Next year, California voters will decide whether to force pornographic actors to wear condoms through a ballot measure that could reward porn-watching vigilantes.
The proposed mandate for all California-filmed porn was approved for ballot access Wednesday and would make the companies and individuals that have a financial stake in the X-rated content liable to condom-enforcing civil lawsuits from any state resident.
But porn industry advocates say they aren’t going to let it slip through, describing the initiative as unnecessary and likely to force a lucrative sector to leave the state after many pornographers already moved shoots out of Los Angeles, where voters in 2012 passed an initiative that threatened condom-free studios with fines and criminal charges.
“You’ve got a better chance of getting HIV by picking up a girl in a neighborhood bar than going to bed with a porn star,” says Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, citing routine testing at mainstream porn studios. “The whole idea is just crazy.”
The group behind the initiative – the AIDS Healthcare Foundation – feels the idea is perfectly sane and that it would combat not only the spread of HIV, but of other sexually transmitted infections as well.
“Adult film performers deserve the same safety and health protections as the majority of Californians,” says Adam Cohen, a consultant for the foundation, which also was behind the Los Angeles initiative and a pending proposal from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) that would require condoms statewide.
The workplace regulations actually may hit the books before voters decide on the initiative, but would have less of a bite. They would have a six-month statute of limitations, meaning producers could briefly stall release of condom-less content filmed in-state and avoid penalties.
The ballot initiative has a more stringent two-year statute of limitations for civil penalties and makes more people involved in the porn chain of production liable, in an effort to address a potential loophole of porn companies using subcontractors. It does not propose criminal penalties.
Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment – an adult video production company – says it would be impossible for studios to hold content for two years before releasing it, and that he sees it as important to defeat the initiative.
“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that it will pass,” he says. “At some point this needs to be stopped, and we’re certainly interested in being part of an industrywide group that takes this on.”
Vivid Entertainment has an ongoing lawsuit against the Los Angeles law, but a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last year ruled against its claim that the First Amendment protects a right to make condom-less films. Still, Hirsch hopes for a favorable ruling that would invalidate statewide rules as well after the lawsuit goes to trial in July.