If you have ever thought that the phrase “War on Porn” was hyperbole or bellyaching by adult industry professionals, now is the time to shut the fuck up and listen.
As soon as the Adult Industry Medical Clinic received a cease and desist order in 2010, I knew that it wouldn’t be long before a full closure occurred. I experienced a bit of a panic because the world of non-profits and social welfare is infinitely more ugly and brutal than most people know. There is this impression that people who take on these roles do so from the goodness of their own hearts and a commitment to social justice. I thought that when I entered the field and boy did I get a wake-up call about that. After taking one look at the budget for AHF and the budget for AIM I felt certain that AHF would prevail. AIM wasn’t prepared for an enemy that came from within what is ostensibly a mutual goal. AHF didn’t go international by selling girl scout cookies. They got that big because they possess a cut throat business sense and an eye for real estate.
AIM is dead, the wiki that shall not be named is still on the web and harassing performers, and OSHA has decided that despite the fact that most adult performers pay state and federal taxes as independent contractors that we are actually employees (read: victims) of studios and need outside protection. It’s a shit time to get into the business and it’s been migraine after migraine for awhile now.
What adult industry performers need is a guild or a union and not an outside agency that claims to know what’s best for us. Sadly, I could not afford to fly down to Los Angeles and back for the OSHA proceedings but the results have been grim.
Make no mistake, porn has been singled out for its content thanks to the never-ending stream of bullshit from critics who either withhold studies and facts and relay emotional pleas about how disgusting the mere existence of pornography is on moral grounds. When it comes to HIV, the porn industry has fewer infections per year than a random grouping of non-performers. Given the sheer frequency and high risk nature of some of these acts it is evident that the industry is doing something right.
There are jobs infinitely more dangerous than porn that have fewer regulations and protections for workers and those people are dying. Oral sex is a relatively low risk activity and yet according to OSHA it is so risky that our “employers” must mandate barriers unless it falls into a specific window of time between tests and yet employees of liquor stores are not required to wear bullet proof vests despite the fact that they come into contact with firearms a lot.
Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin forged the rallying cry that pornography is not a 1st Amendment issue in a Jedi Mind Trick that has had lasting effects. This article from 1993 is virtually indistinguishable from a contemporary article about pornography. MacKinnon has a fascinating quote in this article, “This is not a 1st Amendment issue. It makes me feel dumb to have to keep saying it. Pornography is not speech, it’s an aid to masturbation.”
Pornography is speech and it’s an aid to masturbation. Notice the suffix -graphy? That’s the Greek influence on our language and it is derived from the word γράφειν which means to write or record. Pornography is a 1st Amendment issue and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 1st Amendment is not a loophole. It is the very first part of our Bill of Rights as Americans.
Although censorship is still alive and well in the United States, it hasn’t ever been effective to argue that pornography is not speech. The war on porn has been forged creatively through 2257 laws that do more to put performers at risk (and keep an updated log of where we can be found at all times), zoning codes that limit where pornography can be purchased or viewed even behind closed doors and with age verification systems, and the illegalization of facials not as obscene but as a “health risk.” The OSHA regulations for porn are the “Sit/Lie” of the entertainment industry because they have both been composed with selective enforcement against specific populations in mind.
I’ve gotten a lot of messages from allies, supporters, and fans about what they can do to help out with the issue of the porn wiki or the OSHA regulations. One of the best things you can do is speak up when people make claims that porn performers are helpless victims and remind them that we are not. When you read an anti-porn opinion essay in your local news, speak up about the lack of factual evidence. Work towards promoting the idea of adult consent and sexual negotiation; reminding people about the power of consent reinforces the notion that performers are people making their own sexual choices. Even though it might not seem like a lot when casually thrown into a conversation, just telling people that consent matters is very powerful. Read blogs written by porn performers and spread the word that the people actually inside the industry are opposed to these regulations because they put us at risk. Tweet or blog about what OSHA is proposing and if you get a chance contact Deborah Gold at Cal/OSHA (DGold@dir.ca.gov) or Ged Kenslea, the Director of Communications at AHF (firstname.lastname@example.org) about your thoughts and ideas. Polite and respectful emails are absolutely encouraged.