Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The "Argument" That May Have Sealed The Deal For Measure B: Amanda Marcotte Representing The Paternalistic Feminist "Left"

There may be a lot of people still flummoxed about how Measure B was able to slide through Los Angeles County so easily, in spite of the obvious shortcomings of the proposal and the strong opposition from active porn performers.

As I posted last night, the overwhelming weight of AHF's money chest and their ability to buy useful boosters like Darren James and Derrick Burts were probably the chief factor...but one element that hasn't been covered is the appeal they made to be the universal "saviors" and "protectors" of the wayward porn girls against the evil, bad "capitalist" money grabbing "pornographers" who care more about their dicks and their money than girls catching sexually transmitted infections.

Also, there was the notion that the proponents for mandating condoms in porn were simply standing up for the functional liberal right of government to intervene with adequate regulation to tame a unruly and wild industry that eats women for lunch and spits them out "diseased" and rejected...just like the "sex traffickers" whom were similarly targetted by the statewide Proposition 35, which also passed last night. Those who oppose them are simply evil right-wing "libertarians" who want to privatize everything just to cover their "male privilege" of drowning women in tainted spooge. (Of course, the few women who defend noncondomized porn are simply dismissed as paid shills of the Capitalist Porn Conspiracy, or simply selfish, stupid elitist sluts who put their own pleasure above the "suffering" of real victims.

Now, if you think that this sounds exactly like the rhetoric of extreme antiporn/anti-sexwork "feminist" activists like Gail Dines, Shelley Lubben, and Shelia Jefferys, then you would be correct...but only to a point. There is a segment of slightly less virulent liberal/"progressive" feminism that doesn't go nearly as far as Dines in demonizing sexuality as inherently the will of The MAN, yet nevertheless goes pretty damn far in the paternalistic and restrictive view that it is perfectly fine and liberal to deny sex workers and porn performers their right to a choice of protecting themselves in the name of "safety" and "just regulation".

One such paternalist feminist is Amanda Marcotte, the renowned feminist liberal writer long associated with the blog Pandagon, and most recently a regular columnist for the pro-reproductive rights group RH Reality Check. Marcotte fashions herself to be a progressive "pro-sex" feminist who just loves to bash men -- particularly, the conservative kind -- for their convenient conspiracies to hold women down and repress their sexuality. And yet, she is also just as capable of occasionally going Andrea Dworkin on how men use pornography and sex work as an additional means of depraving women. And, she can be absolutely vicious in demonizing women who don't meet her exacting "sex-positive" standards, as her dissing of large and artificially enhanced breasted women shows. (Marcotte has also been zinged by plenty of feminists of color for her ceaseless appropriation -- some would call it outright theft -- of their struggles in order to maintain her "progressive" credentials...the 2002 "burqa" controversy with compatriot Jessica Valenti being another example.)

Anyways....Amanda decided to intervene herself into the Condoms In Porn debate with an essay for Pandagon (now integrated into the Raw Story site network) published in January of this year.  Titled "Wah!", it pretends to debunk all of the arguments against mandating condoms in porn, and it utilizes pretty much all of the same talking points that Measure B proponents have appropriated during their campaign. I will present the essay in its entirity, for the purpose of breaking it down point by point. If this was the argument that sealed the passage of Measure B in LA County, then I'd say that we who oppose it should comprehend it better, so that we can debunk such nonsense when the next Measure B comes forth....as it inevitably will.

So, L.A. is once again looking at the question of whether or not to require condom use in porn filmed in the city. This was a question I was initially agnostic on, figuring that it was probably a complex argument and I should give both sides a listen before deciding. In taking that approach, I have discovered that the anti-condom arguments are some of the most piss-poor, illogical arguments I’ve ever seen. I was forced by the badness of these arguments to agree that mandating condom use is clearly the path, since it’s the only side that actually bothered to make an argument that wasn’t smoke and mirrors. Let’s take a look at each argument from the anti-condom side and see why they’re just so terrible:
Riiight,  Amanda....like every other ideologue, you approach the condom debate from the "open-minded", "both sides deserve a listen" approach...then proceed to demonize one side for the expressed purpose of boosting the condom mandate as the only solution. How progressive of you, though, to be so "open minded" and "liberal"...because just like you dismiss well endowed women and those who choose to artificially enhance their bosoms as mere tools of dirty men and their sexual deviancies, it's so easy for you to dismiss porn performers who have the gall to think that they are capable of protecting themselves without your trusted assistance.

But, I get ahead of myself...let's actually go over Marcotte's points, shall we??
1) It’ll cut into porn profits. This is really the only argument that the porn industry—like any industry fighting against labor protections—cares about. Everything else is hand-waving (though I will address it, because the hand-waving has sucked in many liberals, mostly men, for reasons that should be as obvious as they are embarrassing). This is a value judgment argument. The question is whether you value the health and safety of the porn actors more than the ability to move units of the producers. I tend to side with people over profits, and have yet to hear a conservative make a compelling argument for why they value profits over people. 
This, of course, is straight out of Gail Dines' "Capitalist Male Porn Conspiracy" Red Book...because porn to Amanda is simply the XXX extension of evil chattel/corporate slavery which reduces women to sub-minimum wage automatons and sperm deposits and "cumdumpsters". The only difference is that Marcotte wouldn't completely censor and blow away porn the way Shelley Lubben would love to; she would only "reform" it through the condom mandate to "liberate" women from such corporate "slavery". Of course, anyone who differs with her is simply a dangerous neocon anarchocapitalist who puts "porn profits" (and the alleged effects of "degradation of women") before the genuine progressive principle of protecting the "people" from the dire threat of STI's and HIV. After all, we wouldn't want to take away the "nice" highbrow condomized erotica that gets Amanda off, now would we??

