Two Porn Stars Offer Different Opinions on California’s Measure B

On Tuesday, California overwhelmingly passed the controversial Measure B ordinance, which will require all adult industry performers to wear condoms during scenes shot in Los Angeles County. Most of the porn industry, including the adult industry’s biggest male star, James Deen, are against the measure. We talked to Deen about what the future holds for the adult industry, “condom officers,” and leaving Los Angeles.

What is the feeling right now in the industry?

Well, there’s a lot of confusion, first and foremost. But I mean basically people don’t know what to do. They’re not sure where the industry’s going to go. And in the industry we’ve kind of created a community in Los Angeles. And if the community is to migrate, then we can migrate. We’re all looking to our attorneys and to our government and our representatives if there is anything we can do to find out exactly what the laws are. They’re written in a vague way. Are examinations going to be mandatory now, or are we going to be wearing gloves on set? I mean, what about goggles? What about kissing and fluid exchange? Is kissing no longer allowed in pornos? Like, what degree of severity is this measure actually going to require? After that, is it worth it?

How much is it going to cost the industry, and is it worth it to register our businesses out of town and then go shoot outside of Los Angeles County? Is it worth it to migrate to Las Vegas, which is said to be welcoming with open arms? Florida, and I believe Arizona as well, said something about wanting the billion-dollar industry. That’s going to be a huge hit to Los Angeles.

The measure is written in a vague way. It’s built under the guise of protection ... which is of course why it won, and it’s a very hard thing to fight. Because you know, if you’re an average person, you say “condoms,” “safe sex”—you want to protect people that are in the sex industry. They don’t understand how the sex industry works. They don’t know the vigorous testing procedures and protocols we have and how safe we are. And so, for all they know, we’re just a bunch of people engaging in crazy sex, which is not accurate. And so if you just say “Slap a condom on,” it sounds good to most people.

Is that why you think it passed?

I absolutely think it passed for that reason. I mean, there’s no logical reason, because this measure does not affect anybody except the adult-film industry and the taxpayers, in the sense that tax revenue, this money, you need to pay. So now we have to have multiple, for all intents and purposes, “condom officers,” whose job is to sit on an adult-film set and watch porn.

Is that really what’s going to happen?

That’s one of the things that was mentioned. I’m not a lawyer, so I am not the correct person to ask exactly what the law says. But the only way that it can be enforced is if somebody actually does watch porn. Somebody needs to sit there and either review all the content that’s being shot, or they need to sit on set and verify that people are actually adhering to this measure. And so that is, as far as I understand, a $52,000-a-year government job. And so that money has to come from somewhere. Los Angeles taxpayers are going to be paying multiple people $52,000 a year to have this job.

One thing people were saying before this passed was that it could force porn production underground and have rogue companies filming people who are not being tested.

I mean, anything is possible. At the moment, these are the safety issues. You have a condom as being 87 percent safe. You have to remember, safe sex is an illusion. Abstinence is the only safe sex. There’s only safer sex. If you meet a stranger in a bar and you have sex with them, a condom is your best protective measure. You’re dealing with a small community of people that is engaging in sexual activity with one another, and we’re all regularly tested, in addition to the fact that we have a database that has everybody’s tests on file to verify this for whoever it is that’s showing up with the test results is actually tested and those test results are accurate. So it eliminates the faking of tests or any sort of things like that.

We’re dealing with an 87 percent safety rate with a condom. You also have to remember, adult films are not real sex. It’s entertainment. So just because we’re engaging in physical sex doesn’t mean it is normal sex. We’re going to be—to be crude, you have women being pounded by large or above-average-size penises for a nonstandard amount of time. For hours. From anywhere from 30 minutes to up to three hours or more. So now you add latex into that, the ultimate probability of friction burn, vaginal and anal tears, and things like that. And when you’re dealing with something with an 87 percent safety rate, you’re going to now have a higher probability of transmitting any sort of STD or STI because you now have more issues in addition to that.

If you all start using condoms, is there any reason for the testing and the database to stop?

