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California, Federal Laws Already Mandate Condoms In Porn: State Has Been Citing Adult Video Makers For Allegedly Failing To Protect Performers

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Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge These people are fighting for something that is already a part of state and federal law: Condoms in porn. - STEVE LA
  • Steve La
  • These people are fighting for something that is already a part of state and federal law: Condoms in porn.
The fight over condoms in porn took a serious turn last week when an adult performer tested positive for HIV. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation used the result as another bullet in the gun it's been putting to city and state officials to force porn to employ condoms.

Funny thing is, the industry already is supposed to use condoms on-set, according to state workplace-health officials. In fact, the state has issued about 30 citations related to the unsafe exposure to blood-borne pathogens on-set and other alleged violations since 2004 -- the time of another HIV outbreak in the industry.

"Some type of protective barrier is required," says state workplace health spokeswoman Krisann Chasarik, "just as a health-care worker taking blood has to wear gloves."

In fact, the state says it's just carrying water for federal law which, in its view, mandates condom use in porn.

Deborah Gold, a California Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) senior safety engineer who has been on-set and issued citations related to condom-less sex, says, "The employer needs to control those risks. The regulations require that the employer use controls to protect workers from blood or seamen or vaginal secretions. Federal OSHA has the same wording."

So why do porn producers still shoot condom-free porn, apparently against state and local law? Again, Gold:

"We realize that strong consistent enforcement is imperative to our program. We're doing what we can within our resources."

She adds that Cal/OSHA has "open investigations within this industry" and that it investigates sets on a case-by-case basis, usually in response to complaints. Many of the recent complaints, we surmise, have come from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which makes no secret of its desire to but a lid on it.

But Gold also noted that some of the complaints about unsafe conditions on-set have come from some of the performers themselves.

Attorney Jeffrey J. Douglas is chairman of the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry's lobbying group. He acknowledges the law but says, "These rules were applied to the industry without dialogue with the performers and producers."

"Every month someone gets cited for violating Cal/OSHA's rules for the transmission of seamen without condoms," he said. "There was enforcement action within the last two weeks in the Bay Area."

But it sounds like the industry is taking such enforcement as the cost of doing business. (Cal/OSHA folks say that some violators fight the citations then get what amounts to a plea agreement that includes reduced penalties).

"The reality is they don't have enough personnel to stop people from dying of dehydration in the San Juaqin Valley," Douglas says of Cal/OSHA. "They don't have a prayer of enforcing this against the industry."

In response to a request by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation asking that the state specifically mention mandatory condoms in its enforcement of workplace health, Cal/OSHA has instituted a series of meetings and invited industry representatives to give it input.

But Douglas, like others in the industry, says (real) mandatory condoms will force porn out-of-state and underground -- to far less healthy places.

As-is, most of the major producers voluntarily submit to a system whereby performers are tested twice a month. Any more pressure to use condoms, Douglas says, and the industry could lose the safety net it already has.

"It's a very widely held belief in the industry that mandatory condoms would create more problems than it would solve," Douglas says. "A substantial amount of production would migrate, whether it's to Nevada or out of the country."

"What's worse, from a public health point of view, is that people would just shoot underground. California would retain the lowest-end production without any of the very extensive health protections" that Valley porn enjoys today, he said.

Douglas brought up the cautionary tale of L.A. District Attorney Robert Philibosian, who cracked down on porn production (calling it prostitution) in the mid-1980s.

Overnight, he says, shooting went underground, and "workplace quality went into the toilet."

In this view, the crusade for condoms could ultimately do more harm than good, though we're sure the AIDS Healthcare Foundation would beg to differ.

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