Porn King Says Vote No On L.A. Condoms Proposition

Measure B would make condoms in porn mandatory in Los Angeles County — porn potentate John Stagliano argues against it.

The day has arrived for Los Angeles County residents to vote on Measure B, the ballot proposition that would require condom usage in pornography shot here. The industry has largely rallied against the proposed law, saying that a condom requirement would drive the billion-dollar business out of Southern California to other parts of the country and to Europe. The Los Angeles Times editorial page agreed and urged a “no” vote.

On the eve of the election, I spoke with adult impresario John Stagliano, widely known as “Buttman,” whose company, Evil Angel, is one of the nation’s top porn producers. Stagliano is also a noted free speech advocate and an enemy of Measure B.

KA: You’ve been a vocal opponent of Measure B. Tell me why.

JS: First of all, I think people should be able to choose what kind of scenes they want to do. For the government to come in and tell us how we can freely interact while making my art, which is the movies that I work on, I think is just wrong. If you read the measure, it has lots of strong stuff in it, like making it a crime to shoot without a permit, raising the amount of money it costs to get a permit for an adult shoot in Los Angeles. Also allowing anybody on a set where a scene is shot without a condom being used — any people can sue the producer. A caterer could sue the producer for having catered a set — apparently that’s what’s in the law, I haven’t read all of the details, but I think you can check that out. [Reporter’s note: In my reading of the measure, Stagliano is correct about new fees for permits, which it states will be “an amount sufficient to provide for the cost of any necessary enforcement.” Violations would be punishable by fines and withdrawals of permits, but the measure also mentions the possibility of “a criminal complaint” if there is “immediate danger to the public health.” I did not find anything about lawsuits by other people on set.]

In any case, those things would effectively shut down shooting. The effect of this law would not be what the intent is, which is to have people shoot scenes in porn with condoms: The effect would be simply to have no scenes, or much, much fewer scenes, shot in Los Angeles.

KA: There’s a strong libertarian streak in the porn business, and I know you identify as libertarian. Is it possible that a libertarian worldview might run contrary to someone’s best interests for their own health and safety?

JS: If I choose to shoot a scene without condoms and the police come and put me in jail for shooting that scene, that sounds pretty contrary to my health and well-being. You know, they have guns, the police. They actually force you to stop you from doing something you want to do. That’s pretty severe.

Porn stars James Deen and Jessica Drake’s anti-Measure B spoof.

KA: Why is the bulk of the porn industry against Measure B?

JS: If you pass Measure B — the demand is still for scenes without condoms. People will seek to satisfy that demand. Instead of the good testing system we have in Los Angeles right now, possibly scenes would go underground, people would have to go shoot scenes in other counties, in other places. The system is working really good now. That would be severely disrupted.

KA: This is an extremely dumb question: Why is the demand purely for scenes without condoms?

JS: The demand is not purely for scenes without condoms. There’s a segment of the market that demands scenes with condoms, and there’s a large segment that would like to see scenes without condoms. It’s art. We’re producing art. People have such a limited view of sexuality: You put on a condom, you do some thrusting motions, you come, and that’s sex. That is not what we shoot. That’s not the art that I create in movies. It’s far deeper and far more communication than that between the people. The unfortunate thing is the accepted view of sexuality by society because it’s embarrassed about sex, or whatever, is a really limited view.

KA: But you would say the bigger demand is for scenes without condoms.

JS: Yes.

KA: Can you boil that down for me?

JS: Because it’s much more powerful. Because there’s communication between the actors and the actresses, and that’s something between them. People choose to have sex that way, they prefer to have sex that way. They have better sex that way. And it’s communicated on the videos. That’s what we do, is capture that communication.

KA: Porn star Aurora Snow wrote in her Daily Beast story that she has experienced pressure on sets to be lax about scene partners’ test results. Have you ever seen that, and is that something prevalent?

JS: I’ve seen the pressure, for sure. I had a girl who had a test that was expired by one day, and I had a scene booked with her. This was more than 10 years ago. We had to change the scene completely so the actor didn’t have sex with that girl. There was a lot of pressure there. People are going to want to fudge with things. Hopefully our testing system has gotten stronger over the years, and the talent has gotten better at insisting on tests. Unfortunately, human beings are not perfect.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 18: Adult film producer/director John Stagliano appears at the Evil Angel booth at the 2012 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 18, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller / Getty Images

KA: Forgive me for asking this question, but this is public about you: You are HIV positive. Tell me how that’s affected your thinking on this question, if at all.

JS: My general manager pointed out that it’s far more dangerous to play Little League baseball than it is to perform in porn without condoms. And it’s true: I played Little League baseball, and I got hit in the head a few times. It was far more dangerous, and I risked more than I physically risked being in porn, and I did not get HIV from being in porn.

KA: Will you spell out what will happen to the porn business in Los Angeles if Measure B passes?

JS: First off, we’re going to challenge the law in court and hopefully get an injunction. But if that doesn’t happen, people will choose to shoot in other places. Maybe some scenes will go underground. I don’t shoot that much personally myself; it’ll be pretty easy for me to just shoot in other places. But other directors at my company will have harder problems.

KA: The business of porn is being challenged in lots of different ways right now. Is this just another thing making it harder?

JS: What I do is I make art. I’m incredibly privileged to be able to use these unbelievably talented, strong people to make my art in porn. And I just hope to be able to do that in whatever way possible. Whether I make less money at it now than I did in 2007 when DVD sales were better, it just means I have less resources at my disposal. But I’m going to continue to make my art in whatever way I can.

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