LA's Measure B: To disagree with using condoms in porn is to disagree with sexual health

Some porn actors are against the decision to mandate the use of condoms as they feel it's against freedom of expression

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Last month, the county of Los Angeles, California, voted in favour of Measure B, which will mandate the use of condoms in porn whenever vaginal or anal penetration takes place.

The measure, also known as the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, is set to come into force in January. It will also require porn producers to obtain a public health permit, the cost of which will fund enforcement of the act.

With the proven preventative benefits of condoms in an industry that is vulnerable to all sorts of sexually transmitted nasties, you’d think performers would welcome the move to improve their safety - and that of their sexual partners, on screen and off. But on the contrary, a host of well-known porn actors have continued to speak out against Measure B; the debate was most recently reignited by adult star James Deen.

Deen’s main argument is one propagated by many involved in the porn industry: being forced to wear a condom is against freedom of expression. Surely it’s against the US constitution, he says, to mandate that a film is made in a certain way? But the suggestion that condoms essentially amount to censorship has a whiff of desperation. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I don’t see how the presence of a prophylactic will really affect the creative impact of a movie scene.

After all, Measure B is not intended to change how porn films look; it is meant to protect those involved in the making of the film. If it ends up on camera, then so be it. Is it a violation of a construction worker’s freedom of expression to require him to wear a hard hat on a building site? Of course not. And if that construction worker were to be filmed going about his usual work for a documentary, he’d presumably still be required to follow the site’s safety regulations - even if the director wasn’t a fan of the hard hat aesthetic.

This is the point: while there may be a lot of fakery in porn, ultimately the sex is real. Body parts are inserted into other body parts; fluids are exchanged. Surely a porn actor, so intimately aware of the health risks of his trade, couldn’t refute the added safety of using condoms?  But Deen and many of his colleagues don’t seem to think there would be much benefit.

They argue that condoms are unnecessary in the LA scene because of the rigorous testing of performers; they haven’t had a reported case of HIV for a long time. This is all well and good, but what about other sexually transmitted infections?

A recent study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases found that LA porn stars were significantly more likely to have an STI than LA prostitutes, who can work legally in Nevada - as long as they are regularly tested and wear a condom. Incidences of gonorrhea and chlamydia were found to be particularly high, with 28 per cent of the porn star participants having contracted one or both of the diseases, often without obvious symptoms.

Testing alone clearly isn’t sufficient. Just a few months ago, a syphilis outbreak infected at least half a dozen LA porn actors and resulted in a 10-day moratorium on filming, after one performer concealed his positive test result. It’s a lapse that adult film actor Aurora Snow, possibly the only porn star to speak out in favour of Measure B, says is far from uncommon.

Deen goes on to argue that porn sex is very different from the ‘everyday’ sex the general public has, and that condoms are not made for that kind of intense encounter.

“Condoms are intended for someone to have sex for about 10-12 minutes with an average-sized penis in a regular fashion,” he points out. “Not an above-average-sized penis in these crazy sexual stunts ... for anywhere from 30 minutes to three or four hours.”

He may have a point - although I’m somewhat sceptical of the existence of four-hour non-stop scenes in which changing a condom would cause a great disruption.  In any case, I dare say there are also plenty of non-porn stars who may suffer these, ahem, ‘difficulties’.

Let me help you out there, James. You see, many condom manufacturers make different sizes so that even the most famously endowed can enjoy their products. May I point you in the direction of Durex Comfort XL or Trojan Magnum Large? As for the duration and roughness of your escapades, well, breakages do occasionally happen. That’s when you stop, and put a new one on - a minor annoyance, and one that a little creative editing can no doubt smooth over. The fact remains that wearing a condom in sex, however hardcore the scene, is still a lot safer than nothing. Stuntmen have crash mats.

Ultimately, of course, the argument against Measure B all comes down to money. Where proponents of the act hope the general public may copy what they see in porn and use condoms more often, the LA industry fears they will simply stop watching, and turn to films made elsewhere.

We may never know if consumers are really so averse to condoms in their porn, as even before the measure was passed, producers threatened to leave the area. But it’s still a victory for those who voted for Measure B. They could never hope to change the whole industry, but they can help protect people working in their own county. STIs are all too easily spread, but they’re also easily preventable. With condoms so widely available and accepted, there’s no excuse for people who have sex as a job to risk their health - or anyone else’s.

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