The Adult Film Industry: Time to Regulate?

Corita R. Grudzen; Peter R. Kerndt

Disclosures

PLoS Med. 2007;4(6):e126 

In This Article

Attempts at External Regulation

Mandatory reporting in California is required for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, chancroid, non-chlamydial non-gonorrheal urethritis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has monitored the industry to assure that performers receive adequate treatment and follow-up for STDs and has endorsed external regulation of the industry that would require condom use, STD screening, and education to prevent STD transmission.

Recognizing that local regulations would have limited impact and seeking to establish existing standards for work health and safety in the industry, officials from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health requested an investigation of the April 2004 HIV outbreak. In September of 2004, Cal/OSHA fined the two production companies in the outbreak $30,560 each for failure to comply with blood-borne pathogen standards.[22] Having established that regulation does apply to the industry, enforcement of the workplace standards is now the issue. OSHA is limited by the number of enforcement officials and therefore will only act in response to a complaint. Workers may be unaware of their rights or reluctant to file a complaint for fear of loss of employment or employer retaliation.

Response from California legislators has been limited. In June of 2004, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, organized an informational hearing in the San Fernando Valley to consider the feasibility and potential impact of mandating HIV/STD screening and condom use. The hearing, entitled, "Worker Health and Safety in the Adult Film Industry," drew together officials from Cal/OSHA, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the California Department of Health Services, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the industry trade organization, Free Speech Coalition.[23] In response to the hearing, Assemblyman Koretz sent a letter to 185 adult film production companies urging them to adopt condoms or face legislative action.[24]

Two years later, this letter has had little to no effect and the adult film industry continues to produce the great majority of films without condoms. In October of this year, a multi-stakeholder meeting was convened at the University of California to readdress the issue of worker safety. A group of 65 participants including performers, industry executives, state and local health officials, and legal representatives spent the day debating the controversies and difficulties of mandated STD screening and condom regulation. Concerns were raised about the industry going underground or moving out of state should there be a state but no national requirement. Many present felt it would be difficult to regulate small production companies that distribute their films primarily via the Internet. There was an emphasis on the need for a multi-faceted solution that involves the extension of existing worker protection to this industry with better enforcement, the organization and potential unionization of performers, increased public awareness, and thoughtful legislation (Box 1).

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