Condoms May Change the Porn Industry, but They Won't Change Porn

Production companies will adapt to a new Los Angeles law requiring safe-sex practices on adult film sets so that what's on screen remains the same.

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Reuters

For all the headline-making changes wins for gay rights, women, and marijuana Tuesday night, one social issue that was voted upon has gone less noticed nationally: porn. Los Angeles County's victorious Measure B, known as the condoms-in-porn law, will require any adult-film productions shot in the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Health to make use of condoms and other safer sex practices—a policy that will be enforced by on-set health inspectors and law enforcement. With Los Angeles the capital of adult entertainment, the repercussions from this local law's passage could have a national impact.

In the lead-up to Election Day, opponents of Measure B painted a vision of a post-Measure B world where porn would feature latex-clad actors wearing face masks—a world in which the image of freewheeling, carefree sexuality would be sacrificed for an overzealous quest for safety. The implication of these ads was clear: Measure B will affect anyone who likes porn, replacing carefree bareback fun with something stilted and decidedly unsexy. The truth, however, is a little more complicated. The porn industry may change, but what's on screen probably won't.

Because while Measure B does dramatically change the rules for Los Angeles County, there's no reason to believe any porn producers, who opposed Measure B, will ever actually adhere to the law's complicated requirements. Though public health factored into much of the discussion of the ordinance, porn companies aren't actually cavalier about their performers' health and safety—if they were, the industry wouldn't have invested so heavily in the rigorous testing structures currently in place. No, the actual reason why porn producers hate using condoms is that condom use hurts sales. Over the years, numerous large porn companies (including stalwarts like Vivid) have attempted to go condom-only; almost all have seen a sharp decline in sales that caused them to reverse course. Right now, there is only one major exception to the non-condom rule: Wicked Pictures, straight porn's only major condom-only company, who succeed by producing couples-friendly, plot-heavy porn movies that are easily recut into softcore versions that can be distributed more widely—and that aren't as hampered by use of condoms.

Of course, if all porn companies were forced to go condom-only, viewers' preferences might change or cease to be a factor. For years, social pressure within the gay community has led to an environment in which a big share of porn includes condoms, and non-condom "bareback" porn is often looked at askance. Some have suggested that, given the option of condom only-porn or no porn at all, the straight-porn market could similarly adapt, with consumers more willing to pay for latex-infused scenes. But that theory assumes a market in which all porn (or at least the majority of it), is made using condoms, and that's a situation that is unlikely to ever be the case.

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Lux Alptraum is editor of Fleshbot, a website about sexuality and adult entertainment. More

She also has worked as a sex educator at an adolescent pregnancy prevention program, an HIV pre-test counselor, and founded Boinkology, a blog about sex and culture.

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