Also...the implied depiction of porn consumers as mostly down-low right-wing men who simply hate on "independently sexual women" (or lefty porn-addicted men who just pretend to be feminist just to get them some free superior feminist pussy) kind of ignores the essential fact that plenty of porn consumers happen to be WOMEN, that not a few producers of porn are WOMEN, and that the overwhelming majority of women in porn just so happen to pursue their craft and protect themselves adequately enough to the point that they simply don't need condoms forced down their throat. Or, they already use condoms as one option in many to protect theselves. Surely, a professed liberal like Marcotte would actually be willing to listen to and respect actual professional porn performers who know their bodies and their jobs and are more than capable of controlling their own bodies for themselves, right??

I mean, if Sandra Fluke shouldn't be castigated by Rush Limbaugh as a "slut" for fighting for her right to have her insurance pay for her birth control, then why should Amber Lynn be castigated for defending her right to decide what goes in her vagina?? Besides, Amber Lynn is closer to Amanda Marcotte politically than Sandra Fluke, anyway.

Finally, since porn in California is a legal industry, they have as much of a right to pursue profits off their creative talent as Hollywood movies, TV, and sports teams do. I don't see Amanda hating on MMA athletes for the lack of headgear or movie stuntmen for the lack of "protection" when they risk life and limb performing stunts...or calling on them to be forced to sacrifice their livelihoods for the sake of "protecting" them from career- and even life-threatening injuries. There is already a movement for doing away with the profit motive...I believe it's known as "socialism". Since you are not a socialist, Amanda, you probably aren't qualified to run any smack about the evil of profits. Oh, and don't you make royalties from your many books??

2) The customers want this. This is the male entitlement argument. (Yes, I know women watch porn, but the porn industry that we’re talking about has a male customer in mind.) I know this will get me lambasted as some sort of man-hater, but I do think that men really aren’t entitled to any form of gratification they want, regardless of who they hurt. No one is. The law already recognizes this when it comes to porn. There’s a lot of customer demand for stuff that’s illegal or at least should be: high school girls, little kids, actual rapes instead of fake ones, serious injuries or even death inflicted on women, pictures where the subject explicitly did not give consent. There probably are some customers who will be sorely disappointed to see visible evidence of safety precautions on screen, but I’m honestly skeptical that they’re going to be so angry they just decide to boycott jerking off to porn. I remain strongly unconvinced that seeing a little latex in a porn is a greater tragedy than contracting HIV on a porn set
Here again, Marcotte plays chicken with the Dines/Dworkin argument of men as perpetual sexual predator and mainstream unwrapped porn as their rape/pedophilia/necrophilia template, without having the integrity to actually cross the line and openly back antiporn ideology because HER most favored "erotica" (the beautiful, "feminist" condomized type) would be taken in the crossfire. She ignores the fact that the "customer demand" for the really bad stuff is sorta tempered by the fact that child porn, necrophilia, "snuff" porn, and actual filming of real rape are actually ILLEGAL, while consensual adult porn depicting adults performing consensual acts of unwrapped sex is still, for now, legal and protected.

As for Amanda's notion that porn consumers will get used to condomized porn ultimately....well, the evidence of what happened to porn production companies who tried going condom only after the initial HIV scare in 2004 proves otherwise. And, considering the abundance of bareback hetero porn that is now stored in millions of porn consumers' 3 terabyte hard drives, and the resulting underground trade that would immediately prosper and flourish through Bit Torrents and message boards once bareback porn production ceases, I figure that there will be no shortage of unwrapped dick available for those who still insist on it.

What will change, though, is that performers themselves will be forced to make the decision to: (1) either accept wrapping up and face the risk of either friction damage to their vaginas and anuses or allergic reactions to latex, or the real risk of condom breakage and inadvertant STI's because the testing and screening regime that had done so well to pAnrotect them will be totally eliminated and replaced with "Just shut up and take the condom, bitch, and trust us that your partner is clean";  (2) take their chances underground with fewer protections and greater chance of getting into really abusive and exploitative situations; or (3) simply leave porn and find some "rescuer" sugar daddy or mama to replace the income they have lost from not being able to shoot porn vids.

Now, I guess that Amanda figures that there will still be a market for wrapped porn as well, and there are some companies who still are condom only that do make a decent profit (Wicked, VIVID, Kink.com).But, those are still niche markets of specific subgroups of porn consumers that specifically ask for such content; simply inventing a forced market of condomized porn by criminalizing bareback will work just as well as tearing down freeways in order to force automobile drivers to switch to mass transit. Which is to say, it won't.

Amanda might also want to be reminded that the guy she references in the last link of that graph who represents the supposed threat of rampant HIV infection (namely, Derrick Burts) was not only not so responsible in his personal life (see Rentboy.com), but actually admitted that he was originally infected in a gay male porn shoot in Florida. A condom only gay male porn shoot in Florida, that is.

