The AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced recently it will launch a signature drive seeking to put a condoms-in-porn measure on California’s 2016 ballot. The group says it’s an issue of workplace safety.
But it’s also an issue of constitutional rights. A law requiring performers to wear condoms is a law that changes the content of entertainment, which is speech, and the content of speech is protected by the First Amendment from government meddling.
The issue of workplace safety may be a legal front for the real goal of the law.
Ever since screen legend Clark Gable took off his shirt in a 1934 film to reveal his bare chest, triggering a nationwide plunge in the sales of men’s undershirts, people have known that entertainment has a tremendous influence over behavior.
The director of “It Happened One Night” later explained that the actor didn’t wear an undershirt because removing it slowed down the scene. Frank Capra wasn’t lobbied by anti-undershirt activists or contacted by government officials about public wardrobe issues.
Today, that kind of outreach is part of the entertainment landscape. White House adviser Valerie Jarrett met with Hollywood writers and producers about creating storylines featuring the Affordable Care Act. The Centers for Disease Control has an “Entertainment Education Program” to get health information into the scripts of TV shows. “Because 88 percent of Americans learn about health issues from television, CDC recognizes that prime time and daytime television programming are great outlets for our health messages,” the CDC’s website explains.
So the proposed statewide law requiring condoms in porn may be aimed more at influencing the public than protecting the health of performers. The goal may be to turn porn stars into role models for safe sex.
Los Angeles County voters passed a similar requirement in 2012. The immediate result of Measure B was a sharp decline in jobs in the San Fernando Valley. According to industry estimates and film permit records, the number of adult films produced in Los Angeles went from 5,000 in 2011 to just 40 last year.