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Prop 60 Defeated

Joel Murray

296340-3x2-340x227California, USA – The heavy-handed California Proposition 60 was recently defeated by more than a seven point margin. The proposition would have seen the demise of California’s adult film industry by making condoms mandatory to wear in all adult films. Thankfully due to the campaign by the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee and the Free Speech Coalition, this backward law won’t come into place.
As someone who works also in the HIV and sexual health sector, the proposition surprised me when I first heard about it for a few reasons. If this was the 1990’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic then it would have made some sense that mandatory condoms could be a way to protect performers from HIV. However, with HIV treatment being so effective for people living with HIV and other biomedical tools such a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, the idea of state-enforced mandatory condoms in adult films is outdated and paternalistic.

According to proponents of the proposition, the legislation was “poorly drafted” and would be “the creation of an unprecedented lawsuit bonanza that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

In fact, the proposed legislation would have enabled private citizens to mount lawsuits against both production companies and performers. Clearly the positive health outcomes cited by proponents was a smokescreen for ideological opposition to the industry itself.

Let’s not forget the notion of informed consent. One reasonably assumes that the adults who are performing in these films are making decisions that are informed and rational. Research shows us that sex workers in Australia are sexual health experts because the presence of sexually transmitted infections means that there are realised commercial losses. It’s likely that the same could be said for adult performers.

And while at least in the gay adult film space, there is market competition at play with some studios adopting their own mandatory condom policies. The choice then is for the performer to assess their own risk of HIV acquisition, aim to reduce that risk through a range of options and work with the studios that support the performer’s ethics.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation who were behind the proposition, threw a lot of money and resources to defend their undefendable position. The fact is that adult film performers do not represent a significant risk of HIV acquisition — in my opinion, the money would have been much better spent on targeting individuals within the Californian community who are at risk and a broader education campaign about all the tools in HIV prevention. Just use condoms is no longer a nuanced message, especially when their effectiveness is only 70% compared with at least 96% for HIV prevention medicines.

Out of interest, proposition 60 was also opposed by Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA).

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Joel Murray’s professional experience comprised many years in state government policy and project management across different portfolios before he jumped into the not-for-profit sector. Joel worked as an arts manger for some of Melbourne’s leading arts organisations before working for Eros. He has also developed policy for the Sex Party as well as running as a candidate a number of times. Joel has a Master of Arts (Arts Management) with distinction from RMIT University. He is a keen gardener as well as a passionate advocate for people living with HIV and viral hepatitis.

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