3) They’re just going to take porn shoots elsewhere. Really, liberals? This is the best you can do? This is actually a standard argument business always makes against labor protections. This threat has various degrees of seriousness to it, but even in serious cases, it’s an empty argument. It basically deprives the government of the right to protect people within their jurisdiction because they don’t have the right to do so in other jurisdictions. Governments should have a right to say, “This behavior is so wrong that while we can’t ban it everywhere, we can ban it here.” Often, once one jurisdiction does it, others soon folllow, especially with regards to safety regulations. Plus, I’m a little skeptical of the notion that the entire porn industry in L.A. will decamp to another location. They aren’t in L.A. just by accident, you know. The one thing the porn industry needs—more than latex-free dicks, even—is a steady supply of young people who don’t have a lot of money but put a lot of effort into their looks. The steady stream of people who come to L.A. to make it and then don’t is a gold mine for the porn industry. You’re not going to find that in Minneapolis. It helps if they can be convinced that doing porn could be the entryway into a career they want. The porn industry grasps this, which is why they take any porn actress who has a bit part in any Hollywood movie and trumpets the hell out of it, to keep the crossover dream alive. You’re just not going to have that in any other city. Look, the porn industry isn’t fighting this tooth and nail because they have a lot of options. They know that L.A. has them over a barrel on this, which is why they’re fighting so hard.

And here is where Amanda shows her ignorance about how prospective porn girls actually get contacts and connections to get in the industry. I really hate to break it to you, Ms. Marcotte, but porn is no longer centered on Hollywood rejects.  Actually, it wasn't even centered in Hollywood/San Fernando Valley during its "golden" days....New York and San Francisco were the hot spots for producing porn during the 1980's and 1990s, before the HIV crisis and the "Clean Up Downtown" crusades bit into their profits, and the development of the VHS tape drove producers down to Hollywood to take advantage of the excess of technical editing knowhow. Of course, Hollywood has its share of casting couches where young ingenues are broken in on the tried and honored principle of "It's not who you know; it's who you blow"; porn simply made them the center of attraction rather than the means to an end.

Alas, even that has now become diversified as the Internet, mobile phone, personal computer equipped with built-in webcam, and super duper fast wireless Internet has enable average folk to bust through the Porn Valley monopoly and create new avenues and venues for porn production. It's no longer San Fernando and Glendale that monopolizes porn production; it's also Phoenix, South Florida; Las Vegas, London, Budapest,Berlin, Moscow, Beijing.  Hell, even Frisco is beginning to make somewhat of a comeback as a center of porn production.

Moreover, thanks to that same technology, any guy with a working 4G phone and access to his friendly paid website/tube site can download within seconds nice videotape of himself and his girl (or his girl only) banging other hot guys and girls. (Did I say "guy"?? Wait, I mean "guy and gal"!!) And, since that can be done within the privacy of home, where US Constitutional protections like the First Amendment  do apply, the ability of government to intervene and control such matters is somewhat limited. Only a fascist or Maoist government would go through the trouble of jailing THOUSANDS of people for the "crime" of sexing without a condom...which is probably why the defenders of Measure B would prefer first using porn performers in LA as a test run for a national tour.

In addition, thanks to social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, prospective porn performers do not even need to hop planes to Hollywood (either CA or FL) in order to audition to do porn shoots. Sending their PornTube vids to prospective agents will suffice quite well...and it's cheaper than the plane ride.

Remember, Clones, private businesses can be regulated only if they are incorporated. If they are not, it gets a tad harder for any serious liberal to say that government meddling in intimate personal affairs is justified merely by a "threat" of harm. It is up to the person favoring the meddling to prove that the harm actually exists, and that it is bad enough to justify the meddling.

And besides, the real reason why the LA porn industry is fearing Measure B and fighting it tooth and nail isn't because they don't have options elsewhere (though those options do carry expenses and other risks that can cut into their bottom line). They are fighting this law for the same reason decent liberals like Amanda Marcotte fight against the "three strikes" law or pro-mass transit agencies fight against highway funding that gives preference to freeways and automobiles: to protect themselves and their livelihoods against being scapegoated against crimes that they are not necessarily responsible for. It's not only the principal of the matter, it's also the principle of protecting legal free speech.

I need not add the fact that the LA porn industry are made up of flesh and blood PEOPLE, right??

That would be the SECOND most batty justification for the condom mandate, in Amanda's mind. Here comes the winner:

4) Freedom of speech. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t really think that freedom of speech covers the right to avoid safety precautions for workers. Regular Hollywood has to follow labor laws with regards to their actors, and they have to deal with unions, to boot. The porn industry is exploiting the fact that the world doesn’t care very much about the people that work for them, and I’m glad that L.A. is stepping in and saying porn actors deserve the same kind of labor protections that we extend to other professions.
First off, no one who opposes Measure B has ever said that they oppose voluntary condom usage as one of many means for protection...so that blows up the "they just wanna ban condoms!!!" excuse right out of the water.

Secondly....if Marcotte was really serious about extending "the same kind of labor protections" to porn that are taken for granted by less stigmatized unionized workers, she would be supporting an explicit porn workers' union pushing for increased rates, better and more hospitable venues for shoots, royalties and residuals for performers who see their videos reused again and again without a cent of profit sharing, and especially health insurance to cover the off periods should a performer do get sick from an STI or anything else.

Third...it takes real ovaries for a woman who readily dismisses and disses the actual experiences and concerns of real live porn performers whom have lined up against Measure B and the condom mandate to even think of running smack about how "the porn industry is exploiting the fact that the world doesn't care about the people who work or them". It's really quite obvious that YOU really do care about them, right, Amanda??

