Medithi: Porn legislation affects everyone

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Medithi: Porn legislation affects everyone

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Vivian Medithi

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Bipartisanship seems more and more like a fantasy these days. It seems Republicans and Democrats would rather butt heads for rhetorical points than make any meaningful attempts at compromise or progress. While meaningful ideological differences justify some of these clashes, a wide majority are simply just petty; for example, the continued delay on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland’s confirmation.

So it feels shocking that the Republican Party and Democratic Party in California are in agreement on anything, let alone a piece of legislation concerning the porn industry. Proposition 60 mandates the use of condoms during all on-screen intercourse, as well as requiring production companies to pay for performers’ vaccinations, testing, and medical exams. On the surface, this seems like a strong move to protect sex workers’ health and hold porn producers accountable for the well-being of their employees. Proposition 60 is based on Los Angeles’s Measure B, approved in 2012, to do the same thing on a local level and would essentially expand Measure B statewide. If passed, Proposition 60 would be in a position to be the template for nationwide legislation regarding the porn industry.

So why do both major parties in California oppose Proposition 60? In the official California voter’s guide, the primary argument against Prop 60 is that what it says it will do and what it will actually do are two wildly different things. Opponents argue that the wording of the initiative opens performers up to a variety of liabilities with regard to lawsuits.

Essentially, Prop 60 gives not only the state but also all private citizens of California the right to directly sue performers, on-set crews, and porn distributors, as well as production companies, if they see a violation of the law. In other terms, any of California’s 38 million residents is entitled to sue basically anyone associated with a given production, including cable, satellite, and Internet providers. And because films of any variety take a long time from filming to commercial release, scenes shot before the law takes effect will still be in a legally gray area, despite the money and time already invested.

More critically, Prop 60 is actually opposed by the vast majority of porn performers in the state of California and beyond. Supporters of Prop 60 can talk all they like about the various health organizations that support them (it’s worth noting roughly as many oppose them), but without the support of performers, Prop 60 can’t be considered viable.

The Adult Film Advocacy Committee, the largest independent adult performer organization in the state, opposed the measure because it felt it would be detrimental to performers’ health. Other performers have raised concerns about potential exploitation of the law by ex-partners and stalkers to harass performers. Is this really a measure worth tens of millions in taxpayer money?

Laws such as this have effect beyond their legal scope. Sure, this law only applies to California. And even if it is passed and eventually becomes a template for nationwide legislation, do we in Iowa really need to be concerned? We don’t have a Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Miami; how much could a law like this affect us? In actuality, in the internet age, laws like this will affect people you interact with every day. Independent performers produce their own content, do web shows, and sell clips everywhere from New Mexico to Vermont. There are performers from Iowa and in Iowa, and even if you find porn morally objectionable, you should agree that as humans, these people have the right to take control of their own health care without intervention of the state.

We as a nation need to stop elbowing our way into the exam room alongside people’s doctors. It’s 2016; it’s high past time for us to let people make the medical decisions they think are best for them. As the presidential election approaches, it can be easy to forget about local-level elections and legislating in the grand scheme of things. But when the stakes are this high, we need to remember that policies at the local level are the beginnings of national policies, whether they start in California or Iowa. We would do well to pay more attention.

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