Michael Weinstein: “Porn is the only industry in California where employees are forced to expose themselves to dangerous diseases in order to work.”

Check out our new advertisers www.cammansion.com and www.eruptionxl.com Follow AdultFYI at twitter@adultfyi1; Follow Gene Ross at twitter@GeneRoss3

from www.policymic.com – The Scene: A man from the waist down, a woman who keeps her Lucite heels on, and a soundtrack horrifyingly reminiscent of your father’s beloved smooth jazz station. Production values and plot aside, after a fair amount of piston-like activity, biological conclusion. Fade to black.

Change some details, repeat the action some 11,000 times annually, and you have the pornography industry — the largest in California’s San Fernando Valley.

But the industry is in the midst of upheaval. In January, the L.A. city council and mayor, approved an ordinance requiring condom use for all adult films shot in the city. On July 5, a petition to expand the ordinance and its provisions to all of L.A. county — including the Valley — guaranteed that voters would find the measure at voting booths this November.

Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has long supported prevention measures. “Porn is the only industry in California where employees are forced to expose themselves to dangerous diseases in order to work.” In a 2010 interview he noted, “In any other job, we require companies to protect their workers even if it costs more money for the employers. Why should the porn industry be any different?”

Though the measure was a victory for sexual health advocates, the pornography industry responded with outrage. Some have claimed that the regulation will force production studios underground. Others have threatened to move their businesses from L.A. county.

If realized, these ramifications could have serious economic consequences for the county.

As famously depicted in the 1997 film Boogie Nights, the San Fernando Valley has been the epicenter of the global pornography industry since the 1970s, producing an estimated 90% of all American porn. Though the industry’s primary business is escapism and pleasure, its products are also extensions of human biology and socialization. As such, it is at the seldom-acknowledged vanguard of social media and technological innovation.

Though figures vary, Americans spend about $4 billion annually on pornography, and the Valley generates some $9-$15 billion each year. To give the numbers perspective: the minimum is more than the 2011 revenues of the NFL, NBA and MLB individually — the maximum, just under their revenues combined.

Though competitive, the Valley’s porn industry is a close community. But this is changing as advances in technology have made it easier for independent producers to enter the market and compete with studios. The economic effect is serious enough to echo the trajectory of the newspaper industry after the proliferation of internet media.

The ease of market entry has also had serious effects for pornographic performers. In recent years, their numbers have spiked. This has confronted — and infected — thousands with the epidemiological reality of sexually transmitted diseases.

While gay-male performers and producers have a policy of mandatory condom use, the straight-porn industry has not followed. Some believe it is time for the industry to take action, others are downright militant. The resistance is unusual in today’s STD aware climate.

After World Wars I and II, scores of government posters reflected a national fear of STDs. Coinciding with the 1960s and 70s countercultural movements, the use of antibiotics created the perception that STDs were manageable, if not curable. But in the 80s, the discovery of incurable genital herpes and HIV/AIDS released a firestorm of concern and paranoia. Resultantly, the 90s brought a wave of STD awareness, and created the now-familiar slogans: “Safer sex,” “Know your status,” and “Don’t guess, get tested.”

As porn actors have higher-than-desk-job encounters with bodily fluids and mucus membranes, the industry seems prime for health regulation. But, until L.A.’s January ordinance, the industry was little regulated — excepting federal age restrictions, and certain jurisdictional prohibitions on “extreme porn” production.

Only in 1998, spearheaded by the Adult Industry Medical Associates, did the industry implement a voluntary STD standard and open database of actors’ health records. Though the AIM program increased STD transparency, whether it cut STD proliferation has been debated. The AHF criticized the industry’s retroactive approach — particularly the voluntariness of participation and the AIM program’s schedule of testing.

Steve Hirsch, founder of the $100 million enterprise Vivid Entertainment, believes that “The industry has done an admirable job of policing itself,” and that the industry should [not] be held to the same bodily fluid regulations as a hospital. Though 1,200-2,000 actors each month used AIM’s services, its clinics shut down in last May due to financial hardship.

Since the closure, some producers have asked performers to demonstrate their STD status in writing. The practice is far from pervasive.

Arguments against condom use center around pornography’s visual experience and content. Many in the industry believe that condoms interrupt the fantasy of porn, while others claim that consumers just don’t want to see “condom porn.” They might be right. Between 1998 and 2006, Vivid Entertainment required all of its actors to wear condoms. It saw a 10%-20% drop in sales.

According to Free Speech Coalition, pornography’s lobbying and trade association, requiring actors to use protection is government overreach into the lives of consenting adults. Though the Supreme Court’s First Amendment censorship jurisprudence does not protect pornography, the Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and encompasses freedom of control over a pornography’s aesthetic content.

Condom use regulation is a catch-22. It is unclear whether the arguments against regulation outweigh the patent health risks — especially considering the industry’s own attendant financial losses. In 2010, L.A. County’s Department of Public Health acknowledged an STD epidemic among porn performers. Actors are ten times more likely to have an STD than individuals at large, and in 2004, 2009, and 2010 several actors tested positive for HIV. The cases rocked the industry, casting a wide exposure net and putting month-long moratoriums on production companies.

Wherever possible, measures to stymie the spread of STDs are crucial to public health. Recent reports of an STD outbreak among baby boomers and an HIV epidemic in the Black community, underscore the point that STDs make no discrimination when ignorance and risky behaviors are involved. Knowing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it bears remembering that business of pleasure is also a business about people.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*