The Los Angeles city council recently passed a controversial ordinance requiring all porn performers to wear condoms during film shoots to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The 9-1 vote was a significant victory for the LA-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an organization that has been tirelessly lobbying for years for mandatory condom use in pornography.
“It’s a great day for the performers and safer sex in our society,” noted Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Heathcare Foundation. “This is the first legislative body to take up the issue, and the near-unanimous support is very gratifying.”
While it’s unclear at this point exactly how the new ordinance will be enforced, it seems that porn producers will have to pay a fee that will be used to fund surprise condom inspections, which could begin as early as next month. Producers will also have to obtain permits from the Department of Public Health before filming.
The ordinance faces some tough criticism from the adult film industry. Some believe it will just drive production out of LA, the unofficial porn capital of America and home to as many as 90 percent of the porn films produced in the country.
Following the deaths of several high-profile pornographic actors and actresses in the 1980s, the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) was established, which helped set up the current system where performers are tested for HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases once a month. Furthermore, all sexual contact is logged for up to six months, so if a performer tests positive, their sexual partners can be contacted and re-tested.
Due to the rampant spread of HIV due from anal sex, the homosexual porn industry started using condoms for anal sex in the early 1990s. However, the heterosexual porn industry continued to rely only on monthly testing, a system that has proven to be a failure in several high-profile scandals. Last summer, porn production was temporarily shut down in LA after a performer tested positive for HIV.
The new documentary “Inside Lara Roxx” by first-time filmmaker Mia Donovan follows the story of a 21-year old Montrealer who contacted HIV in 2004, a mere two months after moving to LA to break into the adult industry. She was unknowingly exposed to the disease during her first official scene, a double anal, by Darren James, who also infected two other female performers. James initially tested negative for HIV, then a positive test weeks later barred him from any further American porn productions.
“It made me realized how much I trusted this system that wasn’t to be trusted at all, because it obviously doesn’t work,” Roxx said.
While mandatory condom use may seem like the answer, it’s not always so simple. For example, the ordinance does nothing to prevent the distribution of porn without condoms made in other locations. “As long as the demand is there, people are going to find a way to shoot without condoms,” noted Donovan on CBC radio earlier this week.
With piracy and the Internet already hampering the adult film industry, could this latest ordinance be enough to send the business underground permanently? Furthermore, what can be done to normalize the heterosexual male porn viewer to seeing rubbers on the male actor’s members, viewers who themselves might prefer the sensation of bareback sex?
“By the time you’ve had 30 to 90 minutes of condom friction on your tender bits, there is abrasion, there is soreness, sometimes there’s a little swelling, it’s tender, it’s not comfortable,” noted legendary porn actress Nina Hartley.
But what’s a little soreness and swelling compared with contracting an oftentimes deadly virus that attacks and weakens your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to pneumonia, tumours and a whole host of other painful afflictions?