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California workplace safety board says no to condoms in porn films

AP

California officials in charge of workplace safety voted down a proposal Thursday that would have put condoms on porn actors, heeding the call of scores of industry officials who said doing so would force them to make films nobody would watch.

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Standards Board voted the measure down when only three members supported it, Cal/Osha spokeswoman Julia Bernstein said. Four yes votes were required for passage. The vote was 3-2 in favor, with two members of the panel absent.

The board will now begin the process of considering a new worker-safety measure for the porn industry, Bernstein said.

Board members appeared influenced by the dozens of porn industry representatives who filed to the dais during a public hearing in Oakland, California, to argue forcefully, but politely, that adopting the condom measure would either destroy their multibillion-industry or force it underground. Doing the latter, they said, could make it more dangerous to performers by eliminating such safeguards as the industry’s requirement that actors be tested every 14 days for sexually transmitted diseases.

“I know you guys work really hard and have our best interests at stake, but we need you to work with us to find a solution,” said porn actress Siouxsie Q, who also reports on the industry for various publications. “When you criminalize sex work in any way, you make it more dangerous.”

Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the industry trade group Free Speech Coalition, said after the vote that industry officials hope they can work closely in the future in crafting safety requirements that the industry can accept. He did not say what those might be.

Under the 21-page proposal the agency rejected, so-called engineering controls “such as condoms” must be used by actors engaging in sex to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and other diseases. Movie producers would also be required to pay for medical visits, treatments and other health care costs for their performers.

The problem, several speakers said, is that a large segment of their audience loses interest in a film when they see actors with condoms.

Others said that if the rules were put into effect, Cal/OSHA inspectors could also eventually begin ordering actors to use safety goggles and dental dams, adding no one would want to see a film with that equipment.

“That’s pure fantasy on their part,” Michael Weinstein, head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who has pushed Cal/OSHA for years to adopt workplace safety rules aimed specifically at the porn industry, said before the hearing.

Although the new provisions rejected made no mention of goggles or dental dams, they would have required sex workers, like those in the medical industry, ensure their eyes are protected from being infected by blood-borne pathogens.

Industry officials worried that without goggles that could have meant the end to any explicit oral sex scenes.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has argued for years that the condom requirement was long overdue and that while it might not prevent transmission of all sexually transmitted diseases it would be far more effective than the industry’s 14-day STD testing requirement.

One of those in favor of it, former actor Derrick Burts, has said he became infected with HIV while making porn films despite the testing protocol.

“People have suffered serious consequences due to lack of regulation in this industry,” Weinstein said.

Condoms are already required for films made in Los Angeles County, thanks to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation-sponsored ordinance that voters adopted in 2012.

Weinstein has complained that filmmakers, who sometimes work out of houses they rent for just a day are two, sometimes ignore that law.