Californians have another tough issue to vote on today: Porn

Why some safe sex advocates are against enforcing condom use in porn
Condoms have saved countless lives, but can we do better? New research says so. Courtesy Wikimedia

In the midst of a bitterly divisive election season, it’s rare to see bipartisan agreement on an issue. But when it comes to California’s controversial Proposition 60, which would in theory help enforce laws about condom use in adult films, Democrats and Republicans in California share a party line: Vote “no.”

This ballot initiative, supported almost entirely by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s President Michael Weinstein, is intended to stop the spread of HIV. The campaign pushing the initiative bills it as a common sense occupational safety measure. “Nobody should have to risk their health in order to keep their job!” says their website. The group had not responded to a request for comment by the time this story was published.

Opponents of the initiative, including the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s trade association, say public health concerns are a smoke screen for harassment. Since the measure would empower consumers to blow the whistle on performers who aren’t obviously using condoms in their onscreen appearances, some have even called it a witch-hunt. “You’re incentivizing the viewer to sue us,” actor Tommy Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter. Performers, who place high value on their anonymity, could have their real names and addresses exposed if accused. So a missing (or simply well-hidden) condom could actually expose performers to dangerous harassment.

It may seem odd to argue against enforcing the use of condoms, which have been proven safe and effective at preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. OB/GYN Jen Gunter told Popular Science, “I think it’s a very good idea for people in every industry to have protection. That’s a good general theory, but I’m not sure that’s what this initiative would accomplish.”

Those who oppose Proposition 60 argue that it wouldn’t only affect adult film performers. The ballot initiative further stigmatizes people living with HIV by adding yet another law that criminalizes a person’s positive status (33 states have made it illegal to expose a partner to HIV), wrote Nico Lang for the LA Times. “This might sound like a reasonable idea, one that advocates safer sex between individuals,” wrote Lang, “but criminalizing HIV actually serves to force people further into the closet.” And opponents say that Proposition 60 would make this problem worse.

Weinstein, who was also behind another condom act in 2012, pushed Proposition 60 to close the loopholes that have kept government agencies like the Department of Public Health from enforcing the previous measure, which some say is unconstitutional, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The laws would not change with Proposition 60, but enforcement would be stricter.

“I think that a thoughtful look at how blood and body fluid precaution could happen would be important,” says Gunter. While Proposition 60 may create more problems than it solves, she thinks it is necessary for workers to be protected, no matter their profession. And if nothing else, perhaps some Hollywood movie magic could come into play. “There’s no reason why they couldn’t shoot porn with condoms and digitally remove them!”