I see no reason for it. I, personally, if I’m going to go do a condom-only scene, and my fellow performer is not tested. I’m not going to do the scene. I trust a test from somebody that is being regularly tested on a regular basis that is in my industry. I trust that test more than I trust a condom.

But even with a condom you would still hope that this is being upheld?

I would, still, personally, as a performer, I would personally require a test in addition to a condom.

In the event that you’ve got rogue companies doing condomless sex scenes out of Los Angeles, do you see any reason why they wouldn’t self-police again?

Realistically, what’s going to happen, I don’t think there’s going to be so much underground porn shot as much as you’re going to have the adult-film industry leave Los Angeles. So, realistically, I don’t foresee any of the underground, rogue, condomless, untested porn being shot.

What about the idea that the lack of condoms in porn sends a message that unsafe sex is OK?

I think it’s the same argument that watching a movie with somebody in a car-chase scene promotes somebody driving aggressively. Adult films are entertainment films ... I would agree that it’s a good idea on adult films to put a disclaimer saying “This is not real sex. This is an entertainment movie. Use a condom to protect yourself. Engage in safe sex.”

Why do you feel that people reject condom porn?

I don’t know. I have no idea.

Do you watch it?

As a viewer of pornography I’ve never cared one way or the other if somebody uses condoms in a movie or not. But I’m part of that 60 or 70 percent of people that doesn’t care. The industry’s sales went down by over 30 percent. So 30 percent of the viewers do care.

You’ve mentioned in a Reddit AMA that you use condoms in your personal life. What’s the difference?

That’s correct. The industry is very strict and has rigorous protocols for testing. Somebody needs to be tested every 14, 28 days ... And in addition to that there’s also a physical inspection done by a third party, which would be the producer or the safety officer or whoever is qualified to do the physical inspection, checking for sores, open wounds, things of that nature. Because of these safety precautions, we have had zero HIV transmissions in almost 10 years. This is a scientific phenomenon, according to medical professionals. There is no other community in the entire world that has anywhere near that ratio. The closest is Cuba, which is hundreds or thousands. We have zero. Zero HIV transmissions. Our system works. We are very safe, we are very careful, and to say our system is not working is very insulting.

The reason why I use condoms when I am engaging in sex with people that are not in the industry is because I don’t know what they are doing. If I want to have sex with somebody and I am willing to take that risk, and I will trust a condom—which is only 87 percent safe—I will trust that condom to not break, to not get them pregnant or allow me to contract anything.

Sex is scary and sex is dirty, and there’s no such thing as safe sex. Just safer sex, and within porn, within the adult-film industry, we have managed to find a way to make it the safest sex possible. You cannot get safer than the adult-film industry, and because of that, like I said, what I imagine will happen with Measure B is either it’s going to be appealed to a federal level and they’re going to deem it an unconstitutional law, which it is, and a violation of the First Amendment. And they are going to overturn it and things will go back to normal. Or we’re just going to pick up and move.

(Published on Oct. 18) The porn industry has campaigned against Measure B, the L.A. County ballot initiative that would require performers to use condoms. But porn star Aurora Snow says it’s necessary.

I would prefer to have both condoms and testing in porn. It doesn’t have to be one or the other; it makes sense to have both. This is not what a girl in the industry is supposed to say, but it is what a lot of us think when quietly eyeing Los Angeles County’s ballot initiative—known as Measure B—mandating condoms in adult films.

Safety isn’t sexy. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle makes me feel like a dork, but I do it because I know what’s at risk if I don’t. No one feels or looks sexy wearing a safety hat or knee pads. That’s what the condom is for the porn industry, it’s our safety hat.

No one wants to wear the safety hat, it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t look pretty and it may make the day longer. Condoms are known to rip. Who knows how many condoms one scene will take. If it’s a three guys-on-one-girl scene and the condoms keep ripping it could go from a two-hour scene to a four-hour scene. Only one porn company that I know of is and always has been all condoms: Wicked. They have been doing what other companies fear: selling safe sex.

