Tempers Flare Over Performer Safety

Lyla Katz
LOS ANGELES — About a 100 adult industry professionals packed a meeting room in downtown Los Angeles this morning for the first Cal/OSHA advisory panel to modify current state health code to provide maximum safety for adult performers.

In what can only be described as heated and at times even contentious the five-hour meeting included adult performers, producers, public health advocates and plenty of attorneys.

Karen Tynan, an attorney who represents several agents, producers and talent, said that current state health code regulations don’t apply to adult.

“We need to come up with guidelines and regulations that are specific for our industry without judgment,” she said. “Testing has been very effective, and they need to come up with a system that works with medical technologies that are evolving and improving.”

Robert Kim-Farley of the Los Angeles County Health Department presented statistical data on the occurrence of various sexually transmitted diseases among active adult performers.

In his presentation, Kim-Farley said that STDs are common in the adult industry and that some diseases are silent and go undiagnosed, resulting in serious consequences and increase the risk of HIV infection.

He also pointed out that screening doesn’t prevent infection. He said the contact of fluids through mucous membranes can be easily prevented by using condoms.

The presentation came under fire when one adult producer pointed out that Kin-Farley’s results were misleading because the two control groups that were used to come up with the statistics were not the same, therefore, making his results inconclusive.

Questions also were raised about the specific number of HIV cases reported in Los Angeles County.

After a round of questioning, both Kim-Farley and the Health Department’s Peter Kerndt indicated that reliable data was only available for the eight documented cases as a result from the well-publicized 2004 outbreak.

Also in attendance was Shelley Lubben, former adult performer and founder of Pink Cross. Through her foundation, she says she tries to educate and raise awareness of the current health code. She said that many performers in the industry simply don’t know their rights.

“I would be happy if producers just enforced the current law,” she said.

But the attendees did agree on one aspect and that is coming up with a more specific system that works to provide safety for performers.

“We need a plan that works for performers and producers,” FSC’s Diane Duke said. “We need to talk to performers and find out what they feel make them safe.”

“We should try to craft something for the industry and find standards that will work better,” Cal/OSHA’s Debra Gold said. “Through these meetings, we’re trying to make a bridge, so that you can understand what we do and we can understand your side.”

Some of the options that were brought up included the requirement to use condoms.

Adult star Brook Haven said she’s been in the business for six years and has never contracted any disease.

“Nothing should be mandatory,” she said. “It should be up to the performer and their choice to use condoms or not."

Various other options were brought up including removing condoms digitally from movie scenes, providing training for performers to use condoms the right way, expanding STD testing and producers simulating specific sex acts.

Wicked Picture Vice President Joy King said that her company supports a non-condom policy and added that digitally removing condoms from scenes isn’t practical.

“It’s unrealistic,” she said. “It’s cost prohibitive and would take way too long. It would increase the cost by four times."

In response to expanded testing, Dr. Eric Aranow, who spoke on behalf of AIM said, “We are here to come up with protocols for frequency of testing and the best possible testing for performers.”

FSC Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas indicated that effective regulation would be impossible without deeper dialogue in the adult industry and he encouraged a schedule of meetings with stakeholders and Cal/OSHA, in order for its board to have a better understanding of the industry and current on-set activities.

“You can’t regulate it if you don’t understand it,” Douglas said.

Several in attendance also mentioned creating a sub-committee to do further fact-finding and analyze statistics that are adult industry specific.

Gold said the panel would discuss that idea and provide information at a later time.

The next meeting is set for October in San Francisco.