The Sword is launching a new column this week, published every Thursday, bringing together voices and opinions from across the gay porn world and outside of it, on topics ranging from gay sex, celebrities, politics, and industry business. We’re kicking off with a word from NakedSword CEO Tim Valenti.
As some of you may have heard, there’s a bill in the California Assembly that is nothing less than a full-frontal assault on the rights of adult performers. Not only does it mandate that all performers in porn wear condoms, it requires they turn over sensitive medical information about their HIV status to anyone they work for, including in a last-minute addition added to the bill last night a forced waiver of their right to medical privacy.
On the surface, AB1576 seems like it would protect performers condoms in every scene, testing every fourteen days, mandated by law. But for those of us who work with performers, it’s much more complicated. Why? Because it makes it a crime yes, a crime punishable by law for not using a condom while filming a porn scene. Now, I can understand if you want your performers to be safe. I do too. In fact, at NakedSword we already use condoms in all of our films, and always have. But what a performer does sexually should be up to the performer, not the government.
AB1576 was engineered by Michael Weinstein, the controversial head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Isadore Hall, a politician and minister from Los Angeles. For reasons that few can comprehend, Weinstein and Hall have spent millions of dollars and several years trying to control performer’s sexual behavior. To hear them talk about porn shame has been a common refrain at the hearings you’d think it was coming from members of the religious right. (And it’s not just porn prominent AIDS advocates and The Sword alike have called for Weinstein’s ouster for sex-shaming comments over the HIV-prevention drug Truvada.)
Not surprisingly, the bill has generated outrage among performers. Hundreds have signed a petition asking the state Assembly to vote no on the bill when it comes up next week. Others have called or faxed or tweeted at their representatives to let them know that the bill does little to improve performer safety, while opening the door to allow discrimination and stigmatization of adult performers.
As gay men, we know how important our privacy is, and we know how HIV has been used to whip up fear against gay men. As a condom-only producer, it’s not my business whether someone is negative or positive. The reason so many gay porn studios use condoms is because it means we don’t have to know about a person’s status.
The bill also puts an incredible burden on performers who choose to produce their own films. Under the law, even a monogamous gay couple using webcam from their own home could be prosecuted for not wearing a condom, regardless of whether they do it in their private life or not. They’d also be required to test every fourteen days, to maintain filing cabinets of medical records, and a log detailing every penetration in which they engaged. It’s sexually Orwellian.
This isn’t a healthcare bill, it’s a moral crusade that uses HIV to scare legislators. If Hall and Weinstein wanted to protect performers, they’d work with them, not against them. Instead, they demean performers as threats to public health and dismiss their concerns as irrelevant. Instead of designing a campaign to empower performers, or educating them about HIV-stopping medications like Truvada, they’ve wasted millions of dollars that could have gone into treatment and prevention things the gay community, particularly in underserved areas, desperately needs.
Next week, AB1576 will be voted on by the Appropriations Committee. It’s a vote that could determine the rights of thousands of performers. But it’s crucial that legislators here from all of us.
The link below offers a way to tell the California State Assembly that you oppose AB1576. If you live in California, use it. If you don’t, please help spread the word about this dangerous bill using the hashtag #stopAB1576. The rights of us all depend on it.
1. Contact members of the Appropriations Committee.
2. Sign the “Keep Adult Performers Safe – Stop AB 1576!” petition on change.org.