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Sex workers decry passage of ‘paternalistic’ Measure B

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 20:41 EDT
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Porn movie via AFP
 
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Los Angeles’ burgeoning adult entertainment industry was reeling on Wednesday after more than one million residents voted Yes on Measure B, which requires porn performers to wear condoms and mandates random inspections of porn shoots.

The ballot measure was touted as way to protect sex workers from sexually transmitted diseases, but adult performers have been some of Measure B’s biggest critics.

Earlier this year, the adult entertainment trade group Free Speech Coalition called for a temporary halt to porn shoots in Los Angeles after several cases of syphilis emerged. Last year, the Los Angeles adult film industry temporarily shut down after an unidentified sex worker tested positive for HIV. In 2010, porn actor Derrick Burts was diagnosed as being HIV positive. Burts went on to become a vocal advocate for the mandatory use of condoms in porn.

Burt joined forces with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and helped to put Measure B on the November ballot, claiming it would protect sex workers by preventing the spread of STDs.

But those in the adult industry have said the measure was driven by the prejudicial sentiment that sex workers were themselves “dirty” people — rather than being driven by public health concerns. New York-based photographer Paul Sarkis told Raw Story that Measure B was “nothing more than another effort to marginalize the performers in the adult film community.”

Sarkis, whose book Off the Set delved into the private life of ten porn stars, added that stereotypes about sex workers are “often used to dehumanize them.”

“In the years that we spent documenting performers’ stories, we were consistently faced with the commonly accepted stereotypes that performers are victims, substance abusers, or damaged individuals who need to be saved or rehabilitated,” he explained. “In contrast, what we found when we actually took the time to listen to performers’ stories was an acutely self-aware community of individuals struggling to express themselves on their own terms.”

After Measure B passed with more than 55 percent of the vote, the porn actor known as James Deen told The Huffington Post he was “disappointed” that sex workers were being “continually bullied and used by others.” Deen added that most porn producers would probably move out of Los Angeles and film elsewhere.

Other adult performers have noted that sex workers in Los Angeles are regularly tested for STDs, a self-regulation most porn producers impose on themselves. At least one adult performer feels that intercourse with a sex worker is far less risky than having sex with a stranger at a bar.

“Studies have shown (and AIDS-transmission specialists have agreed) that the self-reporting system in the adult industry is effective at preventing infection,” Sarkis said. “However, the squeamish mainstream’s paternalistic attitude toward performers has once again shut out performer’s voices, and deprived them of the right to make their own choices.”

The No on Government Waste Committee, a coalition formed to oppose Measure B, announced Wednesday it planned to challenge the ballot measure in court.

“After being heavily outspent by a well-financed AIDS Healthcare Foundation which poured millions of dollars into passing Measure B, the adult film industry will not just stand by and let it destroy our business,” said Diane Duke, executive director for the Free Speech Coalition. “While the misinformation and outright distortions made by AHF during this campaign may have deceived voters, we believe in the calm, serious deliberations of the legal system we will find that Measure B is in fact unconstitutional.”

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
 
 
 
 
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