Los Angeles has become the first city in the United States to require adult actors to wear condoms while filming there. The city council’s new ordinance, which recently came into force after being passed in January, has caused consternation amongst the studios of the San Fernando Valley, where approx. 90% of US films are shot. Filmmakers are warning that the measure will harm the local economy and drive their business out of the LA area, and perhaps California all together.
In order to film legally, all shoots in and around LA require a city permit and following the city council’s ruling, condoms are now required on all adult shoots to qualify for that permit. It’s unclear if the law also applies to films shot in studios rather than on location, as these don’t usually require a permit. A proposed ballot measure in November may extend the law throughout the county.
Michael Weinstein, president of the LA-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation – the group which lobbied for the city law and which is trying to extend the measure nationally – said, “You really can’t argue that people who go to work at a job ought to be putting their health at risk. We put a thing at the conclusion of a film saying that no animal was hurt in the making of this film. I mean, we can’t say that about these films when it comes to people, real life people.”
Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, countered with, “This law will actually hurt performers more than it will help. What we have in place works.” She’s referring to the vigorous testing of performers, since the 2004 HIV outbreak which involved male star Darren James and three female performers. Duke added that since then there have been no transmission of HIV within the industry.
“Undermining the self-regulation that we’ve imposed and that the industry goes by rigidly is unfortunate, and by mandating condoms and trying to regulate from outside, I think it’s only going to hurt our performers. We’ll be looking at possibly diminishing the protocols that are in place. Some folks might choose to say ‘screw it’ and go underground.”
Duke also pointed out that the STI rate is lower among adult industry performers than among the general population with similar demographics. She says that’s due largely to the industry’s stringent testing protocols.
The condom issue is such a big one that many studios are considering leaving the San Fernando Valley altogether, taking the industry’s significant contribution to the economy of LA with them because there is an established feeling that adult films with condoms do not appeal to consumers as much as those without. Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation says that’s untrue, “I don’t think that people are going to be so horrified by that little piece of latex that they’re not going to be willing to purchase these films,” he declared.