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State discusses rules on condom use in porn

By Shaya Tayefe Mohajer

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 11:45 p.m. MDT

Adult film actress, Ela Darling speaks Tuesday June 7, 2011 in Los Angeles where the use of condoms during film production was discussed. Porn performers complained that a proposal to mandate condom use and require testing is unfair and could push production underground, telling California officials on Tuesday that the tight-knit community doesn't need the extra rules.

Nick Ut, Associated Press

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LOS ANGELES — Porn performers complained that a proposal to mandate condom use and require testing is unfair and could push production underground, telling California officials on Tuesday the tight-knit community doesn't need the extra rules.

Performer Nicki Hunter said during a break from a meeting of California's Division of Occupational Safety & Health she trusts the people she sleeps with to protect themselves from sexually transmitted disease.

"If I wanted to have sex on camera with my husband without using a condom, I couldn't do that?" said Hunter, who was married to a fellow porn star for 13 years.

In a meeting punctuated with impassioned outrage and laughter, officials from Cal/OSHA answered questions about the rules that could require the industry to take more aggressive precautions against sexual transmission of disease.

Under the draft rules, porn producers would have to provide and require "use of condoms or other barrier protection to prevent genital and oral contact with the blood or (any other bodily fluids) of another person."

Producers would also have to provide preventive medical services, like vaccines for human papilloma virus and hepatitis. If porn performers are exposed to bodily fluids during a film, producers would be required to provide follow-up medical services. There are some proposed exemptions for oral sex.

Cal/OSHA drafted the 17-page rules in response to a complaint from an AIDS advocacy group. If the workplace safety agency decides to go forward with the rules, they would go to the state's seven-member Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board.

If the board decides to pursue the rules, the draft could become regulation after more public meetings and a ruling from the board. The process could take years.

Several adult film performers objected, saying the hygienic practices of contenders in bloody TV fighting matches don't face similar regulation.

"In sports like (mixed martial arts), where people are actually bleeding on each other, the exposure of blood-borne pathogens is already on television," said sex performer Danny Wylde, 25.

Cal/OSHA inspector Deborah Gold said such exposure is inadvertent in sports, but in porn performances exposure to bodily fluids is intentional. She noted that there are rules governing other entertainment workplaces.

The proposed change in rules comes in response to a complaint filed in 2009 by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, calling on the state to require condoms in porn.

The AIDS advocacy group has said actors were in unsafe situations and they glamorized risky sex for audiences.

Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea said condom use is already required under state and federal laws, but "the industry has by and large simply chosen to ignore this safety requirement while at the same time there has been little to no effective public health enforcement to date."

The state has fined producers in the porn industry on occasion for violations of workplace safety code, but the hard-to-regulate industry has been able to escape scrutiny because of its nature: Porn can be shot just about anywhere, but is typically done discreetly.

Since the complaint, Cal/OSHA has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss implementing a more specific rule.

Cal/OSHA chief counsel Amy Martin said Tuesday that porn performances that don't use condoms are already violating regulations.

The state workplace safety agency believes porn performers fall under the same workplace safety regulations that require nurses to wear protective gear to spare them exposure to blood-borne and fluid-borne illnesses, but the law has never been made specific to porn.

Under those rules, nurses are also required to be tested every time they're exposed to potentially infectious fluids.

"(In porn,) people have exposure incidents every day, they are not sent to the doctor every day and they are not tested every day because the industry is organized differently, so we are attempting to deal with that issue," Martin said.

The new standards wouldn't require STD testing. Some porn performers say they prefer working with an actor who has recently tested negative for sexually transmitted disease to using condoms, which can be unreliable.

In one outburst, a male performer in the back of the room shouted there was no more important issue than testing. Many actors yelled their agreement.

Trying to quiet the heckling crowd, Gold yelled, "I care about this industry, I care about every one of you!"

The industry can continue its norm of testing every 30 days, and provide an environment that is safer than what is required under regulation, said Gold.

Porn star Nina Hartley says she's a feminist who's been working in adult entertainment for 27 years, and she worries what the effects of a condom mandate will be on women.

Some critics of a condom mandate have said it would force porn out of California, but Hartley said it's more likely it will force "a young, rebellious group of people who already works in the margins" to work more secretively.

"And the more underground you push something, the more dangerous it is," Hartley said. "That's bad for women, bad for health, bad for everyone."

Shaya Tayefe Mohajer can be reached at http://twitter.com/APShaya.

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