Measure B: Are porn and prostitution really that different?

Adult industries encompass a wide range products and services, from adult film all the way to escorting and/or prostitution. When you stop to really consider things, those two types of businesses don’t seem so different from each other. In the US, however, the law certainly treats them as if they were worlds apart.

by Ashly Lorenzana

What twisted logic is behind making it legal to pay people for filming them having sex, but not legal to pay them directly for sex?

Basically, the law approaches this slippery slope by arguing that porn stars are in fact actors and are being paid to act in a film, regardless of whether sex scenes are included or not. When viewed in this light, pornography becomes a creative work in the same way that any other type of film would be considered as such.

You probably already know that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our freedom of speech and expression. Most Americans consider this the core of our entire government and it’s safe to say that this was the founding principle that shaped the country we live in today.

What does this mean? It means pornography is never going to be treated in the way that prostitution is because with the First Amendment on its side, it might as well be untouchable.

The good news is that it’s far more likely that someday, prostitution is decriminalized or even legalized and regulated instead.

In fact, the counties in Nevada in which prostitution is currently legal, have made a strong case for the benefits of broadening legalization. According to this 2004 article from the L.A. Times, there has not been a single documented case of HIV being transmitted through a licensed establishment.

While we’re on the topic of sexually transmitted diseases, there has been a more recent debate regarding the safety and health conditions in the porn industry. Oddly enough, while legal prostitutes in Nevada are required by state law to use condoms and get tested on a weekly basis, the laws governing the adult film industry are remarkably less strict.

While adult film actors are legally required to do semi-regular urine testing to screen for STDs, the six public health experts behind this 2012 study were quick to point out that this limitation is clearly to blame for a high incidence of undetected infections in the mouth, throat and rectums of adult film actors.

The study included 168 adult film performers from Los Angeles County and the findings revealed a startling 28% (47 actors total) tested positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea or both diseases. What does this mean? It means that L.A. Porn actors have a much higher rate of STD transmission than prostitutes in licensed brothels located in Nevada.

All of this was rather timely since the study took place shortly before voting began for Measure B, also known as the “Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,” which did in fact pass and which went into effect at the end of 2012. This new law makes condom use a legal requirement of all adult film actors.

Pornographic film studios will now be subject to the same type of random health code inspections that are common in food carts and restaurants. Similarly, they can now be fined for any violations of measure B and the law also requires film producers to apply for and be issued a permit from the LA County Department of Public Health in order to legally shoot any sex scenes.

As you may well have expected, this has caused a strong reaction from the adult film industry and all of those who are employed by it. Producers argue that profits will plunge as a result of the new law, claiming that consumers have little interest in buying porn films in which condoms are used.

And many adult film stars are now making the same argument that many prostitutes have made before them: that his law infringes on their personal rights to do what they want with their own bodies.

All of that being said, I’d like to add a little bit of my personal background on this subject. I’ve worked as an escort for over five years. At one point in early 2011, I was seriously considering signing with an agency and trying my hand at adult films.

I even went as far as getting all the paperwork notarized and mailing it off, and I had spoken to a man who worked for this company several times on the phone, as well as exchanged emails back and forth for a couple weeks.

We had just started to make arrangements for me to fly down to L.A. For a weekend and shoot some scenes. I think I would have made about $7,000 before flying back home to Oregon. For me, the appeal was mostly the efficiency of a deal like that.

I’ve never managed my time too well and the idea of getting it all done in an afternoon worth of shoots and then going home with a good sized chunk of change was really what had me interested.

But as the date approached, my head began to fill with doubts. Up until that point, I had told myself that it can’t be terribly different than what I had been doing for years. At the end of the day, it was just all sex… right?

Maybe so. But as I sat at my computer filling out an incredibly exhaustive questionnaire from the agency asking me if I was willing to do everything from urinate on people to every other vaguely sexual thing you can possibly imagine, I realized that I was already feeling less in control of what I was doing than I had grown used to.

The more I thought about it, the more aware I became that I liked being the one in control of what was going on. I mean, sure… I still had to consent to the things I was actually willing to do on film if I had decided to go through with this. But it felt like I was going to be doing these things because people I didn’t even know were demanding them and wanted me to do them.

For whatever reason, that didn’t feel like something I wanted to do. I liked my clients and my relationships with them were very personal. I didn’t want that to change. I didn’t like the thought of being thrown out in front of a camera for the world to judge either.

It made me realize I appreciated the privacy of my work. The privacy of the actual encounters, that is. I’ve always been very open about what I do. This new Measure B law really makes me feel for all the ladies and the guys who are in that business though. I’m with them on this one. I think it’s each person’s right to have safe sex or to put themselves at risk, as long as they know what those are going into something.

It will be interesting to see what their next move is now that the law has passed. I wonder if they will relocate or if they will fight it legally. I will hope for the latter.