I have done the majority of my six-hundred scenes without condoms, but I predominately use condoms in my personal life. In real life, I ask that my partners both wear condoms and get tested. Yet when I go to work I follow the standard procedure of working without a condom and taking my fellow actor’s most recent test at face value.

Every month when I get tested, I wonder if I’ll have to come home to my guy and say, “Please don’t be mad at me, but we have to go see a doctor because you might have been exposed.” Because even though I primarily use condoms in my personal life, like most people I know, I don’t use them with oral sex. While it’s not as easy to catch something through oral, the possibility remains, and due to the nature of my work the risk is high. Luckily, most STDs that float around the world of porn—most often referred to as the “industry flu”—can be cured with a single shot of antibiotics. Because these STDs are so easy to get rid of, most performers have a certain level of comfort with them. It’s almost common. There are other not-so-easily cured STDs that aren’t tested for in the adult business. We test monthly for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and the big one, HIV. There are zero requirements to be tested for anything else, but there are other risk factors, such as herpes, HPV, and syphilis. Thanks in part to the recent syphilis outbreak, there may now be a standard monthly syphilis test.

When I heard about the syphilis outbreak, my first feeling was one of relief. For the first time ever, I was so removed from the Los Angeles porn scene that I didn’t have to check my calendar and start calling every partner I’d had in the last two weeks to see whether I was at risk. There have been several HIV scares when I had to make those phone calls and figure out for myself how close I was to patient zero. There are no groups within porn protecting performers; it’s always been up to performers to keep track of their scene partners, to check tests for themselves, and to make those phone calls no one wants to make.

It isn’t safe to rely on someone else to keep me safe on set. I showed up one day with a fresh test, still a newbie to porn and very trusting. What happened? The other girl in our scene couldn’t seem to “find” her test. She was a big star at that time, and she was an exclusive performer for this company. The director did his best to persuade me and the male performer to work with this prized performer despite her lack of a test. When we both refused, he yelled at us, but didn’t fire us. That could have happened. Instead, we shot the scene without the untested girl. That was the first time I understood porn directors aren’t looking out for me, so I have to.

While that situation doesn’t happen often, it does happen. Here is another example. I arrived on time for work. I sat through an hour and a half of hair and makeup, went through wardrobe options with the director, and then shot glamour photos for the box cover. Before any bodily fluids are exchanged, performers share their test results. I showed the male performer my test results and waited patiently for his. Somehow he never produced them and got ready for the scene anyway. I persisted in asking for his test. His answer, “Baby girl, you know me. We work together all the time, you know I get tested baby.” That answer didn’t go over well with me. I sought out the director and asked for the test results. No one could produce a test and the scene was canceled. I didn’t get a kill fee, neither did the male performer, the director lost out shooting a scene that day, not to mention the location fees he paid. Will they hire me again? I don’t know. That’s a risk I take when I speak up for my own safety concerns. Unfortunately, the idea of losing money is sometimes enough to make a performer overlook little things like double-checking a scene partner’s test. And, of course, the money at stake sometimes has made other performers fake, doctor, or bluff their tests.

Knowing that a person I am working with is tested doesn’t always mean they are STD free. Not everyone that works in porn has sex within the industry, nor do they always use condoms in their private lives, which increases the STD transmission risk from performer to performer between tests. Some of the industry men I know often date three or four girls at a time: there is the main squeeze, the distant girlfriend, the mistress, and the random one-night stand. I have been one of those girls, and not known I was one of a crowd. With the high sexual activity of performers both in and outside of the business, when an STD scare happens it can be lengthy due to reinfection rates from partners that have been treated still having sex with those that haven’t. Even though telling someone you gave them an STD is the right thing to do so they can be treated for it, it is a talk most people would rather avoid. This is a part of being in the adult business; it’s the less glamorous side.

Bringing something like condoms into porn may contribute to ruining the fantasy, because in fantasy land no one has to think about safety. But if I were your girlfriend, your sister, your mother, or your daughter, what would you want the law to be?

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