I recently communicated with Susan Abram, a writer/reporter at the LA Daily News who has covered adult entertainment for some time now. Like many, Susan was/is interested in Prop. 60, the “mandatory condoms in porn” initiative on the California state ballot this November.

Susan spoke to representatives from organizations for and against the initiative, citing both sides in her piece here — “Prop. 60 puts condoms on porn actors, but critics say it’s a barrier to business” (October 11, 2016).

I also spoke to Susan, weighing in from a sociological standpoint. You can read my insights toward the end of her piece, and you can read our full correspondence below. What do YOU think?

SA: Prop 60 has been framed as protecting workers, and I think most people would agree with that. But is it fair to force that kind of regulation on this particular industry?

DrCT: First regarding “protecting” workers with mandatory condoms… This standpoint is reliant on a number of problematic, misrepresentative tendencies related to sex in general and porn specifically that we as a society rely on heavily.

Are condoms or another form of relevant barrier protection good for your average person’s sex life? Sure, probably. Wider society has had that rhetoric drilled down for decades now – condoms “protect” you. And given the general populations lack of sexual health and wellness practice and understanding, much less regular STI screening (which doesn’t exactly happen seamlessly), treatment, etc, barrier protection makes extra good sense.

But porn sex is just about as dissimilar from daily, private life sex as possible. <<I assume I don’t need to outline the differences here, in the interest of time – regular testing, closed pool, professional workers, tricks of cinema, etc>> And because we as a society continue to 1) refuse to take the adult entertainment industry seriously as a viable and diverse workplace that people choose to enter (instead, opting to discriminate and stigmatize on numerous levels) and 2) continue to be sex-phobic in general, shying away from forms of sexual expression that may contradict with our own, it’s easy to rely on public understanding of “personal” sex and inappropriately overlay that understanding on top of porn. In short, Prop 60 is relying on the public’s limited understanding of porn and personal phobias related to sex to promote an agenda.

Further, it is not fair to force uninformed regulation on any industry or worker. Could the adult entertainment industry stand for some regulation? Certainly. In informed, precise ways that seek to protect the safety and viability of the workplace – the same consideration that would be afforded any other workplace or industry.

Prop 60, and the litany of propositions, assembly bills, and campaigns that have come before it, has not taken the time to even familiarize itself with how the adult industry operates, much less consider the human and social elements of stigma and discrimination that impact the community in general and performers most significantly. Just the imprecise language and “understanding” shaping the civilian-lawsuit-for-financial-stakeholders piece points to a blatant and cavalier lack of consideration for worker safety and industry viability.


SA: Why should voters care or not care about [Prop 60]?

DrCT: Even if voters do not care for porn or the industry that produces it (and not everyone should care about porn – porn is not for everyone, and there is no such thing as universal approval or like), California voters should care about things like business viability within the state, civil rights, and free speech. California voters should also care about the human element – what will happen to an already fragile population that’s about to be legislated out of existence? Because the workers will continue to exist, and the demand for their labor will not go away. Further, voters should be concerned with the precedent this type of legislating sets. If an organization with endless funds and an obsession can alter law in the state of California, well, really – what’s next?


(pictured: image via LA Daily News)

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Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com.