Thursday, February 18, 2016

Porn performers set to protest Thursday vote requiring condoms, eyewear on film sets

WE CANNOT MAKE A GREAT PORN FLICK WITH ALL THIS SAFETY EQUIPMENT ON!

Studio owner and porn film director Lee Roy Myers prepares paint while working on a hospital room set at his studio, Mission Control Studios, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News
POSTED:  02/17/16, 5:12 PM PST |  UPDATED: 6 HRS AGO2 COMMENTS
More than 100 adult film performers plan to gather in Sacramento Thursday to protest an expected ruling by California regulators that mandates condoms and eyewear for actors on all porn sets statewide.

The protests are in response to regulations drawn up by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, produced after more than six years of discussions and public hearings about protecting actors from bloodborne pathogens and other bodily fluids. But adult film performers saysuch protections go too far. The use of “personal protective equipment” for eyes, for example, has been interpreted as goggles, which actors have said will ruin the aesthetics and fantasy of pornographic films.

Adult film industry trade organizations, such as the Canoga Park based Free Speech Coalition and the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, have led the charge against the measures.

“These are unworkable regulations based in fear and stigma, not science or public health,” Eric Paul Leue, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement Wednesday. “Cal/OSHA has repeatedly refused to listen to performers concerns about their health and livelihoods, and performers are rightly furious.

“This will be a heated hearing,” he added.

The largely San Fernando Valley-based industry has mobilized as a result of the issue like never before, Leue said.

“Whether they currently use condoms or not, performers are coming in from all over the state for this meeting,” Leue said. “They are passionate and they want to make sure their voices are heard. They know that if these regulations pass tomorrow, it may signal the end of the legal adult industry in California.”

The dispute over safety standards is part of a long debate about condom use between AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the adult film industry. In 2012, AHF supported and saw passage of Measure B, a Los Angeles County law that makes condoms mandatory on all adult film shoots, saying that performers deserve to be protected while working. But the organization was able to place statewide measure on July’s ballot to strengthen mandates under Cal/OSHA. If passed by voters, production sites will have to take out health permits.

Film performers such as North Hollywood-based Ela Darling said performers are concerned with privacy because producers would have copies of their medical records and have access to them for 30 years after employment.

“This isn’t just about pornstars not wanting to wear condoms,” she said in an e-mail response. “This is about losing the freedom to produce conventional pornography and make a living. It’s simply bad legislation that doesn’t take into account the realities of the industry they’re trying to regulate. “

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Darling said each performer has his or her own idea of what makes him or her feel safe in the workplace. Most performers, she said, would prefer to maintain the current testing system and a mandatory option to use a condom if any performer in the scene asks for it.

Testing performers for sexually transmitted diseases every 15 days has been the industry’s health protocol.

“We’re not wholly against the idea of using condoms,” Darling said, “We just want to have the option to choose what’s best for ourselves. Performers just want the agency to make their own choices about their bodies.”

But AHF said there are gaps in the system. Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that one actor who first tested negative for the HIV virus later tested positive and infected others during two film shoots in 2014.

“A male adult film performer obtained an HIV test that was negative, though he had, unknown to him, recently been infected,’ according to the CDC. “During the two weeks after his negative test, the performer was directed by two production companies to engage in condomless sex with other male performers, and public health and laboratory results provide strong evidence that he infected another performer during a film production.”

The Free Speech Coalition said the actor was working on a Nevada film set that did not have approved testing protocols in place.

Condoms have been required on all California sets since the early 1990s and some sets follow the laws. But the industry largely has been able to skirt the issue. The new regulations amend those requirements, and includes rules for testing.

Enforcement will still take place only on a complaint basis, said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

In 2009, AHF submitted a formal petition to the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to convene an advisory committee to amend the standards. Several actors who said the contracted HIV and sexually transmitted diseases while working on sets will be speaking in favor of condoms.

“Testing is not a substitute,” Weinstein said Wednesday.

Nathan Ake

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