What’s at Stake for Porn Performers on Election Day?

For decades, porn performers haven’t been taken seriously by lawmakers. Even as their industry has evolved from a quasi-legal enterprise to a fully legitimate business, the stigma associated with sex work has tainted the business in the eyes of government officials and regulators.

Photo credit: Sexy MAF

Photo credit: Sexy MAF

When lawmakers have created laws to regulate the industry—whether to police obscenity or keep performers safe on set—they’ve rarely engaged its members in conversation, treating them more like delinquent youths than active and engaged business people who deserve to have a say in how their industry is run.

But recently, something has changed. Porn performers have been showing up to lobby government officials in California—and those officials are listening, and taking them seriously. “We’ve demonstrated ourselves to be more informed and professional and ready for discourse than they expected us to be. We’ve really overcome their expectations,” says porn performer and Adult Performer Advocacy Committee president Ela Darling. At long last, performers feel as though they are finally being included in the conversation about the regulation of their industry.

And the efforts seem to be working in the industry’s favour. Recently, political parties in California—the state where the majority of porn companies are based, whose laws have a crucial impact on the industry—have publicly opposed new anti-porn proposals, with a 2014 anti-porn bill full of aggressive regulations dying in committee. “They’re starting to give us a little bit more space and a little bit more clout,” says Darling.

AgainstProp60

But in the wake of these tenuous wins, the porn business now faces some of its biggest threats yet. This November, California voters will be deciding whether or not to approve Proposition 60, a new “condoms in porn” ballot initiative that could be disastrous for porn performers if it passes, driving production companies out of state, reducing opportunities for work and fracturing the local community and resources that help keep performers safe. Could the little progress porn has made be undone this fall?

To understand how politically active porn performers went from being treated like a joke and an oddity to a respected force, it helps to have a sense of how the adult industry’s political landscape has changed over the past few years.

Prior to 2009, the biggest legal threats faced by pornographers were obscenity charges — like the kind that landed aggressively taboo porn director Max Hardcore in jail back in 2009 — or complex records-keeping regulations requiring producers to maintain extensive (and expensive) records proving no one in their productions was under the age of eighteen. While those threats were scary, particularly for producers who could wind up in prison if their paperwork wasn’t exactly in order, they didn’t really affect performers directly—if someone’s legal ID wasn’t properly recorded by a producer, the performer wasn’t going to take the fall. Likewise, the women who engaged in shocking sex acts with Max Hardcore weren’t the ones who had to worry about winding up behind bars. Because performers themselves weren’t really at risk, they rarely felt the need to show up and get politically involved. As a result, lawmakers rarely had to think about the people whose very bodies and livelihoods might be impacted by their aggressive stances.

But as the aughts shifted into the twenty-teens, things began to change. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation—a nonprofit turned anti-porn lobbying group pushing Proposition 60—turned its sights on the porn industry, launching a number of initiatives that threatened to completely destabilize the business under the guise of protecting performers through draconian, expensive, and often unrealistic regulations.

Read the full Fusion article: https://goo.gl/VkXkuy