Law Porn

Posted on 2013 April 22

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%22law porn%22

I’m a bit of a film buff, but I’m picky: I like movies that appeal to my interests and are well made. Porn fits one of those criteria but not the other.

Finished guessing which? Pencils down! Answer: they’re poorly produced.

The acting usually sucks. (Pardon the pun.) The sets and lighting are substandard. And the plots are boringly thin excuses for sudden bouts of sexual activity.

Come to think of it, action films — which I enjoy — also are thin excuses for car chases, shootouts, and explosions. And murder mysteries are thin excuses for puzzle solving. And romances are thin excuses for cute meets, romantic candlelit dinners, crises of separation, and declarations of enduring love. But I digress.

Oh, and another thing: porn costs money to watch. And I’m cheap. I mean, where’s the free porn channel? I’d give it a try.

Ah well. It’s like the old joke, “It was bad, but it was expensive.” So I’m not really a customer.

And I don’t live in L.A. County, so it was none of my business when its Measure B — that would force porn actors to wear condoms when engaging in filmed sex — passed by a healthy 57% in November 2012. The L.A. adult-film industry is one of the largest in the world and generates lots of jobs and tax revenue; Measure B would likely put a serious crimp in the business. It was pitched as an innocent AIDS-prevention health measure, but come on! Who wants to watch porn stars boinking in condoms? Still, it was not my county and not my problem.

Eventually a news item caught my attention, and I realized I’d been missing out on all the wonkish fun. By mid-springtime in L.A. there’d normally be around 500 porn production permits pulled. (Say that six times!) By April 2013 there had been exactly … two. The porn industry had fled the area.

Suddenly Ventura County found itself teeming with porn-film shoots, especially in residential areas. Neighbors complained about all the moaning naked people. Parents had to hold their kids’ ears. Lawmakers threatened to introduce condom legislation similar to L.A. County’s. And this time, concern for the health of porn stars was at the bottom of the list. Ventura County is much more conservative than L.A. County; they didn’t mince words about ridding their towns of the newly invasive sex industry.

So it got me thinking. If porn filmmaking is unsafe without condoms, what about romance films? After all, mouth-to-mouth kissing can spread illnesses such as colds, flu, herpes, meningitis, and venereal diseases — and even, on occasion, AIDS. L.A. County voters should, therefore, pass a law that forbids the filming of lip locks unless the performers are using dental dams. But why stop there? Action films put stars and stunt persons in real danger, too. We’ve seen celebrated cases where performers lost their lives during these shoots. Yes, they are professionals who know the risks and take steps to minimize them. Too bad: like porn stars, they need to be protected from themselves.

If L.A. County can ban condomless sex films, they should go whole hog and close down all film production that engages in behaviors the voters deem too risky. If the studios don’t like it, they can jolly well pack up and move. To Ventura County.

Of course this is silly. Nobody would want to second-guess Hollywood when it’s doing such an excellent job of making our beloved action and crime and romance movies. But when it comes to sex films, suddenly the voters get all concerned about the health of the performers? Oh, please. On the other hand, they would vote to limit porn if they thought it might remove an embarrassment from their neighborhoods. “I’m shocked! Shocked to find there’s porn being filmed here.” … “Your Ron Jeremy DVDs, sir.” … “Oh, uh, heh-heh, thank you.”

That this measure was simply an innocent attempt to reduce health risks among sex workers is laughable. Why would anyone watch clean porn? It’s an oxymoron. Films are fantasies: from them we want experiences we don’t normally get in our lives, like thrilling danger or adventures in other times and places … or gorgeous, naked men and women with huge, er, enthusiasms for sex. What we don’t want is to have the moment spoiled by moralistic restrictions. Yet, as voters, we love to pick the ridiculous. We enjoy throwing our votes around. After all, since it’s statistically impossible for one ballot to change an election, we might as well play with ours! It’s, well, it’s … law porn.

The AIDS issue, then, was really a smokescreen. And it seems extremely unlikely that health activists could have engineered Measure B’s victory without at least the tacit support of two other groups. Ultra-feminists, for one, hate porn. (“They’re exploiting women! They’re raping them on film!” Unless it’s lesbian porn — then it’s okay.) Meanwhile, religious fundamentalists will support any restriction on sex films. (“It’s Sodom and Gomorrah! It’s the Devil’s work!”) These two groups — especially the fundamentalists, who can call on a vast constituency — would definitely get out the vote.

In this way, the U.S. adult film industry was effectively banned from its home turf. And we end up with the almost unutterably weird image of three groups of activists, who normally despise each other, politically in bed together.

But at least they were using condoms.

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(Kaydee McKinney and Tony Blake contributed to this essay.)

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