On Jan. 17, the Los Angeles City Council gave final approval to a measure requiring performers to wear condoms in adult films. Adult filmmakers will now have to comply with the new law in order to obtain shooting permits. They will also have to pay fees to fund enforcement and surprise inspections.
The bill passed in a 9-to-1 vote.
"Personally at every opportunity I have to do anything to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, I always take that opportunity," Councilman Paul Koretz explained to Philadelphia Magazine, adding, "I think there's no doubt: the voters would see this as a common sense issue and pass it."
According to the Los Angeles Times, Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a sponsor and primary advocate of the bill, stated, "It's a great day for the performers and safer sex in our society. This is the first legislative body to take up the issue, and the near-unanimous support is very gratifying."
But not everybody is in support of the new law, particularly the workers whom the ordinance is meant to protect.
NPR's health blog, Shots, reported:
"The easy headline here is that L.A. protects workers," says Tristan Taormino, a director and producer of porn films for Vivid Entertainment, one of the biggest companies in the industry. "Who doesn't want that?"
But she tells Shots, nobody has asked the workers what they want. "I want to empower the sex workers who are doing the actual work to assess the risks and to decide how they are going to take care of their own bodies and health," she says.
She would like to see testing performed every 15 days instead of 30. And condom-optional policies on the set should be "truly optional and transparent," she says. She says actors are concerned that condoms can interfere with their work.
It's difficult to describe the problem without getting graphic. "Some of these people are having intercourse for maybe two hours, and they could be doing that maybe 20 days a month," she says. Scenes take longer and there's discomfort for the workers from condoms, she says.
But Derrick Burts, the former porn actor who contracted HIV while filming in 2010, told the New York Daily News, "Testing is a false security blanket. It doesn't protect you. It only notifies you when you have something. Before I started in the adult industry, I never had an STD in my life. Then in a period of four months, I contracted gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. You can't tell me the system worked."
In that same Daily News article, legendary porn actor Ron Jeremy argued, "Performers don't mind wearing rubbers, but viewers don't want to see it. It ruins the fantasy. This will force production to leave Los Angeles, and that's really what the supporters want."
But Taormino explained to NPR that moving production may not be so easy: "I live in New York. I go to L.A. to make porn. I do that because L.A. is where all the talent is, and where it's 100 percent legal to rent a location and shoot sex. That's not true in New York."
AHF is gathering signatures for a similar ballot measure for all of Los Angeles County, with possible plans to start a measure in San Francisco as well.
What do you think? Are you in favor of the new law or do you think it overreaches? Do you think the industry will simply end up leaving L.A?