California Regulating The Porn Industry: Goggles, Condoms, And A Possible Exodus To Florida

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Who knows what’s better for the people than the self-righteous or government? That is the attitude coming from activists demanding that performers in the pornography industry wear goggles and condoms while performing in California. Sex entertainers in California, under a new 21 page set of regulations released by the Occupational Health and Safety Standards Board (Cal/OSHA), will require content creators pay for medical visits and Hepatitis B treatments.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the new regulations are the result of efforts from activists with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to ensure safety on adult film sets. AHF President Michael Weinstein, working on the effort, issued a letter in 2009 complaining of a lack of condom use on adult film sets along with 60 DVD’s to underscore his point. His organization was instrumental in the passage of Measure B regulation in Los Angeles County requiring condom use for all sex entertainers performing in the medium.

The efforts of Measure B and the AHF in regulating artistic content fly in the face of an industry that, according to industry executives and performers, is unneeded and already self-regulating. They argue that there is already an industry norm requiring entertainers to submit to testing every 14 days and are not permitted to perform without a clear report. Industry advocate Eric Paul-Leue, in an interview with KPIX in Oakland, said to paraphrase, this is a manufactured crisis, and that in ten years years there have been zero transmissions of HIV during this period. He went on to include that condom use is encouraged if the performer requests it.

Activist and former sex entertainer Cameron Adams, formerly known in the industry as “Cameron Bay”, alleges that she sustained injuries to the breast and kidneys, working two months in the industry in 2013, and contracted HIV. Despite having dubious dealings in the past as an escort, Adams won a decision against KINK.com Studios for providing ‘unsafe working conditions’ resulting in a $78,000 fine. Adams is best known for an appearance on the VH1 reality show Tool Academy, and it has since been discovered that, despite her claims of working in the industry for a couple of months, she has been a sex entertainer off and on since 2010.

She won the decision along with boyfriend Rod Daily despite the fact she herself admitted that Kink.com provided condoms on set. She added in an interview with the Huffington Post that despite the fact that her co-star’s penis was obviously bleeding, she didn’t believe a condom was necessary and left the decision to use one up to him. Part of that choice was based on the performer being cleared by the industry’s testing services. Another entertainer who contracted HIV claimed that he was asked to perform despite not being cleared by the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) system which handles HIV and STD testing for the porn industry. That performer, Patrick Stone, said that since the test he has taken four tests for HIV — since failing the PASS system’s HIV test —  for which two of the results have come back negative.

Other producers and performers in the adult entertainment industry cite the attempts of activists as an attempt to regulate the industry out of California despite its attempts to self-regulate. The marketing director for Mindgeek, the largest owner and operator of Internet pornography in the world, Samantha Ryder cites Measure B as the motivation for much of production moving to Los Vegas and Miami. In Clark County, Nevada the number of film permits have increased from 226 in 2012 to 400 in 2014 according to the Los Angeles Times. Adult entertainment providers accounted for 10 to 20,000 jobs annually and $4 billion in annual sales in the San Fernando Valley. It is estimated that the adult entertainment industry generates anywhere from $7 to 13 billion a year in revenue in the United States alone.
Anya Ivy, a performer in the industry, cites Measure B as being a reason sex performers are considering moving to Nevada in response to increasing attempts of California to regulate the industry. “People are not happy about the condom law… There is already a ‘code of honor’ [to get tested]between performers, because you can kill someone!” Another performer who has relocated, Shawna Lenee’, cited performers moving from California due to the regulations cutting into income and the cost of living being lower. Tim Woodman, performer and member of the Adult Performers Advisory Committee (APAC) warns, after two male performers allegedly contracted HIV in Nevada, that the exodus of adult film productions from California will eventually bring similar legislation. “The U.S. government is attempting to enforce what constitutes good, safe sex.”, he opines.

South Florida has saw a slight boom in local independent adult productions. Florida, it is estimated, is responsible for 25% of content in the industry, much of it underground. Bang Bros. and Reality Kings, a combined $18 million dollar empire, are virtual giants in the world of pornographic content. Both enterprises, under owner Jeffrey Greenberg, have had ongoing troubles in recent years for the use of underaged girls in productions. One of the cases include a 2013 production including a 15 year old girl who, using a fake ID, went under the name “Amber” and male stripper, John Snavely, who local police believe stabbed a man to death four months before the incident. It is alleged that the actress made $3,000 from Venetian Productions who was contracted by Greenberg. Snavely, the star of several gay and straight porn productions, as of August of last year, is still being held in the Broward County Jail without bond.

