RSS
Has the porn industry been proven wrong about condoms?
A potential HIV-positive case has shaken up San Fernando Valley
A condom a day keeps the doctor away.
A condom a day keeps the doctor away. iStockPhoto
T

he porn industry has long rejected the use of condoms in its films, campaigning against efforts to mandate prophylactics on set and largely ignoring legal regulations once passed. However, now that filming has shut down after a performer allegedly tested positive for HIV, the porn industry may start changing its tune.

On Wednesday, the adult film industry announced a moratorium on the making of porn films in response to actress Cameron Bay allegedly receiving a possible though unconfirmed HIV-positive test. Current HIV testing can produce a false positive, so Bay is undergoing another round of testing. Still, the Free Speech Coalition, an adult film industry trade group, has called for a voluntary stop to production.

Diana Duke, executive director of the organization, told the Los Angeles Daily News that "moratoriums have lasted various lengths of time, from a few days to a few weeks; in the current situation, we are expecting the moratorium to last for a few days.”

This is not the first scare the adult film industry has had with STIs. In 2004, filming was halted after four performers tested positive for HIV and 50 actors were quarantined. Last year, a porn star by the name of Mr. Marcus admitted he had altered his syphilis-positive test to keep performing, leading to a 10-day self-imposed industry moratorium.

Despite these experiences, the porn industry, largely based in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, has wholeheartedly rejected efforts to regulate condom use. While gay pornography has largely voluntarily used condoms on set since the 1980s, the standard for studios filming heterosexual scenes has been to rely on testing performers at least every 28 days, and some every two weeks.

The industry has fought hard against efforts to mandate condoms. In November of last year, Measure B, a proposal forcing all studios in L.A. County to ensure performers use condoms and also get health permits before filming, passed with 57 percent of the vote in a referendum. Prior to its passage, the industry led a robust campaign with rallies and PSAs. Producers and performers have argued that forcing condom use violates their First Amendment rights, imposing an unconstitutional restriction on their freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the argument goes that on-camera use of condoms diminishes the effect. "It ruins the fantasy," porn legend Ron Jeremy claimed in response to Measure B.

In January, two adult film studios, Vivid Entertainment and Califa Productions, along with two porn stars, Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce, filed a federal lawsuit. However, just last Friday a judge ruled to uphold the condom regulation. Vivid has already stated it plans to appeal, and the industry has vowed to leave L.A. rather than comply.

But will another HIV scare change the adult film industry’s feelings towards condoms? So far, industry representatives are holding firm. They are still adamant that their standards are more than sufficient. "Since 2004 there have only been two cases of performers testing positive for HIV and neither of those situations involved on-set transmission," said Duke.

Indeed, she has argued that isolating this potential case of HIV shows how well the testing procedures work. "Because of rigorous protocols, the situation was accessed quickly and-most importantly-action was taken to make sure protocols were followed," she told the Los Angeles Times. She also stressed that Bay is not believed to have been potentially infected on-set but through personal activities.

However, while the adult film industry is unlikely to change its view towards prophylactics, this latest incident has only fueled efforts to impose a California condom regulation. Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D), who is pushing for a state-wide law mandating condoms on porn sets, told USA Today, "Exposing workers to this type of harm would not be accepted in any other industry in the nation."

Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week