Proposal to require condom use in porn rejected in Oakland

Originally published by the Bay City News Service and republished by Kron 4 on Feb. 19.

OAKLAND (BCN) – A controversial proposal by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board requiring adult entertainment performers to wear condoms and other protective gear failed on Thursday.

The Standards Board voted three to two Thursday at a meeting in Oakland in support of the measure, but four votes were needed to secure passage of proposed regulations.

The measure, which stemmed from a 2009 request by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, would have required the performers to wear condoms and other personal protective gear any time performers were exposed to blood-born pathogens or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including exposure to the genitals, eyes, mouth, mucous membranes, or places of the body where the skin is broken.

Opponents said the language was vague and would require performers to wear goggles or dental dams during the performance of sexual acts.

California law already requires adult entertainment workers to wear condoms, but proponents of the proposed regulations said the law is rarely enforced.

Dozens of sexual health advocates, public health experts, and adult entertainment performers lined up at the hearing today, offering roughly six hours of public testimony largely denouncing the proposed regulations — calling them onerous, patronizing and unworkable.

A few people, including one woman who said she contracted HIV as an adult entertainment performer, spoke in support of the measure.

Kevin Bland of the Free Speech Coalition, a vocal opponent of the proposal, likened it to requiring surgeons to operate while wearing boxing gloves.

“It just doesn’t work,” Bland said.

Dr. David Holland, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University’s School of Medicine, said the proposal would have the effect of driving the adult entertainment industry underground, criminalizing performers and resulting in even more dangerous working conditions.

Other opponents blasted the proposed regulation for attempting to provide a solution without a problem. University of California at Santa Barbara professor Constance Penley likened it to voter identification laws, which she described as both discriminatory and unnecessary.

Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said at least six adult performers have become infected with HIV while working in the adult film industry since 2009, when the organization submitted its petition to Cal/OSHA. But, Joseph Smyser, a policy expert for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said those numbers don’t show a trend when taken in the context of the thousands of adult entertainment performers in the industry.

“I would like to see more evidence that this industry is creating an environment that’s inherently more risky than other environments experienced by the general population,” Smyser said. “I don’t see that from the preponderance of evidence.”

Many adult entertainment performers described the testing they already undergo every two weeks for not only HIV but also other sexually transmitted diseases. They said the new regulations were not as stringent and could put performers at risk.

Dr. Hernando Chaves, a sexual health advocate, cited condom breakage as a real safety concern and urged the board to consider other proven methods for preventing the spread of STIs and HIV, including pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a pill taken daily that contains two medicines used to treat HIV.

Still other opponents called the proposal infantilizing and railed on board members for perpetuating stereotypes in an industry comprised largely of women, minorities, and transgender workers, who are already marginalized and face discrimination securing work in other industries.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea said today the organization was disappointed that the measure failed. Whitney Engeran-Cordova, senior director of the foundation’s public health division, said the organization would re-file its petition.

The foundation is also supporting a ballot measure that would require adult entertainment performers to wear condoms in any film depicting intercourse. That measure — called the Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative — is expected to appear on the November ballot.

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