Jobs panel seeks new porn regs

APRIL 26, 2010

By DAVE ROBERTS

The California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) has probably been one of the less interesting boards to sit on. It usually concerns itself with such matters as the high-visibility apparel and number of flaggers needed on road construction projects and welding fire suppression and prevention procedures. But as of last month the six men who sit on that board have been able to bring home DVDs with such titles as “Bra Busters 2” and “Entering the Student Body” and assure their wives that they’re just spending time on OSHSB homework.

At its March 18 meeting, just after considering a proposed safety order on hot pipes and hot surfaces, the board members listened to a debate that included hot stars from the aforementioned hot movies concerning whether men who earn money by being filmed having sex should be required to wear condoms while doing so. In effect, the board has found itself in the middle of a war between the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and current porn stars and industry representatives, who refuse to take the assault lying down.

For such a sexy issue, the agenda item is decidedly unkinky: “Petitioner requests that the Board amend Title 8, CCR, Division 1, Chapter 4, Subchapter 7, Section 5193 of the General Industry Safety Orders regarding bloodborne pathogens to include a section that would specifically address health hazards in the adult film industry.”

AHF President Michael Weinstein’s petition, which was filed in December, states, “The adult film industry has steadfastly refused to take any steps to protect its workers from diseases spread by bloodborne pathogens, resulting in thousands of employees becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases. During the production of adult films, workers, including but not limited to performers, are exposed to a number of bodily fluids and discharges that may contain sexually transmitted diseases, including semen, blood, urine and feces.”

Exposure to those fluids and discharges places the industry under the state regulations governing bloodborne pathogens. But, unlike the healthcare workers for whom the regulations were written, porn performers aren’t required to wear “protective prophylaxis,” and less than 20 percent of heterosexual porn films use condoms, the petition states. As a result, adult-film workers are 10 times as likely to have sexually transmitted diseases than the general population, according to the petition, citing the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

The petition asks the board to require that ejaculation only occur outside the body, that condoms be used during vaginal and anal intercourse, that lubricants be provided for the condoms, that employers pay for hepatitis B vaccinations and that testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, be provided for anyone exposed to potentially infectious material.

The attractive face of the anti-porn battle is Shelley Lubben, who was known as Roxy when she performed in “Bra Busters 2,” “The Cumm Brothers 3: Go to Traffic School” and, perhaps prophetically, “Used and Abused 2.” Eight years after ending her two-year porn career in 1994 she launched the Pink Cross Foundation, which has been crusading against the adult industry and helping porn actresses get out of or recover from having been in the business.

“I experienced drug addiction, prostitution, abuse by pornographers, by club owners. I had very severe damages that literally took me eight years to recover,” she said in testimony to the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee on Assemblyman Charles Calderon’s bill that unsuccessfully sought to impose a 25 percent tax on porn revenues.

“I counsel these women and they pour their hearts out. There’s a wide range of mental illnesses, depression, nightmares, flashbacks. They suffer from transmitted diseases – 66 percent are herpes carries, 90 percent have STDs. There’s not mandatory testing for all STDs – only for certain ones like chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. But they do not test for herpes, HPV.

“There’s also major drug and alcohol abuse. I was addicted to alcohol. We used meth and cocaine on the set. Heroin was a big thing, also prescription drugs. Men use Viagra and injections because they make less than women and need to do more scenes. It is illegal to have bodily fluids touch skin, yet it happens every day. There’ s a huge health issue. Nobody is doing anything about it.”

Lubben, Weinstein and others provided similar testimony at the OSHSB hearing. The board’s staff report recommended that “serious consideration should be given to the possible amendment of Section 5193 in order to give greater protection to employees in the adult film industry.” The board members unanimously agreed to refer the issue to an advisory committee for further study and recommendations.

Surprisingly, rather than complain about the intrusion into how they conduct their business, the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), which represents the adult industry, hopes to sit on the advisory committee. “We welcome industry-appropriate regulations, and look forward to working with Cal OSHA to work those out,” said FSC Executive Director Diane Duke in an interview.

She declined to say what regulations the industry would support, however. “The industry already has protocols in place that are not in ‘OSHA speak,’” she said. “We have worked to get those into written form. They include testing; condoms would be certainly an optional part of that too. It talks about the educational component. It’s still in a very draft form. We will be working that out with much more clarity.”

One thing is clear, though: the porn industry is not ready to wrap its arms around mandatory condoms. “Condoms, as a component of a comprehensive bloodborne pathogen plan, we don’t oppose,” said Duke. “But we are opposed to mandating condoms. A lot of times performers don’t want to wear condoms, just like in real life.”

Asked whether the multibillion-dollar adult-film industry might leave California if condoms are made mandatory, she said, “I have heard a number of producers say that they would. California is not the only place folks can shoot adult entertainment. It would be a severe blow. The industry is struggling with the recession and copyright infringement, and this would be another blow to the industry if they were given additional regulations on top of that.”

Duke dismisses much of Lubben’s testimony, saying that she “spent very little time in the industry and developed her whole livelihood in opposing the industry.” And she disputes the disease statistics promoted by AHF, saying that the health department retracted its misinformation that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. “Their statistics are very questionable,” she said. “They are using bad numbers.”

She said that the STD testing conducted by the adult-film industry “works amazingly well. It’s efficient, it’s effective and supported by both producers and performers. Find another industry that has a system that works that well. Our industry is constantly growing and changing. As new tests come out we bring new tests in. The system that’s in place works extremely well and has had extreme success – in many many cases better outcomes than what you find in the general population. Our performers know their status and partners’ status. They are very empowered as far as their bodies are concerned. We understand that our performers are the foundations of this industry, so we care very much about our performers and treat them very well and make sure they are taken care of.”

In any case, none of the companies are having to pick up industrial-sized boxes of Trojans at Costco just yet. Duke predicts it could take a couple of years before adult-film regulations are adopted by OSHSB.

3 comments

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  1. Peyton Farquhar
    Peyton Farquhar 26 April, 2010, 12:07

    Why the hell not – the porn industry is just like any other biz in the Golden State. And while we’re at it, what’s the difference between porn and prostitution? It’s only called porn if you fsck on someone **else’s** time. It’s called prostitution if you fsck on your **own** time. No difference in my mind, however.

    Reply this comment
  2. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 26 April, 2010, 19:54

    I’m with you there Peyton. What is prostitution if not being paid for sex? And what else are ‘porn stars’ paid for? Certainly not their acting ability.

    Reply this comment

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