(Getty/eskaylim)

Sex, lies and videotape: Californians will be voting on whether to require porn actors to use condoms — why?

Prop 60, like many bogus issues orbiting our political discourse, is a solution for a problem that doesn't exist


Bob Cesca
October 22, 2016 4:00PM (UTC)

Among the myriad dangers facing American society — including the climate crisis, gun violence, water quality, income equality, affordable healthcare and a major West Coast drought — California voters will have the opportunity on Election Day to decide whether adult film actors should be required to wear condoms during scenes involving vaginal or rectal penetration. The ballot measure is known as Proposition 60 and, like so many bogus issues orbiting our political discourse, it's a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. The alleged problem here is an apparent HIV crisis in the porn industry, evidently requiring mandatory condom usage, even though there's simply not an HIV crisis at all. Not even close. We'll circle back to this point.

Prop 60 assumes that the state of California and its residents know better than the adult film actors themselves. And so, if passed, the ballot initiative would require male porn actors to wear condoms. Furthermore, the proposition would allow residents to act as condom patrols, reporting actors who attempt to sneak unsheathed past this new layer of censorship. To that point, if a non-condom user was discovered in a porn video after the passage of the initiative, and the Cal/OSHA bureaucracy failed to take action, any consumer could file a civil suit and claim part of the revenues from the video.

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This is ludicrous on so many levels and, even for left-leaning groups, the nanny-state overreach on this proposition is oppressive. Opponents of the proposition — including the DCCC, the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, the California Libertarian Party, various local Democratic and Republican organizations, San Francisco Berniecrats, the Free Speech Coalition, the AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Adult Performer Actors Guild and dozens of others — agree that the law is not only too restrictive, it’d end up becoming a frivolous "lawsuit bonanza."

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

"The proposition 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 is an extreme approach — and demonstrably counterproductive. ... We support rules that make performers in adult films as safe as possible. That’s why we reject Proposition 60 and urge voters to do so as well."

Additionally, actors themselves could be at a higher risk for injuries due to the friction created by the condoms during marathon shooting sessions that last far longer than normal sex sessions.

Popular porn actor "Stoya" wrote the following for VICE:

"These sex acts are generally longer in duration and more theatrical in content than the average sex act. Recreational sex and professional sex in front of cameras both involve a certain level of risk, and those of us who engage in professional sex in front of cameras take precautions to lessen the potential for harm at work. Every time that a hole in our precautions is exposed, we look for ways to further lessen the risk. As with cars, as long as human and mechanical error exist, sex will never be completely safe."

Stoya elaborated that the constant rubbing of the latex, even if lubricated, against sensitive flesh, as opposed to the natural give and take of skin on skin, could cause tears and abrasions in both the vagina and rectum. She also noted the reality that adult performers are required to undergo HIV testing every 14 days. Due to the mandatory tests coupled with education and allowances for voluntary condom-wearing in videos, the rate of HIV transmission during porn shoots has been exactly zero.

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Others have noted this fact, including Slate:

Despite hundreds of thousands of HIV diagnoses between 2005 and 2014 in the general population, there have been zero demonstrable on-set HIV transmissions in that period. That means the tremendous amount of money and time spent promoting this bill... is wildly out of proportion to the non-issue it proposes to address.

Sounds like voter ID laws, doesn't it? Demagogues like Donald Trump and Mike Pence are telling us there’s widespread voter fraud requiring IDs at polling places. But study after study has proved that voter fraud is statistically nonexistent. Again, a solution seeking a problem.

Oh, and at the risk of burying the lede, the chief proponent of the initiative, Michael Weinstein, has been accused of pushing Prop 60 onto the ballot with the sole purpose of driving the porn industry out of California entirely. So, it seems the proposition might have nothing to do with worker safety or public health whatsoever.

The Sacramento Bee:

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Proposition 60 would install Michael Weinstein, the sole proponent and funder of the initiative, as a state porn czar and allow him to use taxpayer dollars to pay his attorneys.

Great. A "porn czar" who'd end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary lawsuits. Smart.

Sadly, according to the latest poll, Prop 60 is supported by a majority of California voters, 50 to 31 percent, with 19 percent undecided. This is probably due in large part to the topic itself rather than the details or ramifications of the proposition. It's fair to assume that few rank-and-file citizens are willing to reveal to pollsters their support for the porn industry. It is, after all, porn. It's ugly and weird and perverted, right? There's also a common misconception that porn actors are dropping like flies from HIV, which, as we noted above, simply isn't true, at least over the last 12 years.

Stoya added, "I believe that pornography as entertainment serves a widespread human need as a safe place to fantasize." Of course that's exactly right. As long as performers are aware of what they're doing, and as long as no one is hurt in the process, there's no point in non-experts telling the experts how to make their movies, nor is it appropriate to meddle with the cinematic fantasies they're manufacturing — even if you don't believe porn is an art form or a genre of filmmaking. (It's a little of both.) No one knows better than the actors who make these movies whether they're at risk, and holding up the threat of lawsuits against each performer for not wearing condoms seems like an overly punitive measure for a problem that simply doesn't exist.

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Bottom line: Practice safe sex — and if you live in California, vote "no" on Prop 60.


Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections California Condoms In Porn Hiv Prevention Porn Prop 60

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