5) It’s supposed to be a fantasy! Amanda Hess got a pretty standard version of this in her recent piece on the controversy:
“We’re selling a fantasy,” says Lisa Ann, 39, who enjoyed her own mainstream moment when she was cast as a Sarah Palin-type in Hustler’s spoof of the 2008 elections. “It would be great to teach young people to put a condom on during sex,” she says, but she’s not sure how much the porn industry should be responsible for educating teenagers.
This is a bad argument for two reasons. The most important is that it’s a strawman. The regulations aren’t being written in order to “teach” condom  use to teenagers. They’re protection for the actors on-set, to keep them from contracting STDs and especially HIV. But it’s also bullshit by its own measure. Porn producers are trying to have it both ways. Their main marketing strategy is that they aren’t fantasy, but are real. The sex is real, and they have frequent close-ups and particular emphasis on ejaculation being caught onscreen in order to make it clear that this is real and not a fantasy. Comparing this to explosions and car chases in real Hollywood movies is missing the point; everyone knows that the car chases and explosions are special effects. The whole point of porn is to say, “This is not a special effect, but actual people having actual sex.” The reason people choose porn videos over drawings or fictional sex scenes is the realness of it.

Ahhh...nu-huh. No. No, no, no. Fucking HELL TO THE NO.

First...let us dispatch this "Porn sex is intended to be REAL sex!!!" meme before it metasizes into something really gross. Porn sex is real to the extent that it depicts real people engaging in sex. But, that doesn't necessarily make it completely "real" in that it depicts sexual acts people would normally do. Rather, porn, like most art forms, is an extension of, an exaggeration of, real sex as experienced by its viewers. 

That is....the performer who engages in professional sex scenes is an exaggerated vision, a fantasy extension, of the ideal of what an ordinary person wishes he had: the viewer who doesn't have the sexual chops of the performer or the ability to perform the positions or the stamina to endure 2 or 3 30-minute to an hour long scenes a day, where the guy has to maintain an erection in the midst of hot lights, a screaming director cutting in and changing positions, and a loud film crew overseeing every stroke and poke and suck and lick. (And, he has to look authentic even if he's not up do it, pun not intended.) It's no picnic for the girl, either, because she may have to block out other issues on her mind and focus on looking like the guy or gal boinking her is giving her the time of her life, and that the resulting orgasms are absolutely THE BEST EVER. ..And let's not also forget all this has to be done within a certain time period for editing and printing and distribution, or no one gets paid.

True, there is related advertising that takes advantage of the divergence between the ideal and the reality (see the erectile dysfunction, penile enlargement, and sexual enhancement drug spam, as well as the old tried and true "ADD 5 INCHES TO YOUR DICK, ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!!!!!1111ONE111!!!  ads accompanying the tube site free porn.  But even that does more to exemplify the dissonance between the reality of the viewer's actual sex life and the perception and assumption of instaneous and everlasting horniness of the performers and the scene he or she's watching (and hopefully, if the scene's successful, masturbating to). The actual sex is secondary to the scenarios and plots of these fantasies, that are obviously so way out and far fetched to occur for real. No teacher I know of will ever look like Lisa Ann or dress "slutty" like she does for My First Sex Teacher or Big Tit MILF Boss, and I guaran-DAMN-tee you that the real Sarah Palin as Governor of Alaska probably did not pall around the Alaskan State Capital building showing off her cleavage and fucking the entire staff. That's why it's called "satire", folks.

And as for the "money shot"...that's more about actual proof of the man's orgasm and his arousal, as well as pregnancy protection, than any attempt at reality. And even that is mostly an exaggeration.....not many men watching porn will blow out like Peter North, you know.

Aaaaaaand....how ironic that Marcotte goes to that card, because if Measure B passes, and porn shoots are forced to follow the standard for "barrier protection" that the California branch of OSHA is currently preparing to impose on porn, then the only form of intercourse that would be protected would be....internal penile-vaginal sex. Talk about attempting to make porn more "real"!!

About that crack about the goal of the condom mandate having nothing to do with teaching "teenagers" how to use condoms, though??  Well, let's hear from one of the principal boosters of the condom mandate, Dr. Peter Kerndt, representing the LA County DPH (via Ernest Greene's seminal 2009 BPPA essay):
“The portrayal of unsafe sex in adult films may also influence viewer behavior. In the same way that images of smoking in films romanticize tobacco use, viewers of these adult films may idealize unprotected sex. The increasingly high-risk sexual behavior viewed by large audiences on television and the Internet could decrease condom use. Requiring condoms may influence viewers to see them as normative or even sexually appealing, and devalue unsafe sex. With the growing accessibility of adult film to mainstream America, portrayals of condom use onscreen could increase condom use among viewers, thereby promoting public health.”
But, it's only all about protecting the brainless and stupid slut performers....right, Amanda??

The sense that porn is real means that it does have an impact on the viewers. Anal sex, Brazilian waxing, and facials have all become more common in real sex because of porn. I’m not judging that—to the extent that porn encourages people to experiment and have more fun in bed, I’m all for it, though some of the practices that have taken off have questionable value as pleasurable—but it is inarguable that porn has a normative effect in a way that stuff that doesn’t present itself as real doesn’t. Whether that should be used for good is up for grabs, but again, while this is all an interesting conversation, it’s also completely moot. The regulations aren’t about directing the message, but about protecting the workers.
 I will simply defer to my friend Jordan Owen on debunking the idiocy of Marcotte miming Gail Dines' stupid claim that Brazilian waxing and anal sex are the byproducts of mainstream porn, and that no woman was getting spooged in the face before she saw Marilyn Chambers get blasted in The Devil And Mrs. Jones back in the 1970's. 

