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      Will the Entire Porn Industry Be Forced to Move to Nevada?

      June 3, 2014

      Another wave of porn regulation is here: On May 27, Assembly Bill 1576, a statewide expansion of Measure B, passed the California Assembly.

      Los Angeles County voters passed Measure B back in 2012, which requires “producers of adult films to obtain a County public health permit,” and for “adult film performers to use condoms while engaged in sex acts.”

      AB1576 takes Measure B a step further and imposes an additional mandate on STI testing than the ones currently used by porn performers, and requires that all producers disclose those records with the Department of Industrial Relations, a clear violation of privacy.

      Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-Los Angeles) introduced the bill, and Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, sponsored it. The bill is scheduled to move to the California State Senate sometime after June 15.

      We should be cheering, right? HIV = bad. Condoms = good. Condoms + people who fuck for a living = less HIV for all!

      Except that many people in the sex industry feel that this issue is more about body autonomy than about public health.

      Sex-industry laborers, the group most directly affected by AB1576, have been speaking out against the bill since it was introduced. More than 600 adult film performers signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill.

      I spoke with three porn stars within three different segments in the porn industry who use condoms in their shoots and all agreed that the bill will take away choice from the performers and will not make the industry safer.

      Lorelei Lee has been performing in porn for 15 years, working for a variety of companies in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She is now a performer/director at Kink.com, a company that films BDSM and fetish scenes involving hardcore sex.

      She and hundreds of other sex industry professionals have been involved in extensive lobbying and #StopAB1576 social media campaigns. They point out that commercial sex is different from personal sex. Instead of condoms, many performers prefer self-regulated STI testing every 14 days due in part to the “condom burn” that can occur from prolonged on-set intercourse.

      According to AB1576.org, a site with information opposing the bill:

      “The industry's own current protocols for testing are more rigorous than those of the CDC or Department of Public Health Standards. AB1576 requires only the less-accurate ‘rapid HIV antibody’ test (with a window period of approximately 8 1/2 weeks between infection and detectability),  whereas all major producers now use the gold standard ‘HIV viral load’ method (with a window of 7–10 days). Most adult film producers already require full-panel STI testing no earlier than 14 days prior to any sexual shoot.”

      Contrary to stereotypes of on-set environments, Lee asserted that performers educate each other about health risks and help one another to make the best informed choices.

      “There is absolutely a culture of information sharing, especially among female performers,” Lee said. “I think this is true of most kinds of sex work. We all started out alone, without that knowledge. As soon as we get it, we want our co-workers to have it too. There’s a feeling that no one else cares. We’re the only ones who really care about each other.

      “Condom mandates are going to stop this information sharing from happening. This is already happening in LA.”

      Lee cautioned those who may believe condom mandate bills are protecting sex workers from exploitation and infection. She pointed out: “When people are thinking about that 18-year-old new sex worker who doesn’t have ties to co-workers who can share information with her, when we’re thinking about how we can protect her... That person is actually the one made most vulnerable by these kinds of laws. It’s not those of us who already have the knowledge and are used to working with the safety protections that we have in place now. I go onto a set and I know what I can demand.”

      Many people speaking on behalf of the adult industry have stated they already have their own health, safety, and personal body autonomy under control.

      Jiz Lee, another a San Francisco-based porn performer (who prefers gender-neutral pronouns), became a star in the queer porn genre and has worked for mainstream adult companies as well. The performer made over 200 adult videos. For the past year, the performer has also been employed full-time as the Online Marketing Director for Pink and White Productions.

      Pink and White is an industry leader when it comes to safer sex practices. The company’s sets are equipped with drawers full of organic lubricants, all sizes of condoms, non-latex condoms, nitrile gloves, and fruity dental dams, and they offer resources for performers to be tested for STIs every 14 days.

      “For my own performances,” Jiz Lee said, “I like to look at the scene in terms of risk assessment. I like to show safer sex through use of barriers—to make it visible.”

      Even a sex educator, like Jiz Lee, believes AB1576 will do the sex industry more harm than good.

      “The AIDS Healthcare Foundation claims the bill is to protect porn performers from HIV, yet no performers have contracted HIV on set since 2004. It reads like a moral crusade,” Jiz Lee said. “They’re not looking out for performers’ best interest. And to create a vague law that could incriminate every employee in a porn company sounds more like an anti-porn agenda."

      Two performers, Cameron Bay and her boyfriend who is also an adult film actor, said they contracted HIV on set in August 2013, but tracing their contraction proved difficult. The industry shut down until all other performers tested negative, which is Jiz Lee's reasoning behind the 10-year no-contraction period. 

      If this bill is really about fighting AIDS and HIV, then it seems the gay male porn industry would have something to say about it.

      Conner Habib has been working as a gay male porn performer for seven years. Habib works only with condoms and said that in the two hundred scenes he’s shot, he has never experienced a condom breaking.

      “This bill is not really protecting anybody in any substantial way,” Conner said, “but it is violating human rights.

      “Lots of men who are in the gay adult industry are extremely well informed about HIV. A lot of gay studio heads are more informed, having lived through and understood HIV in a much deeper way than most cis [cisgender], straight people. A lot of us are fine having protected sex with someone who is HIV positive. It’s a reality of our sex lives that we might be doing that anyway.”

      All three performers had plenty of ideas for alternatives to this bill, mostly involving comprehensive education and access to safer sex resources.

      Jiz Lee suggested, “Imagine the way cigarettes are sold, or alcohol. They’re controlled substances. They have a warning label. There’s already a law that you have to show a 2257 disclaimer that performers are over the age of 18. The same kind of title card could be used in porn before every film. There could basically be a condom ad. ‘Get out there and get tested. Know your status.’ That would be a great way to get that in people’s minds. Associating, ‘I’m about to watch something that’s going to turn me on and get me off’ with safety.”

      Jiz Lee added, “I wish the money backing this campaign could have been funneled into schools, youth centers, and organizations who are working with people who are actually at risk for HIV.”

      AB1576 will not stop the industry from producing condom-free sex scenes. The bill allows producers to Photoshop condoms out frame by frame. Companies are already doing this, despite prohibitive costs, due to a demand for scenes that reflect fantasy sex. As with any regulation, this risks pushing pornographers “underground,” producing content without a license or regulation. This would obviously lead to unsafe labor conditions and less performer autonomy; in other words, the bill would be counterproductive.

      Another possibility, which is being publicly considered by many producers including Kink.com’s CEO Peter Acworth, would be a move to Nevada. California could lose a multibillion-dollar film industry, and the lives of those involved in that industry would be in complete upheaval.

      Jiz Lee confirmed the same stance for Pink and White: “In consideration for the safety and legal protection of our employees, we would consider doing production out of state.”

      If AB1576 passes the Senate, how will this change the porn that we jerk off to?

      Habib’s prospects were dour. “I think it would open the industry up to more homophobia, less education about sexual health and HIV, less concern as to whether people had gay-friendly or sex-positive attitudes. It requires zero education,” he said. “That’s the purpose of a Nanny State: ‘We’ll take care of everything.’ This much regulation actually decreases understanding about sexual health and what choices are available.”

      On May 30, the Los Angeles Department of Health issued a statement saying that they had drawn no conclusive link between HIV and adult-film production in 2013.

       

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      Topics: porn, sex, condoms, health regulations, government regulations, california porn condoms, california politics, ab1576, #StopAB1576, adult film industry, HIV self-test, HIV porn, HIV aids

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