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The Rubber State: Porn Finds the Condom Bill Ill-Fitting 

Wednesday, May 28 2014
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California has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country; as of 2013, 8 percent of our state was out of work.

With so many Californians already unemployed, I am appalled by a bill that passed the California Assembly Appropriations Committee last week that would contribute to thousands more lost jobs here in the Bay Area and statewide, including, perhaps, my own. Assembly Bill 1576, which was introduced this year by Assembly member Isadore Hall, D-Compton, would require mandatory condom use in adult films produced in the Golden State. This is not the first time Hall has pushed for more latex in porn; he was also behind a similar mandate, Los Angeles County's Measure B, in 2012.

But this bill is about so much more than bareback sex.

Anti-porn activist Gail Dines told the Washington Times recently that a "Gulliver strategy" should be employed to take down the porn industry. "Tie them down piece by piece with legislation," she said.

I don't think this bill is about protecting adult performers from STIs; I think it's part of a multipronged strategy — the so-called Gulliver strategy — to shut down the porn industry in California. Politicians have painted sex workers as victims in order to pass legislation such as Measure B and Prop. 35 that further criminalizes sex work, and I worry this is happening with AB 1576.

Local performers and producers are concerned about the bill because, as San Francisco-based performer and director Lorelei Lee says, porn production jobs will vanish. "If this law were to pass, the likelihood that you would actually see more condoms in your porn is zero," Lee says. "Larger companies will probably move out of California, which displaces a lot of people's jobs — not just performers but editors, janitors, and crafts services people as well."

The bill "doesn't take into account the system that we already have," says Mickey Mod, another Bay Area performer. Performers are currently required to be tested for STIs every 14 days and be verified through the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) secure database. The new state mandate would require a slightly less comprehensive STI test every 14 days, as well as mandatory condoms for vaginal and anal sex. Though Mod believes the current system is adequate, 2013 saw five performers test positive for HIV, resulting in three industry-wide moratoriums on production.

It's exciting to see lawmakers discussing the health and safety of sex workers, but I fear that lawmakers are not listening to the workers whom AB 1576 would actually affect. Independent and mainstream performers alike have been tweeting up a storm and road-tripping to Sacramento to speak out against the bill, yet it passed the Appropriations Committee in a nine-to-three vote.

Supporters of the bill claim that it is a move to keep performers in the industry safe, but Lee says, "The workers who will be affected by this bill did not have a voice in creating it, and the people it says it will protect, it will actually harm."

However, Hall's office insists that "tons and tons of actors" from the adult industry have spoken off-the-record in support of the bill, but many have been wary to speak publicly for fear of backlash from the porn industry.

Personally? I always get nervous when politicians tell me they are speaking for sex workers who are too vulnerable to speak for themselves. "I continue to have an open-door policy with the industry," Hall tells me. "It is very clear that they don't want condoms in the industry. To me, that is the only place we can begin."

In addition to jobs moving out of state, Lee also fears that some less-than-ethical companies may choose to ignore the legislation and continue shooting bareback porn illegally. Lee points out, "When sex workers' jobs become illegal, their jobs become much more dangerous."

If Hall were truly invested in creating safer working conditions for sex workers, perhaps he would draft legislation that protects their livelihoods. If I can put on my grumpy Republican uncle hat for a moment, Sacramento lawmakers should be drafting legislation to create jobs, not send them to other states.

Fortunately, AB 1576 has a long way to go before it becomes a law. If you believe that sex workers should have a say in laws that are written about them, please write to your Assembly representative and say a little prayer for porn in California.

Update 5/28/14: AB 1576 passed the Assembly today with 45 votes in favor, 14 opposed and 21 abstained. It heads to the Senate next.

About The Author

Siouxsie Q

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