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Practice Safe Sex or Risk Having It Mandated, Porn Industry Is Told

Assemblyman Paul Koretz tells the makers of adult movies to require the use of condoms or he will push for a state law.

August 20, 2004|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Prompted by a recent HIV outbreak among porn actors, a state legislator is calling on the industry to voluntarily adopt safe-sex practices -- or face the possibility of a state law that would compel performers to use condoms on the job.

In a letter to 185 porn producers and publishers, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, chairman of the Labor and Employment Committee, said models and performers in the triple-X-rated world deserve workplace health-and-safety protections, just like other Californians.

"I strongly encourage and fully expect the adult entertainment industry to require the use of condoms," said Koretz, a Democrat from West Hollywood, in the letter mailed Monday. "Failure to do so is ... irresponsible and invites the legislature to exercise its authority to mandate more stringent actions."

Several producers said they planned to continue making films without condoms.

"I don't think it's the place of the authorities to decide whether the [actors] are to use condoms or not," said Lexington Steele, president of Mercenary Pictures, who, like many other producers, believes that requiring condom use would hurt profits.

Others reacted with indifference, expressing doubts that a law mandating condom use could be enforced.

"I appreciate what the assemblyman is doing," said Larry Flynt, owner of his eponymous porn publishing and video empire, in a statement provided through a spokeswoman. "But I want to know: Who is going to put the condoms on the actors? Is he going to come down here and do it himself?"

Though the HIV scare prompted producers to halt filming for a few weeks, the industry is now back to business as usual, with the vast majority of companies shooting movies without condoms.

During the halt in production, which began in April, some in the industry predicted that alarmed performers would leave porn films. In June, Koretz led a public hearing on health issues facing the porn industry. Some actors and producers spoke at the hearing and elsewhere, fervently advocating safe-sex practices in porn.

Now, several months since filming resumed, the number of performers working in Southern California -- the porn production capital of the nation -- remains unchanged at about 1,200, according to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, a Sherman Oaks-based clinic that provides HIV testing for performers. Before this year's outbreak, 17% of performers used condoms. Immediately after production resumed, 22.5% used condoms, but the level has since dropped back down to 17%.

"There's an awful lot of denial in this industry," said Sharon Mitchell, executive director of the healthcare foundation. "People use condoms more in their private life than in their professional life. There's just not enough work for condom players."

Others complain that safe sex gets in the way of video shoots.

Some actors complain that they can't perform while wearing a condom, said Patrick Collins, president of Chatsworth-based Elegant Angel. "Some of the girls are allergic to latex," he said.

In addition to demanding that the industry use condoms, Koretz offered 13 recommendations for porn productions. For example, he urged the use of the female condom and "no ejaculation on mucosal surfaces" such as the eyes, mouth and nose.

"Healthcare workers exposed to bodily fluids are required to wear goggles and gloves," said Dr. Thomas J. Coates, a professor of infectious diseases at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, who advised Koretz in developing the guidelines. "Workers in this industry deserve protection. They're just like any other workers."

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