Porn sites are blocking California users’ access to their sites in protest of Proposition 60, a proposed law that would require all adult performers working in the state to wear a condom during filming.
Popular websites. including Kink.com, Pink & White Productions, Evil Angel, and Treasure Island Media are going on strike to raise awareness about the ballot measure, which will be voted on this November 8. Currently, visitors to these sites are barred from viewing all content, along with the following message: “Access Denied: This is what Californians will see on their favorite porn sites if Proposition 60 passes.”
The law is a statewide expansion of an existing statute, known as Measure B. Passed in 2012, the legislation requires porn actors working in Los Angeles County to wear protection during shoots or “face civil fines and criminal misdemeanor charges.”
After the passage of Measure B, the county found that the law was next to unenforceable, and violators have rarely been prosecuted. For its four years of existence, the law has been “mired in a legal battle,” as the Los Angeles Daily News reports, and has led to the erosion of California’s once-thriving porn industry. The number of permits issued for adult films shot in Los Angeles County dropped from a robust 480 in 2012 to just 25 in 2015.
Prop. 60 is a project of Michael Weinstein, the controversial president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The 63-year-old multimillionaire, who infamously referred to the HIV preventive medication Truvada as a “party drug,” has funded the effort to pass the proposition with $5 million of his own money.
According to Weinstein, the law is intended to halt the spread of HIV on porn sets by “closing the loophole” in existing legislation that keeps porn performers who don’t adhere to its stipulations from facing prosecution. Namely, authorities must bring charges against performers, and law enforcement rarely does so. Instead, Prop. 60 would, as its text reads, “enable whistleblowers and private citizens to pursue violators where the State fails to do so.”
In TV ads supporting Prop. 60, former adult actors Cameron Bay and Derrick Burts claim that such a law could have prevented them from contracting HIV. “After just three months on the job, all I got was HIV,” Bay says. She was diagnosed in 2013.
Opponents of the proposition, however, have contested Bay’s account, saying that she did not contract the virus in the workplace. Xander Corvus, the Kink.com performer she claims gave her HIV, has repeatedly tested negative. Meanwhile, none of Burts’s onetime costars have reported a positive diagnosis.
In truth, there hasn’t been a known outbreak of HIV in porn since 2004, when 30 studios ceased production after four actors tested positive.
Adult performers, who took to the streets of Los Angeles Monday to demonstrate against Prop. 60, say the ballot measure “violates performer choice and will push productions underground, making them less safe,” as Vocativ reports. By allowing viewers to publicly bring charges against performers who violate the law, advocates are also concerned that the pending legislation effectively places a bounty on the industry.
“You’re incentivizing the viewer to sue us,” 48-year-old porn actor Tommy Gunn told The Hollywood Reporter.
Prop. 60 states that whistleblowers be granted a share of the earnings received from fines placed on performers in violation of the law. “If judgment is entered against one or more defendants in an action,” the measure reads, “penalties recovered by the plaintiff shall be distributed as follows: 75 percent to the State of California and 25 percent to the plaintiff.”
“It’s pretty much harassment,” 44-year-old adult actor Alec Knight added. “Our anonymity is very important to us.”
The concern for actors’ privacy is a crucial component of the opposition to the law, as performers feel that making their birth names and identities part of the public record will open them up to stalking and potentially endanger their lives. In 2011, a Seattle man was sentenced to four months in prison after harassing Ashley Erickson, a former Penthouse model who went by the name Teagan Ashley.
Prop. 60 has been opposed by nearly every major newspaper in California, including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee. Fifteen local publications have come out against the law in total. Even the state’s Republican and Democratic Party branches have agreed Prop. 60 is bad for business.
Weinstein has yet to comment on the protests.