by Furry Girl
I'm not a mainstream LA porn performer, so I don't write much about mainstream porn. I tend to avoid writing about topics where I don't have a lot of personal experience, even if I have a lot of second-hand knowledge. (This is why I don't write much about prostitution here - it's not that I don't absolutely support decriminalization, or know how to debate the issue inside and out, but I'd rather people read about prostitution-specific issues from those doing that form of sex work.)
However, I hadn't seen anyone post the exact regulations that will go into effect in LA on March 5th, so I figured I'd go look up the laws and do it myself. You can read the full 6-page PDF document I downloaded from the LA City Clerk's web site.
The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby find and declare all of the following:
(a) The HIV/AIDS crisis, and the ongoing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections as a result of the making of adult films, has caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.
(b) Safer sex practices are a prime method of preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
(c) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has documented widespread transmission of sexually transmitted infections associated with the activities of the adult film industry within the City of Los Angeles.
(d) The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has opined that the use of condoms is the best and most effective way to stem the spread of sexually transmitted infections within the adult film industry.
The people of the City of Los Angeles hereby declare their purpose and intent in enacting this ordinance to be to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted infections resulting from the production of adult films in the City of Los Angeles, which have caused a negative impact on public health and the quality of life of citizens living in Los Angeles.
Porn production is not the root cause of HIV/STIs, I wish so badly that people would stop repeating that as though it were a fact.
First, there is no "ongoing epidemic" of HIV in the porn industry. I don't know how to calculate the numbers, but a lot of sex happens on porn sets in LA. We can all agree it's "a lot," right? And every couple or few years, there have been HIV scares in porn where sadly, a small number of performers are infected. (The HIV cases seem to all originate with a performer who has unsafe sex with "civilians" in their private life, and then brings the virus to work.) While any new HIV infection is unfortunate, a few cases of HIV every few years is not an "epidemic," it's an anomaly. According to the CDC, about 50,000 people are infected with HIV every year in America.
The ordinance starts off big about HIV/AIDS, the most scary diseases, but then the language changes to read "sexually transmitted infections." Yes, people get minor STIs in porn, and it's not a secret. Risking an occasional case of chlamydia (easily treated with antibiotics), or even getting herpes, is part of the known risk of working in the porn industry. You know who spreads more STIs per sex act? Everyone else. How about the city devote its resources to providing free condoms and accurate sex education in every middle school and high school? That's a group I'm more concerned about. The porn industry is already hyper-vigilante about STI reduction, it's the last population that needs the government's meddling on that front.
While almost all porn performers strongly oppose condom laws, it's important to emphasize that condoms are not the only way to reduce one's risks, and nor are condoms flawless. Their efficacy on reducing the transmission risk of genital warts, HPV, and herpes is debatable, so condom or no condom, those skin-to-skin STIs can be shared. The ordinance's justification and language makes a huge error by implying that "safer sex" means "sex with a condom." In fact, "safer sex" is not a single idea or product like a condom, but a term that implies a wide array of options which can be deployed by themselves or in combination. Condoms are one way to reduce your risks, but they're not the only way. "Pulling out" is also a safer sex tactic. Regular STI screening is a safer sex tactic. Only having sex with partners whose STI status you trust is a safer sex tactic. Improvising "dental dams" from plastic wrap is a safer sex tactic. Only sleeping with one person your entire life is a safer sex tactic. Taking medication if you have herpes is a safer sex tactic. Safer sex is a spectrum of choices to reduce one's risks, it is not some single-meaning word that stands in only for condoms.
An "adult film" is defined as any film, video, multimedia or other representation of sexual intercourse in which performers actually engage in oral, vaginal, or anal penetration, including but not limited to penetration by a penis, finger, or inanimate object; oral contact with the anus or genitals of another performer; and/or any other activity that may result in the transmission of blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials as defined in California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193(b).
(4) All producers of adult films issued permits under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming are required to maintain engineering and work practice controls sufficient to protect employees from exposure to blood and/or any other potentially infectious materials controls consistent with California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5193.
(5) Any film permit issued under the authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department pursuant to Section 12.22(A)(13) of this Code or any other law authorizing the issuance of permits for commercial filming for the production of an adult film must expressly condition said permit on compliance with subsection (4) of this section. Any such permit shall contain the following language: "Permittee must abide by all applicable workplace health and safety regulations, including California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 5193, which mandates barrier protection, including condoms, to shield performers from contact with blood or other potentially infectious material during the production of films."
(6) The City shall charge, or shall direct any other person or entity contracting with the City to administer the film permitting process, to charge, entertainment industry customers seeking permits for the production of adult films a fee sufficient to allow periodic inspections to ensure compliance with the conditions setforth in Section 12.22.1 (B)(4).
Disappointingly, there's nothing about how these "periodic inspections" will occur, or who is held responsible if a violation is in order. From the wording of the law, and it being based on filming permits, I'd assume the studio/producer/director would be responsible for paying a fine for facing charges. Are performers themselves seen as passive victims of a greedy and corrupt porn studio if they reject condoms and then a condomless sex act is filmed? I'd love to know how enforcement will work, and if the regulations will be used to crack down on porn makers, or performers as well.
So, what's in this Title 8 Section 5193 that keeps getting mentioned? A gigantic long page of definitions about what constitutes a bloodborne pathogen or bodily fluid. It's written for people in the medical and research realms who may get needle sticks or be exposed to contaminated bodily fluids at work, and how to dispose of medical waste and needles. There's also a lot of vague language about "personal protective equipment," but how that will be defined when it comes to porn is unknown. It could mean condoms, it could mean that each performer is legally required to wear a bright yellow hazmat suit like someone in a movie about a zombie or plague outbreak. Will LA enforce the part of these workplace regulations that say one is required to wear a "face shield" or "protective bodily clothing," or even use a respirator? Is this what porn could look like in the near future?
These new regulations go into effect in a couple of weeks. How they end up being enforced is anyone's guess. Based on the vagueness of the rules, and how any porn where performers are not wearing a full hazmat suit could technically be held in violation of the laws, I'd predict selective and politically-motivated prosecutions. Did your studio kick and scream to oppose the law? I wonder if the safety inspectors will be paying you a visit first. Better have those face shields ready.
Edit: One of my Twitter followers brought up an important point: what if studios carry on as normal and just agree to pay fines? I don't know what the fines are, or if jail time is also a part of the deal. But, if it's a $500 fine on a production with a $10,000 budget, maybe it will just be another cost of doing business in LA. An unfair increase, of course, but perhaps this is a case where it's better to just pay the fine than comply with the law.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
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