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Enforcement status unclear for L.A. porn actor condom law, now in effect

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Though it reads like a thin, improbable premise on which to build an adult film, a new law has just gone into effect requiring porn actors in Los Angeles to wear condoms -- now all they need is a team of enforcers. Cue the Hot Cops?

An estimated 90 percent of the country's porn films are made in Los Angeles, and ensuring safer sex on set has fallen into the laps of city officials and industry leaders.

"Today really is a milestone in the advance of health and safety for these adult filmmakers," said Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which lobbied for years for the measure.

When the law was passed in January, City Council gave police, the city attorney, the porn industry and others, a six month period to come up with an enforcement strategy. 

The status of enforcement during the four months that remain is unknown. City attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan said he it was unclear whether police or health officials will begin showing up at shoots.

Larger porn companies that make the movies on studio soundstages don't need permits and are exempt from the condom requirement unless they go off lot to shoot in a house in a residential neighborhood.

The question is whether smaller companies that work with a limited crew and shoot in a day or two, will pay any attention to the new requirement.

The head of one of the industry's largest filmmakers said he hadn't been approached about working out how the ordinance would work and how the city would deal with violators.

"We assumed we would be approached but we have not been," said Steven Hirsch, chief executive and co-founder of the Vivid Entertainment Group. Hirsch said about 90 percent of Vivid's film shoots are conducted either in its own studio or outside the city.

But he quickly added that his company would immediately begin complying with the law and require that actors use condoms on any film shoots taking place outside a studio in Los Angeles.

Kenslea, the spokesman for the AIDS health care group, said he's heard that, although as many 50,000 porn films a year are made in Los Angeles, only about 200 permits a month are issued by the city to film them.

Industry officials say the law isn't needed and that their audiences find the use of condoms a turnoff. They said the industry's own requirement, that actors be tested for sexually transmitted diseases every 30 days, is sufficient.

Hirsch and others have pointed out that there hasn't been a case of HIV linked directly to the making of a porn film since 2004. Kenslea and other advocates of using condoms say there have been nine reported cases of HIV involving porn actors since 2004.

When it comes to enforcement, Kenslea said, his organization is pushing for the city to use health care professionals, perhaps from a nursing agency, to conduct spot checks.

The cost of the inspections would be paid out of fees the filmmakers would pay when applying for permits. The foundation has proposed a fee of $50 to $75. Filmmakers who are caught violating the requirement would be refused future permits.

Meanwhile, his group is trying to get a measure on the November ballot that would require that Los Angeles County adopt a similar but tougher measure mandating a health permit similar to the ones for nail and hair salons.

The mayor of Simi Valley proposed an even tougher ordinance expected to come up for a City Council vote in a few weeks. That law would require that a licensed health care professional on every porn set to ensure condoms use, and also that unedited footage be turned over to authorities for verification.

"The primary purpose here is it's a health and safety issue. And secondarily, we don't want them here," Mayor Bob Huber said of his city of 125,000 residents. "This is a family-oriented community and we don't want them setting up their studios in Simi Valley."

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