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Porn Director: I Was Totally Against Mandatory Condom Use in Sex Flicks, Until Now

Here's why this director changed her mind.
 
 
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“My chlamydia and gonorrhea test results aren’t back yet,” a 19-year-old I’ll call Cheryl said in a raspy whisper, her small hand covering her cellphone as the nurse at the clinic waited on the other end.

“Well, when do they think the results will be in?” I asked, trying not to sound panicked. My entire cast and crew was in the next room waiting for the results, which would clear her to perform hardcore sex on camera with a male costar.

“Probably not until Monday,” Cheryl said. “I’m so sorry, Nica.”

“Fuck,” I whispered, walking into one of the dark, empty rooms on the soundstage. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

I was already several thousand dollars over budget due to production disasters and “no call/no show” performers. It was crucial that I finish the movie, but by law, there was only one way I could allow Cheryl to perform a sex scene without a current STD test: by allowing her costar to wear a condom.

I’d been told many times that condoms in porn meant certain death to sales. Conventional wisdom suggested that nobody wants condoms in their sexual fantasy. Porn was supposed to be an escape, not a public service announcement or a reminder that sex is dangerous or risky.

This was prior to 2012, when the controversial Measure B made condoms mandatory in porn — a law recently upheld, though it is still being  fought by adult film producers who believe it’s catastrophic to our industry. For a long time I agreed with them, and though I’ve long struggled with the subject, here’s how much I didn’t want a condom in my film that day: I replaced Cheryl.

Actually, it was the president of the parent company who made that decision, but I’m the one who accepted it and had to break the news to Cheryl, who was surprisingly gracious about it. I’d come to porn hoping to change the way it was made, but that day, I felt like a scumbag.

* * *

I compare my career ascension in porn to falling into the rabbit hole,à la “Alice in Wonderland.” While working as a litigation paralegal and moonlighting as a journalist seven years ago, I got an assignment to write about the making of a fetish video. In order to do the job right, I decided to audition for a role in a spanking video and perform in it myself.

The experience was life-changing: Instead of feeling degraded, I’d left the shoot feeling oddly euphoric and — even more oddly — empowered. I began working for other adult film studios, including a small, unknown lesbian porn company whose owner operated out of his modest Encino, Calif., home. After using me as a model for several shoots, he offered me a job as creative director. My mission, he explained, was to transform his company from a niche studio into the “leader in lesbian erotica.” It meant quitting my job at the law firm and taking a huge pay cut, but I felt destiny knocking. Within a year, the studio was the talk of the adult industry and I was being hailed as a trailblazer in a “new era” of adult films.

And so, along with “suburban mom,” “journalist” and “paralegal,” I added “pornographer” (a label I proudly, defiantly claimed) to my résumé. My overnight success gave me the confidence (or was it arrogance?) to  think I might change not only what kind of movies fans watched but also how adult performers would be treated on set.

I’d heard stories of performers forced to have sex on dirt roads and in back alleys, on dirty carpets infested with fleas, and on semen-stained couches. I’d heard tales of porn “stars” being denied access to soap and showers, and given no food or drinks after 12 or more hours on set. Most adult performers also accepted as par for the course that they’d be sexually harassed not only by producers but also the lowliest members of the studio’s production crew.

 
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