Porn stars protest condom rule: New safety regulations — including "eye protection" — proposed for adult films

New OSHA requirements aren't necessarily the best options to make the adult film industry safer, performers say

Published February 18, 2016 10:14PM (EST)

  (<a href=''>Catherine Lane</a> via <a href=''>iStock</a>)
(Catherine Lane via iStock)

Today, porn performers, including Nina Hartley, Joanna Angel, April Flores, Lily Cade and jessica drake, along with numerous others, gathered in Oakland, California, to protest proposed regulations by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal OSHA) which would require the use of condoms and “eye protection” during the course of their work. The new regulations would become effective July 1 of this year. While it’s unclear exactly what type of eye protection would be mandated, industry publication Xbiz write, “Draft regulations amending the existing § 5193 suggest that adult performers might be required to wear goggles to avoid ocular infections and dental dams for oral sex.”

As the Los Angeles Daily News summarized the issue: “The dispute over safety standards is part of a long debate about condom use between AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the adult film industry. In 2012, AHF supported and saw passage of Measure B, a Los Angeles County law that makes condoms mandatory on all adult film shoots, saying that performers deserve to be protected while working. But the organization is also working to get a statewide measure on next year’s ballot to strengthen mandates under Cal/OSHA.”

Drake, who testified at the hearing, told Vice News, “As a woman, as a feminist, as a human being, I resent the implications that the government can mandate such an intimate decision.”

Online, the Free Speech Coalition, an adult industry trade association, worked to rally performers to speak out against the regulations by launching a petition which states in part, “As an adult performer, I believe that I should have effective and industry appropriate choices that work for me. While condoms are one option, adult performers should have the ability to choose for themselves the method or methods of effective STI prevention that best suits them individually.” The organization also live Tweeted today’s hearings to share performer testimony.

Adam Grayson, Chief Financial Officer of porn distribution company Evil Angel, told Salon in an interview that the regulations are an imposition likely to either further bankrupt an industry already struggling with reduced sales due to piracy, or to drive porn producers out of California to areas where condom use is not required. “Fans have expressed with their wallets many times that they prefer non-condom porn over condom porn.” Since the passage of Measure B, there has already been a dramatic drop in porn production in Southern California, which Grayson says will be heightened if this measure passes. “People have roots here, but they’re either going to choose another line of work or they’re going to leave,” said Grayson.

Evil Angel does not hire performers itself, but instead, works with independent producers whose jobs would likely be negatively affected if these regulations were to pass, according to Grayson. “If our producers can’t figure out how to stay in business and create content that sells and makes money, as a distributor we have a real operational problem,” said Grayson. “It’s really important to us to make sure these independent producers have a sustainable business model because if they don't survive, we don’t survive.”

As for performer safety, Grayson said that the testing system currently in place, using the PASS (Performer Availability Screening Services) system, which requires performers to be tested every 14 days, already sufficiently protects adult actors. “It’s the position of the industry as a whole that we do a very good job of self-regulating,” said Grayson. “I don’t think this is the Triangle Shirtwaist fire situation where we’re shoving as many employees into a warehouse as possible and leaving fire hazards. On heterosexual sets, transmissions of HIV is almost non-existent. There has not been a smoking gun that anybody can confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an on set transmission of HIV in more than a decade.”

Grayson said it’s natural that porn performers would balk at having their livelihood regulated so precisely. “People who perform in front of the camera in porn are not conformists at heart; these are rebels,” said Grayson. “These are not people that a) like being told what to do and b) like being part of the monolith. When the state of California or any legislative body says, ‘I’m going to protect you by making sure you have to do A, B, C and D,’ it’s kind of the wrong audience for that. The majority of these people don't want to be told what to do with their bodies. That’s the issue at hand. Don’t tell me I need to put something in my body or on my body; who the hell are you? I think that’s probably the tone from the performer’s side more than anything.”

On social media, reports from performer comments at the hearing echoed this sentiment.


“I don’t think OSHA are boogeymen; their mandate is to protect employees in the workplace,” said Grayson. “I think there is political pressure at the top of the Department of Industrial Relations in Oakland to pay attention to this stuff. I think a lot of the people who work in the Cal OSHA system took these jobs because they wanted to protect poor laborers from falling off ladders or being trapped in fire hazards, that sort of thing. From personal experience, my impression is that they’re thinking, Really, is this what I signed up for? I’m here arguing about what orifice something got stuck in?”

By Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel is the author of "Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays" and the editor of more than 70 anthologies, including "The Big Book of Orgasms" and the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series. She teaches erotica writing workshops online and in-person, writes widely about books, culture, sex, dating and herself, and Tweets @raquelita.

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