I can appreciate as much as the next person how awesome it would be to see more safer sex in porn. I think it’s really hot to see condoms, dental dams, and gloves. I often prefer to use gloves myself, on and off set, because black gloves covered in lube is pretty fucking sexy.
I don’t think it’s hot to force them on porn stars, any more than I think it’s hot to take away people’s agency in any institutionalized fashion. And I really bristle at the government enforcing health and safety policies on set when society’s done such a piss poor job creating any support structure for porn performers – a legal form of employment, yet we can be fired, have our children taken away, lose housing, lose our bank accounts, for having been in this profession with nary a word from them.
Weird how that doesn’t make me want to invite the government into my porn sets to make sure we’re “safe”.
The legalese of the bill, mightily pushed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, can be read here. I’m going to give you some reasons why I oppose it (main issues highlighted), and I’ll link at the bottom to the best articles on the topic.
You do know that AB 1576 will mean the death of indie porn/queer porn/feminist porn in California. No more real life camming couples. No more TroubleFilms. No more Pink and White (they’re already working out moving plans to Las Vegas, just in case). No more Clips4Sale. No more independently produced porn by and with people of colour, like Feelmore Entertainment, Soft Serve, or Pulpcore. Because if we shoot content, WE CAN GO TO JAIL.
Yeah, that’s right. For shooting content of people having sex without spending $200+ on industry tests to sell, we could be arrested. This bill works to incriminate, not just producers, but performers themselves. Small adult businesses would be unable to afford to get started, never mind be sustainable and pay performers. Many companies would just leave California, granted, but independent businesses (often offering the only non-exploitative content that’s open to people marginalized in porn- queer people, fat people, people of colour, people with disabilities) would be unlikely to survive the transition.
Does this sound like “performer safety” to you? I mean, I get it, AHF wants to help stop the spread of STIs (keep in mind, herpes and HPV are on the list, even though clinics will resist testing you for them in the first place). But our bodies are OUR business. It’s in the best interest of porn performers to keep themselves healthy because we need a healthy body to work *at all*. and porn is certainly not the only industry where potential health consequences are present– Syd Blakovich points out that MMA and wrestling are not held by these standards, yet fluid exchange is possible. Are those performers tested for blood borne illness? Nope.
This isn’t about fluid exchange, or STIs. It’s about enforcing cultural morals and prejudices.
And condoms break. A LOT.
As for the concern about needing to hold onto performer medical records along with their 2257s indefinitely? Yes, I think this leaves a massive issue when it comes to privacy. We have witnessed with shocking regularity how eager the public is to out and subsequently harass adult performers (Belle Knox, Porn WikiLeaks) and creating a database with even more intimate information that every producer and distributer has access to will lead to disaster. Have we so recently forgotten the AIM data leak? And frankly I imagine Porn WikiLeaks got their information (phone numbers, addresses, etc) from distributer 2257 records, which often includes a contract linking a performer’s legal name with their work name, a form of ID often with an address, and contact information (as they lacked any medical records in their “profiles”). Are we going to further risk the lives and livelihoods of porn performers by making a database that anyone claiming to be a producer or distributer can access? That seems absurd.
Plus, it’s possible to achieve what the AHF is seeking to achieve without a bill like this, as Pink and White points out:
Performer-safe porn is achievable. Our company sexual health policy forCrashPadSeries.com and other productions includes professional conduct, sobriety, communication, and informed decision-making. Education is key for sustainable sexual health. We provide resources such as information about subsidizing industry standard tests, sliding scale clinics who are respectful to marginalized patients, and which Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STI’s) are known to be transmittable by specific sexual acts. We encourage participants to have a clear industry standard test within 14 days of the shoot date and provide safer sex barriers*. Because many couples we hire are in committed, long-term relationships, and with respect to their educated choices, performers have the right to waive tests and/or barrier use at their own risk. Additionally, we allow them to have sex in the ways they prefer, including lower risk sex acts such as mutual masturbation and stimulation over clothing, should they so choose. We also pay performers equally regardless of sex act, minimizing the influence of performing higher risk (and often higher paid) sexual acts. This policy was formed collaboratively by porn performers, sex educators, and medical professionals.
I agree with them on one thing: I would like to figure out a system where performers didn’t have to pay out of pocket for their talent STI panels when required to provide them by an employer. I actually agree that at the very least subsidizing the test would be an incredible change- having to pay $200+ for the test and processing can put performers in a tricky situation, where they can be additionally manipulated into doing more than they want to, as they start filming at a deficit. I can imagine having to subsidize testing would also mean that marginalized performers would have an even harder time getting work than they do now– would the adult industry bother to hire plus size performers, or performers of colour, if they had to pay extra for each new face?
Do I think there should be health and safety laws in place when it comes to porn? Yes, actually, I do. But I think the people creating the bill *need* to be current porn performers, not just in mainstream porn but in indie porn. We need to be invited to the table to say what WE want and need to feel safe at work. This bill will homogenize the porn industry further, increasing the various issues it ALREADY has and wiping out the diversity that’s changing the industry to embrace queer porn and feminist porn more and more each year. You can bet that’ll all end in a heartbeat… especially if these industries move to Nevada, who is not particularly friendly to *any* sex.
Maybe this is when we unionize, in order to demonstrate that we CAN in fact govern our affairs, not AHF, not porn producers, but performers ourselves. After all, it’s our lives, and livelihoods, on the line. We deserve a voice.
And I welcome AHF to fight for our legal right to not be fired from other employment or discriminated against for having been in porn. That’d actually be useful and reduce the likelihood of someone turning to risky porn for survival.