Here is a political object lesson from the seamier, steamier end of the entertainment business: The new law in Los Angeles County requiring actors in pornographic films to wear condoms seems merely to have pushed the smutty movie industry into the quiet residential areas of unincorporated Ventura County. The lesson? Passing a law to banish unhealthy behavior does not necessarily solve a problem, it just kicks it to another place or directly into a courtroom.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has famously taken on several public health causes during his years in office. He banned smoking from public places, went after trans fats in food, outlawed super-sized servings of sugary soft drinks and now has come back around to smoking with a law forcing stores to keep cigarettes out of sight and a proposal to set 21 as the minimum legal age for buying cigarettes.
People have protested the mayor's nanny-state obsessions, but he has made much of it stick. The soda restriction is on hold, however, because a state Supreme Court judge issued an injunction to stop the law, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” As for the age limit for buying cigarettes, it may have about as much influence on teen smoking as the age-21 threshold for buying alcohol has had on binge-drinking college freshmen.
Human beings have a stubborn inclination to continue self-destructive behavior, no matter what the law says. That is not to say that some things should not be illegal, even if many people flout the law. Meth should be illegal, for instance, because it is an utterly destructive drug manufactured by scumbags who deserve to be in jail for a very long time (although a Darwinian argument can be made that the deadliness of meth benefits society by cleaning out the lower reaches of the gene pool).
When 57% of L.A. County voters approved the condom mandate in the November election, they had the good intention of preventing transmission of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. However, the law is being contested in U.S. District Court by Vivid Entertainment, one of the biggest producers of adult movies. (By the way, calling such films “adult” has always struck me as a misnomer, since most porn is decidedly, ridiculously immature.) The pornmeisters insist their 1st Amendment rights are being infringed. Keeping male porn stars sheathed is apparently akin to telling Clint Eastwood to keep his gun holstered.
Some of the “adult” film auteurs are not waiting for the court’s decision. They have moved production from the San Fernando Valley, long the home of the celluloid sex business, to neighboring Ventura County, where residents have been registering complaints about strange sights and sounds in neighboring homes.
"It's really disturbing," Tim Gray, a 56-year-old father of four, told the Los Angeles Times. "We were eating dinner and we heard these loud sounds outside, like something really bad had happened. I went outside and heard, well, the typical sounds you'd hear in a porn movie. It was echoing all over the neighborhood."
Ventura County officials are now proposing their own condom requirement, hoping that will get the pornographers to keep on traveling to the next county.
The porn filmmakers could eliminate the whole problem by taking advantage of the amazing advances in special effects that have transformed production of mainstream films. After all, real, live men are not all that necessary in porn movies. There is just one part of a male porn actor’s body that gets any serious screen time and that particular body part generally looks weirdly unreal anyway. Surely, a porn counterpart of Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic could create a CGI replacement for the live actor’s only vital component that would be visually convincing, yet disease free.
Heck, if moviegoers spent millions on "Star Wars" pictures in which the light sabers were just a special effect, the porn audience would probably go along with something very similar.