• A scene from 'The Naked Gun'. (The Naked Gun)Source: The Naked Gun
When California goes to the polls for the 2016 US presidential election, voters will also be asked whether they think condoms should be mandatory in porn.
By
Reuters, SBS Movies, Jessica Minshall

15 Sep 2015 - 11:13 AM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2015 - 11:21 AM

A campaign to require condom use in pornographic film productions in California has submitted enough signatures to election officials before Monday's deadline to put a ballot measure before state voters in 2016.

"Unlike most politicians, voters are not squeamish about this issue, seeing it as a means to protect the health and safety of performers," Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and a backer of the measure, said in a statement.

"It's only fair that adult film performers be afforded the same safeguards as other Californians in their workplaces."

Organisers said they collected 557,138 signatures from registered voters, more than the 365,880 they needed by Monday for the initiative to be on the ballot in November 2016. The signatures must still be verified within 30 working days by election officials.

"People know that the people are having real-life sex and they’re doing it without a condom and that they’re transmitting real life diseases on that movie set.”

In 2012, the foundation successfully backed a voter-approved measure in Los Angeles County to force the use of condoms in local pornographic film shoots. 1.6 million people voted for the law, around 57 per cent of the vote.

Porn producers fought that measure in US District Court, arguing it went against their clients' right to freedom of expression. But in December a regional US federal appeals court upheld the requirement.

The new proposal, if approved by voters next year, would mandate that state and municipal officials ensure condoms are used on pornographic film sets statewide.

Much of the US adult movie industry, which is worth an estimated US$9 billion to $13 billion a year, is based in Los Angeles, especially its San Fernando Valley suburb.

Several high-profile adult film performers in the area have suffered HIV infections, shaking the sector and local health officials. AHF has said porn actors are 10 times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease than the public.

In the past, producers have argued that some viewers do not want to see visible contraceptives in porn films, saying they distract from their customers' fantasies by reminding them of real-world worries such as pregnancy and disease. 

The push to make condom use mandatory in all US porn

Weinstein spoke to SBS Movies in July, just after the minimum number of signatures for the ballot had been reached. He explained the move to make condom use in porn mandatory state-wide is about addressing concerns that the porn industry will move elsewhere.

He believes extending the law to the whole of California will in effect mean all US porn will require performers to wear condoms.

"There are only two states in the United States where it’s legal to produce porn, where it’s not considered prostitution, and that’s California and New Hampshire. And it’s a lot more difficult to take your clothes off in the winter in New Hampshire than it is in California.

"The vast majority of pornography in the United States is made here,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein is also battling what he considers to be the lack of effective enforcement of the LA city law.

“In Los Angeles it is a requirement that a permit be issued, a health permit, to pornographers. Some of them have adhered to that but a lot have not. And the county has not been going out and fining them for filming without a permit and not having this health permit in place. And the county has been a reluctant partner in this throughout the whole process."

For Weinstein it is a workplace safety issue for adult film performers first, but he believes there are social implications.

"A lot of young people get their education about sex from pornography and what they’re learning is that the only kind of sex that’s hot is unprotected, unsafe sex.”

However, despite calls to see more condom use in films and TV shows, Weinstein sees this as a separate issue.

“It’s different. A dramatic film, whether people use condoms or not is different to a porn film because the people know that the people are having real-life sex and they’re doing it without a condom and that they’re transmitting real life diseases on that movie set.”

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