If You Think Porn Performers Should Be Made To Wear Condoms… Read This

prop60_1The US elections on 8 November 2016 will see people voting on two very important things: who gets to be president and whether or not performers should be forced to wear condoms in porn.

As fun as it would be to make a bunch of Hilary Vs Trump jokes here, I thought I’d weigh in on the second political issue, since it’s something about which I, as a porn producer, have an opinion. And, it’s kind of unfunny but I feel something needs to be said.

In California, voters will be asked to vote on Prop 60, a measure which seeks to heavily regulate the use of condoms in that state. The full details of the bill are here.

In essence, the bill allows any citizen to sue the producers and performers of any porn scene if no condoms are visible. It sets up a state porn-watching facility to spot non-condom films. It allows performers to be named and possibly harassed. And it creates a state-sponsored job for the one man who initiated the bill, and he can’t be removed.

If you live in California, I recommend you read the arguments against the bill here. It is opposed by both major political parties, all the Californian newspaper and, most importantly, performers.

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I’m not a US citizen and I’m not an expert on how US laws work. Nonetheless, I make porn that is viewed online by Californian citizens and I’ve worked with a lot of US-based performers and feminist porn producers. I think Prop 60 is a bad idea and I also think that state-sponsored mandating of condoms in porn is a bad idea.

I realize that as a feminist pornographer and ethical porn producer it sounds counter-intuitive that I would oppose something that (apparently) promotes safe sex. It goes without saying that I am an advocate of safe sex practices in porn and in everyday life. Nonetheless, I’m also an advocate of performer choice and I think it should be up to the performers themselves to decide how they use their bodies in porn based on their own personal circumstances.

At Bright Desire you’ll find a lot of scenes where condoms aren’t used. In many of those cases, the performers were a real-life couple who were fluid bonded and who were having sex on film just as they would at home. It was their choice not to use a condom, and indeed, forcing them to use one when it wasn’t their usual habit would interrupt the authenticity of the scene and cause hassle for them.

In other scenes, performers chose not to use condoms because it helped them to perform better or they simply preferred it. (Mainstream industry performers have said that using condoms on set for a long time can result in condom rash and vaginal or anal tears that actually make them more susceptible to STIs.) Before working with Bright Desire, performers have undergone a recent test for sexually transmitted diseases to ensure they are safe.

In California, the adult industry has a self-managed testing scheme that sees performers tested every 2 weeks. There have been only 2 HIV infections in 12 years and those were due to performers engaging in unsafe sex off-set. Testing isn’t perfect but it nonetheless has been very effective in reducing the risk of STI transmission.

“I read a statistic that most people in the general population get one HIV test ever, in their entire lives. One!,” performer Siouxsie Q told Betablog. “In the adult film industry, we test for seven different sexually transmitted infections every 14 days. Adult film performers are actually leaders in sexual health.”

Of course, Bright Desire also features scenes where condoms and other safe sex items are used. Again, this has been the performers choice and as a director I’ve been happy to work with their needs. I don’t have a problem with condoms appearing in my porn; safe sex is a part of how people have sex and I’m interested in documenting that. Indeed, I’m keen to make porn that gives a positive view of safe sex practices, showing how they can be sexy and easily included into the flow of fucking.

I don’t base my safe sex filming decisions on what I think the audience wants to see. While I want to make films that appeal to viewers, for me the performer choice is prioritized over the final content. Interestingly, a recent survey of male porn viewers found that a while 65% preferred no condoms in their porn, a third didn’t have an opinion and were happy to watch it with or without.

I’m also an advocate for performer privacy. People who work in porn face stigma and shaming in their every day lives all the time. I’ve seen people lose financial services, child custody and housing because they were discriminated against as sex workers or porn performers. There’s also a very real danger of stalking or physical harm that can arise. So any law that erodes the privacy of performers and puts them at risk of harassment or worse is a bad law.

I have friends that operate feminist porn sites in California, including The Crash Pad Series. This site will need to either relocate or close down if this bill passes and people will lose their jobs. Suffice to say, this sucks.

So if you live in California, please vote no on Prop 60. And if you’re a believer in the state forcing adult performers to wear condoms, I hope you will reconsider your position. It just makes sense that performers should be the ultimate arbiters of their own safety – and ethical porn producers will always back them up.

 

EDIT 17 November. Well, Prop 60 failed, which is a huge relief for Californian porn producers. Unfortunately, this victory was eclipsed by the general clusterfuck disaster of Donal Trump being elected President and the Republicans gaining power. Porn is in for a bumpy ride over the next 4 years (and, obviously, that is a relatively small issue compared to the possibility of fascism).

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