It is hilarious, though, how Marcotte always goes back to the "It's all about protecting the WORKERS!!!" card as her lifeline....because we all know that only men in porn get STI's and then spread them to female performers through such nasty, misogynistic acts like anal sex and deep throating and facials and....ewwwwwwww....creampies!!!!

And we now come to the final point of Amanda Marcotte's fiat for mandatory condoms:

6) Condoms are uncomfortable. The argument is that since the actors are having a lot of sex, condoms “chafe” in a way that they miraculously don’t for us ordinary people. I think this is grasping at straws, personally, because a lot of ordinary people do in fact have bouts of condom-use sex that are intense and long-lasting and don’t seem to have this problem, at least if they use lube. But I also have to point out that the porn industry standardly asks women to cram multiple cocks into them, to have anal sex whether they’re up for it or not (and to make sure they’re up for it with fasting and heavy duty enemas—the kind of stuff that you don’t have to do when having ordinary people anal sex), or to have sex with machines. If keeping the actresses physically comfortable was important to them, porn would look completely different and probably be far less profitable. Which is why #1 is really the only argument in play here, and one that liberals who think you’re killing a puppy if you venture even the slightest criticism of the stuff they jerk off to should stop being so defensive and really think this through. No one is telling you that you’re a bad person for looking at porn. We’re just saying that  the industry should be forced to take more precautions when it comes to the health of its workers. The utter indifference to the health of porn workers suggests that a lot of people think of them as second class citizens who can be used for sexual gratification and then disposed of. And if you do believe that, then yeah, I think you’re a bad person. 
 After slowly digesting this crock of bullshit, allow me to quote from someone whom has long been a supporter of condom usage, and who has done a porn shoot or two or...a thousand, and who knows about how condoms can really fuck with actual porn shoots. Kick it, Goddess Nina:

For the women, there are just four words: rubber rash/friction burn. Not only do I have to work harder for him to feel anything, the scene takes much longer to get through, with the changing out of condoms, needing to give the guy a break and suck him again, and the total passion-killer that is on-set condom use. It's hard enough to create a real connection, so the scene doesn't feel to the viewer like we faxed it in, on a set as it is. If all of our energy is focused on our working parts, there is none left over to actually connect and show a spark, which is what the people at home want to see...
...I know it sounds harsh, but it's not porn's job to set a good example to the viewing public. It's an entertainment medium like anything else out of Hollywood, and mainstream entertainment is not held up as needing somehow to set a good example. It's a shame that our country does such a piss-poor job of educating its young people so that they're driven to view porn to try to get a clue about sex. Except when a movie is expressly done as education-the Guides, Tristan Taormino's movies, etc., their job is to arouse and entertain, period... 
 Or, to put it differently: Porn sex may be an exaggeration of real sex, but it is still sex between two (or more) human beings who have to connect with each other for the scene to work. Putting a condom between them not only screws up the chemistry (literally as well as figuratively, but it adds more time to the taping of the scene...and when time equals money, that can be a major buzz and erection killer for viewer and performer both.

It's really lovely, too, how Marcotte, who has spent nearly 1000+ words denying performers of their personhood and voice -- all in the name of "protecting" them, no less!!! -- now finds the time to be concerned about their being "physically comfortable"...and responds to that by drowning them with lube. As if there's absolutely no issue between mixing the wrong kind of lube with the wrong kind of condom.  As if lube by itself will save a disasterous scene. Of course, the real message that Marcotte has for women performers who don't share her view of "rescuing" them with condoms is for them to just "Shut the hell up and wrap up for womanhood; you're selfish pleasure is killing other women and spreading deadly infections!!!" How in the hell is that any different than a stone cold radical antiporn feminist dissing a straight woman for sleeping with "the enemy" or a fundamentalist Christian ripping on a monogamous gay man for his "sin against God"??

Actually, it is NO different...except that at least the fundamentalist and the principled antiporn feminist is sincere in their principles. Amanda Marcotte, on the other hand, wants to be portrayed as an enlightened progressive hip sex-positive feminist; but her core attitudes towards real sex workers and actual pornographers as well as towards men whose only crime is to defend their sexual arousal towards these women, convicts her as exactly the opposite: a pretender. In short: Amanda Marcotte is Gail Dines, Jr....except without the principles.

But...I guess that to far too many liberal folk in Los Angeles County, that's good enough for them to buy the snake oil that is Measure B. Maybe authentic pro-sex/pro-porn progressives will learn to spot the BS and respond a tad quicker and more forceful next time around...and rest assured, there will be plenty of next time arounds


 
 









 

The Panic Works: Measure B Passes With 55% Of The Vote. The Requiem, The Legal Challenges, And The Future

Well...in 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 sexuality..as 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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Big Lie Campaign For Measure B Ends With The Grandmama Of All Lies: The "Porn Stars Have More STI's Than Nevada Hookers" Smear

Tomorrow is Election Day, folks...and while most of the country will be busy enough with the spectacle that has been the Presidential campaign, folks in LA County will be putting the fate of the local adult industry literally in their hands with the proposed condom mandate proposal Measure B.

I have to say that whatever doubts I had about James Lee and the Citizens Against Government Waste have been absolutely doused by the yeoman efforts he and his group have done in leading the opposition to this proposal. With not much time and with a fraction of the budget that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has to pour into the pro-B campaign, and with none of the organized support of the political establishment in LA County (save for the opposition by the local Republican and Libertarian parties), they have done a tremendous job of raising awareness and organizing performers to defend their rights. I tip my hat to you for that, win or lose.

