LA porn industry stung by first condom fines

The lucrative Los Angeles porn film industry is reeling from news that two production companies had been slapped with the first fines for allowing actors to perform without condoms.

California’s state health and safety board fined Evasive Angles and TTB Productions $30,560 (17,057 pounds) each for making porn movies which it said exposed three actors to HIV infections.

It was the first time that the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) had taken regulatory action against the multibillion dollar adult film industry in Los Angeles, which employs some 6,000 people in 200 production companies turning out dozens of films and videos a week.

“This is a huge departure. This is really like dropping a bomb,” said Sharon Mitchell, director of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) which runs a voluntary HIV-screening program for the industry.

“I think the industry will contest this. These companies will be a test case,” Mitchell said.

Evasive Angles and TTB Productions could not be reached for comment.

The fines followed an HIV outbreak last April involving five actors who tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS (news – web sites). The nervous industry shut down voluntarily for a month while about 50 actors who had worked with those infected awaited test HIV test results.

Porn film producers have resisted compulsory condom rules saying they take the sizzle out of sex scenes and consumers do not want to watch safe sex. But Cal/OSHA said porn actors had the same legal right to a safe workplace as employees in more conventional businesses. Officials said action against other adult film companies could follow.

Business in what is dubbed “Porn Valley”, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, has flourished over the past decade fuelled by the Internet and home computers.

Mitchell said that while supporting testing and voluntary programs to protect sex workers, she was concerned that heavy-handed regulation would push the industry underground.

Porn actor Tony Tedeschi, who has worked in the industry for 15 years, commended OSHA’s intervention although he said he did not insist on using condoms. “If I did, I wouldn’t be able to work,” Tedeschi told the Los Angeles Times.