Porn Industry Reacts to Measure B Passage
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles porn industry took a major beating on Tuesday when more than one million residents voted Yes on Measure B, the L.A. County initiative mandating the use of condoms in adult video productions.
Producers and performers spoke to XBIZ about their disappointment in the election, what they think went wrong and what they’ve learned from the experience as they prepare to forge ahead in uncertainty, but determined to prevail.
“It is clearly very disappointing that Measure B passed,” Hustler President Michael Klein told XBIZ. “While obviously the industry is going to explore all avenues to try to overturn this measure, all that this vote did was move productions out of the state, taking away jobs and revenue to the state.
“And it won’t change at all what is seen in adult films since it is clear that movies with actors using condoms just don’t sell as well as those without.”
Hustler founder Larry Flynt addressed the outcome with Churchill-esque flair and gumption.
"I knew it would pass," Flynt said. "Americans have a knee-jerk attitude about sex, however, this does not change the adult entertainment industry in the least. We will continue to shoot in Mexico, the desert, Hawaii, etc. with no additional expenses, because instead of shooting one or two girls a week, we’ll shoot a dozen.
"The people need to look behind the effort driving this movement. You’ve got a right-wing nut [AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein] trying to be a sexual arbitrator, and he should be dismissed for what he is — nothing.”
Porn star James Deen worked closely with the Free Speech Coalition and the No on Government Waste campaign to educate Los Angelinos about the industry and its testing practices through news and social media.
"I don't know what happens next," Deen said. "I assume a good amount of people will take their business out of the county of Los Angeles. Others might stay and alter their shooting style. I don't see too many people staying as the bill for the expenses is now trying to be pushed onto us."
Named the “County of Los Angeles Safer Sex In The Adult Film Industry Act,” the AHF-funded measure also requires producers shooting in L.A. to apply and pay for public health permits from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Those permit fees will then be used to pay for movie set inspections and the implementation of the act's laws.
“It’s important to note that only producers in Los Angeles will be required to comply with these impractical standards, while producers in other states and countries will continue to do business as usual,” said Joanne Cachapero, membership director for the FSC.
“Use of condoms, dental dams, gloves, face shields and other hazardous materials protocols make it impossible for adult film productions to continue in Los Angeles. FSC and industry stakeholders must now consider options for litigation, as well as relocation of the production industry to areas that will welcome the jobs and revenue.”
The FSC announced in a press statement Wednesday morning that it will challenge Measure B’s passage in the courts. In a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the FSC requested a seat at the group’s table and asked that Measure B laws not be enforced until the courts have rendered a decision.
Peter Acworth, founder of San Francisco-based BDSM website Kink.com, in October opened a production studio in the San Fernando Valley. He worries that Measure B laws will not only drive adult companies away from Los Angeles, but — ironically — jeopardize performers’ health should they set up shop where testing protocols are nonexistent.
“If enforced, I fear this measure will serve no purpose but to force the L.A. based production companies to relocate,” Acworth said. “In the worst case scenario, some production companies might go underground or overseas where the industry’s self regulation of mandatory regular STD testing is not in place. Thereby, in a twist I am sure voters did not foresee, I fear safety could actually be compromised in some cases.”
FSC board member — and Evil Angel General Manager — Christian Mann said the decision will be a difficult one to make. “We need to find out what the County intends to do, what recourse we have, what the stakeholders in our industry are willing to do and then weigh our options accordingly,” he said.
Mann believes Measure B won 56% of the vote because voters were either mislead, disinterested and/or unaware of the adult industry’s stance on the matter.
“[Measure B] resonated with Angelinos because the language in the ballot was incomplete in that it wasn’t clear that there is so much more to the actual law,” Mann said. “The printed arguments in favor or against and the corresponding rebuttals were probably not read by the voters.
“For those that did read them, the text in favor of Measure B was prejudicial and misleading. About a third of the people who voted in L.A. County didn't vote at all on this or other ‘down ballot’ measures, meaning they voted for national or major statewide stuff and lost interest before they got to the page six stuff.”
Vivid Entertainment CEO Steven Hirsch echoes Mann’s comments.
“By voting Yes on B, L.A. County voters may have thought they were helping adult performers when the fact is they were not,” Hirsch said. “Overwhelmingly, adult performers and producers believe this will be a bad law. In addition, the money used for implementation could be better spent elsewhere. With high unemployment and huge budget deficits, L.A. County could surely find a better use for taxpayer dollars.”
Added Cachapero, “The issues that Measure B pretends to address are complicated and not easy for the average voter to understand from a few sentences in the voter's pamphlet. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation portrays the condom ordinance as a simple ‘prevention’ strategy to ‘protect public health,’ but industry stakeholders, medical advocates and other experts know that what’s at stake here is much more complicated than just condom use.”
According to Mann, FSC research showed that voters who favored Measure B changed their minds when informed about the adult industry’s stand on the issue.
“We lost because we failed to get the information out there,” Mann admitted. “We did too little, too late against a huge, well organized and funded machine. Even our earned endorsement by the L.A. Times was dwarfed by paid for ‘Yes on B’ stickers placed on the front page of the L.A. Times for weeks at a time. Those of us in the industry who worked with the political strategists and consultants learned a lot.”
Wicked Pictures contract performer Jessica Drake is disappointed by Measure B’s passage, but views the election as a learning experience and wake-up call for performers who may have lost sight of how society perceives them when not sitting at their laptops with their pants around their ankles.
“I think that actively taking part in the election taught performers about the political process and encouraged all of us to take a more active role,” Drake said. “It should also teach us that even though porn is seen as ‘accepted’ by the mainstream media, the fact is we have a long way to go before we genuinely change the public perception that has long held stereotypical views on what it means to work in the adult business.”
Veteran performer and Sinister X Syndicate Co-CEO Tom Byron said he was not surprised that Measure B passed and blames the industry’s syphilis outbreak for influencing voters in their decision.
“Any hope we had of defeating this was lost after the syphilis scandal,” Byron said. “The question is now: how do we move forward? I don't have the answers, but I don’t think moving out of L.A. is realistic. We’re going to have to reach some sort of compromise.”
Mann disagrees with Byron on the syphilis issue, but acknowledges that a recent study conducted by health experts affiliated with UCLA, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health did not help matters when their findings declared porn stars to have more STDs than Nevada prostitutes.
“Mr. Marcus [who tested positive for syphilis in July] declined the opportunity to be a paid puppet of AHF so that became more ‘inside’ news,” Mann said. “The last minute article about the STD rates for chlamydia and gonorrhea may have added fuel, but I think not much.”
Drake, recipient of the 2012 FSC Award for Postive Image, sums up the battle ahead succinctly.
“Safe sex is important. We can't deny that,” Drake said. “But this measure is much more than that, and the way that it was passed concerns me greatly. I'm not sure what will happen next, but as performers we have to stand together and represent the business in order to educate the public.”
Deen couldn't agree more.
"This sets a precedent for other entities to exploit the adult film industry to further their personal agendas," Deen said. "We need to organize and lobby and show government that as a community we can be an asset. Much like homosexual, minority, female and other communities have done in the past."