My colleagues and I at UC Hastings have prepared a series of informational and neutral videos to educate voters about the CA ballot. Here’s a video I made about Prop 60:
Before educating myself about the proposition, my inclination was to vote yes, and I’m sure many voters feel the same way. What could possibly be wrong with condoms? Aren’t they wonderful things that prevent pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases? Shouldn’t we communicate a message to the public that it’s cool and sexy to use them, by requiring that they be used in adult films?
Then, I talked to my awesome student Stephan Ferris, who wanted to write a research paper on this. We discussed the advantages and drawbacks of this regime for the better part of last spring, and Stephan’s resulting excellent paper on Prop 60 is coming out on the Hastings Women’s Law Journal (I’ll add the link once it’s published.) My student convinced me that the right move on this one is a NO on 60, and here’s why.
My natural inclination, as well as that of other well-meaning do-gooders, is to assume that porn actors are defenseless, vulnerable folks with no bargaining power, for whom condoms are the last frontier in the fight against HIV. Neither of these claims is true, and there’s actually a regional issue here that is important.
The ecology of porn in California is such that, for the most part, straight porn is produced in Los Angeles and gay porn in San Francisco. What works for the industry on a regional basis in Los Angeles would not necessarily apply statewide. In the world of gay porn, the working assumption in the industry is that anyone involved is HIV positive, and therefore the performers have an incentive to protect themselves. The state-of-the-art standard for protection against HIV is the use of PrEP. This medication, which in San Francisco is covered by citywide insurance, protects HIV-negative people from getting infected and lowers the detectability of the virus in HIV-positive people to the point that the risk of infection is extremely low. While health care advocacy giant AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is fighting for this measure, other AIDS-prevention groups claim that the proposition is upholding antiquated health standards that don’t work for the industry. My student, who interviewed industry performers for his article, found that the industry effectively self-regulates the risks away, and putting people who have financial stake in adult film in a position that exposes them to lawsuits (particularly moralistic ones) creates a bad incentive. Adult entertainment companies concerned about the prospect of litigation will simply move somewhere else in the country–Nevada, perhaps?–and California will lose tens of millions of dollars in tax money
In case you think this is a positive because “we don’t want them here”, I’d like to remind you that porn watching knows no borders. Porn is viewed almost exclusively online regardless of where it is produced and filmed. You’ll still be able to see plenty of unprotected sex, much of it done by amateurs filming themselves; what you won’t get is the tax revenue. This proposition smells like unwarranted moral panic. I’m going with no on this one.