There is a scene about the realization of helplessness in Ken Kesey’s landmark 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”—echoed in Milos Forman’s equally masterful film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher—that reminds me of the porn industry and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Protagonist RP McMurphy (played by Nicholson in the movie) has landed himself in a mental institution, by his own design, so that he will get a break from his prison work detail. But he has not bargained on Miss Ratched, “the Big Nurse,” whom he accuses of running “a rigged game.”
Today, March 5, an ordinance take effect that AHF and its allies forced on the LA City Council to save the City the expense (and the democracy) of putting a similar measure to a public vote in June: Male porn actors must wear condoms while shooting sex scenes in locations regulated by City film permits.
The ordinance does not affect:
- Studios like Hustler with their own stages
- Commercial studios that are “insured and permitted,” like Jordan Studios in Chatsworth
Many porn performers and studios oppose this ordinance as a violation of their freedom to choose [read why here] but are mostly alone in rejecting AHF’s false claim that condomless porn stars are a public health menace.
In the outbreaks of 1998, 2004, and 2011, HIV was introduced to the San Fernando Valley porn industry from outside, and was quickly contained. AHF’s unchallenged (by anyone who can do anything about it, anyway) suggestion is that HIV is bred right here in Porn Valley, that porn performers are unqualified to make their own choices, and that we the public must be protected from them.
Similarly, the public does not question the credibility of those former porn stars AHF has chosen to ally itself with, including Derrick Burts, who either contracted HIV through escorting or a Florida gay shoot, and Shelley Lubben, the roundly discredited leader of the Pink Cross Foundation.
Porn employees, like mental patients, suffer from the stigma of a lack of credibility, and their voices aren’t given much thought.
It is not the first time I have thought of the porn industry as one big mental institution, but the comparisons in this case to “Cuckoo’s Nest” are particularly apt.
Like McMurphy discovers about most of his fellow patients, the public seems amazed that porn performers are working in this industry by choice. AIDS Healthcare is like Nurse Ratched, who thinks of patients as people only insofar as they need to be managed.
I think it’s safe to say that the porn industry sees itself in McMurphy—transgressive and operating outside of the system, thumbing his nose at authority. But Ratched has her way with McMurphy in the end.
You see the advertising all around Los Angeles; catchy, suggestive exhortations from AHF to get tested and stay protected. And it’s a good message for a culture that likes to have a good time. It says, “Your freedom of choice ends where someone else’s body begins.”
And I believe this, except for closed systems. For, like MMA fighters (this is an oft-used example), porn performers know the risks of their occupations but choose to flout them. Furthermore—and contrary to what the AHF implies—porn stars don’t then spread AIDS to an unsuspecting public, much as Tito Ortiz doesn’t step out of the ring and cold-cock random civilians.
In one of AHF’s current billboards, a condom appears opposite the words “Why Not?” The answer “Because I don’t want to” is simply too difficult to get behind.
But even amid reports that Porn Valley-adjacent communities are drafting similar legislation, and the huffing and puffing around the porn industry moving to places like Arizona (seriously, folks, if you want me never to write about porn again, move the industry to Arizona) or Nevada, a conversation I had this morning Gram: with an officer of the LAPD’s Media Relations and Communications Department put things in perspective.
Gram: Are any enforcement plans in place for the condom ordinance?
Officer: Not yet
Gram: So 40 days have passed on an ordinance approved by the City Council but the LAPD has not drawn up a way of enforcing it.
Officer: Well,it wasn’t up to the LAPD, was it?
This means that busting non-condom porn shoots will, for the time being, follow the same playbook as busting non-permitted porn shoots. There are three scenarios:
- An LAPD officer receives a hot tip about a guerilla shoot taking place at a rental McMansion—possibly from an angry neighbor or disgruntled ex-boyfriend
- Detectives monitor the Twitter feeds of porn’s most chatty Cathys and Kens
- A squad car just happens past a truck filled with lighting gear parked in front of a home
It is clear from several years of AHF maneuvering that it seeks to see Porn Valley neutered, just as Ratched got McMurphy lobotomized.
My question, as always, is: Did you know Scatman Crothers was in that movie?