LA city councilors approved an ordinance that makes the use of condoms in porn mandatory, but the industry claims it is unnecessary and will cost them jobs
AND THE REALITY IS: "What will happen is productions affected by this ordinance will have to move outside the city limits," said Joanne Cachapero, spokeswoman for the FSC. "People can get adult movies without condoms in them from around the world and the only thing they are doing is putting the Californian industry at a disadvantage."
Actors in the pornographic film industry could be forced to cover up on set, after Los Angeles city councillors approved an ordinance that makes the use of condoms mandatory.
The measure – which was nodded through on a 9-1 vote – will require the producers of adult films to sign up to stringent rules regarding prophylactic use, and pay a fee to offset the cost of spot checks.
Healthcare activists have welcomed the news, but many in the porn business are bitterly opposed to the move, stating that it is a government overreach that could drive the industry out of its spiritual home.
The Los Angeles city council provisionally agreed to adopt the measure in an 11-1 vote last week.
Following the latest showing of hands, the ordinance will be handed over to the city mayor to sign into law within 90 days.
The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a lobbying body for the porn industry, said the insistence on condom use would impact on the lives of about 1,500 adult film stars.
It has been suggested that about 90% of legally distributed pornographic movies are produced in studios based in LA's San Fernando Valley.
The fear in the porn community, which has already been hit hard by piracy and the economy, is that the insistence on condom use will drive many jobs out of the region.
"What will happen is productions affected by this ordinance will have to move outside the city limits," said Joanne Cachapero, spokeswoman for the FSC. "People can get adult movies without condoms in them from around the world and the only thing they are doing is putting the Californian industry at a disadvantage."
Porn producers say the industry has successfully self-regulated itself for many years by means of regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Under a voluntary code of conduct, stars of erotic films must undergo asexual health screening every month. Proof of a negative result is needed before an actor can take part in a sex scene.
The FSC claims that the policy works, and has helped prevent the spread of HIV after actors were diagnosed in 2004, 2009 and 2010.
But health campaigners have pointed at the occasional outbreak of cases in the porn community as proof that more needs to be done.
Darren James is one of those pushing for more stringent rules. The former porn star became infected in 2004, triggering a temporary industry shutdown.
At the height of his career, James was appearing with up to 15 women a week in hardcore scenes that often included anal sex.
But despite the risks involved, he was never encouraged to use protection.
"Condoms were never brought up, they just wanted to get the scene done and move on," he told the Guardian.
STDs such as chlamydia were common, but porn actors would self-medicate and sweep news of the infection under the carpet, he said.
"If you are going to work in porn, you are going to catch something, anyone who says they never contract anything is a liar," added James, 44.
Even so, his 2004 diagnosis of HIV came as a surprise to him, and sent shockwaves through the industry, especially after it was discovered that three US actresses had been infected.
"The industry attacked me, but I didn't know where I got it from. All I knew was that four other women I worked with had come down with it," he said.
The former adult film star now works as a HIV/Aids counsellor and supports the work of the LA-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
It is the foundation that pushed the issue of condom use on the city council.
Last year, the AHF submitted a petition over the issue, with enough signatures on it to force the authority into a public ballot.
Tuesday's 'yes' vote by the city council will scrap the need for a referendum over the issue, saving Los Angeles in the region of $4m.
Ged Kenslea, AHF director of communications, said the new ordinance merely gave city authorities the power of policing what was already on the statute book.
"It is already law that producers need to use condoms, this just provides another mechanism for enforcement as there hasn't been a huge amount of compliance from the industry to date," he said.
But the porn industry – much of which is gathered in Las Vegas for the industry's equivalent of the Oscars – is unlikely to let the matter lie.
"The regulations imposed are without any input from the stakeholders most impacted – adult performers and producers," said FSC executive director Diane Duke. "Mandatory condom regulation will not increase performer safety, it will diminish the successful standards and protocols already in place and compromise performer health.
"Government regulation of sexual behavior between consenting adults is, and has always been, a bad idea. The government has no business in our bedrooms, real or fantasy."