Monday, November 05, 2012

Los Angeles County Voters To Decide If Porn Actors Must Wear Condoms

LA County's measure B, if passed, would require actors in porn videos to wear condoms for vaginal and anal sex.  The measure is supported by doctors and health organizations and opposed by the porn industry, some libertarians,

I ran into this while discussing the elections with my mom when we were in LA last week.  Here's the measure description from Smarter Voter:
Measure B is a citizens' initiative measure that qualified for placement on the ballot based upon a sufficient number of registered voters signing a petition proposing this ballot measure. If approved by the voters, the measure would adopt an ordinance amending the Los Angeles County Code, adding Chapter 11.39, entitled "Adult Films," to Title 11, Health and Safety, and amending Section 22.56.1925 to Title 22, Zoning. To the extent provided by State law, the measure is intended to be applicable throughout the County.
The proposed amendment would require producers of adult films to obtain a public health permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (the "Department") in order to engage in the production of adult films for commercial purposes, and to pay a permit fee set by the Department to offset the cost of enforcement. The measure would require the use of condoms for all acts of anal or vaginal sex during the production of adult films, as well as the posting of both the public health permit and a notice to performers regarding condom use. Producers are required to provide a written exposure control plan describing how the ordinance will be implemented. A "producer" means any person or entity that produces, finances or directs adult films for commercial purposes.
Violation of the ordinance would be subject to both civil fines and criminal misdemeanor charges. The Department would be authorized to enforce the provisions of the ordinance, including suspending or revoking the public health permit due to violations of the ordinance, or any other law including applicable provisions of the Health and Safety Code, blood borne pathogen standard, California Code of Regulations, or the exposure plan of the producer.
Suspension or revocation of the public health permit requires notice and an opportunity for an administrative review, unless the Department found or reasonably suspected immediate danger to the public health and safety, in which case the Department could immediately suspend or revoke the public health permit, initiate a criminal complaint, or issue a fine, pending an administrative hearing.
The measure, if approved by the voters, may only be repealed by a subsequent vote of the electors or by an amendment of the Los Angeles County Charter superseding the ordinance. The Board of Supervisors is authorized to amend the ordinance by a majority vote in order to further the purposes of the measure.
This measure requires a majority vote of the qualified voters in the County of Los Angeles who cast votes in the election.

Costs of treating HIV

As I went through the arguments for and against in the voter pamphlet, the For people clearly had more specific and compelling arguments.  Their biggest listed concern is about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the cost of treating those infected.  For example: 
". . . the lifetime cost of treating an HIV infection is more than $567,000. Since these performers are not provided health insurance by porn producers, this cost is most likely to be borne by taxpayers of Los Angeles County, as health care provider of last resort. The taxpayers are subsidizing the porn business."
The anti-argument was full of tea-party like rhetoric such as:
Safe sex practices are a good idea. However, they shouldn't be forced on adult film actors. Our individual rights have been fading fast since the Patriot Act.
Do-gooders such as New York Mayor Bloomberg seek to create a nanny state where our behavior is increasingly regulated for our own good. Bloomberg decreed that people must buy soft drinks in small cups, because they could become obese if they bought larger sizes. Measure B declares that adult film actors would have to wear condoms during filming. This isn't much different than regulating the size of soda a person can buy. Do you like the idea of busybodies forcing people to do what is healthful for them? If not, vote NO.

Industry Size in LA County

Neither side offered specific numbers such as number of companies involved or the number of actors involved.  Or even the economic impact of the porn industry on Los Angeles County.  Here's what the anti-folks write:
"Measure B would destroy the adult film industry in Los Angeles County, and it's quite a big industry here."
Not too precise there.  Is it over 1% of LA County's economy even?   A 2009 Economist article is also vague:
The adult-film industry is concentrated in the San Fernando Valley—“the Valley” to Angelenos—on the northern edge of Los Angeles, so the slump in porn is yet another factor depressing the local economy. Pornography had been immune to previous recessions, so the current downturn has come as a shock.
Felicia A. Reid at PolicyMic  gives more detail:
As famously depicted in the 1997 film Boogie Nights, the San Fernando Valley has been the epicenter of the global pornography industry since the 1970s, producing an estimated 90% of all American porn. Though the industry's primary business is escapism and pleasure, its products are also extensions of human biology and socialization. As such, it is at the seldom-acknowledged vanguard of social media and technological innovation.
Though figures vary, Americans spend about $4 billion annually on pornography, and the Valley generates some $9-$15 billion each year. To give the numbers perspective: the minimum is more than the 2011 revenues of the NFL, NBA and MLB individually — the maximum, just under their revenues combined.
Presumably the difference between what Americans spend and what the Valley generates comes from overseas.  In any case, the impact on LA County should be noticeable if the pornographers move out.  But City of Los Angeles (not the County) already passed a similar ordinance in January 2012.

Audiences Don't Want To See Condoms

The porn industry says their clientele don't want to see condoms:
Measure B would destroy the adult film industry in Los Angeles County, and it's quite a big industry here. Film producers tried using condoms during the HIV scare of the 1990s, and people refused to watch the movies.
Reid writes that condom use is mandatory in gay-porn.

Worker Protections

Reid also quotes Dr. Weinstein, arguing this is a workplace safety issue:
Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has long supported prevention measures. "Porn is the only industry in California where employees are forced to expose themselves to dangerous diseases in order to work." In a 2010 interview he noted, "In any other job, we require companies to protect their workers even if it costs more money for the employers. Why should the porn industry be any different?" 
SWAAY (Sex Work Activists, Allies, and You ) which seems to offer a view of the porn industry from the sex workers' perspective, reports opposition to mandating condom use:  
In June of 2011, a meeting was held with a Cal-OSHA advisory committee in Los Angeles, California. Upwards of seventy adult performers attended the meeting and unanimously voiced their opposition to barrier protection mandates. A new draft of the law was discussed in which some compromises may be made, such as non-barrier-protected oral sex. However, adult industry professionals still maintained the position that they do not want Cal-OSHA's involvement and prefer the right to choose whether or not to have barrier-protected sex on camera.

Porn Industry Already Having Economic Problems

And, it seems, the porn industry has already been seeing declines as the Economist article cited above suggests.  A January 2012 CNBC article on the LA Porn Convention begins:
"Online piracy continues to nip at the earnings of studios . . ."

Jordan Weissmann writes in the Atlantic Monthly that porn producers are having the same problems as newspapers:
". . . the big production companies have seen their profits shrink by as much as half since 2007, as audiences have fled to aggregators such as XTube and YouPorn that offer up a never-ending stream of free naked bodies."

So, the big questions not clearly answered yet seem to be:

1.  What will the impact of the law be on the spread of std's among porn actors and the community at large?  (Presumably they also have sex off camera.)
2.  What will the impact of the law be on the sales of porn?
3.  Will porn studies move out of LA County?  (Perhaps all those vacant houses in Las Vegas could house the new porn center.)
4.   Is the porn industry seeing the same decline that newspapers are seeing due to do-it-yourself porn posted for free online?

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