It’s World AIDS Day, so can I talk about the new regulation in California, mandating the use of condoms in the production of sexually explicit media?
Yeah, I think it’s a good idea. Because I believe in evidence-based public health.
I realize I might be setting myself up for a shitstorm, but ya know when you get right down to it, I’m a public health professional. I’m in favor of taxing the life out of sugar and tobacco, legalizing, localizing, and regulating marijuana, and providing food stamps people can use at farmers markets. These are all things that the evidence strongly suggests are likely to create an environment that protects individuals and families from the profit-motivated abuses of corporations. Which is good.
All the arguments about “personal freedom” to buy a 100oz soda or to perform in porn without condoms are irrelevancies; these regulations not are limiting personal freedom, they’re limiting CORPORATE freedom, and that’s a GOOD thing, because most corporations have a vested interest only in what increases their immediate financial return, regardless of the cost to consumers or, very often, to their own long-term sustainability.
Measure B is about protecting performers in adult films from the profit-motivated abuses of corporations. It’s an OSHA issue. From my point of view, it’s absolutely legitimate for the government to mandate that corporations require workers to wear harnesses when they’re painting bridges; there may be low risk that a trained worker would actually fall, but the consequences if they did would be dire indeed for the worker and their family. And it’s just as legitimate for government to mandate that media corporations require performers to wear condoms; the risk may be a low probability, but the consequences are serious and potentially life-altering.
This is only partly an empirical question; it’s also a philosophical one. I think it’s not only okay but legitimate and important that government protect people from corporations.
Now, what about the argument that people learn from porn and that’s why condoms should be in porn? That’s an empirical question. I’m not STRONGLY convinced that including condoms in porn will cause viewers to normalize condom use and thus use condoms more, but
- media do influence sexual decision making
- seeing condoms in a sexy media context positively influences condom attitudes
- entertainment storylines about condoms can motivate people to seek good information
so there is some reason to think it might be beneficial. Particularly because adolescents who view sexually explicit websites engage in more risky sexual behavior and adult men who look at porn are potentially at greater risk than adolescents or women or those who don’t look at porn to engage in higher risk sex, it seems like its a medium where we have the attention of some higher risk groups who really need the message. There’s also reason to believe that condoms in sexually explicit narratives do not affect men’s arousal so it may not affect business either.
So my evidence-informed opinion is that it will do no harm to the industry, it will protect the wellbeing of the performers, and it may very well improve safer sex practices in a group that could really benefit. And I confess that reading porn performers’ opposition to condom use sounds an awful lot like the ordinary anti-condom stigma I heard among the teenage girls I worked with right after I finished college.
I get the fear about government imposing where sex is happening, and I’m sure that the success of Measure B hangs on the sex-positivity of the individuals empowered to enact and enforce it. So it *could* go HIDEOUSLY WRONG. I get, too, that there’s a philosophical argument against it, but the evidence all points to this being an appropriate public health measure that will not negatively affect the industry.
The evidence points to yes. I’m in favor.