In less than a week, Californians will head to the polls to cast their votes on a variety of measures, including Proposition 60, “The Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative.” This title is a misnomer. While Proposition 60 initially appears to be a safety measure intended to protect adult performers from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), what it will actually do is tie up our court system and give unprecedented power to a single man.
Voting No on Prop 60 means speaking out against the excessive restrictions and an incredibly faulty reporting system that would certainly drive this 9 billion dollar industry out of state or underground.
As with most political issues, the first step in uncovering the true motives is to follow the money. Proposition 60 is spearheaded by Michael Weinstein, the well-known head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and a highly-controversial figure in the gay community. The “Yes on 60” campaign has been financed entirely by the AHF with no other outside donors (Ballotpedia). Weinstein and the AHF have spent 4.9 million dollars (versus $545,000 raised by the opposition) on a political move that would appoint Weinstein as the “Porn Czar,” giving him unprecedented power over the adult industry.
Proposition 60 masquerades as a workplace safety measure, calling for mandatory condom use and employer-funded HIV and STI testing within the adult film industry. For the average voter who realizes the importance of safe sex, this obviously sounds like a good idea. However, when it comes down to it, this is not a law about protection; this is a financially motivated political move intended to increase the power and profits for Michael Weinstein.
The only major show of support in favor of Prop 60 comes from Michael Weinstein and the AHF. In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Proposition 60 is opposed by both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party. In addition, every major newspaper in California (except for the Bakersfield Californian) has said “No on 60.”
Here’s a quick look at the facts:
Condom use has been mandatory in the adult film industry since 2012 when Los Angeles County passed Measure B.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is in charge of enforcing the law but does not regularly monitor condom use on set unless a specific complaint has been filed (Official Voter Guide).
It is most likely that OSHA has determined that the small fines and vast number of hours required to do so would be a waste of the state and department’s resources.
Michael Weinstein claims that mandatory condom use and employer-funded testing would be financially beneficial because it would save the state the cost of treating HIV infection in adult performers.
The adult film industry only employs around 2,000 performers. The industry currently does an adequate job monitoring its performers by requiring top-of-the-line blood tests every two weeks.
The performers are considered independent contractors and are responsible for maintaining an up-to-date clean bill of health. Since this protocol went into effect over a decade ago, there hasn’t been a single incidence of HIV transmission within the industry (LA Times).
According to the California Legislative Analyst Office, the implementation of Prop 60 will cause production companies to leave the state, eliminating several thousand jobs (performance and non-performance) and reducing local and state tax revenue by tens of millions of dollars per year.
Weinstein’s claims that mandatory condom use in adult films would reduce the state’s financial burden are simply not true. In fact, the cost of treatment for the rare instance of infection is relatively negligible compared to the amount of money that would be lost if the 9 billion dollar adult film industry left the state.
Proposition 60 allows any porn-viewing Californian to file a lawsuit if they believe that they have observed sexual penetration without a condom (in spite of the fact that condoms are often digitally removed in editing and are not always visible). If the court discovers a violation, 25% of the monetary fine would be awarded to the citizen filing the complaint (Official Voter Guide).
Not only does this place the burden of monitoring compliance onto private citizens, it carries a significant monetary incentive for those litigious individuals who would choose to file a formal complaint about a lack of condom use. According to the LA Times,
Proposition 60 would, in effect, make every Californian a potential condom cop by both mandating condom use and creating a private right of action so that any resident who spots a violation in a pornographic film shot in the state could sue and collect cash from the producers and purveyors if they prevail in court.
This sets a dangerous standard because it would allow those who morally or religiously object to the adult industry to tie up the various production companies in constant litigation at the expense of the California tax payer.
This financially-motivated witch hunt would undoubtedly bog down the California court system with frivolous lawsuits from those hoping to make money, as well as those hoping to bankrupt the industry as a whole.
Michael Weinstein and the AHF have spent nearly 5 million dollars supporting a ballot initiative that affects only 0.005% of the state’s population. In the event that Prop 60 passes, Michael Weinstein will become the state’s “Porn Czar” and will wield an unprecedented amount of power over the adult industry and the California judicial system.
Proposition 60 states that if Michael Weinstein does not feel as though OSHA and the State are enforcing the regulations well enough, he has the power to take over because of his direct and personal stake in the act. Essentially, Proposition 60 gives Weinstein the power to override the decisions of the State Attorney General and draw a salary of tax-payers dollars in order to do so.
Weinstein is bankrolling a proposition that would pay him out of our already-stretched state budget in order to watch porn and sue the participants.
Those in favor of Proposition 60 claim that the safety of the performers is their primary concern, when in fact, it would actually put the performers in a dangerous and potentially lethal situation by violating their personal privacy.
Prop 60 allows for charges to be brought against anyone who financially benefits from the production of the non-compliant film. This includes (but is not limited to) producers, on-set employees, distributors, talent agents, and cable and satellite companies. While the proposition DOES have a clause stating that performers cannot be held liable for non-compliance, a gaping loophole leaves the performers who also produce films particularly vulnerable.
According Ela Darling, the president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, a large portion of performers are also businesspeople who are producing their own films. Proposition 60 would not only expose these performers to frivolous lawsuits, but would also stand to violate the personal privacy of these straight, bisexual, gay, and transgender individuals.
Photo Courtesy of LA Times 2016
In an interview for the“No on Proposition 60 Campaign,” Ms. Darling explains that as a defendant in a non-compliance lawsuit, a performer/producer’s personal information would become readily available to the accusing party. In an industry where the performers are often forced to adopt extreme protective measures in order to ensure their personal safety, providing legal names, addresses, and other personal information to an ordinary citizen filing a complaint about a pornographic film is incredibly reckless.
The “Yes on 60,” proponents claim that the adult industry is exploiting performers by forcing them to work in unsafe conditions.
The official argument in favor of Proposition 60 from the California Voter Guide makes bold claims and uses inflammatory language in order to make an emotional appeal to the uninformed voter. Statements such as “Make no mistake about who opposes Prop. 60. It’s the greedy porn producers,” and “Pornographers have abused performers for far too long,” deliver an implied message that the adult film industry is on the same level as the sex slave trade.
Ela Darling says that adult performers take huge offense with this claim. They do not see themselves as victims, but as independent contractors who have the power to choose their roles and pick the production companies with which they will work.
The division around Proposition 60 does not lie between the “greedy” producers and the victimized performers, but between the industry as a whole and Michael Weinstein’s political and financial agenda. He is spearheading a movement that would put himself in a position of practically unbridled power at the expense of the California tax payer. He is currently exploiting society’s knowledge about the safety of condoms and the fear of AIDS in order to conceal his own selfish motives.
The proposition masquerades as a safety measure that appears to protect those who are being victimized by the big, bad porn industry, but all it really does is give Michael Weinstein unchecked power to control an industry that hasn’t given in to his prior attempts at regulation.