California’s Measure B, the law that requires mandatory use of condoms in all vaginal and anal sex scenes shot in Los Angeles County, has been a polarizing subject for a while within the adult industry. Last year, an appeals court upheld the law, inspiring disapproval from most porn actors and producers. Of course, policing all porn scenes shot in California is very hard to do, which is why there’s a new proposed state ballot measure that would allow any resident of the state to sue a company, actor or distributor who may be breaking that specific law.
The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a non-profit organization that has been fighting obscenity and censorship laws for over 20 years and has been strongly opposed to Measure B, cited a report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office claiming that enforcing this proposed measure could cost the state tens of millions of dollars by losing all the tax revenue that comes through porn.
“The state stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and thousands of vital jobs for what is essentially a one-man moral crusade,” said Diane Duke, Free Speech Coalition CEO. “This analysis supports what we’ve been saying for years. It’s costly and wasteful and would ultimately hurt performers.”
The proposed measure could result in a taxpayer-subsidized office — led by Michael Weinstein — in charge of reviewing every adult film shot in California, to make sure they used a condom in each of them; clearly a huge priority when it comes to spending the taxpayers’ money.
We’ve spoken about this before; both sides have valid arguments, but in the end it comes down to freedom of speech versus protection for sex workers.
Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the “one man” whose crusade Duke suggested, is aware of the argument used by most supporters of condom-free porn: Consenting adults should be able to have unprotected sex and film it if they want, but he claims the issue is bigger than that.
“First, if people want to record themselves having condom-less sex and show it to the world that is their right. However, when the people get paid to do it then they are employees and entitled to the same workplace protection that all other workers receive,” Weinstein wrote in the Huffington Post earlier this month. “Second, these performers if they demand that condoms be used will not get work and are therefore being coerced into compromising their own health.”
Weinstein’s angle is more about “protecting workers” than banning condoms, which is probably how they’ve managed to gather so many signed petitions in the past few years, claiming that unprotected sex in porn has led to thousands of STDs over the last few years.
“Porn is the only industry in California where employees are forced to expose themselves to dangerous diseases in order to work,” Weinstein stated in the same piece.
Whether that is true or not is debatable. For the most part, performers are STD-free and are tested regularly; those tests are presented to the producers before shooting, every time. Obviously the system is far from perfect and there are always risks, but you could argue that a lot of jobs have conditions that would expose the employees to potential danger.
Every performer in the adult industry is very aware of the risks that come with the profession; it’s usually one of the biggest concerns of people coming into the industry, but it’s part of the job at this point. Performers do have the option of saying no to unprotected scenes. Of course, that will signify a lot less work for them, but if safety is what they want, they can always opt for that.
Constant testing is good, but evidently not enough to prevent the occasional infection and subsequent moratoriums. And you can be sure that the proponents of Measure B and similar laws will jump on every one of those cases to advocate for their point of view.
Porn is a business that will always have its loyal supporters, and they know exactly what they want and will look for that. What Weinstein seems to be missing is that people will seek unprotected sex scenes anyway. You can outlaw unprotected sex, but people will find a way to obtain it regardless of what you legislate. If that means moving the entire business out of the state, so be it.
“Weinstein’s obsession with adult films will cost California tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and will result in a loss of critical services for our communities,” Duke said. “Weinstein wants to line his pockets with taxpayer money and appoint himself as Attorney General.”
Strong accusations, but everything’s possible in politics. It’s probably not a reply Weinstein wouldn’t expect, as producers have been slowly moving away from California, but he still remains pretty confident about his chances.
“We will continue to fight as long as it takes to make this industry safer in the same way that we fought against treating gay men, drug users, or Africans as expendable,” said Weinstein. “AIDS activism has eventually succeeded in everything that it puts its mind to over three decades. This will be no different.”
Except it is different. Comparing the use of condoms in porn to the serious struggles that many people have had against racism and homophobia is a tad blown out of proportion, especially when most of the consulting adults who work in the industry happen to be against Weinstein’s proposed laws.
Realistically, though, what’s happening is a slow geographical shift of the American pornographic industry. Unprotected sex scenes will always be more appealing to most porn fans than those using condoms, and consumers will gravitate towards that. In the end no one really cares where their porn is made, just the visual results. Even if Weinstein’s measure is approved, they might have significantly less video to review. The only real change that will happen is that other states might end up welcoming all of that sweet porn tax revenue from now on.