Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Panic Works: Measure B Passes With 55% Of The Vote. The Requiem, The Legal Challenges, And The Future spite of the spirited efforts and passionate campaign, in the end the gold made the rules.

The condom initiative known as Measure B was headed for passage with 55 percent of the vote as of this moment, and barring any last second miracles, Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, along with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the California state branch of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, will get the authority to force condoms and other forms of obtrusive barrier protections onto porn shoots in most of Los Angeles County.

From the reaction of many performers whom have made LA County their home for the past few years, and have depended on the good will of the community for their livelihood, this loss will seem like nothing short of a punch in the crotch, a giant betrayal of a legal tax-paying community of enterpreneurs and workers whose only crime was to make and perform sex videos for their entertainment.

This isn't to say that the issue is settled, of course....I'm betting that the legal battle to overturn Measure B is already being planned, since a similar battle is already in the works to challenge a similar law passed by the City of Los Angeles (which now will be adjusted to mesh with the stronger county ordinance now passed). But, while the industry renders the now painful choice of whether to stay and fight or pick up their stakes and move to newer, less hostile venues, there is still the postgame analysis of how Measure B still passed even with the strong and passionate arguments of opponents, as well as what the diaspora of porn professionals can plan on in the future.

The key element, to say the least, was AHF's money. When you have a budget of well over $100 million, you can afford to buy the loyalty of plenty of people and manipulate the process. The collusion between the LA County Council of Supervisors, CalOSHA, and AHF has been well documented both here and elsewhere, along with the ability to cut TV commercials featuring the two primary protagonists of the last significant HIV scares, Darren James and Derrick Burts, against an opposition that was essentially reduced to Twitter bombs, YouTube videos, and the occasional radio commercial. The latter campaign more than made up in intensity what they lacked in financial resources...and they appeared to have far more effective arguments and facts at their side. The problem was, though, all the facts in the world are useless if the majority of the electorate refuses to listen to them, or are simply overwhelmed by the driving rainstorm of distortions.

The second element was timing. AHF had nearly two to three years to plan and execute their offensive, starting from the vendetta and ultimately successful closing of the Adult Industry Medical Foundation clinic that had been the main STI testing clinic for performers, and then conniving with CalOSHA and LACDPH to promote the "only condoms can save the industry" meme. The industry was either too distracted by their own petty squabbles (Free Speech Coalition vs. certain talent agents; Cutting Edge Testing vs. Talent Testing; Manwin vs. everyone else) or too assuming of their economic weight in Los Angeles County....and by the time the threat was seen and forces assembled, the syphilis scare featuring the misplaced antics of Mr. Marcus siphoned off critical resources and time that could have been used to deflect the attack. (I'm not going to blame Marcus personally, just explaining how that controversy distracted from the main battle.)

But to me, speaking as the outsider here, a significant factor in Measure B's passage was what I see as the main opponents' complete misreading of the base electorate of Los Angeles County, and the assumptions that they would automatically be moved by certain arguments based on libertarian conservative beliefs about "less government" intervention. This is not intended to be an attack on James Lee of the No On Government Waste group or Michael Whiteacre or Sean Tompkins of The Real Porn Wikileaks, whom have been nothing short of supurb and have left everything on the field in the opposition effort. However, I do think that the theme of emphasizing conservative themes of "government intervention" and "attacking legitimate small business" completely missed the nature of appealing to a much more moderate, if not liberal/progressive, electorate, and allowed AHF way too many outs of counter appeals. Not tying the NoOnB effort effectively enough to the larger efforts against the statewide "anti-sex trafficking" initiative Proposition 35 (which also passed last night) was, in my personal opinion, a bad move that would become costly...especially in the wake of the synergy between the slut shaming paternalism of the anti-"sex trafficking" movement and the underlying attitudes of proponents of Measure B.

Both campaigns reflect (for all of Gail Dines' rhetoric against "neoliberalism" as an elitist assault on the majority of women supposedly under attack by the evil Capitalist Male Porn Conspiracy) the actual sexual paternalistic neoliberalism of professional, upwardly mobile celebrities, reinforced with the "expertise" of fly-by-night armchair psychoanalysts cloaked with doctorates and Cosmopolitan atttitudes about the wonderfulness of long as it is conditioned within the proper boundaries of "safety".

For these folk, condoms represent what monogamy used to represent for sexual neoliberals in the 1980's during the HIV pandemic: both a safe zone to experiment sex freely AND a means to impose an only slightly less restrictive sexual ghetto and seperate themselves from the rabble of those evil "promiscuous" out-of-control sluts who "make us look like libertines". It's essentially the same mentality that political neoliberals have had against working class folks whom are outside of their charmed circle, the "dependent" welfare poor, the "shiftless" and "lazy" ghetto Black/Brown male....but set in a more benelovent, paternalistic, loving, lecturing tone than the typical "let them eat shit and die" mentality of the Religious/Tea Party Right.

Bear in mind, of course, that there were supporters of Measure B who were and are genuinely sincere about protecting performers from the scourge of sexually transmitted infections, and whom generally do see the condom mandate as one tool of enhanced protection. I may ultimately disagree with performers like Brittany Andrews and activists like Chi Chi LaRue, two principled activists for mandatory condom usage, but in no way will I disrespect their right to their views and their sincerity in their concerns.

