Condom Conflict in California

By: Christopher Motyl

The adult entertainment industry is an economic powerhouse in Southern California, generating an estimated thirteen billion dollars in gross revenue for the state.[1] This figure compares to gross revenues of twenty-two billion and thirty-seven billion dollars in the conventional film-making and agriculture industries, respectively.[2]  Los Angeles County, including the sprawling San Fernando Valley region, has been dubbed the “porn capitol” of the United States.[3] It is estimated that up to ninety percent of all industry productions are filmed in Los Angeles County alone.[4]

On November 6, 2012 citizens of Los Angeles County voted affirmatively to pass the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, or “Measure B.”[5]  Measure B mandates that all adult performers wear condoms during the filming and production of adult films in Los Angeles County.[6] The bill, which was met with much public support and backing from organizations such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was approved with a 56% vote of “yes.”[7] Many Los Angelenos, political leaders, advocacy groups, and members of the healthcare and medical communities saw this passage of Measure B as a victory in the fight to halt the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The controversial passage of Measure B was met with staunch opposition by key members of the adult entertainment industry including production company executives, film-makers, and the actors themselves.[8] In an industry that generates profits in the billions, members believe that mandatory condom use will be bad for business, noting that the last time the industry tried to mandate condom use, it lost sales of over thirty percent.[9] Anticipating the downward effect the bill could have for profits, executives have threatened to leave Los Angeles County and film elsewhere, within in the state.[10] To handle industry evasion of the county law, proponents of the bill proposed AB 640 which would expand the bill to have statewide reach.[11]

Prior to AB 640’s subsequent rejection, industry executives threatened to leave the state of California for production sites such as Las Vegas or Florida.[12] Such locales have no laws mandating condom use and offer tax incentives to lure film-makers and producers to their markets.[13] While proponents of the bill believe such a law is necessary to prevent the spread of HIV and other STD’s from industry actors to the mainstream public,[14] members of the industry believe this law is costly, difficult to enforce and unnecessary.[15]  Opponents of the bill also fear that this law could drive the industry right out of Los Angeles County, taking with it, as many as ten thousand jobs from actors, directors, film editors, and crafts and makeup artists. [16]

Some industry members, ranging from executives to actors, believe the current system in place, which requires actors to be tested every fourteen days with the most cutting edge and accurate testing devices, and cross-referenced with an extensive database of test history for every actor, is sufficient and effective.[17]

The effectiveness of this testing system has been recently called into question following three positive HIV tests of actors in the industry, and fourth actor expected to come forward with similar results.[18] The positive tests have resulted in multi-week long moratoriums halting production in the industry.[19] These recent outbreaks have further fueled critics of the adult entertainment industry, who criticize production companies for jeopardizing the health and safety of their actors in the quest for higher revenues and larger profits.[20]

With the rejection of AB 640, the industry’s disdain for the bill and their rampant non-compliance, as well as the vague plan for implementation and enforcement, it appears that the industry and the public will be at odds over condom use in the adult entertainment industry. The pervasive and obvious effects of unprotected sex put actors in the industry at legitimate risk for contracting life-altering and potentially fatal diseases. Shouldn’t more stringent barriers be in place to protect workers health and safety in the adult entertainment industry? Why should actors in this industry not be afforded the same protections that workers in any other industry are entitled to? These are questions that will need to be addressed as the divide between the profit savvy industry executives and organizations such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation continues to deepen.

[1] Thomas D. Elias, Los Angeles County Porn Condom Law Gets a Test, Los Angeles Daily News, Aug. 26, 2013.

[2] Id.

[3] John Rogers, Measure B: Porn Industry Vows To Defeat New Condoms in Porn Law, The Huffington Post, Nov. 12, 2012.

[4] Gabrielle Bluestone, California Lawmakers Reject Mandatory Condom Use in Porn, Gawker, Sept. 15, 2013.

[5] John Rogers, Measure B: Porn Industry Vows To Defeat New Condoms in Porn Law, The Huffington Post, Nov. 12, 2012.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Gabrielle Bluestone, California Lawmakers Reject Mandatory Condom Use in Porn, Gawker, Sept. 15, 2013.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] John Rogers, Measure B: Porn Industry Vows To Defeat New Condoms in Porn Law, The Huffington Post, Nov. 12, 2012.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Abby Sewell, Fourth Porn Actor Allegedly Tests HIV-Positive Amid Condom Law Fight,  The Los Angeles Times,  Sept. 10, 2013.,0,5102314.story

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

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