Plus....gotta do a shoutout for Sean Tompkins over at The Real Porn Wikileaks, Michael Whiteacre, Mark Kernes, Dr. Chauntelle Tibalis, Lydia Lee, Steven St. Croix, Kylie Ireland, Kayden Kross, Amber Lynn, Tanya Tate, Rebecca Bordeaux, Maggie Mayhem, and a whole host of other producers, performers, reporters, and other assorted glitterati for their efforts in educating the public on this legislation and how it will basically destroy the industry without any positive impacts on actual STI infections. It's amazing how political ideology tends to melt away when faced with a shared threat from outside.

It is to the measure of the principled opposition to Measure B that the proponents have been forced to engage in nothing less than distortions of facts and outright lies and cooking up of stats in order to sell their vision of a condomized industry "protecting" performers while driving them underground into less safe parameters and venues.

But, nothing beats the desperate final flail that AHF attempted to pull on the public this last weekend.

On last Friday, AHF and their champions at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released their contraption of a "study" of infection rates of porn performers during the past 11 months; concluding that the rate of infection for chlamydia and gonnorhea among performers was greater than not only the infection rate amongst LA County citizens as a whole, but also greater than the rate of infection of prostitutes working in Nevada's legalized brothels.

The study was released by an organization calling itself the American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association; and while the complete report is hidden behind a paywall, the abstract of the report pretty much gives away the ideological bias (bolding added for emphasis):

Background: Undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be common in the adult film industry because performers frequently engage in unprotected oral and anal intercourse, STIs are often asymptomatic, and the industry relies on urine-based testing.
Methods: Between mid-May and mid-September 2010, a consecutive sample of adult film industry performers recruited from a clinic in Los Angeles, California, that provides medical care to performers was offered oropharyngeal, rectal, and urogenital testing for Gonorrhea, and rectal and urogenital testing for Chlamydia.
Results: During the 4-month study period, 168 participants were enrolled: 112 (67%) were female and 56 (33%) were male. Of the 47 (28%) who tested positive for Gonorrhea and/or Chlamydia, 11 (23%) cases had been detected through urogenital testing alone. Gonorrhea was the most common STI (42/168; 25%) and the oropharynx the most common site of infection (37/47; 79%). Thirty-five (95%) oropharyngeal and 21 (91%) rectal infections were asymptomatic. Few participants reported using condoms consistently while performing or with their personal sex partners.

Conclusions: Adult film industry performers had a high burden of STIs. Undiagnosed asymptomatic rectal and oropharyngeal STIs were common and are likely reservoirs for transmission to sexual partners inside and outside the workplace. Performers should be tested at all anatomical sites irrespective of symptoms, and condom use should be enforced to protect workers in this industry.
Keep in mind that this study was taken during four months during 2010, when the main testing agency at that time for the industry, the Adult Industry Medical Foundation (AIM), was under attack by the very forces (namely, AHF and the LA County DPH) now saying that their testing procedures were (and by extension, those of the newly formed APHSS system are) totally inadequate for detecting and treating STI's, and that only mandatory condom usage and other forms of compulsory "barrier protection" would offer the highest form of "protection" for performers.

Even without that caveat, the holes in this argument can be spotted, and are enough to drive a whole fleet of Mack trucks through.

First off, 47 of 168 performers testing positive for chlamydia or gonnorhea still leaves 121 performers (72%) who tested clean of those STI's. In short, in a supposed "high-risk" industry where porn performers are assumed to be mindless sluts who fuck and suck anything that moves, 7 out of every 10 performers still manage to protect themselves and stay disease free without the need for condoms. Wouldn't you think that if testing was as much a failure as this study would assume, the rate of infection would be far greater than that??

Plus, as Michael Whiteacre has noted repeatedly, this "study" gives no background on whether those performers who were infected got infected on set during scenes, or through outside activities...or, whether they actually did perform scenes after their infections were caught. And, it may be that many of those who were tested and found to be infected didn't even perform any scenes until they were adequately treated, or were people just entering the industry engaged in their first test.

There's also the possibility of the same performer being tested multiple times in the same period through repeated follow-up testing, but being counted as seperate and distinct infections for the purpose of deliberate cooking of the stats to beef up the ideological case. Goodness knows, AHF and the Condom Nazis over at LACDPH aren't known for that, now aren't they??

Then, there is the distortion about the method of testing involved. The current testing regimen (and the former one used by AIM) utilizes urine sampling for their testing of chlamydia and gonnorhea (with oral swabbing available upon request of the tested performer); yet the "study" claimed that the system was flawed by not detecting oral or anal infection via swabbing of the throats or anuses of performers. At best, it's a call for broadening such testing to include oral and anal swabbing; but, that's not what AHF and LACDPH paid the producers of that "study" to promote; so, they just use that stat as just another club to slam the industry into compliance with the condom mandate.

Or, as Hymes and Kernes points out succintly in their debunking of the AHF/ASTDA "study":
Perhaps worst of all, the study is utterly disingenuous when it describes how and when performers get tested. Fully cognizant of the fact that performers are not allowed to perform on the overwhelming majority of porn sets without a valid test that is no more than 28 (or 14, depending on the studio) days old, the authors nonetheless included in their study 51 performers—nearly one-third of all performers tested—who had not worked in an adult film for more than 30 days, making the time and place of their exposure impossible to pin down, and very likely not on an adult film set at all.

