by Rich Moreland, February 2017
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Everyone knows by now that California voters rejected Proposition 60 last November. So, no condoms in adult film going forward!
But questions linger. How important was Prop 60’s defeat and what does it say about political activism in porn?
At the AVN trade show I decided to ask around.
Answers varied, as did opinions, and a sampling appears here.
First, however, performer Casey Calvert provides some background on the issue that has roiled the adult industry.
Measure B to Prop 60
The ruckus over Prop 60 began a few years ago in 2012 just when she entered the business, Casey remembers. The political dustup then was Measure B that required condoms for filmed sex in LA County.
Little changed, actually. The law was never really enforced, Casey points out.
“They don’t have the money to make sure porn stars are wearing condoms. LA as a political entity and a public service entity is stretched so thin,” the native Floridian explains and adds that the law is still around but is “unenforceable as written.”
Undeterred, the Aids Health Foundation’s Michael Weinstein, who was behind the initiative, turned his attention statewide. Next came AB 1576 that did what Measure B advocated, Casey continues, and it, too, failed in the state legislature mainly because of cost.
Finally, Weinstein went the ballot route in the election and collected enough signatures to bring his proposal before the voters.
However, it expired at the ballot box because it was flawed.
“The issue with Prop 60 was less about condoms and more about enforcement and how every private citizen in California could sue a porn production company if they watched a movie shot in the state without a condom,” Casey says.
“Prop 60 was a horribly written law,” he says, pointing out that it established Michael Weinstein as “the porn czar” with the power to “prosecute cases and collect his expenses from the state.”
Despite the proposition’s shortcomings, effort and planning was required to ensure its demise.
Unwilling to take chances, the industry fought the initiative. Ela Darling, the current President of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) comments, “APAC and the FSC (Free Speech Coalition) and a large number of performers did everything they could to defeat Prop 60 and we won, we got it!”
Casey Calvert reminds us that this was “the first time that porn stars actually rallied for a cause and we owe a lot of that to the Free Speech Coalition.” She talks about industry people using twitter and doing interviews to get the story out.
“I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post which I heard was very impactful . . . I also spoke on the radio,” Casey adds.
Ela and Casey give performers Julia Ann and SiouxsieQ and Free Speech Coalition’s Eric Leue much credit for organizing and leading the charge.
John Stagliano steps up to put Chanel Preston on the worthy list. “Chanel did some great interviews . . . She was very effective and active [in defeating Prop 60].”
And, everyone thanks California’s Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian Parties and the LGBT organizations for speaking out against Prop 60, a rare instance of political unity.
Ela talks about the lobbying in Sacramento.
“We spoke to legislators, we spoke to Senators . . . anybody who would give us time. Quite a few did. I got to be the voice of the industry to speak to the caucuses and the Democratic convention in Long Beach. It’s been a really big grassroots effort,” she says. Porn people even “led a protest through Hollywood.”
“I’ve never seen the industry aligned so strongly on anything like they did on Prop 60. It was refreshing, it was empowering, and amazing.”
Performer Derrick Pierce presents an unvarnished view of the campaign.
The FSC built a winning coalition of ” both talent and producers and production teams.” People “who are typically fragmented in nature” were on the same political page, Derrick remarks, because “even though we are socially amongst each other we don’t really function in that capacity.”
He characterizes the industry’s victory as a “David versus Goliath” fight.
In doing his part, Derrick went on Facebook to check postings from major media outlets where he found lots of comments.
“I literally went through every negative or misinformed comment and rebutted it. And who knows, maybe it reached five people, but that’s what was needed from every person who had a vested interest in this.”
But he had his doubts. “I’m glad that it was defeated though I was thinking that we were going to get screwed.”
Derrick interprets the victory as more than just a defeat for poorly written law and its sponsor AHF.
“It wasn’t so much that prop 60 and us moving to Vegas or another place was necessarily the problem, it’s that it set precedent. That’s huge because, there’s no more debate.”
In other words, should similar issues arise with CAL/OSHA and safety regulations,”Now you just have to implement what’s already been said.”
Know the Process
Next Derrick sticks a dagger in the heart of deceit.
“I would love to see what Weinstein’s real issue is. I know what he’s written and some of the things he’s said and I know who his donors and backers are.”
Moreover, the top male performer understands what spurs politicians and reformers.
“Anything to do with the adult business is a wonderful soapbox. You stand on it and preach to the people this is immoral, we have to protect these people [porn performers] that don’t know any better.”
He also calls out talent to educate themselves.
“Half the people don’t know what our testing process is. You should know because if you’re going to argue the point then you should know what the hell it is we’re doing. [Most performers] don’t know how many tests are done on us every two weeks . . .and they should.
“Know the process and how it works so you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot when you talk about it.”
Derrick asserts that just screaming performer rights “doesn’t mean anything” when it comes to debating health issues.
A Reminder of Reality
Finally, Briana Banks brings up a point that may have swayed some voters. She’s happy, of course, with the outcome but there is bit of reality that may have been missed when assessing the defeat of condoms.
Briana shot for the condom-only Vivid for eight years and her movies sold well, she says. But when she put up a recent condom clip she did for her website, her fans panned the scene.
But there is something else at work here, Briana thinks.
The condom is a shock because of the reality it represents.
“Seeing a condom makes them think of STDs and HIV that they don’t think of when watching a porn movie.”
Condoms remind fans of the risks they take in their own lives, Briana believes. “To watch a porn star use a condom makes them think about the reality of life in general.”
Interesting. Maybe it’s something everybody missed in this battle. Porn is just fantasy and Prop 60 was about to take that away.
For the industry, however, there could be a darker underlying message hidden within this victory. Does it suggest that some fans may unconsciously regard porn performers as expendable?
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Next we’ll look at how the defeat of Prop 60 is seen as a game changer for the industry, if indeed it is.