On November 8, it’s important to remember you’re voting for more than president of the United States. There are senators and representatives up for election, and in many states, there are also referendums, constitutional amendments, and propositions. In California, one proposition, in particular, is getting both Democrats and Republicans riled up: Prop 60. And it’s about porn. Specifically, the proposition would require adult film producers to provide condoms and ensure performers use them in any instance where "performers actually engage in vaginal or anal penetration by a penis." Should a performer not follow this guideline, Prop 60 would permit the state, performers, or any state resident to enforce violations.
To delve further into why there’s such heated debate over a proposition that posits itself as a health-forward initiative, we decided to let someone who would live with its aftermath speak on the matter. Below, award-winning porn star Carter Cruise breaks down the unintended consequences of Prop 60, and how it might actually cause more harm than good.
Imagine you’re having sex with your significant other when suddenly, a grim-looking man throws open your bedroom door. “Come with me,” he says, “You’re being sued for not using a condom."
Disturbing, right? Well, this may not be too far from reality for some, should Prop 60 pass in California on November 8. Written by Michael Weinstein, president and co-founder of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the ballot will ask: “Do you believe porn performers should use condoms to prevent STIs on set, and that the studios should pay for their tests?” It sounds reasonable, but like many pieces of legislation, the actual proposition is pages long and hides a lot more than that simple question implies. In reality, it has very little to do with condoms, and everything to do with Weinstein.
When I first heard about Prop 60, I was mildly annoyed that someone would try to mandate what I do with my body, but I didn’t feel like I needed to speak up about it. That changed after I looked further into the proposed law.
Both the Californian Democratic and Republican parties agree that Prop 60 is a bad idea, and considering how much tension there’s been between the two as of late, that should tell you something. If that isn’t enough of a huge red flag, here are five more reasons why Californians should consider voting against this controversial proposition.
1. California would take a major financial hit
Before I get into why Prop 60 won’t actually do the things it claims, let’s take a look at the financial consequences if it were to pass. According to a 2015 NBC article, the U.S. porn industry brings in 10 to 12 billion dollars a year. Given that 60 to 70 percent of the U.S. industry is based in Los Angeles County, the adult industry is responsible for millions of dollars worth of tax revenue each year in California. A fiscal impact statement prepared by the state’s legislative analyst and director of finance projects states that if Prop 60 passes, the state will lose several million dollars in tax revenue and see increased state costs that could exceed $1 million annually in order to enforce the additional rules. In short, people will make porn elsewhere.
2. Condoms don’t make porn sets any safer
Supporters of Prop 60 claim that requiring condoms during porn production will help prevent the spread of STIs and that it’s for the protection of performers. However, the industry already has a strict testing policy (albeit voluntary) and California has required porn stars to wear condoms since 1992 (though this is not frequently enforced by Cal/OSHA). Most companies require performers to test every 14 days through an approved lab, and all results go directly into the Performer Availability Screening Services database, which is run by Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit trade association. If a performer tests positive for an STI, they will not be cleared in the system, and are unable to work until they test clean. In some cases, the industry will completely shut down until everyone who worked with that person has been notified and retested (this last happened in 2013). Frequent testing not only ensures that STIs are caught almost immediately, but it also encourages performers to practice safe sex in their personal lives because a positive result means no paycheck. Since this system of voluntary, frequent testing has been in place (12 years), there hasn’t been a single HIV transmission on set with companies that use the PASS system.
Currently, performers are responsible for the costs of their PASS exams and are partially reimbursed for the expense by the nonprofit. Prop 60 would require producers to pay for all their talent’s workplace-related medical exams and tests, increasing costs and potentially forcing work out of state. Not only do most consumers prefer porn without condoms, but the use of condoms in porn is also challenging. It makes it harder for men to maintain an erection, there’s chafing, and scenes can take hours to shoot. And let's not forget: This is vigorous sex with well-endowed men—the condoms frequently break.
3. Prop 60 would put performers at risk in their day-to-day lives
Like any facet of entertainment, porn stars have fans, as well as haters, who can be dangerous under the right circumstances. Performers have more than their fair share of creepy fan stories, and even outright stalkers.
Prop 60 would make performers more vulnerable in their day-to-day lives. Any citizen of California could report an individual for not using condoms, would be able to personally sue a producer, distributor or agent if officials do not pursue the report within 21 days, and would then be entitled to 25 percent of the earnings from the lawsuit. Many performers are also producers, creating their own content, which means there is the potential for their personal information to become public record if a lawsuit is filed. The way Prop 60 is designed, it is not only possible for any individual to unearth a performer’s private life, there’s financial incentive to do so.
Weinstein, the author of Prop 60, has continually refused to meet with the adult film industry, defending the decision by saying, "I'm not going to put myself in a position of debating people where all they do is call me names." He shows a complete lack of understanding when it comes to the adult performance field, but is still happy to speak and make decisions on behalf of it. How can you help workers when you don’t even try to understand the trade to which they belong?
4. Prop 60 does nothing to help the millions of people who are actually being harmed in illegal porn and need help
People tend to lump all porn into one industry, but it’s important to understand the difference between professional, amateur, and illegal porn production. Professional porn is made up of consenting adults who abide by safety regulations. Performers provide two forms of identification, file paperwork, are prohibited from using alcohol or drugs on set, and abide by strict testing policies. Amateur porn is made with models, actors, or non-professionals, who generally perform without pay (think: home movies), and is subject to less regulation. Illegal pornography is often nonconsensual, depicts life-threatening acts, results in bodily harm, and can involve children.
Illegal porn is an enormous problem, with an estimated 20 million people a year bought and sold in the sex trade. This is an actual issue, as opposed to the manufactured issue which is attempting to censure an industry that has had zero HIV transmissions in over a decade. It’s hard for me to understand why Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation would spend $4 million dollars to promote Prop 60 and prosecute consenting adults making a personal choice, instead of putting those dollars toward actual, statistical tragedies that exist within the industry, to say nothing of funding AIDS treatment research or sex education in schools. By the way, as of November 3, Weinstein’s foundation has been the only source of donations for Prop 60. That’s pretty telling.
5. My body, my choice
I will be the first to admit that the industry needs better regulation and performer rights groups, but Prop 60 is not the answer. Activists within the industry have been working for years to implement safer practices with Cal/OSHA and have been very successful in their efforts.
Ultimately, though, what this comes down to is that I don’t need a man who refuses to understand my work to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body. No one needs that, but under Prop 60, everyone in porn would be subject to this law, including monogamous married couples. Can you imagine a world where you can be sued for having unprotected sex with your husband? That's the world of Prop 60.
I believe in safe sex, and I think condoms are awesome and people should use them more often, but I’m also a grown woman who can make my own decisions. I don’t need Weinstein’s “protection,” and neither does the porn industry.
For more information on Prop 60, visit Ballotpedia.