Condoms on the election ballot in L.A.

06 Nov

You may have heard there’s an election going on today. But while all the attention is on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, there’s another big vote going on in Los Angeles county at the same time. This particular referendum is likely to decide whether the city will continue to be one of the world’s hubs for pornography production.

Los Angelinos will be voting on something called Measure B, also known as the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, which – if passed – will force porn performers to use condoms. What seems like a fairly innocuous motion to laypeople has actually resulted in a fiercely fought war between the industry and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the act’s primary proponent.

The AIDS awareness organization believes the adult industry is rife with sexually transmitted diseases, which not only poses a threat to the larger public, but also adds to the taxpayer burden for health-care costs.

The adult industry, on the other hand, says the organization has been spreading misinformation and that its own self-regulating measures – which include vigourous, regular testing – means performers are already safe and disease-free. The New York Times has a story detailing the industry’s testing efforts that is well worth checking out.

The industry’s key argument against Measure B is that the condom requirement is bad for business. Steven Hirsch, founder of Vivid Entertainment – one of the largest adult film producers – told the Times that his company used condoms for two years after an HIV outbreak in 1998, only to see sales decline by 30 per cent.

Gay pornography, meanwhile, has routinely used condoms since the 1980s, but so-called “bareback” films where they’re not used are on the rise for the very same reasons. Porn consumers simply don’t like to see condoms in what is essentially fantasy escapism.

In a carefully considered editorial, The Los Angeles Times has come out in support of the adult industry. The newspaper says there are some overblown arguments on both sides, but ultimately it believes that Measure B would be un-enforceable. Larger businesses such as Vivid would likely move production to other states or countries (Canada, anyone?) while smaller, less reputable types would shoot their films, disassemble their companies and then re-incorporate under different names before any enforcement efforts could be leveled against them:

If Los Angeles County could demonstrate that it was ready, willing and able to enforce a permit and condom requirement or that producers would not simply evade the requirement by leaving the county (and if audiences would choose to watch explicit sex scenes depicting condoms), Measure B could merit support. Instead, it’s impossible to predict the results of passage. Measure B then falls into the category of ‘Let’s pass it and see what happens.’ That’s a bad way to make law because it puts government, or voters, on a track toward regulating all kinds of conduct without any hope of enforcing the requirements fairly and equally, and that in turn undermines the power of government.

The newspaper sums up its position by suggesting that the adult industry should voluntarily adopt condoms, but it also accepts that’s unlikely given the public’s tastes. The real solution, then, seems to be a societal change. If there is real concern over the health of adult film performers, for whatever reasons, the better place to start might be in trying to change peoples’ expectations over what they see in porn.

That’s a tall order, but it may just be more doable than enforcing Measure B.


Posted by on November 6, 2012 in health, sex


4 responses to “Condoms on the election ballot in L.A.

  1. Mychol Scully

    November 6, 2012 at 12:13 am

    The social engineering project that made cigarette smokers pariahs might offer a lesson or two.

    I remain a cigarette smoker, but I’m fascinated by the way social engineering and health-focused progaganda have impacted the smoker population. While self-righteous “born again” non-smokers are personally irksome, there can be no doubt that the intended outcome (reducing the number of smokers) has been achieved.

    • petenowak2000

      November 6, 2012 at 12:17 am

      That’s a pretty good analogy!

      • mychol

        November 6, 2012 at 12:29 am

        You only need to watch a few old black-and-white classic films to see how much has changed… Marlene Dietrich or Bette Davis with their elegant cigarette holders, the chivalry of the male lead in springing to light their cigarettes. Now, the usual suspects in film are almost always cigarette smokers (where cigarette smoking is portrayed at all)… the villain, the mentally disturbed, the down-and-out… nice work!

  2. Marc Venot

    November 6, 2012 at 1:14 am

    You have shown a few days ago a new system that offer the possibility to choose to see different versions of the story. So they can shoot with and sans, and let the spectator go the way they want but at least once they have been noticed of the prophylatic.

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