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California Focus: State board beds with porn industry


It strains credulity to contemplate a key vote taken the other day in an Oakland meeting by the Standards Board of the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. That’s the state agency whose purpose is to assure the safety of workers, no matter what their job.

Fortunately, voters will have a chance to reverse this perverse decision next November, making statewide a rule now enforced only in Los Angeles County.

We are talking pornography here, with the accompanying risks of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Before the Standards Board was the question of whether to force the use of condoms during explicit sexual scenes in pornographic films. Los Angeles County voters adopted this rule four years ago by a wide 57-43 percent margin, despite hearing much the same arguments against it that swayed state board members. The same rule is the essence of an initiative set for a vote this fall.

One result of the Los Angeles law has been that immense quantities of porn filming moved out of the industry’s onetime heartland in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles. Some moved to other California locations, most notably neighboring Ventura County. A lot of filming also shifted to Las Vegas.

That move may about to end. A single AIDS infection on a gay-sex film shoot in Las Vegas in late 2014 caused authorities there to begin the process of imposing many of the same rules on sexually explicit filming in Nevada that already are enforced in the many counties there with legal prostitution.

Sex workers in legal brothels – and they are legal everywhere in Nevada except Clark County, home to Las Vegas and suburbs – get regular blood tests and health exams, with male customers required to use condoms for interpersonal contacts.

This threat has already caused some companies that moved filming to Las Vegas to shift back – and now they are fighting regulation in California, set to mount a big money campaign against the condoms-in-porn proposition.

The industry’s arguments have already affected the Standards Board, which normally has seven members and requires four votes to pass any new rule. The vote this time was 3-2 for condom use, not enough to pass it, with one board member absent and another seat vacant.

The arguments that swayed two board members to side with pornography producers came mostly from their employees, including actors.

Porn performer Maxine Holloway implored the board to vote against condoms, saying “I ask you not to approve this policy that will endanger me and my colleagues.” She meant that her sometimes high-paying job might be jeopardized.

The problem for the performers and their producer bosses is that, as several speakers testified, much of their audience loses interest when actors wear condoms.

That could mean huge financial losses for an industry that makes about 11,000 sex videos yearly, shown on more than 100,000 sexually explicit websites and accounting for about one-fourth of all video rentals.

The industry’s speakers also warned that a condom rule could push even more adult filming underground than today, with performers “bareback” and companies not even putting cast members through the bi-weekly blood tests now administered by above-board parts of the industry to check for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases.

“The big lie the industry has been saying all these years is that (these tests mean) there are no on-set transmissions (of disease),” said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, sponsor of both the current initiative and the Los Angeles measure. “That has been proven untrue.”

He and another foundation spokesman said they would not be deterred by the Standards Board vote. “This will only energize us in preparing for November,” they said.

Based on how Los Angeles County voters responded to the adult industry’s arguments in 2012, it’s doubtful anything it said to the board would sway many voters this fall, especially since much of the state is far less tolerant of sexually-open lifestyles than L.A.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com.