One of the sadder chapters of the 2012 election season is the passage of a Los Angeles County proposition mandating the wearing of condoms in pornographic films. Ostensibly the motivation for this measure is public health. But porn performers are already tested monthly for venereal diseases, and have every opportunity to inspect one another's medical records and take whatever other precautions they wish to voluntarily take to protect their health. There is, in short, no justification in terms of an actual demonstrated need for such a regulation.

So, here are how things stand. In Los Angeles County, between consenting adults it is legal to have sex with whoever you want; but it is illegal to be paid for having sex with somebody -- well, unless this sex is filmed and commercially distributed. And it is legal to have sex with whoever you want without wearing a condom -- again, unless this sex is filmed and commercially distributed.

This is at the end of the day not a problem of public health or disease control or what-have-you (and even if a crisis was afoot in this area, that does not require so deep an invasion of personal rights as having the government put a condom on your penis for you). This is an effort to control expression, to inconvenience an industry still puritanically disfavored by the cloistered few to the point where they wish they could hamper its availability to all, and are able to sell a bare majority on the myth of a public health benefit to secure their aims. And it is at the same time an effort to control what the consumer is able to see, to tell the purveyor of pornography that "as much as we are able to dictate, you may not watch a condomless johnson entering into a vajayjay."

And what effect will this measure have? It is hard to imagine that it will be especially well policed. After all, one can not tell from watching a porn movie filmed in the interior of an anonymous house, or in a nondescript studio, whether that filming location was in Los Angeles or in Reno or New Orleans or Timbuktu for that matter. So quite likely a large number of porn producers will continue plying their condomless trade in the City of Angels, and simply take care to not start putting 'filmed in Los Angeles' on the product. And insofar as any porn producers really do fear repercussions from the condom police, will they'll simply move their operations across county lines into Venture or Kern or the untamed San Bernardino -- taking their spending and business generating with them.

Maybe the good people of Los Angeles will come around to repealing this silly law. More likely, it will simply be ignored, and some future researcher will uncover it and class it with those occasionally mocked chestnuts setting weight limits on Valentine's Day candy gifts, setting age limits for pinball players, or prohibiting the serving of beer and pretzels at the same time (all of these have been on the books in various places at various times). But the people have spoken, and this is the law as it is today.

mkb notes that "Porn film sets are visited by vice cops. All filming within the county is required to be permitted, so they know where you are; but yes, I think this would have the effect of moving the business elsewhere if possible. The permitting enforcers are quite vigorous. Tristan Taormino wrote a blog entry where the cops ordered a halt to filming simply because the permit was not readily available from the pile of papers it was in.