How can we help sex workers? Dox them!
by Melody Knight-Brown
The result of the 2016 presidential election is shocking and horrifying and disillusioning. On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, more than half the country voted for Donald Trump, who spews his vitriol and hatred and ignorance and bigotry without hesitation and for Mike Pence, who openly admits he considers himself a conservative evangelical Christian (where Christian beliefs are used justification for oppression and repression) before a politician and who actively fights against LGBTQAI+ rights, women’s rights, environmental reform. Tuesday we learned that enough people listened and agreed with these men to elect them to the two highest offices in this country. For myself and for many others it is difficult to comprehend how this happened and how to move forward living in a country where so much hate and ignorance won. Knowing also that the Republican party has control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and there are open Supreme Court seats which most likely will be filled by conservatives, the future of this country is scary for those who no longer feel protected by all three branches of the federal government.
I would like to take a moment to say, if you, like me, are still struggling, self-care is important. Find a safe place with people you like and take all the time you need to feel comfortable again because there is still hope. Minimum wage was raised in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington. Kamala Harris became the first female black senator in two decades. Catherine Cortez Masto became the first ever Latina senator. Ilhan Omar became the first ever Somali-American Muslim Representative. Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian-American Representative. North Carolina replaced their transphobic governor. Medical marijuana was legalized in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, and recreational marijuana was legalized in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada. And last but not least, Proposition 60 was defeated in California.
Prop60 was a measure that at a quick glance was about requiring adult performers, aka porn stars, to wear condoms during the filming of sexual intercourse, but what it really would do was legitimize and legitimize harassment of the approximately 2000 adult performers who currently live in California. Written by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the measure if passed, would have grant any citizen the ability to file a complaint with California Occupational of Safety and Healthy Administration (Cal/OSHA), and if Cal/OSHA does not respond in time or find justification in the claim, that person is then allowed to sue, for-profit, anyone involved in production from producers to performers for all and any scenes in which a condom is not visible – not if it is not used, if it is not visible. These potential lawsuits, unlike most lawsuits, would not allow discovery time for whether or not a claim is legitimate, and once filed, the person who filed the lawsuit would have access to the address, legal names, and other personal information of the people they are suing. This information would immediately become public record. In other words, Prop60 would effectively allow any citizen with a laptop would be able to obtain the personal information of any adult performer the wish for no cause. Additionally, the measure would grant Weinstein, who would have been heading these lawsuits, with the power to enforce and defend the law over the objections of the state government and health departments. Under the guise of concern for performers safety, stigma and misinformation of sex work, and fear of STI/STDs, Weinstein attempted to write himself a for-profit job using tax dollars to reimburse his expenses. It was a greedy power grab that would have and an already discriminated, marginalized group of people even more vulnerable.
“But what about the spread of STI/STDs and the promotion of safer sex?” you might ask. First you would be entirely missing the point. Prop60 no matter how it was written was not about condoms. It was not about condoms for the man who wrote it and it was not about condoms for the people who advocated against it. It was always money and either exposing or protecting adult performers to legalized harassment and pretending it was ever about condoms minimizes this fact and only furthers the stigma of sex work. Performers are more protected against STI/STDs that probably any other population. To be allowed to work, all performers undergo testing every two weeks using the best tests available. There has been zero transmission of HIV within the industry for the past twelve years, which is a lot better than can be said for the general population. Safer sex is important and it should be taught in schools, but outsiders regulating an industry they know nothing about is not helping anyone. If people were really concerned with protecting performers and promoting safer sex they would be proposing bills to make sex education better and more accurate and bills to protect sex workers from discrimination and harassment e.g., make sure some banks and PayPal and WePay are not allow to freeze or seize their accounts.
Thankfully, Prop60 failed to pass with 54% of people voting against it. It is a commentary on how we can still protect the people who need it no matter the stigma or opposition as long as we remain active and aware. The result of the 2016 elections on at least a federal level may feel like a step backwards but progress is still being made in a positive direction. Social change is not something that can be handed down or legislated from men who shout ideology and believe political discourse can be reduce to racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise discriminatory personal attacks on opponents. It is always more difficult when the government does not support the change that to many of us seem necessary and self-evident.