CA votes on bill for safety and accountability in adult film industry, performers plead to keep stringent industry health protocols and privacy

This morning, California voters are faced with a vote regarding regulations in the adult film industry. Sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation introduced by California State Assembly member Isadore Hall (D-64th), AB1576 would require adult film industry (AFI) performers to use condoms at all times. It also includes a controversial government mandate on testing and requires all producers to keep health records of their models’ results indefinitely.

“[It] will look to make all adult filmed in CA require mandatory condom use and will criminally penalize anyone charged with violating it. This is not just professional shows; this includes ALL webcam models, amateur performers and personal web content trade,” AFI performer Steven St. Croix wrote on Facebook. “We have to stop the intrusion of the government in our personal, private and professional lives.”

More than 500 performers have signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill. Independent groups representing adult film stars, such as the Adult Performers Advocacy have joined the petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose the bill. The petition will be presented in Sacramento today at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

Lorelei Lee is a performer and vocal opponent of the bill, calling it “insulting and paternalistic.” In a YouTube video by AFI performers that encourages voters to oppose the bill, Lee said that the bill would require CDC requirements for testing that, according to her, are much less stringent than the requirements in the industry. “And these are performer-developed requirements, performer-development safety and health protocols that have been extremely effective,” she said.

FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) claims that AFI performers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than the general population. According to FAIR, a 2012 study found 28 percent tested positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia.  In 2011, a study found performers 34 times more at risk for Chlamydia and 64 times more at-risk for gonorrhea than the general LA County population. Female performers were also 27 percent more likely to have a repeat infection in one year. They also claim that 23 performers employed by the AFI tested positive for HIV between 2004 and 2010.

“On porn sets in the last decade, there has not been one onset transmission of HIV, despite what you may have heard,” Lee said. “Active performers who have tested positive have done so after an exposure in their personal life. And the moratoriums that have been put in place after those positive tests came to light prevented the HIV from being spread to other active performers.”

The state Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media cleared the bill for vote on April 29.

“For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety,” Assembly member Isadore Hall said. “The Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media soundly rejected the opposition’s arguments because they were based on fear, not facts. The fact is adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated. We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California.”

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that at least two adult performers, Cameron Bay and Joshua Rodgers, became infected with HIV in the last year while working in the industry. Both Bay and Rodger testified in favor of the bill.

“AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California’s adult film workers on a statewide basis,” said Weinstein. “We are grateful that Assembly member Hall has shown the courage—and the vision—to recognize that workers in the adult film industry are entitled to the same safeguards and worker protections that any employee in California is, and we will do whatever we can to help pass this legislation.”

Weinstein has been in hot water with AFI performers since he fought the FDA approval of medication Truvada for use by people at high risk for HIV—including sex workers—to help prevent transmission of the virus. Weinstein allegedly called the HIV-prevention pill “a party drug,” and used plentiful resources to fight the drug’s approval.

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

In the video featuring AFI performers who oppose the bill, Christian Wilde said that the AFI performers are safe and careful, and “don’t need outsiders telling them how to do their jobs properly and safely.”

Performer Anna Fox said, “I feel that every performer should have the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to use protection. And I feel that our testing definitely works for us.”

Wilde opposes AB1576 for imposing on his privacy. “[The bill states] that every performer would have to disclose very sensitive, personal and medical information to every studio that they shoot for. And not only that, the studios could keep that sensitive information and on file indefinitely,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a very drastic break of personal privacy.”

In another PSA, Lee expanded on how the bill would impact performer privacy. “If our personal medical records are being kept by a content producer, that means not just a very established organization, like Kink.com, where we have airtight record-keeping,” she said. “It means anyone in the Valley who is shooting porn out of their bedroom and keeping your medical records who knows where.”

According to Stop AB1576, the bill would compromise performer safety and privacy, as well as choice. It would also drive adult production out of California, with a loss of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“This bill is written by people who have no understanding or knowledge of the way the industry actually works and what regulations might actually be helpful to performers,” said Lee. She added that performers lack a voice in this bill.

“The actual effect of the bill would not be to have condoms to suddenly appear in all porn films,” she said. “What would more than likely happen is that the industry would move to Nevada or underground. And if the industry moves to Nevada or moves underground, what happens then is the degradation of the health and safety protocols that we performers have spent over a decade getting into place…So this bill would make us less safe.”

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, “Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies. We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults.”

Lee added, “This [bill] shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building…If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

Wilde said that by voting no on this bill, AFI performers can “continue giving you the quality of work that we are destined to give.” He added, “We need our voices heard. We need our advocates out there—our fans who love us and watch our work—to take this into their own hands and help us get out the word…To say ‘absolutely no, thank you’ to this bill.”

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