Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Condom Referendum: Los Angeles 2012 (17 NOV. 2012)

         Cheers for the voters of Los Angeles County! Two cheers for their approving 2012 County Measure B, the initiative requiring condoms in pornographic videos shot in LA County!

         Not three cheers: the law raises serious questions on free speech and the limits of government power, topics about which you will hear plenty because the condom requirement is opposed by the porn industry. (An industry I will not knock: the big-time spending that keeps America out of another Great Depression includes the great three p’s of Politics, Pot, and Porn.) Two cheers, though: since the law moves in positive directions on crucial issues of public health and toward reasonable resolution — not solution but messily political, tolerable resolution — of the profoundly dangerous issue of abortion.

         For me, the strongest objection to Measure B is that it requires artists, or at least communicators, to propagandize in support of policy endorsed by the State: in this case “the State” in its very minor incarnation of the County of Los Angeles. I’m a life-member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and even more than to censorship I object to requiring people to participate in propaganda. Still, the message to be propagated by Measure B is important enough that I support the idea for professional pornography shot in the LA area and would support similar laws throughout the porn-producing and porn-consuming world (which I guess is most places on Earth populated by humans).

         As the anti-Measure B forces will explain vigorously and at length, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) aren’t a major issue with porn performers: porn actors know who their fellow cast members at least by name and have probably checked out their filmographies on the web — and porn professionals get tested regularly for STDs.

         Sexually-transmitted diseases are, however, major issues outside of pornography.

         AIDS the last couple of decades has gotten a lot of attention — along with such other sexually-charged, politicized diseases as breast and prostrate cancer — but there are other STDs.

         During the 1964 summer I worked for Illinois Public Health — and 1964 was in the late 1950s in terms of American sexuality — there was no big public announcement, but the word went around the lab I worked in that gonorrhea was pretty much endemic in the State of Illinois and that the State’s public health concentration — in what was called “venereal disease” at the time — would be on following up on cases of syphilis before syphilis became endemic.

         Gonorrhea is a bothersome disease, and one becoming antibiotic resistant. Syphilis can be deadly. And syphilis is on the rise again — especially in the Developing World — and the spread of syphilis, and STDs generally, can be reduced by widespread use of condoms.

         Widespread condom use also decreases unwanted pregnancies.

         My words here are “reduced” and “decreases,” and for the general point it’s irrelevant that condoms aren’t 100% effective. Few things are. In terms of public health, significant reduction is just fine. In terms of individuals — your kids for example — well, anything worth doing is worth taking some risks to do, and a whole lot of people, obviously, think sex is worth doing. So if you’re not out there campaigning against skydiving or high school football or collegiate boxing, don’t speak out too vociferously about the failure rate of condoms.

The contribution of unprotected sex to disturbingly high rates of abortion is profoundly important because a fair number of people, including powerful and influential people, judge abortion to be a variety of murder. Now add to that conclusion the observation that unwanted pregnancies are the major cause of abortion, and note further that sexually mature, uncastrated and unspayed humans will “to it” (copulate) whatever the laws may happen to be (Measure for Measure 2.1).

         The logic of seeing abortion as murder, or close to murder, leads to seeing widespread abortion as the moral equivalent of mass murder, a conclusion that justifies extreme measures “to stop the slaughter.”

         If it is to the shame of the Allies in World War II that they didn’t bomb the Nazi death camps — and it is — then what is to be said about those who would compromise on abortion in our time? Should we not, instead, praise those who bomb abortion clinics.

Get the point? And to that point add back that epidemic AIDS is a continuing threat in Africa and residual AIDS is still an incipient threat in the developed world. Less horrific STDs are a also significant issue of public health, and there is a long and justified tradition of allowing even extreme restrictions of individual freedom — e.g., quarantine for infectious diseases — when necessary to protect public health.

         So: (1) STDs threaten public health. And (2) The abortion rate is too high, period, and as a philosophically vexed and festering political issue — a morally charged issue with deep roots and radical implications — abortion is a constant threat to social peace.

         Both threats can be reduced, and as a practical matter harm reduction and risk reduction are the best we can do, and condoms are useful for reducing STDs and reducing unwanted pregnancies.

         Condoms also give sexually mature human males control over our reproduction and propagandizing for the use of condoms reminds the many occasionally forgetful dick-heads out there that contraception is (also) a male responsibility.

         So it is very important to encourage condom usage, and one way to encourage using condoms is to make it cool and, if possible, just “the way things are done” (in this case, many kinds of sex).

         Images of condoms on porn stars — and maybe some dialog — can get across that message. Real men, the message goes, can get it up and keep it up with a condom on. Real women can get their men up and keep them up and sometimes help get that condom on in interesting and really sexy ways. Real women put out for real men, i.e., real men wearing condoms.

And if there’s an “ageist” message as well — impotent old men avoid condoms, and old couples needn’t bother — well, this old man would be willing to put up with that. (Old farts still control the government and economy so we can be magnanimous about some teasing [and there’s money for rich old men investing in Viagra/Trojan cross-marketing …].)

         I’d also recommend condom pushing with amateur porn. If exhibitionists with decent bodies and delusions of talent want to upload to a porn site, they can demonstrate that whatever weird-ass sh*t they’re doing won’t spread a disease or get someone pregnant who doesn’t want to be pregnant.

Regulating amateur film-making is even more problematic than with the pros, but I would hope that Measure B would pressure porn sites to make clear that every medium has rules for “Standards and Practices” and that responsible pornos — classy, professional looking pornos — feature guys with condoms.

         “Because that’s the way it’s done.” That’s the message you want: condoms should become fashionable and then unremarkable, like not spitting on the floor, or even in a spittoon.

         Or at least that’s the way it should be done until STDs go the way of smallpox and polio and until we get effective contraception for males and females rather more elegant that rubbers.

         Until people are fertile only when they desire to reproduce, until the human population is a whole lot healthier than we are today — until then, guys, “Wrap that Willy!”

         So two cheers to the good voters of LA County for drafting porn stars as role models for condom use.

         Maybe just one cheer: the whole celebrity “role model” idea is bad. But make that one rousing cheer: slowing the spread of STDs, reducing the number of abortions, and teaching guys to act responsibly overbalances a lot of bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment