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Mandatory Californian STI Porn Star Tests, Canadian Military Sex Assault Denial, and #YesAllWomen

This week in Lady Business we discuss porn actors are being put through the ringer when it comes to proving to the government, the bros in the Canadian military who are claiming they don’t have an internal problem with sexual assault concerning their...

by Sarah Ratchford
May 30 2014, 8:58pm

This week in Lady Business: adult film actors are being put through the ringer when it comes to proving to the government that they’re STI free, which is causing privacy concerns in the porn world. Plus, the bros in the Canadian Military claim they don’t have an internal problem with sexual assault concerning their female members. And, a brand new women’s movement was born in the wake of a horrible tragedy: #YesAllWomen.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Screenshot via.
New Californian Condom Law Hurts Porn Star Privacy

Last week, the California State Assembly passed a bill that would force all porn performers to wear condoms during penetrative sex, while also seriously harming the performers’ rights to privacy. The bill, AB 1576, aims to put a government mandate on STI testing, by forcing producers to hand over performers’ STI test results to the Department of Industrial Relations.

It’s not hard to read this as: performers are losing their right to privacy simply because they have sex for a living.

The bill, introduced by Isadore Hall, and sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is problematic because it infantilizes grown-ass adults and gets involved in their personal business, threatening to out their sexual health records to authoritarian strangers. It also assumes the state knows what’s best for performers’ health and bodies—which is also not so good. The body is the only truly private property, and consent is key. The government is violating the very idea of consent. The bill is dehumanizing, it won’t make porn a safer work environment, and performers are fighting it.

Before I go any further, let me just say that of course porn performers, who generally have lots of sex with lots of other humans, seem like they would be at an elevated risk of contracting STIs. Because performers have so much sex some may think there should be stipulations in place on testing. But there are strict stipulations in place as it is, developed and instituted by the industry. Performers are required to be tested every 14 days, as Lorelei Lee explains here. The state is ignoring these industry-developed standards, and it’s pushing through its own solution without consulting pornographers and performers.

I have never been a porn performer, and so I reached out to a couple I’ve met in the past, but I didn’t hear back in time for deadline. These tweets should clarify how performers in both mainstream and feminist porn feel:

For the record, I’m not saying condom use on porn sets is a horrible plan. It’s likely a great plan, for some. The problem with this bill is that it doesn’t give performers the option to make their own choice. Condoms can cause chafing, which can lead to genital lacerations, making STI contraction more likely. The thing is, performers simply won’t abide by the stipulations outlined in AB 1576—even if it is passed. They will either be pushed underground, which would make their work far less safe, or move en masse to Las Vegas in neighbouring Nevada, which would rip a multi-billion dollar industry out of California—not to mention senselessly uproot performers’ lives. And I have to say, I don’t blame them: the language in the bill is disturbing as hell, as is the image of a pack of besuited legislators coming together to discuss the terms of other people’s “anal intercourse.” But it seems some people will go to any lengths necessary to regulate and patrol the bodies of others.

From the bill: “…Because a violation of the act would be a crime under certain circumstances, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a new crime.”

Yes, omitting condom use under any circumstances on set would be a criminal act.

Another quote from the bill: "The legislature finds and declares that the protection of workers in the adult film industry is the responsibility of multiple layers of government, with the department being responsible for worker safety and the county being responsible for protecting the public health."

The state has a responsiblity to protect the safety and well-being of child orphans, not lord over the career choices of grown adults. If the goal of the bill is actually to "protect" workers, the state would have them to find out what kind of healthcare they need, rather than dictate guidelines for an industry they know nothing about. Porn performers are highly engaged with politics, they have a seemingly endless capacity for study and activism, and they are fully aware that their sexual health impacts not only their personal lives, but their livelihoods as well.

Mike Stabile is a spokesman with kink.com, and he gave me a call from LA the other day. Kink was one of the sites to first get behind the push to stop AB 1576. While those behind the bill say it's for the stars' own good, Stabile, alongside many performers, says it's a morally-driven move to make the industry illegal.

“The group behind the bill has been opposed to the industry for a long time,” he tells me. “A liberal state like California can’t go after [the industry] in the normal way. In other places, you could say, ‘Oh, this is degrading, this is perverted.’ Here, if you want to lead an old-fashioned morality campaign, you have to disguise it in another way.”

He says that disguise comes in the form of concern for performers’ health, and in lies about the prevalence of STIs in the industry.

“You have to manufacture a crisis to get something like this passed.”

Last week, the internet exploded over the fact that 19-year-old Alyssa Funke killed herself after being “outed” as a performer at her university about a month ago. Everyone said the bullying she faced in the aftermath was the reason she committed suicide. As Emily Shire writes in a sensitive, thoughtful piece honouring Funke, this has become reductive, and ignores the fact that Funke was a complex, multi faceted human being, and not a “talking point about porn.” That said, Funke battled depression for years, and the jeers and bullying can’t have been a positive contributor to that. Bullying from teenagers is one thing, but from the government?

Ostensibly, the bill is to protect performers from HIV. Those in the industry say no cases of HIV have been contracted on set in the past decade. Some performers have tested positive, but they are said to have contracted the virus offset, in their own sex lives. HIV exists within the larger populace, obviously, not just in porn, and people contract it every day. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,144,500 Americans have the virus. Therefore, it would be shocking if no one in porn ever contracted HIV, and further stigmatizing workers when they are already stigmatized for their choice of work, even by the banks, is sick.

People are assholes about porn because they want their “family values” to remain unchallenged. That means they don’t want their cis gendered, heteronormative, capitalist, neo-conservative power structures to crumble. Porn challenges the idea that everybody exists within the confines of monogamous, vanilla relationships—a type of cultural disruption that government normals can’t possibly deal with.

But putting aside my judgment and your own, the fact remains that trying to instigate rules for the penetration of other people’s literal assholes is creepy. It’s just none of your fucking business, Cali conservatives. Thx.





General Tom Lawson, during his swear in ceremony last year. Screenshot via YouTube.
Sexual Assault Not A Problem in the Canada’s Military: Canada’s Top Military Bro

Back home in Canada, General Tom Lawson, the chief of defence staff, is being called to task as questions are put to him regarding sexual assault and violence in the military. The Commons defence committee is seeking answers from him after a Maclean’s and L’actualité report unveiled horrifying statistics about the prevalence of sexual assault within the institution. Apparently, five individuals in the Canadian military community become victims of sexual assault every day.

From the report:

“According to statistics obtained through Canada’s Access to Information Act, military police have received between 134 and 201 complaints of sexual assaults every year since 2000. That’s an average of 178 per year. Most specialists agree that hundreds of other cases are not reported. Statistics Canada estimates that only one in 10 cases of sexual assault is reported to authorities. That means a total of 1,780 sexual assaults per year in the Canadian Forces. Or five per day.”

While Lawson sent his condolences to those who spoke out, and said he was disturbed by the allegations, the CBC reports that he also said “he does not accept the notion that sexual violence and harassment are part of military culture.” He cited a recent internal survey, which suggested harassment has been declining in the military for the past decade.

1.)  Just because you don’t like something, or it disturbs you, doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. (see: the “#notallmen” campaign, for men who say not all men are sexual abusers; or the “#yesallwomen” campaign, for women who say all women have been victims of harassment and/or abuse)

2.)  People are unlikely to report sexual assaults because they will not be believed, and in this case, they are doubly unlikely to report, IMHO, because their jobs are on the line. Hence, internal surveys are a horrible method of measuring the prevalence of sexual assault within any institution.

Weeks prior to the release of the Maclean’s and L’actualité report, Major David Yurczyszyn was convicted of sexual assault after groping a woman’s breast. And Corporal Derrick Gallagher was arrested and charged with eight counts of sexual assault and two of voyeurism in March. No fewer than 18 additional charges were tacked on later. Ontario Provincial Police are still looking for another 50 women they believe may have been assaulted, as well.

An internal review has already shed light on the fact that there are indeed some barriers standing in the way of sexual assault survivors, but, happily, an external one has also been organized for the near future.

As Women Finally Mourn The Realities of Our Daily Lives, a Movement Is Born

Everyone on the internet has written about this by now, so I’ll keep it short. When I found out Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree because too many “entitled” women had denied him pussy, something wholly unfamiliar happened to me. I couldn’t write about it, and I couldn’t even really engage with it. I couldn’t even bring myself to #yesallwomen for the first couple of days, even though I already knew of its painful realities. I found myself completely silenced.

Rodgers’ mass hatred of women and the discussions around it made me feel too small to write. Every time I’ve been unwillingly groped, squeezed, touched, cat-called, harassed, stared at, or propositioned—came rushing back through the testimonies of so many women. All women. But I couldn’t be one of the women who found power in the massive uprising that is #yesallwomen, because for a few days, and for the first time, I allowed myself to feel damaged by the way men have treated me.

A lifetime of being sexually harassed and implicitly threatened by men has made me feel, at times, stupid, worthless, filthy, and teeny-tiny. These shootings and the public unveiling of just how lethally misogynistic our culture is really illustrated just how fucking hard it’s been, for all of us.

I’ve written about being sexually assaulted before, and how I barely let myself notice what its effects might have been, at least at the time. But aside from those sexual assaults, every blatant leer and sexually suggestive comment directed at me over the years came back to me this week, and settled upon my psyche in layers. It’s been hard to shrug them off. I’ve been reminded of all the times I catch a man sliding my clothes off with his eyes (women can tell when you’re doing this, guys), and it makes me want to be invisible. Or to be a man. Or to have a hard, impenetrable plastic shield for genitals, like Barbie. I get scared. But the feeling only lasts a few seconds, and I shake it off and move on with my life. Because dwelling on it, for me, turns into self-blame, and that’s something I don’t have time for. And, after allowing myself a couple of days of sadness, the power of the uprising that is #yesallwomen is nurturing me back to health.

If you haven’t yet, read about #yesallwomen, and #yesallwhitewomen. Do not ignore stories and statistics about how women of colour, trans* women, Indigenous women, and women with disabilities are all at a much greater risk of violence than straight, able-bodied, cis white women.

Read why many men don’t know about the level of misogyny out there. Read about what it’s like for dudes who are nerds growing up in this culture that seems to hate us all equally, and read a plea from one of those so-called nerds.

It’s important.

#yesallwomen
 

@sarratch

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