Sex Legislation in Measure B and Prop 35
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Maggie Mayhem.
Election season is bound to be a flurry of fervent pleas, argumentative dinners, tense car rides, sign postings, and then fatigue and apathy. I’m one of the underdog political terriers who is part of a contingent of people who know the feel of cold marble floors at city halls and then burned coffee that makes your tongue feel like sandpaper when the line of people at public comment has extended into an overflow to stare politicians in the eye when they’re trying, yet again, to yank the funding away from the most vulnerable.
More recently I got naked and donned political slogans in body paint opposing Measure B in Los Angeles and Proposition 35 in the state of Californiaat the Folsom Street Fair including a brief cameo in front of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Michael Weinstein is in charge of AHF and is the primary proponent of Measure B on the grounds that porn sets a bad standard of safe sex.
With my bright green pubic bush slightly dusted with glitter, I stood publicly in opposition of one man’s mandate that my speech uphold an agenda. If a piece of legislation states that condomless sex in porn sets a bad standard, then where are the groups lobbying that action films must depict safe driving and gun handling standards?
If you’re looking at health and safety, the statistics demonstrate that the rigorous testing in porn has dropped the rate of infection for HIV below the average. This is striking to me because of my background in HIV testing. Oh, that there were the outcry around the social and cultural factors around HIV infection in the homeless teenagers I tested for HIV with preliminary and confirmatory positive results. As someone with one foot in both worlds, I am utterly appalled.
Once, every fear years, there is an infection detected by the testing system in the adult industry that upholds its efficacy. Condoms will not do anything to make us safer from HIV than we already are. This is not a matter of performer health and safety. It is literally as desire to control the message. In this regard, Michael Weinstein should do what Wicked Pictures does which is to make a lot of hot and sexy porn with barriers in use.
In practice, Measure B would mandate that even married couples performing on a cam network would have to apply for a health permit and use a condom for a show performed in their own home. Is this an effective use of public health funding? Have we considered directing that money into condoms to be freely distributed throughout the city? Opening a free testing clinic, especially as funding continues to dry making free testing increasingly scarce?
Why spend money on a demographic that gets tested, on average, every 3 weeks? In regards to stemming an epidemic, we should be testing the people who have never been tested. Those who do not know that they are infected with any given disease are the ones most likely to spread purely because they don’t have the information.
Making performers wear condoms to promote condom use won’t put a free HIV testing clinic on a street corner.
Proposition 35 is the one that scares me the most. It has been presented by Chris Kelly and is very monetarily supported by law enforcement agencies throughout the state. When marching, I was faced with genuinely earnest people who argued that it was good because it was a law to stop the bad guys. I wish that it were.
Sex worker is a very, very broad term. When it isn’t defined, then sex trafficking cannot be well defined either. When you’re looking at putting a “sex trafficker” in prison for 15-20 years it is imperative you maintain language of consent and underage status. This proposition removes that language and is so open that someone giving me a ride to a sex work gig could be defined as a sex trafficker. Anyone who benefits from my income such as a spouse, a child over the age of 18, or a parent could all be sex traffickers.
This legislation means that someone charged with sex trafficking would have to hand over all over their computer equipment and passwords. This will place a severe chilling effect on all sex worker speech in the state ofCalifornia. If anyone we interact with for our health and safety including our drivers and safe calls and peer blacklists can be charged with trafficking and forced to hand over their hard drives, then we cannot interact with any political organizations and pay our rent at the same time.
Like many gang injunctions and drug free zones, it dismisses previous legislation about criminal activity and creates blanket identities that are subject to search, seizure, and arrest by law enforcement. If and very likely when Proposition 35 is passed, decriminalization efforts inCaliforniawill be halted until it can be repealed. Given the fact that this law is arguably unconstitutional as written, it very likely would be repealed on higher judiciary review. We are faced with the future unjust arrest, search and seizure, and incarceration of sex workers and their allies. This is a sign of marked antagonism to sexuality in the country.
It is frustrating to see this as low hanging fruit for an ambitious politician who refuses to listen to the lived experiences of those he claims to protect. This legislation makes our lives increasingly criminal and increasingly dangerous. We cannot reach out for help, we must be wary of whom we put at risk through their association with us, our legal expenses will go up. This law will hurt street based workers more than it will hurt internet based escorts but it will hurt all sex workers a great deal.
This is legislation that has been crafted in a politician’s interest and not that of the people. It is a broad over reach over the government, a broad definition that compels selective enforcement and is thus inherently unjust, it ignores the pre-existing legislation on human trafficking, it removes language of consent, presents a chilling effect on political speech, and puts the lives of those it claims to help at risk.
Sex workers need rights, not rescue.
Sadly, many people are reading this proposition with great concern for the lives of sex workers who will vote for this because it is not presented in its full context. It is nothing more than commissioning a landmark for posterity that preys on people’s good intentions and it will have dramatic ramifications in my life. It’s an uncomfortable amount of government intrusion into my life as an erotic artist. It puts barriers on my free expression that are not present in violent, comedic, religious, or even news speech.
This is an election to pay attention to with confounding pieces of text at every turn. Now is not the time to appeal to apathy but to read and research and consider the purpose of law in our lives. One can both support the use of condoms and barriers in pornography and oppose Measure B inLos Angeles. One can both abhor the act of kidnapping, raping, imprisoning, and forcing someone into labor that they do not profit from themselves and staunchly oppose Proposition 35.
I spent my Folsom Street Fair talking to people about these initiatives and discovering that largely, people didn’t know. Once they heard the details, many people were glad to hear from sex workers themselves about the proposed legislation. In most of these conversations, the voices of sex workers are removed and that is the dominant narrative of this campaign as well. Being naked with slogans at a street fair helped inform more voters, as has striking up conversations with strangers and talking to them about this campaign.
This November, vote NO on Measure B if you are a resident inLos AngelesCountyand NO on Proposition 35 inCaliforniaand tell your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and families why.
More reading on Measure B
More reading on Proposition 35
Maggie Mayhem is a radical progressive sex hacker, writer, and performer based in Oakland, CA. She and her partner Ned run MeetThe Mayhems.Com which is a queer take on couples pornography. She has appeared everywhere from Ambulance Porn to the hallowed halls of Yale University including layovers in Tanzania and Haiti where she has volunteered in HIV care and disaster relief. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @MsMaggieMayhem.