NEWS / CONTEXT

Contentious L.A. County Condom Ordinance on November Ballot
Peter DelVecchio
10/11/2012

On the Nov. 6 ballot is a contentious initiative where Los Angeles County voters will decide whether actors in pornographic films should be required to wear condoms. Measure B, formally known as the “County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,” primarily sponsored by AIDS Health Foundation with For Adult Industry Responsibility, would “require use of condoms for all acts of anal or vaginal sex during the production of adult films,” according to the official summary. “The purpose of the measure is intended to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections by regulating the adult film industry. ... Violation of the ordinance would be subject to civil fines and/or criminal misdemeanor charges.”

According to AHF, the measure “comes after at least nine HIV infections believed to be industry-related were reported in two outbreaks in Los Angeles since 2004, and amidst thousands of sexually transmitted infections occurring annually among adult performers. ... The measure also comes at a time when an outbreak of syphilis, a highly contagious but curable STI, is roiling L.A.’s adult film industry and shut down the entire industry for several weeks earlier this summer.”

"It's not surprising in the adult film industry that we would have transmission of all sexually transmitted diseases, because they're having unprotected sex, oftentimes with multiple actors," Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said last August. The CDPH reported that between 2004-2008, there were over 3,200 reported cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adult film industry performers; 59.9 percent reported chlamydia infections, 32.7 percent gonorrhea; there were eight cases of HIV, and four (50 percent) were infected during an adult film production. CDPH says it is a “myth” that the rates of STDs in the adult film industry are lower than in the general population.

"STD rates in the adult film industry are high and undercounted and contribute to spread to the general community," the CDPH reported, concluding, “Recommendations include requiring all performers to wear condoms, among other things.”

The Board of Supervisors has not taken a position on Measure B, though it has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, L.A. County Medical Association and American Association of STD Controllers and the L.A. County Commission on HIV (see AHF’s website, aidshealth.org) (Correction: While the HIV Commission has long supported the required use of condoms in the adult film industry, it cannot and does not endorse candidates or ballot measures. AHF's website says that the Commission supports condom use in adult films, which is accurate, but does not list the Commission as a supporter of Measure B.) Additionally, the County funds the LASexSymbol program, specifically designed to raise awareness about HIV & STDs and promote condom use.

However, James Lee, communications director for the No on B/No on Government Waste Committee campaign (see noongovernmentwaste.com) disputes the CPHD data and the need for the initiative.

"Measure B is deeply flawed, since it tries to fix a problem that doesn't exist,” Lee told Frontiers. “Since 2004, no adult performer has contracted HIV on-set anywhere in the country. The industry's rigorous testing protocol, which includes the latest PCR/RNA Aptima HIV test and tests for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, requires testing every 14 and 28 days of every one of the 1,200 performers nationwide in order to work. The proof of the system's strength is that it has kept HIV out of the industry and stopped any possible infections immediately for treatment."

The disclaimer on the No on B website says the campaign receives “Major funding by Manwin USA.” The Manwin USA website describes the company as “an international information technology firm, specializing in highly trafficked websites. The company creates, develops and manages some of the most recognized mainstream and adult entertainment brands in the world.”

The Free Speech Coalition, the self-described “trade association for the adult industry,” also opposes Measure B, and has hired openly gay political consultant Sue Burnside. “The best way to prevent transmission of HIV and other STIs is by providing quality information and sexual health service, all of which are successfully provided through adult industry protocols and best practices,” FSC Executive Director Diane Duke said in a statement last December.

Among the business and associations opposing Measure B—including at least 15 San Gabriel Valley chambers of commerce—is the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, the San Fernando Valley’s “largest business advocacy group,” according to the Daily News. They’re concerned the adult film industry will relocate to avoid higher permit fees in the $1 billion industry.

“The real results of this ballot measure, should it pass, will be a loss of thousands of jobs,” VICA president Stuart Waldman said. “The industry employs more than 10,000 workers in production-related jobs such as makeup, lighting, carpenters, transportation, food service, payroll processing, web design and actors.” Waldman labeled Measure B evidence of “overreaching government.”

AHF’s Weinstein rejected opponents’ economic arguments, asking whether “fantasy is more important than performers’ health?” He posited to Frontiers that adult filmmaking is legal only in California and New Hampshire, so producers have nowhere else to go.

“When an actor is paid to perform, he or she is covered by health and safety laws, which include condom use,” Weinstein said. Measure B is a “straightforward health and safety” issue “modeled on [the] county’s health permit process for nail salons, barbershops, tattoo and massage parlors and bathhouses,” among 134 other categories of businesses or services that require a county permit or license.


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