Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals: The Condom-Only Law is a Bad Idea

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This article originally appeared on the www.sexxxandpolitics.com website in June, 2012.

Los Angeles is hardly the only city where adult films are produced. Porn is produced in many different parts of the United States as well as all over Europe and in parts of Asia and Latin America.

Nonetheless, Los Angeles (especially the San Fernando Valley) is widely regarded as the adult film capitol of the world. Many well-known adult film companies are based in the San Fernando Valley, including Vivid Entertainment, Wicked Pictures, Smash Pictures, Evil Angel Video, Digital Playground, Anabolic Video, DVSX and Red Light District (meanwhile, Larry Flynt’s Hustler/LFP empire is headquartered in Beverly Hills). And in 2012, much of Porn Valley has been in an uproar thanks to the new Porn Valley condom-only law.

Back in January, the Los Angeles City Council passed a law stating that condoms must be used by male performers in all adult films made within the L.A. city limits—and most of the San Fernando Valley (or as people in the adult entertainment industry call it, Porn Valley) lies within the city limits.

A long list of people in the adult industry have been vehemently critical of the law, ranging from porn star Ron Jeremy to Vivid president/co-founder Steven Hirsch to Diane C. Duke (executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, an industry trade organization).

And another critic of the law is Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, the sociologist/adult industry expert who publishes the industry-oriented website Porn Valley Vantage (www.PVVOnline.com). Tibbals, who has spent 10 years studying the adult industry, recently spoke to SeXXXandPolitics.com to explain why she thinks the condom-only law is a bad idea.

Many porn stars and porn companies have been threatening to leave Los Angeles rather than comply with the law, and Tibbals asserted that the Los Angeles City Council did adult performers a huge disserve by passing a law that could break up Porn Valley.

“The San Fernando Valley has a whole community of people who work in the adult industry, whether they’re performers, directors, producers, talent agents, company owners or makeup artists,” Tibbals explained.

“That community may not always be the most mature or the most organized of communities, but what community is? And if you take away that community, you’re putting a lot of people adrift all by themselves. You need that community.”

Indeed, Porn Valley has had a wide variety of resources for people in the adult industry. The Free Speech Coalition (FCS) is based in Porn Valley; so are some First Amendment attorneys who are experts when it comes to obscenity law.

“If the L.A. City Council thinks they’re helping adult performers, they’re not,” Tibbals asserted.

“To fracture a community is not helping it. Porn, in Southern California, is its own community. The condom law in Los Angeles is aimed at the porn community in Southern California—and if you take that community and chop it up into little bits and send that community somewhere else, that is a bad idea. It will put performers at risk. Breaking up that community is also unfair to consumers as well as to the performers.”

Porn Valley, Tibbals added, has testing standards for performers who appear in condomless porn films; that is, they are tested for sexually transmitted diseases on a regular basis—and the PVV publisher is concerned about adult video performers doing condomless work in places that don’t have Porn Valley’s testing system.

“The testing system may not be perfect, but in the spring of 2011, people were doing all kinds of things to improve that system,” Tibbals noted.

“To compare professional porn performers having unprotected sex on a set to two random folks out in the world meeting in a bar and having unprotected sex—those things are not comparable.”

Exactly where Porn Valley-based performers and companies will move to if they opt to leave Los Angeles remains to be seen. Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix have their share of porn companies, and many countries in Continental Europe are known for being quite tolerant when it comes to sexually explicit material (including the Netherlands, France and Germany—although the UK has some of the tougher obscenity laws in Western Europe).

Spain is another West European country with very tolerant obscenity laws; many European porn stars live in Barcelona, which is the home of Private Media Group (Europe’s largest porn company). But according to Tibbals, American adult performers might have a hard time adjusting to erotica standards in European countries.

“Spain-produced porn or French-produced porn is different from porn that is produced in the San Fernando Valley,” Tibbals observed. “The sexual expression is different, and if you send the performers in Los Angeles to Europe, you’re taking them out of a community that they are used to. They’ll be like a fish out of water. They’ll be in uncharted waters. I really have a problem with that.”

Another possible option for Porn Valley-based companies and performers is moving to Southern California cities outside of Los Angeles, although some of those cities are likely to follow L.A.’s lead and pass condom-only porn laws of their own. That has already happened in the San Fernando Valley’s neighbor Simi Valley. Fearing an influx of condomless porn companies, the Simi Valley City Council passed a law in April mandating that male performers wear condoms in all adult films shot in Simi Valley.

It should be noted that the only member of the Los Angeles City Council who voted against the condom-only law is a Republican: Mitchell Englander, who represents the San Fernando Valley. All of the Democrats on the Council voted in favor of the law.

The modern Republican Party has often been criticized by civil libertarians for pandering to militant Christian fundamentalists and acting as the Sex Police, but Tibbals cited Englander as a rare example of a Republican who tried to do the adult industry a favor. “It’s so telling that the one person who voted against this is a representative from the San Fernando Valley,” Tibbals commented.

Tibbals pointed out that for porn companies, one of the advantages of being based in California is the fact that California’s state supreme court has ruled that porn is not the same as prostitution. Some opponents of adult entertainment claim that porn is a form of prostitution, but in 1987, California’s state supreme court ruled otherwise in the case California v. Freeman.

After hiring adult actors to appear in porn films, porn director Harold Freeman was charged with pandering (pimping) under the California penal code; Freeman, however, was no pimp—and when California v. Freeman went to the California State Supreme Court, the justices ruled that having sex in porn films was not prostitution and that organizing porn films was not pimping. Twenty-one years later in 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court followed California’s lead and made a distinction between porn and prostitution with its ruling in New Hampshire v. Theriault.

But anti-porn zealots can be a fanatical and irrational bunch, and American porn providers in states other than California and New Hampshire live with the fear that a rogue prosecutor will charge them with pimping or prostitution.

“Someone who is shooting in Nevada, shooting in Arizona or shooting in Florida could argue in court that a precedent was set in California,” Tibbals noted.

“But they would have to go through that whole legal battle.”

Another element of the condoms-in-porn-films debate is the economic element. Historically, Porn Valley has been a major source of tax revenue for the State of California. And according to Tibbals, anything that hurts Porn Valley financially will be detrimental to California on the whole.

“The porn industry is still making some money and is still trying to keep things as close to not in the red as possible, and L.A. is going to contribute to running the industry out of the state? That’s so foolish to me,” Tibbals asserted.

“I just wish people would stop for a moment and think about the implications of this law.”

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