Let's talk about safer sex in the porn industry



When Los Angeles County’s Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, or Measure B, passed with 56 percent of the vote in the last election, it seemed like a path paved with good intentions. The law mandates that porn performers use condoms on set, plus it requires porn producers to apply for permits from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to shoot sex scenes. These seem like somewhat fair demands — the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV is dangerous and can be deadly. So with the best of intentions, voters mandated that the porn industry have safer sex; but the industry wants nothing to do with that. (Safe sex porn videos apparently don’t sell very well — or perhaps there isn’t enough material to test the market.) This business may just move to where it is welcome.

While Vivid Entertainment, one of the biggest producers in the industry, contests the law in U.S. District Court, other producers are making their way into Ventura County, and local leaders are discussing options to keep the industry at bay, at least for now. County Supervisor Linda Parks, District 2, announced last week that she was going to introduce an ordinance requiring actors to use condoms during movie production in unincorporated areas of Ventura County. She stated that she believed it would deter producers from making pornographic videos in those areas. In late March, the Camarillo City Council enacted a 45-day moratorium on pornographic film production, which would allow the council to study the effects and impacts on public health, safety and welfare of the community. And even before measure B passed, the Simi Valley City Council took the initiative to prevent the industry from establishing itself in that city and approved an ordinance in April 2012 requiring porn performers to use condoms during sex acts.

Despite the apparently good intentions, it may be that this measure was more about moving the industry out of L.A. than it was about protecting the performers. And Parks had no qualms about stating that her ordinance wasn’t necessarily about safer sex, but rather about seeing that porn producers stay out of the area. The question really boils down to whether or not these porn performers and producers have any First Amendment protection of their freedom of expression. Furthermore, if cities, counties and states all pass and enact laws mandating that porn actors use condoms during production, and the industry conforms, will legislators and voters for safer sex embrace the industry?

It’s too soon to tell the future of the porn industry. Clearly, the demand for such content isn’t going away. In fact, porn is the biggest content provider on the Internet.  “According to Google’s DoubleClick Ad Planner, which tracks users across the web with a cookie, dozens of adult destinations populate the top 500 websites. Xvideos, the largest porn site on the web with 4.4 billion page views per month, is three times the size of CNN or ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit. LiveJasmin isn’t much smaller. YouPorn, Tube8, and Pornhub — they’re all vast, vast sites that dwarf almost everything except the Googles and Facebooks of the internet,” so says Just How Big are Porn Sites?, an article by Sebastian Anthony in Extreme Tech.

There are several situations that could develop. One is that the industry may eventually conform and porn actors will use condoms and legislators will most likely try to find another way to shut them down. Another, Vivid Entertainment will win its case and porn actors will continue with business as usual and engage in high-risk behavior despite the industry’s self-imposed safeguards, such as blood tests, which don’t seem to work so well. Or perhaps producers and porn actors will opt for safer sex and wear condoms so that their industry isn’t so tainted by the proliferation of STDs. Of course, there’s always the option of the creation of an underground black market for condom-free porn that could have even more dire consequences than what is already happening in the adult industry.

Whatever the case may be and whatever other scenario may play out for the industry, it’s time to face the facts — the industry isn’t going anywhere, though we may delay its growth temporarily. We hope that eventually the industry and legislators will find a compromise that promotes a safe and healthy environment for the actors as well as the neighborhoods these movies are filmed in. While condoms may be a bit much to ask for, forcing the industry underground without any regulatory standards may not be the direction this tumultuous ship should go. 

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"Such as blood tests, which don't seem to work so well."

The industry is "... so tainted by the proliferation of STDs."

You (the author) are begging the question with these and other assertions in your piece - questions which are fairly central to your theme.

Were you planning to offer any data, or reference any studies or reports to support these assertions, or were you simply hoping that we would swallow them whole, without checking your "facts"?

What evidence is there to show that the blood tests used in porn to prevent the spread of STDs don't "work so well"?

When you say that the porn industry is "so tainted" by the spread of STDs, to what are you comparing it? Do you mean that, compared to a convent of nuns, STDs are rampant? Or are you suggesting that STDs are rampant in porn, compared to the general population? If the latter, then you ought to present us with statistics (supported by documentation) on what, specifically, the rate of incidence of various STDs is in both the industry and the general population.

Data, documentation, objectivity - these are the things which are needed for such a discussion as this one ought to be.

posted by HonestJohn on 4/25/13 @ 11:21 a.m.

The facts and data are all over the Internet.
Here is one example.

posted by michaels on 4/25/13 @ 12:57 p.m.
posted by michaels on 4/25/13 @ 12:59 p.m.


Neither of the articles to which you linked discuss the incidence of STDs in the general population. Also, the Huffington Post has hardly been impartial in this debate, which calls their motives and agenda into question. Furthermore, the article from The Daily Caller references an isolated incident, offers no statistical data, and offers no support for the article's assertion that "the hub of the adult entertainment industry is full of sexually transmitted diseases". Therefore, I do not consider either of those links to be in any way authoritative or definitive in this discussion.

You offered those two links as examples of "facts and data," and yet neither of those articles is a good example of either of those things.

Additionally, the only study referenced in the Huffington Post article was undertaken by the AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation), which is the organization spearheading the efforts to mandate condoms and otherwise legislate porn production. Because they clearly have a political agenda in this matter which they are actively pursuing, their "study" can hardly be considered objective. It is highly probable that their data is tainted by observation bias.

