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October 18, 2016

Thanks To Yesterday's Protests, Now The Nation Is Looking At Prop 60

LOS ANGELES—If there's one thing that can be said about the modern adult industry, it's that it knows how to draw attention to itself when it wants to—even beyond the fact that pretty much everyone likes sex, many would like to get next to porn stars, and it's an entertainment medium that can be accessed almost anywhere. It's that last point, however, that has captured the attention of news outlets across the country, even as far away as Atlanta—and internationally. "Porn sites have begun a unique protest against Proposition 60—a proposed law mandating condom use in adult films—they have blocked users in California from accessing their content," wrote Rishabh Jain for the International Business Times. "Vocativ reported that porn sites, including Vivid Entertainment Group, Evil Angel, Kink, Pink & White Productions and Treasure Island Media, blocked Californian users’ access all day Tuesday." (Monday, actually, but who's counting; they're reading about the California adult industry's problems all over the world!) "For those in California, getting a porn fix yesterday might have been a little more challenging," noted PC Magazine's Angela Moscaritolo. "That's because a number of high-profile porn sites blocked or interrupted California users from accessing their content to protest Proposition 60, a proposed law that would require adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sex scenes and allow residents to sue producers that don't comply," she continued, also citing the Vocativ article by frequent industry commentator Tracy Clark-Flory. "One site, Evil Angel, was blacked out for Monday with text reading, 'We know you don't want to see condoms in Evil Angel videos, so we're doing what we can to prevent that from happening. We also need you to do your part,'" wrote SFGate reporter Alyssa Pereira, adding, "Kink.com responded similarly, with a dark page and a note reading, 'This is what California will see on their favorite porn sites if PROPOSITION 60 passes.'" However, perhaps the most surprising coverage of the blackout could be found on far right-wing commentator Glenn Beck's website TheBlaze.com: "For Californians, many leading pornography websites have gone dark—and they’re not coming back unless voters shoot down Proposition 60, a state bill mandating adult film performers use condoms. Those trying to access well-known porn sites will be barred from doing so if they have a California IP address and instead will be greeted with a black screen along with this message: 'Access Denied: This is what Californians will see on their favorite porn sites if Proposition 60 passes.'" Most of the articles dealing with yesterday's adult site blackout also managed to include some of the industry's arguments against the proposition, often with a positive spin. "While on the surface encouraging use of condoms sounds smart, California porn actors and companies argue that it violates performer choice and will instead push production underground, making it less safe," noted Refinery29's Kathryn Lindsay. "In addition, the bill allows any resident of the state to sue producers and distributors of condomless porn. The companies believe this opens the floodgates for everyday citizens to stalk, harass, and violate the privacy of actors." "Vivid, Evil Angel and Kink have interrupted or outright blocked users with California IP addresses all day today, but if Prop 60 becomes law, they could ban those visitors entirely," wrote Engadget's David Lumb, adding importantly, "Whether that would actually protect the studios, producers and performers from lawsuits is uncertain, but it could logically lower the chance that a viewer within the state would see content that violated the statute." Some of the articles that went beyond simply reporting on the adult site blackouts also included coverage of the industry's massive protest in front of AIDS Healthcare's Hollywood headquarters, again often appearing to take the performers' side of the issue. "Prop 60, sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, will be on the ballot Nov. 8," PC Mag's web story noted. "The porn industry is generally opposed to the bill, arguing it violates their right to choose, will make productions less safe, and expose producers and adult performers to trolls and lawsuits. If you live in California and enjoy viewing porn online, you might want to take some time to educate yourself on Prop 60 and vote Nov. 8." (One place to do that would be here.) The Advocate, which has been busting AHF president Michael Weinstein's chops for years for bullshit like calling the HIV preventative Truvada a "party drug," delivered some of the most in-depth coverage of the issue. The law is "a statewide expansion of an existing statute, known as Measure