Porn Industry Against Mandatory Condom Measure

VIDEO: Voters approve Measure B, requiring actors to wear condoms while shooting sex scenes.
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A ballot measure mandating that porn stars wear condoms in adult films passed with 56 percent of the vote in Los Angeles County this week, but the adult film industry in California says it has already has a system to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases -- and it's better than latex.

The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, or Measure B, will require performers to wear condoms during vaginal and anal intercourse, something industry leaders and their employees think is unnecessary because studios require performers to submit to mandatory STD testing every 14 or 28 days. If they aren't STD-free, they can't be entered into the industry-wide sexual health database, and they're banned from performing.

"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."

He said Measure B is a "solution looking for a problem."

Spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Measure B also requires adult film producers to complete a blood-borne pathogen training course, post compliance signs on set, and cover fees for periodic inspections.

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," and may move its billion dollar industry elsewhere.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California Los Angeles, spoke at an AHF press conference following Measure B's passage. He said recent surveys and studies proved that adult performers are 8 to 15 times more likely to contract an STD than anyone else. He also said current industry testing practices are insufficient because they miss herpes simplex, as well as Chlamydia and gonorrhea in the throat or anus.

"This is really a victory for common sense," said Whitney Engeran-Cordova, a senior director at AHF, during the conference. "I hope that the production directors and performers and all of the industry realize it was not only the voters who passed this. It was also customers."

Engeran-Cordova said the porn industry failed to provide a minimum protection to its performers.

Industry leaders say the L.A. County porn community hasn't had a performer test positive for HIV since 2004, and that performer didn't get it from within the community.

"During that time, we've produced over 300,000 scenes," Hirsch said. "We do a pretty incredible job when it comes to protecting the performers."

Performer Kylie Ireland, who also directs adult films, said she was "obviously" against Measure B.

"It's a ridiculous waste of time and money to regulate an industry that is already self-regulating," she said. "We've done this all on our own. … I always felt totally comfortable and I've been in this business for 17 years."

The other problem is that condoms are bad for business, industry leaders said.

Hirsch said Vivid Entertainment made condoms mandatory during the mid-2000s, before the industry testing procedures were implemented, and its sales decreased by 30 percent.

"There's no question that it impacted sales," he said. "I think that when people watch adult movies they don't want to be educated. They want to be entertained."

But the adult film industry is not universally anti-condom. Wicked Pictures, for instance, said it has had a condom-only policy since 2004.

Christian Mann, the general manager of Evil Angel productions who played a roll in devising the sexual health database last year, said condoms are unappealing to customers because they take away from the escapism and fantasy inherent in pornography.

Beyond that, Ireland said condoms can make porn sex painful. Even with added lubricant, she said condoms feel abrasive during her hours on set and can cause tiny cuts in sensitive tissue.

"Performers in a sense are sexual athletes," she said. "You go for a long time."

Adult film actor James Deen said the measure also violates his rights to free speech because he wants to portray a certain fantasy for film, and he should have the right to do that. He said he is considering a move to Las Vegas, a possible new home for the Los Angeles porn community. (Ireland estimated the L.A. County group makes up about 95 percent of the business in the United States.)

"We are literally the only community you will find in the entire world that has a zero percent HIV-transmission rate because we are a business. We take it seriously," he said. "All you're doing is restricting my freedom of first amendment rights."

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