To put it more simply, when a person who is trying to sell life jackets tells you that you have X% chance of drowning in your shower at home, you might want to double check what they say before you buy what they're selling.

posted by HonestJohn on 4/25/13 @ 01:24 p.m.

Honest John: I understand where you are coming from. The point of this article isn't to bash the industry, which apparently is all you read. The point is, to say an industry that thrives alone on unprotected sex, stds happen and continue to happen. The problem, one person can spoil a bunch. We both know that. We weren't suggesting we end the adult industry.

posted by michaels on 4/25/13 @ 02:12 p.m.

And there are a number of isolated incidents of which now people are dead.

posted by michaels on 4/25/13 @ 02:15 p.m.


I never said that the only point of this article or the only intention of its author was to bash the porn industry. Not only did I not say that, I never said anything close to that. Kindly refrain from putting words in my mouth.

What I said was that the assertions made in this article - that the testing protocols used by the porn industry are ineffective, that the rate of STDs in the industry is higher than in the general population (an implied assertion in the article), and that the only way to counteract the risk of STDs in porn is to have universal condom usage - are assertions which the author made no attempt to support with actual data or by citing any credible sources.

That's what I said, and I stand by my statement. If the author (or anyone) is going to make such assertions, they ought to be supported. And any readers should be responsible and astute enough to exercise critical reading and thinking, and not to simply take what they're being told at face value.

Also, you say that the industry thrives on "unprotected sex," but that assumes that barrier protection (condoms) is the only form of protection. The adult industry has been contending that their testing measures constitute protection. This is undoubtedly true, so the questions which remain are: 1. Does the California legislature or any local legislature have a legitimate authority to regulate the industry and enforce standards for adequate protection? 2. What constitutes adequate protection? 3. Do the testing protocols which are in place in the porn industry provide adequate protection under the accepted definition of "adequate"?

Finally, I would like to know which isolated incidents you are referring to which have caused these deaths? How many people have died as a result of these incidents, and who are these people? Are you referring to the small number of AIDS related deaths among porn stars in the 1980s? Because if so, that predates the porn industry adopting a testing protocol for STDs.

posted by HonestJohn on 4/25/13 @ 06:03 p.m.
posted by michaels on 4/25/13 @ 07:30 p.m.


I'm sorry, but what relevance does that link have to the topic under discussion?

As for the series itself, I'm already familiar with it. I don't think much of its lack of objectivity or its sensationalism, but I don't mind admitting it to the discussion, in spite of those shortcomings, provided that it's relevant, and I don't see that it is.

Is there something in particular in that article or in the series itself which you are suggesting has a bearing on this discussion?

posted by HonestJohn on 4/25/13 @ 08:53 p.m.
posted by michaels on 4/26/13 @ 04:20 a.m.


Shelley Lubben? I hope you aren't putting her forward as an objective reporter. She actively campaigns to put an end to porn production by any means she can.

As far as the article to which you linked, it only cites 2 sources, Sharon Mitchell and the Los Angeles Public Health Department.

Concerning the statements reportedly made by Sharon Mitchell on Court TV, I wouldn't be prepared to accept any statistics offered by her unless they were supported with documentation and the documentation was shown to be credible.

posted by HonestJohn on 4/26/13 @ 05:50 p.m.


Concerning the statement attributed the LA Public Health Department that the incidence of chlamydia among porn performers is 10 times higher than the incidence of chlamydia among 20-24 year olds in LA county, this statement is not at all credible, and I will explain why.

LA Public Health Department has access to accurate figures on the number of cases of chlamydia infection among porn performers, at least in heterosexual porn. This is because all porn performers in heterosexual porn are regularly tested, and any positive results for chlamydia must be reported the LA Public Health Department. So, assuming that there are no violations of reporting requirements, LA Public Health Department does know about the incidence of chlamydia in the porn industry.

However, LA Public Health Department does not know the actual rate of incidence in the general population, or even in their exemplar group (20-24 year olds). This is because only a very small percentage of the general population is ever tested for STDs, let alone tested regularly.

And since there are no symptoms in approximately 70% of cases of chlamydia (according to WebMD.com), many infected individuals will have no way of knowing that they are infected unless they are tested. This is probably why (or a part of the reason) the Centers for Disease Control estimated in their 2011 STD Fact Sheet that only a small percentage of actual cases of chlamydia are reported.

Now, if only a tiny fraction of the general population is tested for STDs, and if a majority of cases of chlamydia have no symptoms, then it is clear that the LA Public Health Department does not have and cannot have accurate data on the incidence of chlamydia in the general population of LA County. And if they do not have accurate data on the incidence of chlamydia in the general population, then they cannot accurately compare the rates of infection in the porn industry and the general population. They don't have enough information to make a comparison, so any statements they issue on the matter are not reliable or credible.

Given that we can now see that the LA Public Health Department's statements, as attributed in that article, are not credible, and given that the statements attributed to Sharon Mitchell only amount to hearsay unless there is documentation to verify those statements, and given that these statements were reported and interpreted by Shelley Lubben, who has an agenda to serve where the porn industry is concerned, I don't consider the article to which you linked to be evidence which would support the assertions made in the above VC Reporter article.

posted by HonestJohn on 4/26/13 @ 05:51 p.m.

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posted by wangdevereux on 5/10/13 @ 07:33 a.m.
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