Ideally, adult film performers would use condoms when they engage in on-screen intercourse. It’s the most reliable way to keep them safe from contracting or spreading sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
But the adult film industry has doggedly refused to adopt this simple protective measure, even though state labor code requires workers be protected from blood-borne pathogens. Even a 2004 outbreak of HIV among porn actors didn’t change that. Instead, performer safety has hinged on regular STD and HIV testing and voluntary filming shutdowns if HIV is detected. So far it has worked well; there hasn’t been a documented on-set transmission of HIV in more than a decade. But testing isn’t foolproof, and more can and should be done to protect performers from STDs.
This, however, is where we part philosophical company with Proposition 60, a heavy-handed measure on the Nov. 8 ballot backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president, Michael Weinstein. The proposition would, in effect, make every Californian a potential condom cop by both mandating condom use and creating a private right of action so that any resident who spots a violation in a pornographic film shot in the state could sue and collect cash from the producers and purveyors if they prevail in court.
This is an extreme approach — and demonstrably counterproductive. We know this from the experience of Measure B, passed by Los Angeles County voters in 2012 to enforce condom use through the county’s film permitting process. The multi-billion-dollar adult-film community is largely concentrated in Los Angeles. Or at least it was before Measure B.
The Times editorial board opposed Measure B because we thought it was unlikely to increase condom use but would instead drive the industry underground or out of town. And that is exactly what happened. The year Measure B passed, there were 480 permits pulled for film shoots involving “nonsimulated sex,” according to FilmLA. The following year, in 2013, just 40 were pulled. That number has been dropping each year since.