Regulation of sex entertainment in Florida, in terms of discouraging the possible spread of sexually transmitted diseases, generally falls under the ‘Sanitary Nuisances’ guidelines of Florida Statute 386.01 according to Bang Bros attorney Larry Walter. Michael Weinstein’s AHF filed a complaint in 2010 with the Miami-Dade County Health Department in order to force the issue of condom use for performers. Legal Chief Counsel, Mort Laitner, for the Health Department stated that simply showing a DVD depicting a sex act free of condom use is not enough. “You have to show the conduct spreading sexual diseases”, he advised. Walter also added that, like producers in California, Bang Bros. does require performers to test for HIV and other STD’s.

Despite the profitability of the adult entertainment industry, and the attractiveness of Florida in terms of minimal regulation, diverse population, and favorable aesthetics, neither the state or localities have shown any enthusiasm in competing or attempting to lure mainstream producers from California. Instead what predominantly exists in the state is largely underground independent production done under the table. Graham Winick, Film and Event Production Manager for the City of Miami Beach said in an interview, “They work under the radar… Movie cameras are so small these days they can look like the cameras any tourist has.”

In 2011, the FDLE turned over information from producer Theresa Taylor(aka Kimberly Kupps) to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that she and her husband Warren Taylor were creating content and distributing it from their home in Lake Wales. Polk County investigators monitored Taylor’s Twitter account and purchased a membership to their website downloading six performances of Taylor with men and women. The downloaded videos were turned over to County Judge Reinaldo Ojeda who ruled the videos were obscene material under state law. Taylor and her husband were booked on misdemeanor charges of selling and distributing plus wholesale production of obscene material respectively. Warren Taylor testified the couple made $700 a month distributing the videos on clip4sale.com for four months. The move prompted Brazzers, another adult content creator, to curtail production in Florida in favor of Nevada and California for the time being. Since 2011 there hasn’t been any large effort in Florida to either crackdown or regulate the state’s large but low-key porn industry.

Florida’s independent porn industry is the focus of a couple of recent documentaries: one from Fusion titled “Inside Miami’s Sex Industry: Porn Stars Reveal How the Internet is changing Their Business”, and on Netflix, “Hot Girls Wanted” produced by Rashida Jones. Both creative endeavors offer an insight into a state industry communicating two different viewpoints. The Fusion documentary offers an insight into the lives of six industry professionals seeking to make it big in the digital porn industry, while the work produced by Jones attempts to paint a grimmer, exploitative critique of independently produced pornography in Florida. Ingrid Rojas, who produced the documentary for Fusion, covers several young professionals including a couple, Scott and Phoenix, who produce amateur porn on low budget sets marketing the content online. Rashida Jones focuses her work on a company, Hussie Models, and its young owner who is a former performer turned talent agent. The Rojas production casts a supportive viewpoint of young upstarts coming up with innovative new ways of succeeding in the industry using internet technology, while Jones focuses on painting a picture of desperate young women, looking to make quick money, being sucked into the industry by an exploitative agent. Both works acknowledge the industry’s lack of regulation and the possible risks therein.

As the sex entertainment industry is still mainly based in California the jury is still out on whether or not regulation will improve safety standards for performers. It is equally as inconclusive as to whether or not increased regulation, currently being considered by state legislators, will induce a full exodus of a whole industry from California. There is evidence that raising standards for occupational safety may drive the industry back underground, reduce economic activity in regulating jurisdictions, and through the use of the internet, remain profitable with the same risks for producers and performers. As engaging in any high-risk sexual activity involves taking chances, and necessary precautions, personal responsibility, has to be emphasized as one can never place too much faith in another’s ability to regulate their own conduct, and despite any best intentions, or even the most overreaching institutional rules and regulations.

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Robert Montgomerie is a graduate of Suffolk University majoring in political science and resides in both Jacksonville, Florida and Princeton, New Jersey. Currently he serves as the owner/editor of The Duval Contrarian Review, and has contributed to several other online publications such the Daily KOS, Op-Ed News, and Metrojacksonville.