SEX

‘Goggles In Porn’ Proposal Fails

A California regulatory board decided today not to require stricter rules for the adult industry

SEX
(Illustration: Tara Jacoby)
Feb 18, 2016 at 12:02 PM ET

Update: On Thursday afternoon, Cal/OSHA did not pass proposed regulations for the adult industry.

You can say goodbye to porn as you know it—that is, if new mandates for the adult industry are passed today. A regulatory board votes Thursday on a new set of rules that opponents say require safety goggles, condoms and dental dams in pornographic movies produced in the state.

The decision, which will be voted upon after a public hearing today in Oakland, CA, brings to an end a years-long debate over instituting stricter workplace regulations around the potential transmission of sexually transmitted infections in the adult industry. Supporters say the prospective new rules, which would follow the passage of a Los Angeles County law in 2012 requiring condoms during vaginal and anal sex in local porn shoots, will better protect performers.

But many inside the adult industry argue that the rules, which would be enforced by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), mandate excessive safety measures that will curtail free speech and push productions out of state or underground. In addition, they argue that it violates performers’ privacy by requiring producers to maintain performers’ medical records for three decades. The meeting today is expected to be filled with scores of porn performers, many of whom are flying in from Los Angeles for the hearing.

The new rules would appear to require barrier methods, like a dental dam, for cunnilingus or analingus, and mandate the use of condoms not only during vaginal and anal sex, but also during fellatio. They would also require porn companies to prevent any ejaculate, or other bodily fluids, from coming into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. It seems that safety equipment, including but not limited to “eye protection,” as the text puts it, would be required for the ever-popular porn trope of “facials,” where a man ejaculates onto a co-star’s face. The same might be true for actors performing cunnilingus on a female partner who ejaculates.

The most relevant portion of the text states, “If work activities may expose the employee’s eyes, non-intact skin, or mucous membranes”—which include the mouth and nose, as well as genitals—”to blood or OPIM—STI, the employer shall provide condoms or other suitable barrier protection.” That odd acronym stands for “Other Potentially Infectious Materials – Sexually Transmitted Infections” and is defined as “bodily fluids and other substances that may contain and transmit sexually transmitted pathogens.” The text explicitly lists “pre-ejaculate, ejaculate, semen, vaginal secretions, fecal matter and rectal secretions.”

AIDS Healthcare, the primary supporter of the proposed rules, has said opponents’ claims that the amendments will require goggles is “as ridiculous and implausible as industry film plots in which the pizza delivery man or tow truck operator have sex with beautiful women customers.” But the text of the rules states that “the employer shall provide … appropriate personal protective equipment such as, but not limited to, condoms, gloves for cleaning, and, if contact of the eyes with [bodily fluids] is reasonably anticipated, eye protection.” There’s even the mention of the potential “use of simulated ejaculate” as an “engineering control.”

Even if the rules do pass, though, the question remains how fully they will be enforced. In 2014, a court ruling found that performers in California are subject to existing Cal/OSHA rules mandating protection for all state employees from bloodborne pathogens—a stance with which the industry has disagreed, arguing that performers are instead independent contractors—and yet such rules are rarely enforced. In fact, Cal/OSHA officials have argued in the past that those existing state rules already required the industry to use condoms during oral—as well as vaginal and anal—sex, and provide eye protection from bodily fluids.

Would these new rules be any different? Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s trade association, explains that “Cal/OSHA investigations are largely complaint-driven,” which is part of why it’s so little enforced, but points to a series of complaints against porn shoots in recent years filed by AIDS Healthcare. In an interview ahead of the meeting, he said, “I expect that if these regulations pass, we’ll see much more of that,” said Stabile. “With the way the Cal/OSHA regulations are written, basically everything is game. It’s a nightmare.”