That percentage is extraordinarily important, considering that of the 168 "adult performers" who took part in this study, only 47 (28 percent) had at least one undiagnosed STD—and that's 2 percent less than the number of performers (30 percent) who hadn't made a movie in at least 30 days, and whose infections, if they had sought film work while still infected, might very well have been caught by the normal industry testing, especially if they had any specific complaints and requested that an (optional) oral swab be taken and tested.
And also keep in mind that many performers even require a clean test as recent as 2-3 days before they accept someone to perform sex scenes with...so if anything, the industry is even more stringent about screening for STI's than even the 14/28 day period that is the "gold standard". In other words, how many of the 48% who were found to be infected were also part of the 33% who had not performed for at least 30 days prior to getting tested? Again, this may support expanding testing to better catch orally and anally based infections, but that's not on the scope of AHF's agenda..so it's simply ignored in favor of pushing Measure B. Nice diversion there, Mike Weinstein.

The main distortion, though, that has gotten the attention of the media, is the comparison of porn performers in LA County with Nevada brothel sex workers, who are claimed to be much, much safer due to the wonders of mandated condoms and government regulation.

Problem is, though, that in Nevada brothels, it is the clients who are required to use condoms, not the sex workers themselves. Also, the prostitutes who work in the brothels are subjected to far greater regulatory scrutiny while they work there; including far-reaching restrictions on whom they can have sex within their workplace, and strong discouragement of sexual activities outside of the brothel. Plus, they are screened for disease even before they are even allowed to work in the brothels to begin with. You simply can't compare them to porn performers, who do happen to have outside personal sex lives and, outside of their occupation, do in fact have intimate and personal sex lives.

Unless, of course, you are under the misimpression and assumption that by fiat ALL porn performers are by definition the embodiment of the caricature of the late and dearly departed John Holmes: namely, mindless promiscuous sluts who can't think of anything more than where their next daily or hourly serving of dick or pussy comes from, until they are either claimed by "the wages of sin" that inevitably comes with defying God (or the Goddess) or find the religion of Shelley Lubben (or Gail Dines) and "save themselves".


Nevertheless, the publicity accomodating the "study" has had some impact on some public opinions...in particular some progressive personalities whom had originally came out against Measure B. One in particular is Ana Kasparian, blogger and YouTube diarist connected with Cenk Uygur's popular progressive network The Young Turks, whom originally came out opposed to Measure B last week in a video..but was convinced to flip to the other side by one of her colleagues, Jayar Jackson, following the release of the AHF/ASTDA "study" via the Huffington Post.

This is in spite of the fact that contrary to the notion of porn being a right-wing libertarian outlet of "rugged individualism", there is actually a genuine diversity of political ideological positions within the community of porn performers and producers. For every Jenna Jameson or John Stagliano, you will find a Nina Hartley or an Amber Lynn; there are quite a few porn performers and producers who are staunch liberals/progressives or even centrists as there are "libertarian conservatives". Of course, personal political ideology should not affect the quality or the merits of the arguments for or against Measure B; but the fact that so few progressives have seen fit to even take a stand for or against this initiative speaks wonders about the broader Left's lack of education or commitment on core issues of sexual freedom, sexual civil liberties, and respect for personal choice. (A strong criticism of the TYT turnaround and of the "study" can be found here.)

The other blowback from this "study" is the newly created propaganda campaign by some of the original propaganda boosters of the condom mandate to distort the claims of the opposition and launch personal adhominen attacks on their opponents. One such propagandist is Tim Tirch, who has been well known for his drive-by slanders against all who oppose the AHF agenda, and whom had actually been exposed as a serial troll who menaced blogs picking fights with particular condom opponents. Over at Cindi Loftus' Luke Is Back blog, a commentor ID'd as "XXXMed" (and whom is suspected to be Tirch) has been posting guest editorial posts maligning opponents of Measure B with, shall we say, very personal attacks. One such editorial went after Nina Hartley and her husband Ernest Greene (whom, as you know, is a frequent contributor to BPPA and one of the principled opponents of the condom mandate) for hypocrisy in their current stances, since they were during the 1990s both advocates of condom usage. (That Nina and Ernest's stance back then was predicated on the lack of a testing and screening system for STI's that does exist today, and that both have consistently defended the voluntary use of condoms as well as the discouragement of more high-risk sexual acts more suspectible to STI's, seems to escape the synapses of this fool.) More recently, "XXXMed" has been involved in an exchange of posts with Mark Kernes in which the former has defended the AHF/ASTDA study as legitimate proof for mandating condoms, implying that Kernes has been "trivializing" the rate of STI's among female porn performers, and that he slandered a rival testing agency to AIM by implying that they were the source of performer tests in the aformentioned study. (One of the authors of that "study" just so happened to be the founder and lead doctor of that testing agency.  See the original Kernes story for background.)

But, the greatest revelation about this latest final propaganda push is how it reveals the shifting goalposts of the condom mandate campaign, and how it conflates different STI's for blatant propaganda purposes.

