’Condoms in Porn’ Vote Looms in CA State Senate
The state Senate is expected to vote on a bill next week that would require condom use for commercially filmed sexual acts in California.
Not surprisingly, some local porn companies are against the bill, even as there have been reported cases of porn actors testing positive for HIV.
Assembly Bill 1576, which would require mandatory condom use on all porn sets, passed the state Assembly on a 48-13 vote May 27. The bill is now in the state Senate, where it’s scheduled to be heard June 25.
AB 1576 was authored by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Los Angeles). A similar bill by Hall did not make it out of the Legislature last year.
There have been several HIV scares in the adult film industry over the years, with performers who were believed to be negative turning out to be positive. As the Bay Area Reporter reported last year, three porn actors tested positive for HIV in the fall of 2013. Two of them worked with San Francisco-based Kink.com - the actress known as Cameron Bay and the actor known as Rod Daily, who was in a relationship with Bay. Another person also tested positive for HIV but didn’t publicly come forward.
This has resulted in industry shutdowns while other performers were tested. Condom use has long been an industry standard among gay porn producers, although some studios have generated controversy by marketing "bareback" (condom free) films.
According to Hall, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health reports that adult film performers are seven times more likely to become exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. There were five cases of HIV transmission through adult film performance in 2013.
Before condom use became the norm in gay porn, hundreds of 1970s and 1980s gay performers succumbed to AIDS-related complications.
In 2012, voters in Los Angeles County passed the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act that requires condoms in all vaginal and anal sex scenes filmed in Los Angeles. It passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Now Hall wants a similar measure statewide.
"The passage of AB 1576 was a strong reaffirmation of the California Legislature’s commitment to protect workers in the state, regardless of the type of work performed," Hall said in a statement following the Assembly vote. "For too long the adult film industry has thrived on a business model which exploits its workers and puts profit over safety. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated."
Hall’s spokesman Terry Schanz told the Bay Area Reporter that a number of studios continue to enjoy financial success after mandating condom use in all scenes on their own. Wicked Pictures has employed the practice since 1998. Iconic gay porn studio Falcon uses condoms on set, then digitally removes the condom image via computer. San Francisco-based Raging Stallion Studios are also using condoms, according to Schanz.
Not everyone in the industry is pleased about AB 1576, including producers who already use condoms in all scenes.
"What a performer does sexually should be up to the performer, not the government," Tim Valenti, president of San Francisco-based Naked Sword Productions, said in a post on Facebook. "As gay men, we know how important our privacy is, and we know how HIV has been used to whip up fear among gay men. Under the law, even a monogamous gay couple using a webcam from their own home could be prosecuted for not using a condom."
Kink.com, which had performers test positive for HIV, is also against the bill.
"This is about performer choice," Michael Stabile of Kink.com told the B.A.R. "A bottom should absolutely have the right to ask for a condom. In fact, it’s imperative. Everything a performer consents to do with his or her body should be determined by that performer, not by a studio or government. That means partners should talk about their status to make an informed decision, that any performer should be able to request a condom at any time for any reason. That’s why performers are fighting this bill, it removes performers from the equation."
Stabile said that Kink.com uses condoms in all its scenes, and allows performers to choose if they want their scene partners tested.
Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation supports the bill. It was also a major sponsor of the LA condom law.
"When I was in my youth I worked in a factory and was doing piecework," AHF President Michael Weinstein said in an email. "I would have preferred not to wear goggles and gloves. I was required to do so by law.
"People can do whatever they choose in their personal lives but when they are employed and they receive money, they are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration," he added. "Lastly, very many performers have told me that when they asked to use condoms, they didn’t get work. The primary people testifying on behalf of this legislation are performers."
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is not taking a position on AB 1576, according to spokesman Ryan McKeel.
Gay porn performers reached for comment did not respond by press time.