MENTAL FLOSS: CalOSHA, Condoms and The Big Lie

LOS ANGELES—Back on March 18, I wrote: “After spending more than 90 minutes hearing pro- and anti-adult industry advocates, the directors of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) Standards Board, meeting this morning in the Costa Mesa City Council chambers, voted unanimously to form an ‘advisory committee’ to study the possibility of requiring condoms to be used in adult movie production.”

Gosh, how could I have gotten that so wrong?

“I’d like to make something very clear,” stated CalOSHA inspector Deborah Gold about an hour and a half into the first meeting of the “advisory committee” in Los Angeles on June 29. “Right now, the standard mandates the use of condoms, so people who have come here and think that we’re arguing about whether we’re going to mandate the use of condoms need to understand that the current status quo is that if there’s blood or other potentially infectious material, you need to prevent contact with that and the employee’s eyes, skin, mucous membranes. ... I know people keep talking about it as though we’re thinking about newly mandating condoms and people need to understand what we’re trying to do is [see] whether something new can be worked out in the standard that would protect employees as well as what’s current mandated. People just need to ... understand what we’re trying to do.”

Both Gold and her buddy, CalOSHA attorney Amy Martin—you remember; the one that raided AIM with bogus subpoenas for the records of an HIV-positive performer just about a year ago—reiterated that point at least four times during the meeting.

Silly me; just because the June meeting was packed with employees and supporters of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Pink Cross Foundation and UCLA’s Reproductive Health Interest Group, all of which support the mandated use of condoms in adult videos, plus a few assorted nutbars (and, to be fair, some very intelligent industry advocates), how could I possibly have missed understanding that the March meeting was just a con job to make it look as if there was some rational debate about condom use going on?

The truth is, I’m not that bad a reporter. If the standards board had in any way indicated that the question of condom use was not really on the table, I would have reported it—and the industry wouldn’t have had to go through farces like the June meeting.

Which isn’t to say there weren’t a few darkly comical moments.

For instance, you had former performer (12 movies, all made in 1994) and Pink Cross founder Shelley “Roxy” Lubben claiming that Dr. Sharon Mitchell had at one point told her that she (Mitchell) was “up to her ass in chlamydia.” You had the former performer (nine movies over eight years, the last released in 2010) “Neesa” claiming she’d been raped by a director she later revealed to be Max Hardcore, had gotten chlamydia and gonorrhea in the throat from him, and that Mitchell had covered up Hardcore’s infection. (Neesa’s “exit interview” from her 2003 scene with Hardcore is available on YouTube and paints a slightly different picture.) You had former performer (17 titles over two years) Diana “Desi Foxx” Grandmason claiming that Wicked Pictures’ condom-only policy hadn’t affected their profitability—a claim which attendee Joy King, Wicked’s vice president, termed “an out and out lie.”

In the more mainstream arena, you had labor attorney Gene McMenamin recommending that CalOSHA “take advantage of the expertise that the labor commissioner has in regulating minors on movie sets, and I would suggest to you that performers in this trade deserve the same type of in loco parentis supervision that the labor commission currently gives to minors.” Great idea, Gene: Treat adult performers like kids. Hey, why not take away all their rights? After all, they’re only porn stars!

But perhaps the most galling statement came from AHF Communications Director Ged Kenslea, who claimed, “AIDS Healthcare Foundation is not trying to put the adult entertainment industry out of business; we just want to improve the health and safety, in that—under existing regulations and state statutes as you’ve outlined, and if we need to amend them, to do so as well.”

That statement is disingenuous, to say the least. The practical effect of requiring adult performers to wear condoms (and use dental dams and perhaps goggles), thereby making the AIM testing that has worked so well for so many years optional, and to prevent AIM from posting those test results (if any) on its password-controlled website so adult producers can see them, is to put performers in the situation of not having any knowledge whether the person they’re about to have sex with is HIV-positive or has any other STD.

Then the question becomes, who in his or her right mind would consent to on-camera sex under those circumstances? The obvious answer is, “Damned few.”

So ... can anybody guess what the result of those requirements would be?

(The answer is left as an exercise for the student.)

This article originally ran in the August 2010 issue of AVN. Photography by Nancy Cain.