B," explained The Advocate's Nico Lang. "Passed in 2012, the legislation requires porn actors working in Los Angeles County to wear protection during shoots or 'face civil fines and criminal misdemeanor charges.' After the passage of Measure B, the county found that the law was next to unenforceable, and violators have rarely been prosecuted. For its four years of existence, the law has been 'mired in a legal battle,' as the Los Angeles Daily News reports, and has led to the erosion of California’s once-thriving porn industry. The number of permits issued for adult films shot in Los Angeles County dropped from a robust 480 in 2012 to just 25 in 2015." After revealing that Weinstein had "funded the effort to pass the proposition with $5 million of his own money," Lang went on to analyze some of the Yes On 60 Committee's claims. "In TV ads supporting Prop. 60, former adult actors Cameron Bay and Derrick Burts claim that such a law could have prevented them from contracting HIV," Lang reported. "'After just three months on the job, all I got was HIV,' Bay says. She was diagnosed in 2013. Opponents of the proposition, however, have contested Bay’s account, saying that she did not contract the virus in the workplace. Xander Corvus, the Kink.com performer she claims gave her HIV, has repeatedly tested negative. Meanwhile, none of Burts’s onetime costars have reported a positive diagnosis. In truth, there hasn’t been a known outbreak of HIV in porn since 2004, when 30 studios ceased production after four actors tested positive." And finally, the Californians Against Worker Harassment protest itself generated its share of news, though mostly in California itself. "Holding up signs that read 'Our body our choice,' among others, performers gathered on Sunset Boulevard outside the office of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the main proponent of Proposition 60, a ballot initiative that if passed on Nov. 8 would enforce the use of condoms on all adult film production sites across California," reported the L.A. Daily News's Susan Abram. "Performers urged the public to vote no on Proposition 60 and demanded to speak to Michael Weinstein, president of AHF." (Weinstein was nowhere to be seen, though, and even AHF's press conference was handled by an underling, leading some Prop 60 watchers to wonder if Weinstein had skipped town altogether to avoid having to face the protesters.) Still friendlier to the No On 60 campaign was Jezebel.com's Aimée Lutkin. "Prop 60 is considered poorly drafted by its detractors," Lutkin posted. "The official arguments from Sen. Mark Leno, Dr. Jay Gladstein and Jessica Yasukochi, Vice President of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, point out the potential danger of the new law: The initiative creates a new private right of action authorizing the Proponent AND all 38 MILLION RESIDENTS OF CALIFORNIA to file lawsuits directly against adult film performers, on-set crew, and even cable and satellite television companies who distribute the films. Even injured performers can be sued directly— by anyone. No other worker in California can be sued this way. They add that it won’t just be big industry film producers facing trouble: even married couples filming porn in their own home would be subject to the law, and potential lawsuits." Some of the best coverage, though, came from The Hollywood Reporter. "On Monday, [Julia] Ann and several hundred other porn workers took to a stretch of Sunset Boulevard—21 floors beneath Weinstein's posh corner office at AHF's Hollywood headquarters—to protest Proposition 60, a measure on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot which would require L.A.'s porn actors to use condoms," wrote THR's Seth Abramovitch. "One of the most controversial and well-funded figures in the L.A. political arena, Weinstein, who has been described by former co-workers as a 'megalomaniac,' has poured $5 million in AHF funds into TV spots to get Prop 60 passed. "Weinstein has also diverted AHF revenue lately toward another one of his pet causes: over-development, taking out billboards around town protesting the construction of mega-structures around his Hollywood offices," Abramovitch added. "But it's Prop 60 that has the city's adult-film workers fuming on this drizzly afternoon." In short, over the past few days, the adult industry has shown what it can do when confronted by an issue that could spell its death knell, thanks to a small team of sex-positive activists like Californians Against Worker Harassment treasurer Eric Paul Leue, Kink publicist (and filmmaker) Michael Stabile and No On Prop 60 Communications Director Siouxsie Q. But of course, their (and the industry's) job is far from over. There are still three weeks to go until the election, and the No On 60 backers plan to make every minute count.

 
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