LA ballot choice starts conversation about safer sex

By Shireen Noble, COLUMNIST
On October 11, 2012

In November, citizens in Los Angeles will have an interesting choice to make: do they support requiring all performers inpornographic films to wear condoms?The stated goal of this initiative, known as Measure B, is toprevent the spread of STIs among performers in the Adult Film Industry (AFI) andprotect performers in unsafeconditions.While condoms aresometimes used in the AFI,theyre not mandated.Instead, performers must show proof of a negative HIV test within the last thirty days to be able toperform. But after two HIVoutbreaks in the last decade that resulted in the closing of production and multipleperformers 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, notnecessarily.During the past week, several performers have been coming out against the measure, citingdifferent 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 suchregulations.As much as it might look like sex, sex in pornography isnt 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 andchanging 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 isnt meant as an education or a marketing campaign its fiction and fantasy.And sometimes thatfantasy might include something that you cant do at home, or unrealistic depictions of sexualpleasure.It seems that theres some missing link here like maybe its 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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