How making actors wear condoms could kill California’s porn business


Adult film actor Derrick Burts, 24, who tested positive for HIV, reacts during a news conference in Los Angeles in 2010. Burts said he wished he had known more about the risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases in the industry and is calling for mandatory condom use in porn films. (Nick Ut/AP)

The California state senate will consider a bill next week that would require porn film performers to use condoms.

A similar measure was already approved by voters in Los Angeles County in 2012. The Los Angeles Times reported a 90 percent drop in the number of licenses issued for X-rated flicks in L.A. County between 2012 and 2013. (Sponsors of the bill said those numbers don’t reflect the many adult films made without permits.)

“Losing an industry like that is going to have hugely negative consequences,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, told the Times. “We’re not just talking about actors or the filmmakers, but everyone from the grips and caterers to assistants. These are people who live in the San Fernando Valley, buy homes, cars, send their kids to school and go to the dry cleaners. If they move, all the money goes with them.”

The L.A. Times points out the adult film exodus comes as other states have tempted mainstream movies and TV shows with tax credits. Only 52 percent of TV pilots were shot in L.A. last year, down from a peak of 82 percent in 2007, according to Film LA.

Representatives from Vivid Entertainment and Penthouse Entertainment, two major porn producers, told the Times they are already seeking greener pastures.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a major supporter of the bill, and its sponsor, assembly member Isadore Hall, said the adult film industry exposes actors to a range of health and safety risks yet isn’t subject to workplace safety requirements like other industries such as agriculture, food service, healthcare and construction. “Legitimate businesses follow the law,” Hall said after an Assembly committee approved the bill in June. “Legitimate businesses protect their employees from injury and harm in the workplace.”

Several adult film actors testified in support of the bill, which would make adult film companies pay to test actors for sexually transmitted infections every 14 days, a cost currently borne by the actors, according to L.A. Weekly. In fact, the self-regulated industry already increased the frequency of mandatory testing from once a month to once every two weeks after several porn actors tested positive for HIV.

When it comes to straight porn, condoms just don’t sell, studios say. (Condom use is more common in gay porn.) Sure, studios can digitally edit out the condoms in post-production, but producers said that would dramatically increase production costs.

The industry already is already struggling to compete against pirated content online. What’s a cash-strapped porn producer to do?

According to Coleen Singer, who writes about sex, porn and censorship for the erotic Web site sssh.com, the options are not good.

Adult film studios could stay in California and risk losing money by switching from “bareback” to content with condoms, continue filming bareback illegally or move out of state. The problem with the latter is where to go – Las Vegas and Florida are the two most talked about choices.

But both come with problems, Singer said.

“First and foremost, porn production is possibly not legal in either of those states. (much debate in legal circles about this, but which studio would like to be the test case?),” she wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “And, AHF leader Michael Weinstein has already made it clear that once he gets ‘gloves on the love’ in California, his organization will move on to both Nevada and Florida to fund legislation similar to AB1576. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

RELATED: Here’s how Samuel L. Jackson started a porn piracy backlash

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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