However, the potential impact of this new law (all the legal challenges aside) stands cogent to the fact that there is still a lot of education of the public that needs to be done....and that just because someone isn't a fundamentalist or a radical feminist does NOT mean that they can't be suspectible to the politics and emotions of slut-shaming....even regardless of the general rout of the most virulent forms of misogyny and sex hate last night through the massive political rout delivered for President Barack Obama.

And, just as progressives and the Left now beginning to resurge in power nationally need to be educated by activist sex workers and their consensual clients and fans and consumers on the importance of defending core sexual liberties, so too must porn professionals face the fact that the broader electorate is changing and being transformed to be more diverse and more liberal/progressive, even more radical. Appealing merely to Whites with money and libertarian conservative appeals simply isn't going to cut it much longer with a younger, racially diverse, and politically more astute coalition of fans and consumers; and it's past time that progressive porn performers follow the lead of pioneers like James Deen, Dana deArmond, Stoya, Amber Lynn, Kylie Ireland, and the Greatest Goddess of them all, Nina Hartley, and become more outspoken about defending porn and sexual freedom/liberation on progressive political principles. Not that libertarians like Steven St. Croix shouldn't matter, of course, but it's time to cover the entire spectrum.

But, while that develops, bring on the lawyers. This battle is NOT over, by any means.


  1. "Popular suffrage is in itself no guarantee of freedom. People can vote themselves into slavery." – Frank Chodorov

    "The true danger is when Liberty is nibbled away, for expedience." – Edmund Burke

  2. The passage of both Prop 35 and Measure B was a big step toward greater criminalization of the sex industry in California, totally running counter to the image of California as a progressive state. It's the outcome of a long and dirty media campaign against the sex industry that's been running for the last decade, pushed by the antiporn and so-called "abolitionist" movement. While I think we have been starting to turn the corner in the media and intellectual circles (the antis no longer have the privilege of pushing their views completely unchallenged), it really hasn't filtered down into popular discourse, and the sex worker lobby routinely gets crushed whenever the antis put up a serious campaign. So right now, we're stuck with the hypocritical status quo where the majority of the citizens get behind crackdowns on the sex industry, while at the same time a likely majority of the male population and a significant part of the female one view porn. It's like they used to say about Oklahoma, that it would remain a dry state as long as citizens can stagger to the polls and vote to keep it that way.

    "But to me, speaking as the outsider here, a significant factor in Measure B's passage was what I see as the main opponents' complete misreading of the base electorate of Los Angeles County, and the assumptions that they would automatically be moved by certain arguments based on libertarian conservative beliefs about "less government" intervention."

    That's very true, and considering the level of support for Obamacare in liberal states like California, that translates into some pretty strong sentiments for active government and public health. The No on B campaign completely misread that and did not reach out much beyond libertarians. (The leftist opposition to B mostly focused on sex worker status as a kind of identity politics, something I don't think is a winning strategy either.) That left them open to the kind of dismissal spelled out in this Amanda Marcotte article in support of mandatory condoms in porn. (I'll just add here that I am not an Amanda Marcotte fan, with her paternalistic views toward sex workers being a major source of my animus.)

    However, if you look at last night's outright legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, there's clearly some anti-nanny state sentiment in the blue states. I think a campaign that will have impact will need to distinguish between good public health legislation and government overreach, and how laws like Measure B fall into the latter category.

    I think that Prop 35 will ultimately end up being hashed out in the courts, but then, much of Prop 35 is likely unconstitutional. Less sure about Measure B, though I'm sure it will be challenged insofar as it's enforced. I have doubts as to what degree it will actually be enforced, as LA County doesn't actually have the budget to go looking for shoots to make sure they're in compliance. I don't know if they have the power to go after condomless videos after the fact, and they might need to prove that the video was actually shot in LA County, which will probably trigger a move toward anonymous-looking location shoots rather than ones that were clearly produced in a San Fernando Valley studio.

    One other interesting thing about the Measure B campaign - the fact that Shelly Lubben was not front and center on this one. In fact, it seems like AHF wants to put her on the back burner, and have been trying to avoid a more open alliance with the old-school antiporn warriors like Gail Dines and Patrick Truman. If that's the case, and people like Lubben, Dines, and Truman are that much of a political liability, that's a development in the "porn wars" we should be seizing on to our advantage.

  3. On the subject of Chi Chi LaRue - interesting, if one views his m/m oral sex scenes, he doesn't use condoms there, either. Anybody with a Hotmovies or AEBN account could easily peruse this: link. No cum shots in these oral sex scenes, but no barriers either.

    I have no idea whether the AHF crowd would accept that level of compromise concerning barriers in straight porn being used for only high-risk vaginal and anal penetration, or whether they'll stand by Peter Kerndt's over-the-top demands for dental dams, gloves, goggles, and everything short of a haz-mat suit for anything involving "body fluids". (Couple that with Kerndt's claim that this can be easily digitally FXed out in post-processing makes me wonder what ivory tower that guy lives in.)