Big Surprise: LA Times Endorses Mandatory Condoms

LOS ANGELES—As AVN readers will recall, just two weeks ago, the "Opinion staff" of the Los Angeles Times asked readers for their views on whether requiring adult performers to wear condoms during sex scenes was a good idea. The writers made several good points, including the fact that just verifying the signatures on AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) original petition would cost the city $372,000, while actually putting the initiative on the June 5 presidential primary ballot would cost $4.4 million—though an "update" to that article quotes AHF's Associate Director of Communications Lori Yeghiayan as claiming that the cost would be a mere $700,000, and that "the $4.4 million figure is an estimate for total city and county costs." It's unclear from the Times article whether Yeghiayan has pulled that $700K figure from anywhere other than her own ass.

Funny thing, though: Just tomorrow, AHF will begin its petition drive to put a similar measure on the Los Angeles County ballot—and that $4.4 million is back! Only this time, the initiative would have Los Angeles County require producers to "obtain a public health permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and pay a permit fee" for enforcement—which, just like the LA city initiative, AHF clearly hopes will be paid to them, because to whom else would the city (or county) look to become Los Angeles' "condom police"?

And of course, none of those costs take into account the fact that adult industry attorneys will undoubtedly file lawsuits similar to the one filed in early December by LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, so it's likely that the costs to the city will easily exceed both estimates by several million dollars.

But nevermind: The Times has made its editorial decision—not that there was much doubt what that would be, given the articles and opinion pieces it's run over the past couple of years—despite the fact that of the 11 commenters to its original solicitation, only one, from someone attending "Midway Hihg skuul San degio," supported mandatory condoms.

Of particular interest is the fact that the Times justifies its position by noting that while Trutanich's lawsuit says the proposed ordinance "would be vulnerable in court because the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health already regulates workplace safety—and already has a regulation in place requiring the use of condoms on adult film locations," the Times claims that CalOSHA's own attorney says that wouldn't be a problem because his agency's jurisdiction "is limited to employer-employee relationships," and that "Film performers are generally contract workers, not employees."

If that's the case, though—as the entire industry has maintained it is throughout this controversy—then why did CalOSHA chief inspector Deborah Gold hold 18 months' worth of public meetings on AHF's petition to change the health code to require that adult performers use "barrier protections" like condoms, dental dams, goggles and face shields? And how many taxpayer dollars (and time and personnel) did they devote to that apparently pointless exercise, if CalOSHA doesn't have jurisdiction over adult performers to begin with? Or is it possible that CalOSHA's left hand doesn't have one fucking idea what its right hand is doing?

The Times' editorial places at least some of the "blame" for the lack of a mandatory "barrier protection" law on Sacramento, opining that "it would be preferable to see such a law adopted by the Legislature."

"Local rule-making simply encourages businesses—including porn moviemakers—to pull up stakes and move to adjacent cities, taking their permit fees and business taxes with them," the editorial states. "That seems likely to be the case here, as locations abound on the periphery of Los Angeles." (Yup, got that right!)

"But sometimes cities must take the lead, even in workplace safety regulation, because Sacramento may lack the will or interest to protect workers," the editorial continues, comparing forcing STD-tested actors to wear condoms to the city's several-years-old ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places.

Of course, that sort of logic ignores one crucial detail: Smoking isn't a First Amendment-related activity; making movies is—and requiring condoms (and inevitably dental dams, goggles and face shields) to be used in every sex scene changes the erotic message of the performance so radically that in the end, even Hollywood, with its plethora of fake sex scenes, will be delivering more highly erotic product than the adult industry.

But no; now that AHF's initiative has qualified for the ballot, forced condom use "is a question that should be answered by the voters. The right to petition and vote is paramount." Because after all, who has more expertise in determining the efficacy of frequent STD testing and the lack of any HIV transmission on a (hetero) California porn set since 2004 versus the First Amendment implications of forced condom use than Joe Six-Pack?

"The city attorney should drop his suit," the Times editorial concludes, "the City Council should do what it must to secure a spot on the June ballot, and opponents can make their arguments against a local condom requirement for film permits in the accustomed time and place—during the campaign."

Because after all, even if AHF's initiative is completely unconstitutional, why shouldn't the adult industry be forced to spend untold tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars mounting radio, TV and newspaper ads—perhaps some in the LA Times itself—not to mention renting billboard space all over the city, to defend its right to create an erotic message that should never have been challenged in the first place?