Mandatory protective eyewear in porn?

What about condoms during oral sex? Draft rules for regulation of California's adult industry could mandate both

Topics: Pornography, Sex, Love and Sex, porn,

Draft regulations currently being considered by the state of California would mandate the use of condoms on porn shoots. Sure, we’ve heard this before with the AB640 condom bill, which is currently stalled in the Senate. But this draft from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) would not only require condoms during intercourse but also prohibit ejaculation onto the genitals, mouth or eyes, and instruct employers to provide performers with protective eyewear to avoid ocular contact with semen.

Here’s the thing, though: Condoms, and other barrier methods, are technically already required in porn, both during penetrative and oral sex, according to Deborah Gold, Cal/OSHA’s deputy chief for health. So too is eye protection from semen and other bodily fluids. If you’ve ever watched a porn you probably have a sense of just how relatively rarely these requirements are enforced. If instituted, these draft guidelines would actually offer a trial period in which an exception is made for the barrier method requirement during oral sex. (As of 2018, the exemption would be reconsidered and could either end or be extended.)

Regardless, some porn insiders are unhappy with the draft rules, which were initially leaked on an industry blog that is vocally supportive of a condom mandate. Peter Acworth, CEO of the fetish site Kink.com, tells me that the draft regulations “basically criminalize the production of porn” in California. In fact, because of these draft guidelines and AB640, he’s considering selling the Armory, Kink’s infamous San Francisco porn palace. If these Cal/OSHA guidelines are instituted, he says Kink will “have to invest in a warehouse in Nevada or Europe” for production. If that happens, the Armory will likely have to go — and, he says, so will adult productions in California.

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In response, Gold said, “The fact is there is a rule right now that they’re supposed to be complying with.” She added that these draft guidelines are an attempt to tailor existing workplace-safety rules relating to blood-borne pathogens specifically to the adult industry.

The draft guidelines do not require the regular STD testing currently instituted by the industry. It does, however, call for employers to provide hepatitis B, hepatitis A and human papillomavirus vaccines to performers. It additionally requires that, in cases of potential STI exposure, porn studios “provide for post-exposure prophylaxis … when medically indicated,” as well as counseling. The 21-page document suggests several other regulatory changes, including cleanup requirements, like providing “plastic coverings or other disposable materials to facilitate cleaning of the work area.”

On the one hand, the guidelines introduce the progressive prospect of adult companies taking responsibility for workers’ medical care (currently, performers often pay for their own STD tests). On the other, it conjures the fantasy-smashing image of a begoggled porn star performing on a plastic-wrapped couch. That is, if these draft rules were any more strictly enforced than the current ones.

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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