July 20 2016 01:10 PM

Prop 60 either advocates safety or strips performers’ rights

San Diego-based adult film producer and star Mia Li
Photo courtesy of Mia Li

California's November ballot will leave no stone unturned. Classrooms. Cigarettes. Prisons. Pot. Also among the topics to be debated: the porn industry.

Supporters of Proposition 60, also known as The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, say it aims to tighten safety standards within the industry and minimize the risk of spreading HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Pornographers argue the proposition tries to fix a system that isn’t broken.

Prop 60 would require adult performers to use condoms and other protection while filming and subject the actors to state-regulated HIV and STI testing. The initiative reached the ballot after more than 557,000 signatures were collected statewide, surpassing the required amount of 365,880.

Rick Taylor, campaign manager for Yes on Prop 60, said it would enforce the California Department of Industrial Relations’ pre-existing requirement for condom use in adult filmmaking, which is in compliance with the 1993 U.S. Department of Labor’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, and regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“For years now, the industry has ignored the federal law,” Taylor said. “All we are trying to do is put added protections in this law, give the performers even more protections than they have now so that they don’t get, not just AIDS, but so many other diseases that these performers are at risk of getting.”

Communications Director Mike Stabile of the Free Speech Coalition, which considers itself the trade association of the adult entertainment industry, said the industry successfully self-regulates and performers already refuse to work with producers who don’t test regularly.

“Even when you’re talking about something like chlamydia or gonorrhea, this is something that would put you out of work for a number of weeks,” Stabile said. “For any of us, if there’s something certain that would keep us from working for two weeks, we would be really cautious about it and take it really seriously. Aside from just wanting your sexual health to be on the up and up, this is something that really would affect incomes.”

The Free Speech Coalition took on the responsibility of widespread testing of HIV and STIs in the adult film industry under its Performer Available Screening Services, after the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation went out of business in 2011. Stabile said that performers are tested every 14 days, and their results are confidentially recorded, accessed only by registered actors and producers. Under this system, “there has not been an on-set transmission of HIV on a regulated adult set since 2004,” according to the FSC website.

And in the event of a false-positive test, San Diego-based adult film star and producer Mia Li said the industry is put under a moratorium, in which all filming is suspended until every potentially affected performer has been tested and cleared.

Taylor strongly disagrees that the status quo is safe. “They’re giving you bullshit,” he said. “They’re pornographers that prey on young men and women and throw them to the curb when they get a disease, which unfortunately is life-threatening and with them for the rest of their life.”

The animosity traces back further and deeper than Prop 60. There has been a longstanding rivalry between the porn industry and the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest global HIV and AIDS service organization. AHF President Michael Weinstein has been scrutinized for fraud, anti-unionization and a counterattack on PrEP, an FDA-approved drug proven to prevent HIV.

Weinstein is the driving force behind Prop 60. As of April, the AHF had funded 100 percent of its costs, totaling $2 million. He also spearheaded Measure B, which was passed in Los Angeles and called for the adult film condom requirement.

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board initially supported the intent behind Measure B, but poor oversight led them to later opine that “government is ill-equipped to mandate and enforce the use of condoms on adult film sets.”

Prop 60 “is very dangerous and very misleading because Michael Weinstein has said it’s coming from a place of the best interest of the performers,” said Li. But Weinstein has been absent at every opportunity for discussion, she said.

Taylor said the AHF would not get involved in the industry’s games. “We’re not playing politics,” he said. “It’s about people’s lives here. This is real. This ain’t about who’s smarter politically. If they want to play cutesy political moves, great. Let them play by themselves.”

Industry insiders like Li are most concerned about details that extend beyond the basics of condom use and tests. If passed, Prop 60 would allow any Californian to report an adult film that appears to be in violation of the condom requirement.

AHF President Michael Weinstein
Photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr

“It’s taking the enforcement aspect of it away from government and putting it in the hands of any California resident that wants to pursue a lawsuit,” Li said. “And through that, even if it never comes to fruition, now they have access to my private information, my address, things that can be demanded of me through the process of the law. And that’s not okay.”

Li also says the protection requirement is not exclusive to condoms, and would fill the future of porn with dental dams, gloves and goggles, which performers say strips their attempt to be intimate and realistic.

“When it boils down to it, people don’t buy condom porn,” Li said. “They want a representation of what sex can look like in its optimal form because this is entertainment.”

While the GOP has called pornography a menace to public health, the California Republican Party opposes Proposition 60. The California Democratic Party is also against the proposition. Taylor attributes this to political grudges.

“It’s politics,” Taylor said about the bipartisan opposition. “I don’t know how to answer it any other way...the leadership of these parties are controlled by a handful of special interests and the [Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric C. Bauman]...does not care for the director of the AHF. He has had a personal feud with him for many years, and this is his way of getting back at this one individual rather than looking at it in a way to protect working men and women, which is what this whole campaign is all about.”

Bauman could not be reached for comment.

San Diego isn’t a hotspot for porn production, but it does have its share of consumers. Local residents account for nearly one percent of all of Pornhub’s traffic within the United States, according to the porn site’s data, which also shows the city has an above average affinity for lesbian, stepsister, stepmom and MILF content when compared to the rest of California.

Overall, the porn industry is centralized in Los Angeles, and only a small cluster of companies maintain a very low profile in San Diego—the most notable being Naughty America, which has most recently made headlines for its groundbreaking virtual reality pornography content. In the event that Proposition 60 passes, though, some fear the $9 billion industry could be driven out of California altogether.


(One in a series of stories delving into the multitudinous number of propositions that will appear on the Nov. 8 California ballot.)

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