We Interviewed Adult Film Performer Zak Sabbath About LA’s New ‘Condoms In Porn’ Law, Measure B

 

When a voter referendum mandating the use of condoms in porn passed earlier this month in LA, pretty much everyone who makes a living in pornographic movies was upset about what it was going to mean for their industry. Civilians, meanwhile, were kind of ambivalent; I know I’ve talked to several people who are wary of restricting creative freedom, but think that if it prevents even one person from contracting H.I.V. at work, then it’s worth it. In an effort to get to the bottom of what this law really means and why performers are so fervently opposed, I emailed my friend Zak Smith, an LA-based artist who moonlights in porn under the amusing moniker Zak Sabbath. Here’s what he had to say.

Jamie Peck: Hi Zak! So first of all, are you for the measure or against it? I think I know what you are going to say.

Zak Smith: Totally against it.

JP: Why is that?

ZS: First: This law isn’t about “Should there be condoms in porn?” It’s: “Should we make shooting the kind of porn that makes the most money hard enough for companies in LA that they will move to Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas or the closest meth-and-stripmall Breaking Bad-looking suburb that falls outside the area the law covers?”

This kind of prohibitive entertainment law only makes sense if it’s national (if it makes sense at all). As a health measure, moving a bunch of porn people from LA (a real actual city with doctors and shrinks and culture) to Las Vegas (a place whose levels of STDs, corruption, income-inequality-based crime and vice are pretty much post- apocalyptic, a place where the cops say “Every night is Saturday night for someone” and is generally so dodge city the police won’t even release the crime statistics) is about the dumbest thing you can do. The current system has controlled STDs and gotten things to the point where a single incident of AIDS in the industry is such rare, stop-the-presses news everything and everyone grinds to a halt as soon as it happens.

People know what they have because they have to get tested all the time to work, and if someone works dirty they stand a good chance of losing all work forever. The industry regularly flies people to Miami, San Francisco and Montreal already all the time, this will help no one be healthier. No-one actually thinks that. It’s a typical example of a once perhaps well-intentioned organization (the AIDS people spearheading this) trying to get prestige and donations by going up against an easy target: in this case playing off the prejudices people have (even allegedly progressive people like the ones reading this who wanted to have babies because Kim Gordon made it look ok) against porn people. It’s fucking bullshit and completely insulting.

There’s a big PRO measure B billboard saying “Pornographers want you to vote NO on B!” Can you imagine them doing that to people in any other legal profession? Hells no.

JP: And how about the idea that porn sex should tell people how to have real life sex?

ZS: As a paternalistic “Your entertainment should educate you” measure:

1- It won’t work unless the internet somehow makes it impossible to google free porn made before the law was passed. And, y’know, in the area of regulating free internet pornography, law enforcement has not been what you’d call shockingly successful.

2- It’s not a path adults should be going down in general: if you have a populations reading its life off cue cards, the answer isn’t changing the cue cards. Since the 80s, anti-AIDS activists have been phenomenally successful in teaching people to use condoms the grown-up post-Enlightenment way: by explaining what STDs are and how condoms are really good at stopping you from getting them. LA should spend the money it’s going to drop sending a cop to every porn set to do that and leave the business trying to tell people under what conditions they can shoot what loads on whose tits to the red state hogfuckers real people move to cities like LA to get away from.

JP: Check out this article by Aurora Snow:

If requiring condoms in porn (for argument’s sake, let’s say all porn) is not a good solution to the problems she outlined (feeling pressured to work with people whose tests aren’t up to date, I mean), what is? [The industry standard is that performers must have a current test on file in order to do a scene; porn performers are tested every 30 days.]

ZS: Aurora Snow’s entire argument is annihilated by what I just wrote: This law won’t make people in porn wear condoms. It’s not a national law so it will just make the porn industry move to a different place. I wear condoms when I fuck girls off set, too, but the law isn’t about condoms or safety.

If, via some very unlikely series of events (and I mean VERY unlikely,  what with the first amendment and all and the power of the porn companies and the basically anarchistic attitude all healthy developed nations have toward sexual entertainment and the ever-increasing awareness of how STDs are actually transmitted and the fact that football players and movie stars like having porn stars around), a version of the LA law eventually went national after 15 years or however long, you would still have to deal with the fact that most people want to watch condom-free porn and it’s available everywhere on the the internet. So basically, that theoretical national condom law would basically be saying “Do you want to move the porn industry to Vancouver and Montreal or to some place like the Cayman Islands?”

If that crazy puritanical thing ever happened, people should vote their conscience on it, but they should be voting for or against the thing that will happen not the thing they are being told the law is about.

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    • anya

      He had me until he answered the “entertainment should educate” question. Obviously nationwide change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years for each state to get around to adressing different issues. That’s like saying that legalizing gay marraige one state at a time is pointless. It’s not, positive change takes time. Furthermore, the whole “people should rise above wht they see in media/film and it’s there own fault if they are influenced” argument is ridiculous. The reality is of course people are influenced by what they see in the world, espcially, say, a teenage boy who thinks it completely fine to never use a condom because the actors in his porn never use them. Whether you like it or not stuff like that does influence young minds. Denying that your part of the problem at all sounds similar to arguments put out by executives at Camel, Marlboro, etc, saying you can ignore their ads (when they were legal) and if you succumb to it then it’s not their fault. Also, threatening to move production just reminds me of upset CEO’s threatening to hire only part-tme workers/firing people if Obama was re-elected. You say that regulations only work to further stigmatize members of the porn industry but it seems to me that it’s the opposite. Tons of jobs have government regulation and the porn industry, like all others, should have to deal with them

    • lucygoosey74

      I admit that I know very little about the porn industry, I don’t watch it, and I don’t personally know anybody who works as an actor/actress in these movies. This is just my personal opinion. Other than the industry having to relocate (?) as Zak kept pointing out as his main argument, what’s the harm in wearing a freaking condom? So what if actors are tested every 30 days? Wouldn’t they have to be tested on a daily basis to truly be safe? A lot can happen in 30 days..in anybody’s life, not just people in the adult industry.
      How is this not a safety issue? If you work in the food or medical industry you must wear gloves. You must wear a hardhat to perform certain jobs. Hairstylists and makeup artists have sanitation procedures to follow. Pretty much every occupation in the country has a set of rules and regulations that are put in place to protect the workers and/or clients, why should the porn industry be any different? They are not operating above the law and should not be exempt from having policies that protect the workers from diseases that could severely harm or potentially kill them.