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LA ballot choice starts conversation about safer sex

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 02:10


In November, citizens in Los Angeles will have an interesting choice to make: do they support requiring all performers in pornographic films to wear condoms? 
The stated goal of this initiative, known as “Measure B,” is to prevent the spread of STIs among performers in the Adult Film Industry (AFI) and protect performers in unsafe conditions.
While condoms are sometimes used in the AFI, they’re not mandated. 
Instead, performers must show proof of a negative HIV test within the last thirty days to be able to perform. But after two HIV outbreaks in the last decade that resulted in the closing of production and multiple 
performers being infected, the measure to require condoms has gained steam.
Since the aim of the measure is to protect performers, it sounds like something they would appreciate, right?
As it turns out, not necessarily. 
During the past week, several performers have been coming out against the measure, citing different reasons. 
One performer, Nina Hartley, talks about the occupational hazard that mandatory condoms would cause, such as chafing or tearing during filming. Another, James Deen, said the “the idea of restricting our ability to make choices of our own is insulting.” Though the majority of pornography in the U.S. is shot in L.A., performers say they would move away to continue to work in a place without such regulations.
As much as it might look like sex, sex in pornography isn’t the same thing as what one might do with his or her partner. It tends to take a long time, with a lot of starting and stopping and changing positions. 
Furthermore, much of the support for requiring condoms is based on the fallacy that somehow watching unprotected sex would lead young people to engage in unprotected sex. Pornography isn’t meant as an education or a marketing campaign — it’s fiction and fantasy. 
And sometimes that fantasy might include something that you can’t do at home, or unrealistic depictions of sexual pleasure. 
It seems that there’s some missing link here — like maybe it’s time that parents, teachers and partners started having conversations about real sex, consent and keeping safe. Why are we requiring the medium of the fantasy to provide that education?
Whether this measure passes or not, it has started a conversation about safer sex practices, both in pornography and outside. In fact, some performers have been making Public Safety Announcements to promote the use of condoms. 
Shireen Noble is a graduate student in public health.

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