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Pulling out, California Porn Industry Faces New Risks

LAS VEGAS – 25,000 adult film stars, distributors, and fans descended on Las Vegas this week for the 15th annual Adult Entertainment Expo and AVN Award Show, the industry’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. Porn stars showed off for the cameras, toy manufacturers hawked their wares, and 1,000 journalists from hundreds of outlets chronicled the extravaganza.

However, this year’s convention comes at a pivotal moment for the industry’s presence in California, which has long been the pornography capital of the world.

High taxes, strict regulations, and a higher cost of living are converging to push the porn industry out of California and into other states like Nevada and Florida, where rules governing the adult entertainment business are more relaxed. However, the relief may be short-lived, as most of those states are considering tighter regulations of their own.

In 2012, Los Angeles County passed Measure B, a law mandating condom use on all adult film shoots. While efforts to pass a statewide condom law were defeated in an Assembly committee in August of last year, advocates, like the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are already looking toward 2016 for the implementation of statewide legislation.

The looming threat of tighter regulation in California has caused adult film production companies to take their business elsewhere.

“Shooting is moving to Vegas and Miami,” said Samantha Ryder, marketing director for Mindgeek, the largest owner and operator of Internet pornography in the world. “Measure B was big. Some companies are not as affected; for example, Wicked Entertainment is condom-only. They like it, because they’re more couple-centric.”

“I’m neither for nor against [the laws],” Ryder continued, “so long as they’re not infringing on the performers’ choice. The majority prefer no condoms. We just want to make sure the girls are happy.”

The Los Angeles Times reported in August that the number of adult film shoot permits issued in Los Angeles dropped from 485 in 2012 to just 40 in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of film permits issued in Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, jumped from 226 in 2012 to 343 in 2013. In 2014, 400 permits were issued in Clark County, according to the Associated Press.

While porn industry revenues are difficult to pinpoint with precision, estimates range anywhere between $7-$13 billion a year in the United States alone. Last year, California Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Compton), author of the Measure B regulations, told Fox News that it was not the Legislature’s intention to chase the industry out of California.

And in some ways, the industry has not left just yet. Though the number of issued permits in Los Angeles County is down, some production companies are simply moving to nearby counties, or else shooting in out-of-the-way locations where they won’t be caught.

“Nothing’s changed really,” said James Deen, three-time AVN Male Performer of the Year, who noted that he still shoots most of his films in California.

Still, the signal that California lawmakers have sent the adult entertainment community is unmistakable.

“From a sustainability standpoint, the industry has to move to Las Vegas,” said Michael Wondercub of PornCareerBuilder.com, a service that meets with newcomers to the industry and provides them with guidance and marketing expertise.

“In general, California has higher taxes and a higher cost of living,” Wondercub said. “The condom law was a flashpoint, though. It scared people. This is a safe industry if you play by the rules, and Nevada just has less regulations.”

Those looser regulations may not last for long; in December, two male adult film actors contracted HIV on a film shoot in Nevada after having sex without condoms. The incident marked the first time since 2004 that an adult film performer contracted the virus on a set.

On Friday, during the third day of the Adult Entertainment Expo, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced it was considering tight new regulations governing adult film shoots in the state. The regulations would mandate condom use for all sex acts filmed in Nevada, including oral sex, as well as weekly testing for syphilis and gonorrhea and monthly testing for HIV.

“The potential exists to require condoms and other barrier options in all sexual content,” Nevada Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Mary Woods said in a statement.

“Moving is not a long-term solution,” adult film actress Courtney Trouble told Breitbart News. Trouble is a member of the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee (APAC), an organization that focuses on adult film performers’ rights and health.

“Performers should be able to make their own choices,” Trouble said when asked about the potential for new condom regulations in Nevada.

APAC member and porn actor Tim Woodman said that all 5o states could soon see similar regulation.

“The U.S. government is attempting to enforce what constitutes good, safe sex,” Woodman said.

Adult film stars seem to be split on the tangible effects of the industry’s move out of California and into Nevada. Some, like former AVN Award winner and industry veteran Shawna Leneé, have already moved to Las Vegas to be closer to the work.

“I see everybody moving here,”Leneé said. “It’s cheaper, and most actresses are making less money these days. It just makes more sense.”

Anya Ivy, a relative newcomer to the industry who began her career in adult films eight months ago, said that the condom laws aren’t necessary because rigorous testing for HIV is sufficient.

“People are not happy about the condom law,” said Ivy, whose film Jersey Boys is nominated for an AVN Award this year. “There’s already a ‘code of honor’ between performers [to get tested], because you could kill someone!”

Ivy is set to appear next in Hustler Productions’ The Interview XXX, a porn parody of the now-infamous Sony Pictures film that was at the center of a hacking scandal and an international incident.

“We were all kinda nervous while shooting the film,” Ivy laughed. “We were worried North Korea was going to come assassinate us.”

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