Adult Warning: Prop 60 Condoms in Pornographic Films

Photo: http://www.freeimages.com

This blog post will include a frank discussion of pornography.

Next in my series on the 2016 California Ballot —Proposition 60. A YES vote on Prop 60 would close loopholes requiring porn producers to ensure actors wear condoms to prevent transmission of disease. Currently polling at 55%, the initiative has a good chance of passing — despite broad bipartisan opposition. Opponents cite free expression, potential for frivolous litigation and potentially confusing language in the initaitve.

The executive director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, is leading the effort to pass Prop 60. Other supporters include American Sexual Health Association, California State Association of Occupational Health Nurses and California Communities United Institute. They argue current Cal OSHA rules are insuffient to protect porn actor safety. They say porn actors have higher than normal incidents of STDs and represent a public health risk as carriers of infectious disease into the general population.

Weinstein backed a similar measure in LA County — Measure B — which passed in 2012. Measure B has been loosely enforced, yet permits for porn shoots dropped from 500 in a standard year to 24 in 2013. Evidence suggests porn production shifted to neighboring California counties, so Weinstein is looking to close loopholes with a statewide initiative.

Weinstein’s AIDS foundation has donated more than $4M to advocate for condom use in pornography. The opposition has so far only raised $391,288 from various porn companies.

Opposition is led by the Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry group. Prop 60 has bipartisan opposition including the California Democratic and Republican parties. Transgender Law Center and AIDS Project Los Angeles are among various health and welfare organizations opposed to the measure.

Opponents argue Prop 60 would:

  • Violate porn actors’ privacy and rights of free expression
  • Lead to a flood of costly and frivolous lawsuits against producers and some performers
  • Cost taxpayers “tens of millions of dollars” in lost tax revenue, costs of enforcement and legal actions
  • Create a paid state employee position to review pornographic films for infractions, specifically for Michael Weinstein — an unprecedented feature for a ballot initiative

Pornography is a $3B industry in California employing 2,000–3,000 actors and many more behind the scenes workers. Weinstein has said HIV in porn is a “public health crisis”. There is no evidence to support that assertion. Performers are tested every two weeks and, in fact, there has not been a documented case of HIV transmission on a porn set since 2004.

My guess is many who will vote for Prop 60 will do so not for health reasons, but because they are opposed to porn on moral grounds. They may expect requiring condoms will drive porn out of the state. (The only other state that allows porn production is New Hamphsire.) An argument can be made that pornography dehumanizes and damages the young men and women who perform in adult films. Drug abuse, depression, dissociation, post traumatic stress, social isolation and suicide all seem to be hazards of a career in porn.

Common sense might say broad availability of porn is having a broad, deep and disastrous affect on individuals, relationships, and society. Common sense does not always hold up to scrutiny and so it may be with porn. Social scientists and psychologists who study affects of porn have not found a causal relationship between broad access to pornography and irresponsible sexual behavior. Surprisingly, there seems to be an inverse correlation. Since 1990, when internet porn began to be widely available, rates of abortion, sexually transmitted infection, teen sex, teen pregnancy, divorce and rape have all dropped dramatically. Since 1995, the rate of sexual assault dropped 44 percent. There may be some third variable at work here affecting these trends. Or it may be that porn acts as a substitute for destructive sexual behavior. The topic deserves further study.

In a free society, we must allow for a range of behaviors that are personaly hazardous and morally ambiguous. Driving porn production out of state and underground would only serve to further isolate and endanger performers.

Prop 60 is poorly written. It strangely names Michael Weinstein as state chief porn inspector. It opens up a new private right of action allowing private citizens to sue anyone involved in porn production for violations. And it addresses a non-existent public health threat.

I plan to vote NO on Prop 60.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Sources and further reading…

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