opinion

The Condom Conundrum

Stephen Yagielowicz
The Cal/OSHA determination that existing laws protecting workers from exposure to blood borne pathogens applies equally to the adult space has caused quite a bit of concern for some of California's adult operators.

Among the regulatory body's oversight includes a prohibition against the introduction of ejaculate into a performer's orifices — i.e., you cannot cum in your model — whether the performer is willing (or even begging), or not.

The fact that "this is porn" makes no difference.

Some operators and performers are under the mistaken belief that a waiver or other text in the model release may allow for "voluntary" exposure to bodily fluids, but the law protects people from themselves — preventing financial or other pressures from being relieved under the auspices of "acceptance." For example, "I need the money," or "I have to take that facial in order to get the scene," is not justification for accepting the personal responsibility for unacceptable workplace risks.

While some familiar with the legitimate adult entertainment industry will point to its overall clean bill of health and rigorous testing regimens as evidence that self-regulation works thus and workplace safety regulations are not needed, other voices, such as that of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), have other viewpoints.

AHF has taken upon itself the task of pressuring lawmakers in several states to enforce workplace safety laws on the sets of adult productions. AHF began its campaign to require condom use in California, but expanded it to other states in response to adult industry threats of leaving the state for other locations.

For example, AHF has already pressured Florida officials into opening investigations of Bang Bros., Hustler, Josh Stone and Reality Kings, claiming that the companies' lack of condom use violate the state's "sanitary nuisance" ordinances.

"Nuisance" may be a great word to describe this hostile situation, as it is unclear how rigorous inspections and investigations will be. However, Cal/OSHA seems to operate on a complaint-driven system — a great reason for producers to treat talent well.

In a recent polling of the XBIZ.net community, members of the adult entertainment industry voiced their opinion on the mandatory use of condoms within adult productions, with 33 percent in favor and 67 percent against the requirement.

Discussing the issue on the XBIZ.net community forum, several operators expressed interest in moving production out-of-state — a problematic choice at best with uncertain legal ramifications; while others opined that production would just "move underground." "Moving underground" is not much of an option, however, when performers are the ones most likely to initiate a complaint.

For its part, Cal/OSHA seems to support the use of artificial ejaculate ("fake cum"), and technical solutions to the aesthetic concerns of consumers and directors — removing the visual appearance of condoms through creative blocking, with digital manipulation as a means of "fixing the problem in post." Removing rubber gloves and safety glasses in post may also prove quite a challenge, if regulators decide to go all-out.

While there is no lack of artificial ejaculate in adult content today, consumers can tell the difference between it and the real thing — and most demand the organic version. And although all manner of visual wizardry is available to Hollywood and beyond, the cost of digitally "removing" a condom or other protective gear from a scene after the fact makes this option prohibitive for most if not all adult productions.

So where does this leave the industry? Will condom use become widespread in porn, or will producers in California, Florida and elsewhere carry on with "business as usual?"

The headlines at XBIZ will provide the answer.

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