by Rich Moreland, August 2014
Recently, Assembly Bill 1576 requiring the use of protective barriers in adult film was tabled by the California State Senate. As a result, the adult industry will avoid further government oversight statewide except for Los Angeles County where a similar ordinance remains on the books.
The following commentary is about AB 1576’s unanticipated impact on the industry.
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“Here’s the dirty little secret about porn production in California: it’s just work,” says Assemblyman Isadore Hall, whose effort to require condoms in adult film has just expired in a Senate committee.
The Honorable Mr. Hall confirms what everyone connected with the adult industry has known all along, porn people are entertainers who pick up a paycheck. Their job is hardly “a dirty little secret.”
What is missing from Assemblyman Halls’ sardonic comment is the acknowledgment that an effective industry wide blood testing protocol is already in place, and has been for years, to take care of what AB 1576 purports to address: worker safety. Adult entertainment can take care of its own and do it without burdening the taxpayers of a state rife with financial problems.
From California’s standpoint, money is the issue. Driving a multi-billion dollar industry underground or into the friendlier neighborhoods of Nevada, Florida, and New Hampshire (yes, it is legal to shoot porn in “The Granite State”) makes little sense. Enforcement of any protective barrier law demands more government spending, a difficult prospect in tough economic times, and increases unemployment as businesses move elsewhere.
Unfortunately, for LA county the expenditure already exists and state coffers are taking a hit anyway. Segments of the porn industry have vacated California as indicated by dwindling film permits.
Having said that, only the naive are persuaded that the protective barrier fight is over. Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF) will carry on his private war with the industry. It’s a moral imperative for him just as it may be for Isadore Hall, though both claim performer safety is their concern, an astounding assertion since the public has traditionally cared little for people who make their living selling sexuality in any form.
But for now, the issue is tabled and it’s time to assess the benefits from an industry standpoint. Here’s a quick review.
A degree of political unity is emerging. In the condom debate, the Free Speech Coalition led a vanguard of concerned groups that stood against AB 1576. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Law Center, Project Inform of San Francisco, and the AIDS Project Los Angeles, are among the associations who voiced their opposition. And, the valuable support of the business oriented Valley Industry & Commerce Association cannot be overlooked. It has a stake in keeping porn dollars in the LA economy.
While this is a beginning, other longer term developments are taking shape.
The latex controversy has revealed that performers, always known for their renegade attitudes, can organize to express their opinions. The earliest, most primitive rumblings occurred in raucous protests before Measure B became law in LA county an election cycle ago. At the time, it was too little, too late and haphazard, at best. But as reality settled in and the battle moved to Sacramento, performer interest intensified. Stars like Chanel Preston, James Deen, Casey Calvert, Lorelei Lee, Jiz Lee, Nina Hartley, Annika Albright, Alex Chance, and others lobbied legislators.
Bottom line? Porn performers can advance their agenda and may have more political clout than they realize.
A performer organization, the nascent APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee), is emerging. Among APAC’s successes is Porn 101, a video educating talent about STDs. Porn people are sex workers foremost, just as Isadore Hall suggests, and where better to help than with health issues. As APAC grows, the political entanglement over condoms adds to its importance and performers are now better equipped to fight the next round.
In the meantime, two gutsy industry executives are creating their own political dust ups with AHF. First, Vivid’s Steven Hirsch has filed an appeal in the 9th U. S. Circuit Court involving the enforcement of Measure B. Second, Peter Acworth of Kink.com is taking on Michael Weinstein in a direct confrontation. In Acworth’s view, the company was unfairly fined over $78,000 for OSHA “violations” in San Francisco. When he moved some production to Las Vegas, AHF tailed him into town and initiated legal complaints over unprotected oral sex. “Baseless” is Acworth’s word for their accusation (this has gotten irritatingly personal) and Nevada, which envisions a porn biz financial windfall, is stepping around AHF for the moment.
At present, Peter Acworth is ahead in his fight; Steven Hirsch’s efforts remain in limbo.
So, where are we now? The condom push fell victim to state funding, the oft-cited reason for failures to increase government regulation. But, in this case, the aftermath is bringing together an industry willing to wrestle for its life. The message is awareness coupled with united action, ingredients for an effective voice in every political scrum.
Simply put, the porn world is not what it used to be. The people who are committed to adult entertainment understand that porn is a career and are better educated and more professional than ever before. They safeguard their working conditions and have a blood testing protocol to protect against STDs.
All the while, shooting scenes remains what they have always been. In this case, Isadore Hall is right on target, “it’s just work.”
After posting Isadore Hall’s comment on porn and work, I decided to clarify that many performers enjoy their profession and believe it is an artistic expression that goes beyond making a living. With that in mind, I will quote awarding winning director Jacky St. James:
“Sex at work can feel very good, but at the end of the day, it’s still work. There do not have to be emotions involved…and having sex with a variety of people does not invalidate what you feel for your partner. Most of the long-term, stable relationships in adult are between two individuals that possess a strong sense of self and can see their profession for what it is – a job.”