Remember that the main spokespeople for Measure B just so happen to be the last two performers who happened to contract HIV...namely, Darren James and Derrick Burts. Of course, the fact that there has been NO instance since 2004 of HIV being transmitted on set by a porn shoot in LA County (remember, Burts has admitted he was infected in a Florida gay male set where condoms were actually used; and James has been reported to have been infected on a trip to Brazil just prior to the infamous shoot where 4 other performers were infected with him) really messes up the meme of an HIV pandemic. So, here comes Plan B: expand the STI "panic" to include other infections like chlamydia and gonnorhea, which were tested as part of the former AIM regimen....except that unless you cook the books to invent multiple infections, you can't prove that that exists, either. So, onward to Plan C: simply invent a crisis by implying the lack of testing of other STI's such as Hepatitis C or HPV or herpes, and then scream about how the "pornographers" are putting wimmen's lives AT RISK because they care more about their money or the "selfishness" of the consumers than about public safety. (Because, of course, the lives of gay men who already suffer from STI's in spite of already using condoms is inmaterial to the proponents of Measure B.) And, if all that fails, exploit the recent syphilis scare to seal the deal...never mind that syphilis can be easily spread even with a condom through mouth sores that condoms can't even cover.

Note also the essential fact that unlike HIV (or herpes or HPV) chlamydia and gonnorhea are mostly asymptommatic infections, in which those infected usually don't even notice any known symptoms of the infections (sores, rashes, pain, swelling, etc.) Therefore, you really can't even tell if you even have the infection until it shows up in testing. The fact that most of those in the study who were infected were also found to be asymptommatic raises a real question about the entire logic of the study: How could they know that those 3 out of 10 performers who were infected actually were infected on the job?? Or, do they just ASSUME that they are, in order to justify their premade biases and conclusions?

It simply shows that ultimately, underneath all the flowery cover of "concern" about "protecting performers" and all the firery rhetoric about "the pornographers", it all comes back to the same pile of bullshit that sex workers have had to endure for far too long. The essential argument of Measure B proponents can be reduced to this:Porn performers who don't dance to our tune are simply too stupid or too slutty to be able to fend for themselves as consenting adults, so we saviors of the State just have to act as their virtual parents and save them ourselves through condoms. Oh, and make us a shitload of money through packaging of condom sales and buying off whole government agincies, too...because what sells better than "safer sex"??

Again, people of Los Angeles County, please don't fall for this nonsense.

I'll leave you here with Michael Whiteacre's comment response to another attempt to distort the record.

That’s right – an old misanthrope in Georgia who can’t even spell “y’all” correctly (and who still contends that AIM made a $90 profit on a $110 / 120 test) has all the answers about the L.A. porn industry.
What the hillbilly Phony Libertarian does’t seem to grasp is that we Americans have certain inalienable rights and liberties by default. Those defending their rights against an attack need not convince anyone of anything. The legal BURDEN is on those trying to infringe upon those rights to establish the requisite state interest.
Every issue, every controversy of public consequence, is a balancing act in which the pro’s and con’s must be weighed. Competing interests must be balanced.
However Michael Weinstein is an authoritarian with an absolutely totalitarian worldview. To him there are no competing interests — you can hear it in his rhetoric: this is “simply” a matter of workplace safety, or public health, or whatever. He will not deign to consider any arguments about counterbalancing, and he brooks no dissent.
When it comes to people’s rights, to constitutionally protected liberties – he doesn’t wanna hear about it. The first amendment, and the liberties protected under Lawrence v. Texas, DO NOT MATTER to him — he doesn’t even think they’re part of the calculus. Weinstein is totally single-minded — as all authoritarians and fascist dictators are. He TELLS US what the problem is, and he prescribes the solution by decree.
And stooges like Mike South HAND THE WEINSTEINS OF THE WORLD THE ARGUMENT.

1) In order for the government to act, to restrict people’s CONSTITUTIONALLY GUARANTEED AND PROTECTED rights and liberties, the government must demonstrate a state interest.


2) The government ONLY has an interest in things it can PROVE.
It is essential to understand these two points.
AHF is attempting to use workplace safety laws as the means to attack the adult industry, and to infringe upon the rights of performers and producers, but AHF clearly lacks a clear understanding of how these rules work as a matter of law.
If a performer who its a sexually active person has contracted a common STI such chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV or herpes, there is NO WAY to prove that it was contracted on set. These infections are comparable to the flu. Only rare infections, things such as the HIV virus, can be traced to a patient zero.
In the end, all that this new study shows is that, x number of performers sought testing / treatment over that 4-month period. The data does NOT show what IF ANY number of performers WORKED while infected, or contracted an STI while AT WORK. The authors ask voters to ASSUME that these infections may all be traced to workplace exposures — and the fact that AHF and the authors of this study have made the comparison to STI rates among Nevada brothel workers is also instructive.
Nevada brothel workers often live on the premises and, per the house rules, are prohibited from having sex outside the prostitute/client relationship. In this regard they represent a separate and distinct population from the surrounding general population, much like the incarcerated, or military personnel confined to a base.
Adult performers, by contrast, are not a population separate and distinct from the rest of the population. Performers are a SUBSET of the general population. LA County performers are members of the population of LA County. They interact with the rest of the population, as well as with each other, off set.
Regardless of one’s profession, NO test can demonstrate that a common infection was contracted by a sexually active adult at work. Correlation does not equal causation. If the government cannot prove that work was the cause, it lacks the requisite state interest to ban an entire type of work.
And remember, Clones...this isn't just for porn sets, either; it's for webcammers, homemade porn sites..even married couples making porn vids for their own pleasure. In other words, it's about EVERYONE.

I don't need to say it, but I'll say at anyway, Los Angeles County peeps...Vote NO on Measure B. Don't let these fascist lying bastards win.