could have been opened with the same amount of money that has gone into this political campaign, especially when the risk demographics and statistics clearly indicate that adult performers are NOT in the highest risk demographic, are NOT the least served for their needs, and DO have a system of protection in place."
I believe all of the following should be standard on porn sets:
- A safe, fair, consensual, positive working environment
- Clean sheets, brand new sex toys and lube
- Clean bathrooms, anti-bacterial soap, hygiene products, lots of hand washing
- Vigilance among performers and producers to confirm accurate STI test results (an original copy of test results plus confirmation with testing company)
- Access to condoms, gloves, and oral barriers with no implied or overt discouragement to use them
In addition, I would like the following standards to be adopted:
- Performers choose their partners for scenes
- A 15-day testing period (with testing cost shared by performers and producers)
- A standard "genital check" where everyone gets to look at each other's bodies before shooting without shame or embarrassment
- No filming of practices we know are extremely risky and have higher incidences of STI transmission without condoms, including: internal ejaculation and double penetration.
As a feminist dedicated to producing ethically-made pornography, the safety of performers is a critical concern for me. I'd love to see a strong adult performer union formed which would advocate for standardized working conditions. I support sex workers making informed choices about their bodies and their work. I cannot support Measure B, which is a wasteful measure that doesn't address the real needs of performers.