Porn websites across California showed up empty this week as the adult film industry protested California’s proposed Proposition 60.
We all know porn’s more than a little unrealistic. But how unrealistic is too unrealistic, and should our governments have any say in that? These are questions that sex workers, film makers, healthcare workers, and voters are all asking themselves this year as they consider Prop. 60 – a law which would require sex workers to use condoms while filming pornography and enforce that law through reports and legal hearings.
Proposition 60 made its way onto California’s ballot this year due to the work of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). The AHF has spearheaded Prop. 60 in hopes of cutting the transmission of HIV/AIDS among Californian sex workers–a noble cause for sure.
But sex workers have protested AHF’s work on Prop. 60, arguing that the Proposition would require unnecessary protocols, take away sex workers’ agency, and make sex workers vulnerable to harassment. This past Monday, nearly 100 adult film actors, sex workers, and supporters gathered nearby the AHF’s office to protest Prop. 60.
Sporting banners that read “Our Bodies, Our Choice!” and “My Body, My Rights,” the protestors drew attention to their side of the story.
Condoms have been required in pornographic films made in California since 1992, but the industry largely ignores the rule because of its complications.
After all, it’s hard to remember which condom’s been where when filming long sex scenes with multiple participants.
Instead, Californian pornographic film companies test their performers for STDs every 15 days–and they’ve been hugely successful. Performers and film-makers say there has not been a single HIV/AIDS transmission in eight years.
Additionally, many adult film performers argue that they deserve to make their own choices about their sexual health. As performer Tasha Reign told Jezebel, “I want to be able to say: I’m a sex worker. I have a choice in the way that I protect my genitals. This is a huge issue for me.”
As feminists, we have to say: we understand. Having control of your body is extremely important. Even though the AHF might be coming from a place of goodwill (cutting down on HIV/AIDS transmissions rates is nothing to sneeze at), we get why sex workers, and especially women, might be upset.
The biggest issue at play in this debate though, at least for sex workers, is the possibility of harassment. As performer Vanessa Veracruz argued during the Prop. 60 protests this week, “Proposition 60 would allow anyone in the state to sue and harass us. It would make us vulnerable for stalkers. It would push us underground and out of the state.”
That’s all to say that Prop. 60 would enforce condom regulations – and violations could end up in court. Sex workers are, quite reasonably, worried that if they are sued their names could end up in court. That means that any creepy fans out there would have access to their real names and be able to stalk or otherwise harass them. In an industry where privacy is so hard to come by, adult film actors want to hold on tight to their stage names and the security that they offer.
So, Californians out there: think long and hard before voting either way on Prop. 60 this election–either way there’s a lot at stake for sex workers’ health and safety.