The pretty blonde with no name answers the door wearing scarlet lip gloss and an innocent smile.
She’d called the pizza man only a few minutes before. She just didn’t expect him to arrive so quickly, she tells him in a sweet, girl-next-door drawl.
Pizza crashes to the floor. Shirts rip off. Zippers tear open. Bow-chicka-wow-wow, and it’s a wrap.
That was once a common cinematic scene in Chatsworth, as well as across the San Fernando Valley and all over Los Angeles County. But not anymore.
That’s because a thin layer of latex has produced more drama than sex in Los Angeles’ porn industry over the last 12 months. Since voters approved Measure B a year ago, requiring adult-film performers to wear condoms during sex scenes shot in L.A. County, those in the industry say there has been a shift in where porn is made. And the long-term effect on the county’s economy, adult-industry leaders say, has yet to be determined.
“Fewer people are shooting (adult film) in L.A. County, and some have moved to other areas around California or other states,” said Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, the trade group for the industry.
In most years, there are up to 500 permits filed from adult-film studios with FilmL.A., the nonprofit that processes permits for motion picture, television and commercial production across Los Angeles. This year, a total of 24 have been filed, a FilmL.A. spokesman said.
Measure B also requires that adult-film studios apply for public-health permits. Eleven health permits were requested by adult-film studios so far this year, a spokesman with the county’s Department of Public Health said.
The industry — which has been estimated to be worth $6 billion in California and $11 billion nationwide — creates about 10,000 production jobs in the county, including makeup, lighting, carpentry, transportation, food service, payroll, web design and acting. “The industry is resilient and will continue,” Duke added. “The question is where.”
Vivid Entertainment, founded in 1984 and now one of the largest production studios in the adult-film industry, has gone outside L.A. County for some of its productions since the law took effect, said co-founder Steven Hirsch.
“We will not be shooting in L.A. under the current situation, which is too bad,” Hirsch said. “There’s a uniqueness to L.A. you can’t find anywhere such as backdrops. It’s also impacted us financially because shooting outside the county can become more expensive.”
Vivid filed suit late last year challenging Measure B, and while a federal court judge denied its request for an injunction, he also delivered a mixed ruling saying that making actors wear condoms during porn shoots doesn’t violate the First Amendment, but enforcing such a law raises constitutional questions. Vivid filed an appeal, which is still pending.
Hirsch and others said there has never been a single case of HIV contracted while shooting in the industry in the last eight years, noting performers are satisfied with the testing standards in place. The standards require performers to be tested for various sexually transmitted diseases every 15 to 30 days, then provide producers with proof of the results.
“We are not against condoms. We are just pro-choice,” Hirsch said. “The industry is immersed in this legal battle, and it is as an industry we’re fighting.”
But Michael Weinstein, executive director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Measure B, said he’s heard that argument before and that the heart of the initiative is to bring workplace safety to employees who fear asking for condoms.
“I don’t understand their argument because we have worker safety standards for Hollywood films,” Weinstein said. “Why is this different?”
He feels Measure B has brought a shift in the way performers are now thinking of their work.
“I think they’ve been empowered by what’s happened here in Los Angeles,” he said. “Many performers have come forward that they don’t feel protected by the industry. People were too afraid to come forward. That’s been a very big change. When you’re reading the blogosphere, they are saying that condoms are good.”
Weinstein vowed to hold the county’s Department of Public Health accountable for enforcing the measure and has accused the department of ignoring the law. The county has conducted five inspections this year, with no citations issued, according to the department.
The ongoing dispute between AHF and the industry, meanwhile, continued throughout the year. A syphilis scare was proof, according to AHF, that the industry couldn’t police itself. And three performers tested positive for HIV, prompting two separate calls for the industry to halt production voluntarily. Further testing by the industry determined that none of those performers contracted the disease while working.
Adult films are protected under the Freeman decision of 1988, when the State of California tried to prove that Harold Freeman, a producer and director of adult films, was pimping actors. The California Supreme Court disagreed, and as a result, the making of hard-core porn was allowed in California. Only New Hampshire has a similar law. Earlier this year, the New Hampshire film office reported no requests from studios wanting to work there.
One producer, who goes by the name of Mo Reese, said he has been in adult films for six years and works mostly on condom-only sets. He said he’s seeing a mixed reaction within the industry. Though some companies have moved to Las Vegas, he said, “some people are going right along with the law. Other people are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I know there are people who are working less, but we’re also seeing a lot of work, because we had two moratoriums back to back, which threw off all sorts of schedules.”
Reese said the smaller adult-film companies are the ones suffering. But he also said Los Angeles’ condom law won’t produce a higher demand for gonzo porn — adult films made in Asia or Europe, where no such mandates exist.
The United States, he said, has its own unique taste. “Americans still like a good old-fashioned, blond girl next door with a southern drawl — with the pizza man story,” he said.
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