PVV – mandatory condom use in porn… again

So the United States Department of Labor houses a subsidiary entity called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. OSHA has outlined a series of practices intended to prevent worker exposure to bloodborne pathogens on the job.

Federal level OSHA regulations may be inappropriate, overbroad, or too specific in some instances though, so many states have their own tailor-made OSHAs.  California is one such state. California’s OSHA, or Cal-OSHA as it were, has its own set of bloodborne pathogen regulations (Subchapter 7, §5193), which includes a specific set of instructions and standards for workers and employers in the adult film industry.

And why do we care about this?

Well, for those of you who don’t know, adult film production has been legal in the state of California since 1988.  Consequently, this is where the vast majority of US adult film production occurs.  Now needless to say, there is a lot more opportunity for bloodborne pathogen exposure in porn production than there is in, say, the restaurant industry.  Thus, Cal-OSHA has helpfully articulated some ways in which adult film industry workers can comply with existing occupational safety and health standards. For example, sex could be simulated through various acting, production, and post-production techniques; ejaculation could be limited to occurring outside persons’ bodies only; and barrier protection (ie condoms and dental damns), which would protect workers from contact with semen, vaginal fluids, mucous membranes, etc, could be used at all times.

Hmmm…

Post-production removal of condoms? That sounds really expensive. Sex simulated during production?  That sounds like soft core. Barrier protection that prevents all partner-to-partner contact with semen, vaginal fluids, and mucous membranes?  Well that just sounds like Demolition Man (1993) to me… and there are mucous membranes in your mouth too by the way.

The point is that the existing OSHA standards regarding bloodborne pathogen exposure may work well and good and great in every other industry, however they’re impractical and inappropriate for adult film production.  There is an existing market for any number of hard core adult genres, and the vast majority of consumers do not want to see condoms in their porn.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Christian Mann about his now defunct condom-only company Video Team.  Or ask Steve Hirsch, CEO of Vivid, who dropped their condom-only policy in 2007.  But I digress…

Some of you may remember that I went to a Cal-OSHA hearing back in June, and I wrote quite a bit about these issues then.  If you missed all that, click here… or here… or here (or here) to catch up.

Well, a smaller Cal-OSHA subcommittee meeting was held this past Wednesday (August 18, 2010).  Although I did not attend this one, I did get the low down from the incredible Mark Kernes (check out his coverage here).  Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts on them.

1. So OSHA mandates barrier protection and job/safety training (it technically already does), or maybe internal industry STI battery testing procedures are amped up from every 28 days (what’s currently in place) to once every two weeks… who pays for this?

On the basis of precedent set by every other industry under the jurisdiction of OSHA and Cal-OSHA, the employer.

But this doesn’t make much sense in terms of adult film talent.  Although a handful of talent work under exclusive contact with one production company, the vast majority of talent work on a job-by-job/scene-by-scene basis. They may get hired by a company for one scene and then never work for them again… does that then mean that said talent “works for” said company?

Making production companies responsible for training and testing talent in this way would be like making you responsible for ergonomic safety training for the graphic designer you hired once – how would you feel about that?

This proposition illustrates both the inappropriateness of existing bloodborne pathogen standards and Cal-OSHA’s and condom-only advocates’ general lack of understanding about the structure of the industry.

2. So Cal-OSHA starts cracking down on condom use and really begins enforcing existing law… in the end, wouldn’t this be better for the workers?

No, and this dear reader is your fault! (jk!… not really)  Consumers want porn without condoms.  How do I know?  Well, case in point: six well-established production companies attempted to go condom only in 2004; four went out of business soon after and one eventually went condom optional (Vivid), leaving only one company (Wicked) condom-only today. One company out of an estimated 200 operating in the San Fernando Valley alone.

Condom only mandates will prevent producers from meeting consumer demands legally in the state of California.  Thus, in an attempt to survive and/or compete with producers outside the US, the industry will be entrapped into moving out of state and/or producing illegal content.  Suddenly, a geographically concentrated and internally regulated industry will be cast all over the place like so many other fragmented populations – no more standardized STI testing, no more network connections amongst talent and producers, no more community.  This does not sound better for the workers to me.

3.  What about barrier protection for some things and not for others?

This is an interesting idea, and I understand that STI transmission rates are different for different acts and supposedly lower for oral verses genital or anal contact… but so what?

Maybe unprotected oral sex is “safer” than unprotected vaginal or anal sex; but if you don’t want XXX in your pussy or your ass, why the heck would you be ok with it being in your mouth??!! And, along that same vein, who’s to say that five pops worth of blow-bang resultant cum in your eye is “safer” than one cock in your ass (no creampie of course)?

I mean really – what could possibly be the motivation for getting all riled up over barrier protection during vaginal and anal sex, but being ok with no barrier protection during oral?!! (some of you may know where I’m going with that last point… my muckraking is coming very soon, trust me)

In my opinion, the major problem here is a general lack of understanding – understanding of the industry’s occupational structure, understanding consumer demands, and understanding the industry’s community and self-regulation practices.  Throw a little bit of “attempting to generalize and standardize” on top and you get the situation that we appear to have here – fully fucked (with or without barrier protection).

There’s another big Cal-OSHA meeting happening in October.  Don’t worry!! I’ll let you know what happens as soon as something does.  In the meantime, I invite you to really think about this issue… Do these proposals sound like good ideas to you?

Questions? Comments? Email me!

And on a totally unrelated note, this post is dedicated to my good friend SD (pictured above in all his birthday glory).  He has nothing to do with this issue, but he’s endlessly amusing and totally psychic – he so knew I wanted to write about him today!!

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PVVOnline – Critical Commentary on Adult Production