Condoms on Camera
HIV outbreaks give new weight to LA porn law
On Valentine’s Day, the Duke Chronicle published an exclusive story about a freshman on campus who works as a porn star. A week later xoJane ran a story written by the starlet herself.
Struggling with the financial burden of forking over $60,000 a year to attend Duke University, Lauren A. turned to adult filmmaking. She wrote in xoJane, “My experience in porn has been nothing but supportive, exciting, thrilling and empowering.”
Lauren’s story has generated a national conversation about treatment of female sexuality and porn performers.
But the industry itself is already entrenched in media and legal battles about the treatment of its workers and safety regulations.
In November 2012, L.A. voters passed Measure B, or the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex In the Adult Film Industry Act, a ballot measure that requires performers to wear condoms while filming vaginal and anal sex. But industry insiders say the law has not been enforced. Recent HIV diagnoses could change that.
When 29-year-old Cameron Bay, a female adult film star, tested positive for HIV in August, Free Speech Coalition called an industry-wide moratorium on production. FSC, the porn industry’s trade association, manages performer STD testing and maintains a database of 3,000 performer test results.
The first moratorium was lifted Aug. 28, but on Sept. 3 Bay’s boyfriend, Joshua Rodgers, announced via Twitter he tested positive for HIV. Rodgers uses the screen name Rod Daily and has worked in gay porn since 2010.
FSC called another moratorium Sept. 6, when a third performer tested positive. In published statements FSC said, “doctors have confirmed that the third performer did not work with Ms. Bay or Mr. Daily,” and “as with Cameron Bay and Rod Daily, all evidence points to private exposure to virus.”
On Dec. 6 the most recent performer tested positive for HIV. Following a moratorium and series of tests, on Dec. 20 FSC said the performer was exposed to HIV in his personal life.
“In 10 years we haven’t had an on site transmission of HIV — in 10 years nationwide,” Diane Duke, executive director of Free Speech Coalition, said. She said the media storm about HIV transmission and adult filmmaking is “a few performers that a want a lot of attention.”
Near the end of last year, following discussions with their medical advisory board, FSC shortened the timespan for testing requirements. Performers are now tested every 14 days, rather than every 28 days, for HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Trichomoniasis.
If an active performer tests positive for HIV and has worked within two weeks, an industry-wide moratorium is called. All performers who have had sexual contact with the HIV-positive performer prior to that performer’s last negative test are tested and retested. When all test results come back negative the moratorium is lifted.
“Our industry has gone above and beyond in providing clear, safe protocols,” Duke said. “Our performers are tested and retested above and beyond.”
Duke also said many performers and AIDS awareness groups — besides Measure B’s primary backer, AIDS Healthcare Foundation — have not voiced support for the mandate.
Performers Jessica Drake and James Deen have released a video highlighting performers’ claims that Measure B prevents them from effectively doing their jobs.
In response to the law, some pornography production companies are relocating to Las Vegas. Since Measure B took effect, the official licenser, FilmLA, has seen a 95 percent drop in permit requests. From 2012 to 2013, requests declined from approximately 480 to just 24, with a projected revenue loss of about $456,000.
Measure B has received support within and outside of the industry, from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Pink Cross Foundation and Aurora Snow, a regular contributor to the Daily Beast who worked as a porn performer and director for over a decade. She has been featured in over 600 films, most of which were filmed without condoms.
“I have no complaints about my career,” Snow said. “I do see condoms as a positive step toward workplace safety…though I also believe people should have the ability to choose how they’d like to perform.”
Many companies claim they give performers the choice, but comments from inside the industry suggest that condom requests from performers can be problematic.
“Many claim condoms are a choice, but only a select few can choose to use them and still get hired on a regular basis,” Snow said.
“The producers have the power,” Ged Kenslea, communications director at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said. “If performers ask to use the condoms it’s very unlikely that they’ll be invited back.”
Kenslea said AHF works protect the health of “young, impressionable performers” who enter the field. He said Measure B enhances existing laws laid out by California’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health so when porn producers in L.A. County don’t use condoms on set, “now they’re breaking two laws.”
Jessica Corbett is junior journalism-politics major who likes to play it safe. Email her at jcorbet2[at]ithaca.edu.