WEST LOS ANGELES—Most movie fans probably associate the initials "AFI" with the American Film Institute, but in local sociological circles these days, it stands for "Adult Film Industry," which was the subject of an hour-long discussion at the UCLA Law School last Thursday and a document dump today.
Contained in the package sent out by the discussion's organizers to everyone who signed up to receive them were two file folders. The first contained the three PowerPoint presentations that were shown at the discussion by Dr. Paula Tavrow, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Director of Public Health Whitney Engeran-Cordova, and Pink Cross Foundation founder Shelley Lubben, "Th.B." ("Bachelor of Theology" from the unaccredited Vision International University), all of which were dealt with in AVN's previous article, as well as an additional one from Dr. Peter Kerndt, director of the LA County Health Department's STD division.
The second folder contained a group of documents including three error-filled screeds from Lubben which she also handed out at the discussion; an "AFI Bibliography + Summaries" of articles favoring mandatory condoms; the February 22, 2010 letter from AHF to various California health officials complaining about AIM's test results release form (which hadn't been in use for several years prior to the AHF letter); a copy of a presentation by Cal/OSHA chief inspector Deborah Gold to a June, 2005 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) HIV conference; a letter from LA Health Department director Dr. Jonathan Fielding to members of the LA County Board of Supervisors; and an incredibly biased law review article authored by Maria de Cesare published in USC's Southern California Law Review in 2006.
To dispense with the Lubben documents first, one entitled "U.S. Pornographic Industry Factoid 2009," purports to be a list of "AIDS, Suicide, Homicide and Drug Related Deaths since 1999," though just one of its named "AIDS" deaths, Karen Dior, is likely to be familiar to hetero porn viewers. Obviously, some anti-industry conclusion is meant to be drawn from the fact that some porn people have died from drug overdoses (like Anastasia Blue's overdose from Tylenol) or homicides, or have committed suicide, but its relevance to whether performers should be required to wear condoms is of course non-existent, so why it was sent out with this packet of materials says more about the biases of the senders than anything else. (More on that topic later.)
A second is titled, "Backgrounder: Secondary Negative Effects on Employees of the Pornographic Industry," and includes such falsehoods as "90% [of industry employees] are child sexual abuse survivors"; "66% to 99% of pornography performers are reported with Herpes, a non-curable disease" [emphasis in original]; "Sex performers, further traumatized by their brutal workplace environs, typically work 'three months to three years' putting most on the dole" [again, Lubben's emphasis]; and "25 HIV cases by performers reported by Adult Industry Medical Healthcare since 2004," an outrageously high figure debunked months ago by AIM and eventually retracted by the LA County Health Department.
Lubben's final document is a compilation of quotes allegedly uttered by some current and former adult performers to former gossip columnist Luke Ford, whose made-up quotes and outright lies (i.e.) were the subject of several AVN articles before Ford stopped "covering" the industry more than two years ago.
Both Dr. Fielding's letter and the AHF complaint about AIM's release form have been the subject of previous AVN articles, which won't be rehashed here.
Regarding Deborah Gold's CDC presentation, in which she argues that virtually all (if not in fact all) adult performers are "employees" under the law and therefore under Cal/OSHA's jurisdiction, one particular statement stands out and should be cautionary for all industry members concerned about how far Cal/OSHA may be willing to go to "ensure" the health of performers. On a page titled, "What About Oral Sex (cont)", Gold quotes from what is apparently the California Health & Safety Code: "Masks in combination with eye protection devices, such as goggles or glasses with solid side shields, or chin-length face shields, shall be worn whenever splashes, spray, spatter, or droplets of blood or OPIM ["other potentially infectious material"] may be generated and eye, nose, or mouth contamination can be reasonably anticipated. These requirements are in addition to the provisions of Section 3382."
Later, on a page titled, "Exposure Control Plan Is Key," Gold displays her expertise as a film editor by stating that "Personal Protective Equipment ... Does not need to appear on screen," and that it can be "Use[d] in combination with production techniques (cut-aways, etc.)" The idea that condoms (and, presumably, dental dams and goggles/face shields) can be removed digitally in post-production has been roundly criticized by adult industry professionals as both physically and financially unworkable.
Also of interest are some of the drawbacks Gold sees to requiring Cal/OSHA to police condom use during movie-making, including, "Cal/OSHA personnel do not necessarily see this as an appropriate activity"; "Need to avoid creating a sexual harassment issue in district offices"; "Resistance from employers, mobility of employees, anti-government views makes a highly contentious environment"; and (our personal favorite), "Fear of association with organized crime."
