MEASURE B, one of the initiatives on the Los Angeles County ballot, leaves a lot more to the imagination than the industry it seeks to regulate. This is the measure that would require pornographic movie actors to wear condoms.
The yes-on-B campaign says it’s about protecting performers from irresponsible producers, and protecting the public from sexually transmitted diseases spread by supposedly promiscuous porn stars. The no side says the measure is the work of a lone self-promoter bent on killing adult movies, and conjures up images of a vital local industry being driven out of California by mandates for not only condoms but also “rubber gloves, goggles and lab coats.” Both sides may be guilty of some fantasizing here; perhaps that goes with the territory.
The real question is whether the threat of disease posed by the porn industry is serious enough to warrant the effort and expense called for by Measure B. The newspaper’s editorial board does not believe the proponents of the so-called Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act have proven that case. We urge a “no” vote on Nov. 6.
California employee-safety laws already require condoms on adult film sets. Measure B backers say enforcement of that law is weak because authorities respond only to after-the-fact complaints of violations, and say the fact that violations are recorded on videotape doesn’t help.
So Measure B supporters want L.A. County to do more by requiring producers to obtain public health permits. The permits then could be revoked if official, on-set inspectors find producers failing to equip their actors with condoms and take other steps to protect performers.
At issue is how much danger the adult-film industry promotes. The industry itself, which opposes the measure because it says porn with condoms is less popular with fans, puts up quite a fight over how to interpret health statistics.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the measure’s major backer, contends the risk of sexually transmitted diseases for adult film performers is many times higher than for the general population. But the industry says those numbers are misleading, based on test results that include people who seek work in porn films and are rejected for having STDs.
In fact, an infectious disease specialist who works with the adult film industry says performers have lower infection risks. Dr. Peter Miao says that’s because porn producers require performers to be tested at least once a month, and the industry responds to any performer’s positive test by voluntarily shutting down production until they’re sure the infection is contained.
The porn industry claims to have a relatively safe record: It says nobody has contracted HIV on a porn movie set in the United States since 2004.
Closer to home, another number may change the minds of those who picture porn performers representing a sizable population whose sex activity poses a public health risk worthy of county officials’ attention: The adult film industry’s trade association says that despite the image of Southern California and the San Fernando Valley in particular as the porn capital of the world, only 280 porn performers actually live in L.A. County year-round.
For many Measure B voters, all of this may be too much detail and disagreement. Some will be inclined to vote for B because they disapprove of pornography on moral grounds. AHF President Michael Weinstein seems all too happy to encourage this, calling people in the porn industry “bottom feeders.”
So it’s instructive that the Valley Industry and Commerce Association opposes Measure B. VICA might have been expected to veer from its usual anti-regulation philosophy to protect the Valley’s good name, but its board of directors voted unanimously to stand up for porn producers, saying new restrictions could endanger 10,000 legal local film jobs.
Everybody wants to protect health. The question is whether the adult-film industry is a big enough threat to warrant Measure B’s solutions. The editorial board is not convinced, and we recommend the measure’s defeat.