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Porn stars protest proposed tougher rules requiring condom use on sets

They tell a California occupational health and safety hearing in L.A. that the industry's monthly screening for some sexually transmitted diseases is enough to protect them.

June 30, 2010|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

Porn actors and actresses Tuesday protested the possible strengthening of rules requiring condom use in adult movies at a California occupational health and safety hearing in downtown Los Angeles.

Performers said they understood the risks of not using condoms, but believe current industry practices, which involve screening for some sexually transmitted diseases monthly, were enough to protect them.

"There is no way to make the industry risk-free. Making things safer does not make it safe," said a porn actor whose stage name is Jeremy Steele. "If you're worried or paranoid, you should not be in this industry."

"As someone who is still working on the camera myself, I don't feel any safer with condoms," actress Nina Hartley said.

State officials said Tuesday that California occupational safety and health rules already require condoms to be used on porn sets, citing rules that protect against employee exposure to "bloodborne pathogens," which include bodily fluids.

"People just need to understand what we're talking about," said Deborah Gold, a senior safety engineer with the state Occupational Safety and Health Division.

"You can use the saw without a guard, and cut off that arm" as a private individual, Gold said. "But when you come into an occupational arena, there are rules that are going to govern the risks you can take."

But state requirements and reality are different matters, and Los Angeles County public health officials said Tuesday that condom use needs to be enforced on porn sets. According to the county, since 2004, at least eight people were employed in the adult film industry at the time of their HIV diagnoses. Four of those people are confirmed to have been infected during an adult film production.

The annual prevalence rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adult film performers is higher compared to L.A. County residents ages 18 through 29, county health officials said.

The additional regulations being considered by Cal/OSHA would be written specifically for the porn industry, similar to how the agency composed rules mandating that employees working on the edge of a tall building are required to wear a harness or be protected from falls by a guardrail, said Amy Martin, chief counsel of Cal/OSHA.

Martin said Cal/OSHA investigates every complaint they receive about porn sets where condoms are not used and has issued citations and fines in the past.

Nonetheless, most heterosexual porn shoots are done without condoms.

No decision was made at the meeting Tuesday. Another hearing is scheduled for later this year in San Francisco.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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