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Porn Industry Defeats Condom Requirements in California

After nearly five hours of often emotional testimony from porn stars and others in the adult film industry, state regulators voted Thursday against a controversial set of workplace safety regulations that would have required performers to use condoms.

By Victoria Colliver

After nearly five hours of often emotional testimony from porn stars and others in the adult film industry, state regulators voted Thursday against a controversial set of workplace safety regulations that would have required performers to use condoms.

The regulations, drafted by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, would have put adult performers in the same category as doctors, nurses and others who work in medical settings and are required to use "barriers" for protection.

Thursday's vote in Oakland was met with cheers and jubilation from a roomful of mostly porn film actors and behind-the-scenes workers who opposed the measures.

"They listened to us for the first time," said Jessica Drake, a performer with Wicked Pictures, an adult film company. "I'm shocked. I'm amazed. I'm appreciative."

The proposed regulations needed four of five votes to pass, but failed by a single vote, 3-2, when two members said they needed more input from the porn film industry. It ended six years of work that had been put into coming up with rules for protecting the safety of sex film workers. But the board voted to ask for a new proposal, and porn industry officials and performers plan to be involved in the new process.

More than 80 speakers addressed the board, and the vast majority of them -- porn performers using real or stage names, filmmakers, health advocates and academic specialists -- argued that the new regulations would actually increase the risk to the performers by resulting in less testing than current industry protocols dictate. They said the rules would violate personal privacy and push the industry underground or out of state.

"The very nature of our work defies these regulations, making it very challenging or impossible for us to do our jobs," said Chanel Preston, an adult film star from Los Angeles who serves as the president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, which promotes safety in the porn industry.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored an ordinance in 2012 that requires condoms to be used in films made in Los Angeles County, pushed Cal/OSHA to approve the new rules, which include amending existing blood-borne pathogen standards to make them specifically apply to the adult film industry. Agency officials said condoms are supposed to be used on all sets in California, but the rules aren't enforced.

Opponents of the proposed rules feared they would also require the use of goggles or dental dams, which protect performers during oral sex, but foundation officials said that was a "smoke screen" to obscure the real issue of condom use in the adult film industry.

"Our goal is for condom use for vaginal and oral sex. We have never been looking for goggles or dental dams for oral sex," said Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The group put forward a handful of former porn actors who spoke in support of the new regulations. "You're ensuring (actors') safety," said Sofia Delgado, who stopped working in the industry in 2013 after being diagnosed with HIV. "For that I stand here today thanking you from the bottom of my heart."

But the vast majority were concerned that the proposed rules, which would have required testing every three months, would jeopardize the current industry practice of testing every 14 days. They also expressed fears about having their medical information exposed because the regulations require employers to keep them for 30 years.

Cal/OSHA board member Dave Harrison, who cast one of the two votes against the proposal, wanted the workers to know that their health and safety is the board's highest concern.

Mike Stabile, spokesman for Kink.com, a San Francisco porn studio, said he was pleased with Cal/OSHA's work on the issue.

"All we have asked for the past several years is for Cal/OSHA to work with the performers to develop sensitive regulations that ensure health and safety on the set," he said. "Today they expressed their willingness to do so."

(c)2016 the San Francisco Chronicle

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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