By Sam Arciprete
This week California will vote on Proposition 60, a ballot initiative that will require adult film stars to wear condoms while filming. The costs of performers’ workplace-related medical examinations, sexually-transmitted infections (STI) tests, and STI vaccines would be covered by film producers under the measure as well. California is the leading producer of pornographic films in the country, and the industry generates billions of dollars in revenue for the state every year. A study done by UCLA shows that one in four adult performers has an STI, and the CDC confirmed that a performer transmitted HIV to another performer on-set in 2014. Public health advocates were fed up with allowing the industry to police itself regarding STI protections and are now trying to get the government more involved in this process. This referendum, which is supported by 55% of Californians, according to a recent LA Times poll, is generating a lot of controversy in the adult film world and creating concern about negative fiscal impacts.
This policy seems like common sense to me. It holds producers, not actors and actresses, responsible for any negative health ramifications for the work. It would limit the amount of STIs transmitted throughout the adult film industry. Finally, it would hold employers accountable for work-related health risks, as is the norm for every other industry in the country. It just makes sense for the state of California to help the members of this large industry in their state the same way Pennsylvania helps coal miners and Maine helps fisherman.
However, I still take issue with one obvious dilemma on this issue. Members of the porn industry are the major opponents of this ballot initiative passing. It doesn’t seem right that a piece of legislation aimed to ease the occupational hazards of a group of individuals should also be vilified by that same group. That’s because this initiative has major flaws. Prop 60 would allow citizens of the state to sue film producers if they believed that a film had been produced without the use of condoms, which could lead to a flurry of unwanted side effects. Members of the industry value their privacy, with many of them using a stage name to protect themselves from fans and potential stalkers. Adult film stars worry this initiative would open them up to be sued by stalkers and would reveal all the information about them that they fought so hard to keep private. Although I would like to believe in the American legal system enough to believe this wouldn’t be able to happen and a judge would be able to differentiate between a legitimate lawsuit and a stalker trying to harass an individual, it nevertheless is an unfortunate consequence of Prop 60.
Another criticism this initiative is drawing is that it would force the industry out of the state and cost California millions of dollars in potential tax revenue. On the one hand, not addressing the obvious endangerments of the members of the porn industry would be a really heinous and immoral thing for the state to continue to do. On the other hand, the millions of dollars lost will hurt the state’s public schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, which are all very important to the health, safety, and happiness of California residents.
I’m not here to cast judgement on the porn industry. They are all consenting adults and can do what they wish with their bodies. However, the state of California needs to address work-related injuries and long-term health ramifications for the members of the porn industry. This is no different than if the state were to force mine owners to pay workers for asbestos treatment. It seems like an obvious necessity to stop this practice and make pornography safer for those involved. No matter what happens on Tuesday, this has been a hot-button topic for Californians, and it will be reaching a climax shortly.