Finally, there's Maria de Cesare's law review article, whose introduction begins, "No matter how much fascination it may provide to the lives of the lonely, the curious, the adventurous, or the ordinary, it is undeniable that pornography poses problems. This statement is not startling or revolutionary; no other industry has unfailingly produced equal parts astounding revenue, excitement, shame, and fear among every echelon of society. For decades, the adult film industry has operated a thriving worldwide empire centered in Southern California, generating billions of dollars in revenue and producing thousands of films per year. Notwithstanding its status as one of the largest industries in a heavily regulated state, the adult film industry has flourished for decades without a discernible trace of government oversight."
"Shame, and fear among every echelon of society"? Project much, Ms. de Cesare? "Without a discernible trace of government oversight"? Though de Cesare touches on the effects of the obscenity laws in the U.S. and their use in prosecuting adult companies and retailers, she's apparently completely ignorant of the government's excessively burdensome and illegal recordkeeping and labeling law, 18 U.S.C. §§2257 and 2257A.
From that point, the bullshit comes quickly and copiously: "The advent of permissive First Amendment laws in California has allowed pornographic filmmaking to achieve significant power in terms of revenue, political clout, and even increasing legitimacy on Wall Street."
"Political clout"? Does she mean the one day per year that industry personnel go to Sacramento to visit legislators, or the single lobbyist the industry trade association has hired to make sure knowledgeable producers and performers are consulted before the Assembly and/or Senate pull anti-adult regulations out of the air? "Increasing legitimacy on Wall Street"? Does she (erroneously) think the stocks of adult production companies or websites are currently being traded on the Stock Exchange? (And of course, the industry's legality in California has nothing to do with "permissive First Amendment laws"; it's due to a California Supreme Court decision in a 1988 prostitution/pandering case, People v. Freeman, that was decided in the industry's favor.)
And how does one explain a statement like this?: "As a result [of the federal obscenity laws], although adult filmmaking still had a notable economic and social influence on the public throughout the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the questionable legality of most aspects of the industry precluded it from having the multibillion-dollar stronghold on society that it currently enjoys." How could de Cesare be unaware that "adult filmmaking" as an industry didn't even come into existence until the late 1960s, and didn't even begin to be noticed until a decade later? And her claim that it's the "questionable legality of most aspects of the industry" that prevented it from becoming a major societal force is complete horseshit; just ask any priest or clergyperson.
Perhaps people like de Cesare and several others connected with the current condom controversy need to ask themselves a few questions before pontificating on what they imagine the philosophies and practices of the adult industry to be:
1) Do you think sex work/porn performing is "dirty" or "sinful"?
2) Do you think on-camera sex work shows a lack of self-respect on the part of the performer?
3) Do you think that most (or a cognizable percent of) performers are stupid, drugged or mentally ill?
4) Do you think that most (or a cognizable percent of) porn viewers base their private sexual practices and opinions on the porn they view?
5) Do you think of women as inherently victimized by sex with men?
6) Do you think of displays of heterosexual intercourse as somehow inherently violent toward women?
7) Are you able to view performers as individual people and not as a representation of an "oppressed" group? In other words, do any prejudices you may harbor about the people who do "this" kind of work enable you to ignore their actual/expressed experiences?
8) Do you find visual depictions of sexual activity "icky" and wish they'd just go away? Do you transfer this discomfort over the depictions of sexual activity onto the performers and base any of your judgments about them on your own unease with their chosen profession?
9) Are you able to separate your interpretation of media theory regarding representations of sex and sexuality from the real-life feedback you receive from active performers?
10) Do you treat the stories of those women who feel they've been harmed by their involvement with adult movies as somehow more "true" or "real" than those of women whose experiences are much different, even positive? Might it be that the stories of alleged harm support pre-judgment of this type of entertainment by religiously-motivated and/or conservative social commentators and therefore don't seem to require further examination?
11) Have you fully examined your own attitudes toward legal adult entertainment and acknowledged how those attitudes affect your thinking on this matter?
12) Why is what remains, by all available statistics, an extremely low-risk occupation, being given the sort of attention devoted to this matter if not for political purposes related to the nature of what it produces, as opposed to the actual safety of those involved in it, none of whom outside of those grandstanding on the issue appear to share the sense of urgency that motivates those who stand to garner what they see as favorable publicity, and secure lucrative new revenue streams, by stoking this non-controversy?
(Thanks and a hat tip to Nina Hartley and Ernest Greene, who contributed some of the above questions.)
Of course, neither FSC executive director Diane Duke nor veteran performer Mr. Marcus were asked to contribute any materials for the current document dump—but then again, that wouldn't have been in keeping with the discussion sponsor's agenda, would it?