from www.neontommy.com – “I hope this evening leaves you all satisfied.” This phrase seems simple on its own. However, as the final sentence in Ph.D. candidate Courtney White’s introduction to USC’s “An Evening with the Adult Film Industry” the phrase suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Thursday’s event took place inside the School of Cinematic Arts and featured three of the biggest names in the adult business; Vivid Entertainment Founder and Co-chairman Steven Hirsch, adult actress Allie Haze, and the most famous name in the business, porn star Ron Jeremy. During the Q&A section of the night, the three legends tackled the subjects of female objectification, piracy, and life outside porn. A great majority of time was also spent discussing the recent voter passed measure, Measure B.
The most controversial part of the new law requires all porn performers to wear condoms during vaginal and anal sex scenes filmed within Los Angeles County. Vivid, along with adult actors Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce, are suing the county to get the measure overturned on the grounds that the requirement violates their first amendment right to free speech, according to the Huffington Post.
Supporters of the measure believe the requirement will stop the spread of disease and protect adult performers.
“Measure B is a minimum standard of protection, so despite their (the adult industry’s) squeaking it’s the very, very minimal bar. Medical professionals from the California Department of Public Health in L.A. County gave us input on what we could do to just minimize infections. It was decided if we could just eliminate the exposures for the most high risk acts, we could bring down prevalence in this community,” said the AIDS HealthCare Foundation’s (AHF) Policy and Research Analyst Mark McGrath.
The AHF was the leading proponent for Measure B, and the company’s president is estimated to have spent over $1.6 million in campaigning to get the measure passed.
Opponents of the measure believe the sexually transmitted disease testing the industry already has in place is enough of a protection for their workers.
Porn director and producer Jeff Mullen said, “They (the AHF) have come into an industry that didn’t have a problem. They’ve publicized that there’s this massive problem. They’ve raised a lot of money and spent a lot of money to gain control of the industry. What’s happened with Measure B is a lot of what happens with government overreach. They’ve made it a bureaucracy of red tape. They’re driving good business out of business.”
The measure was created to solve a problem, the occurrence of HIV and STDs. A problem the porn industry doesn’t believe exists, but that the AHF believes happens all too often.
At the event Hirsch cited the statistic that in eight years over 300,000 sex scenes have been shot in L.A. without condoms and without one occurrence of HIV. In that time period there have been multiple HIV scares, which led to complete industry shutdowns. Those lasted until it could be proven the performer’s results were, in fact, false positives and that no one who the performer had sexual contact with in the industry was infected.
There was a scare in 2010, where a performer was found to be infected with HIV. Derrick Burts believes he caught the disease during a sex scene with a male. Burts believes the man was infected with the disease but continued to work in the industry. This case of HIV was not included in Hirsch’s statistic.
“In our industry there’s not really a history of people coming down with HIV. You have to separate the gay side from the straight side. They’re two different businesses. We don’t mix with them, and we try not to let them mix with us. The AHF lumps us all together. Any link to HIV usually goes back to the gay world, transsexuals, or somewhere. But it is usually not a part of our business,” explained Mullen.
Even with that one case, the HIV statistics for the industry do appear very low, but HIV isn’t the only concern of the AHF.
“There are, this is documented by the county of L.A., epidemic levels of infections for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. The industry is not currently testing for Hepatitis C. The industry only recently began testing for Syphilis,” said McGrath.
A 2010 study by six public health experts, who have affiliations with the L.A. County Department of Public Health, Johns Hopkins, and UCLA, found that out of the 168 porn performers studied 47 of them (28%) had Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, or both. Adult performers work in the sex industry, so it is to be expected that there would be instances of STDs, according to Hirsch.
If a performer does catch a disease, they are not allowed to work again until they have documented proof that they are no longer infected. The industry catches these diseases through their rigorous testing policies, but the AHF does not believe that their current procedures are enough. McGrath said, “(Industry testing) is willfully inadequate. The current testing systems are missing infections.
The industry is following a pattern where they’re not doing the right testing, and they’re just assuming that we can test and treat. And we do not believe this is sustainable, especially when we have rampant drug resistance showing up in L.A. County.” The AHF believes the use of condoms would eliminate the industry’s STD problems.
The distinction between whether the adult industry does indeed have a problem could be the determining factor in the first amendment lawsuit.
If the measure is looked at purely from a content-based perspective, it could be seen as a violation of first amendment rights, believes one lawyer.
“In a long line of cases the Supreme Court has said movies are protected speech, and adult films that are not obscene are fully protected by the first amendment. The first amendment basically means that the government cannot draw content based distinctions based on protected speech,” said lawyer and Justia guest columnist Antonio Haynes.
Requiring performers to wear condoms and penalizing those who do not, does seem to dictate the content of the film. Haze believes her industry is an “art form.” She said, “I’m creating art in different styles for different people. The government shouldn’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my body.”
“There’s a long line of cases that say the government cannot make distinctions based on the content of protected speech unless it’s narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest. The case law has said that a compelling state interest requires that the government should show there’s an actual problem in need of solving,” explained Haynes.
“As far as I can tell, the government has not provided any evidence that there have been any large transmissions of HIV on adult film sets,” he continued. “The measure does not pass what lawyers would call strict scrutiny because it’s not actually tailored to a compelling state interest. The government hasn’t actually shown that an actual problem needs addressing.”
In order to regulate a film’s content and require condoms to be worn, the government would have to prove there are such substantial problems with HIV and STDs in the industry that condoms are deemed necessary.
The AHF does not believe the measure is a content based issue.
“Measure B is content neutral. Measure B is not at all forcing any restrictions on content. It is, however, placing restrictions on conduct that has the potential of harming employees,” McGrath countered.
“Just like you go to a construction site and there are requirements for hard hats and gloves in certain conditions. It just so happens that with what performers are exposed to, condoms are determined by the CDC and the World Health Organization to be the most effective way to protect sex workers.” The court will have to determine if the measure is a content issue or a worker’s safety issue. If it is found to be a content issue, it must be decided whether the problem is so great that the content needs to be controlled.
Until the case is heard by the court the provisions of Measure B will continue to be put into effect.
“(Measure B) is already having a negative effect on my business. We run a clean, wholesome business in our minds. In the general public’s mind maybe we’re all perverts. But anytime you and your company could get fined instantly is a scary proposition,” said Mullen. “So if free porn and piracy and all the problems we face everyday weren’t enough, now you’ve got an organization creating a problem that never really existed and publicizing it to the point where it sounds like the plague.”
Under the measure porn sets are subject to random inspections to enforce the condom policy. Mullen said, “I haven’t had any, but I’ve heard that there have been some. Who is in charge of creating tasks force for random inspections? Who are the so-called ‘condom police’? Who wants that responsibility? Nobody. Law enforcement officials will tell you they don’t want to touch it. There are so many unsettled issues in this particular situation.” Even the AHF says the changes are not happening as fast as the group would like.
If the measure is not overturned, the adult industry has threatened to move out of L.A. County. However, all the cities the industry has talked about moving to are now considering passing similar measures.
Moving out of the city, may not be enough though. State Assemblyman Isadore Hall is proposing a law that will require performers throughout the entire state of California to wear condoms. The AHF says they will back this proposed legislature.