Adult Biz Faces More Obstacles Past Prop. 60 Battle
On Feb. 1, I completed 365 days as the Free Speech Coalition’s executive director.
It was a turbulent first year, and when I received the 2017 XBIZ Industry Leadership Award I was startled, humbled and honored.
The award is a symbol of what we can achieve when we stick together, and it doesn’t belong to me but to all of the FSC’s members, their continued and growing support, as well as the overwhelming number of volunteers without whom we wouldn’t have achieved some of the great successes of the last year.
#UnitedWeStand became our message as we laid our differences aside, banded together and focused on the bigger picture.
I said it at the XBIZ Awards show, kept repeating it on panels and will say it again now: If we learned anything from #NoProp60 is that when we fight we win.
That said, it has been difficult for many of us, no matter the political affiliation, to not obsess on the changes being brought almost daily by the Trump administration.
Those who have thought his most extreme campaign promises were just empty gestures have been proven wrong again and again.
With the confirmation of Attorney General Sessions, we’re likely to see if President Trump’s campaign pledge to “aggressively enforce” federal obscenity laws in relation to internet producers, or set up his promised pornography commission, are any different.
In the meantime, we’re facing other storms brewing — porn blocks, search engine discrimination, biased regulatory hurdles, Cal/OSHA.
As the head of the FSC, it’s my job to alert you to what’s on the horizon, and talk about what you, as producers, performers, professionals and advocates can do to prepare yourself, and what we need to do as an industry to fight back.
Here Are A Few Issues That Need To Be Contemplated, And What We’re Doing About Them:
Credit Card and Banking Bans
If you cut off our banking, you cut off our business. We saw this with Operation Choke Point, and we’re likely to see more of these extrajudicial attacks on adult producers in the near future. As we’ve seen in high-profile battles like Backpage and Fetlife, and hundreds of smaller cases, these changes are arbitrary, and can happen overnight. There is often very little recourse for the business.
What We’re Doing
Over the past year, we’ve worked to educate banks and credit unions about the adult industry. We’ve also set up relationships with representatives at major banks who will take on adult business accounts, should they be unfairly cut off by another. While we’re also fighting this battle in the press and legislatures, we will not let our members be cut off from the banking system, or quasi “blackmailed” by chargeback rates, etc.
Porn as ‘Public Health Crisis’
If there’s a unifying ideology behind the attacks on the adult industry, it’s that the availability of internet porn allegedly constitutes a “public health crisis,” resulting in addiction, divorce, sexual perversion, mental illness, sex crimes — you name it.
It started in Utah, where the governor signed resolution declaring porn a “public health crisis” last spring, and it was adopted into the Republican Party Platform at the convention. Four states — Virginia, Tennessee, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas — have introduced similar bills.
These might seem to be meaningless resolutions, but they’re quickly becoming the building block for greater legislation, and a theoretical way around First Amendment protections.
In Utah, legislators are preparing a bill that would allow private citizens to sue adult producers from theoretical psychological harm that might come from viewing their content.
Constitutional? Probably not. But would it cost you money to defend yourself against thousands of harassment suits. Absolutely.
What We’re Doing
The FSC has continuously debunked the “science” and alternative facts used to back these legislative efforts. We are currently building an online resource for journalists, legislators and litigants. We’re not only working to debunk the pseudoscience, but creating a database of researchers, therapists, legal experts and others who can speak to the issue, either in print or in court.
Mandatory Porn Blocks
South Carolina has introduced legislation that would mandate porn filters be installed in every computer, tablet or phone sold in the state. A total of 27 states are introducing similar legislation.
What We’re Doing
The legislation is grossly unconstitutional. Since Supreme Court’s decision in Stanley v. Georgia (1969), Americans have had unrestricted right to view legal adult content in the privacy of their own home. While the legislation is absurd, we’re prepared to fight it should even one of these pass, in conjunction with our partners at the ACLU.
The U.K.’s Digital Economy Bill would ban any website that does not feature stringent age-verification checks, through the use of a national database of porn users. Porn sites would be required to keep lists of their visitors. Similar measures have been floated here in the U.S., often using the panic of the “public health crisis.” Obviously, age-verification databases, whether national or corporate, are frightening to most adult consumers, who rightly fear exposure from hackers or others.
What We’re Doing
Educating journalists, and providing information to legislators to combat it. And while the U.K. doesn’t have a First Amendment, we’re working alongside our allies at Sex and Censorship in the U.K. to articulate the dangers of this type of censorship and this type of registry. Panic around porn is deadly to free speech. We fight panics with facts and are creating a comprehensive resource database on the FSC site, and establishing relationships with experts who can help us fight back, in press, legislatures or the courts.
Cal/OSHA represents the most immediate threat to our industry, and it has been the focus of much of our attention and resources. AIDS Healthcare Foundation has again proposed mandatory barrier protection (including condoms for all penetrative sex, as well as eye protection and dental dams). If passed, this could be a template nationally.
What We’re Doing
On Jan. 31 — after a fight with the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health to include performers at the table — we sat with Cal/OSHA and AHF for more than six hours and began laying out our argument for a performer-based, condom-optional testing system. We brought in doctors, agents and PASS system experts. The Division — which drafts the regulations — seemed more receptive than ever before. Over the next several months, we will work to increase hearings, present additional studies and fight for sensible regulation that allows us to continue producing in California.
Of course, there’s much more going on at the FSC. If you want to work with us on any of the above or make us aware of other issues, please contact me at email@example.com.
Eric Paul Leue is the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a member of the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV and a former director of sexual health and advocacy at Kink.com.