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Porn Stars Celebrate Regulatory Win

A proposal for stricter regulations in the adult entertainment industry failed to secure enough votes

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Performer Jessica Drake, who spoke at today's meeting
Feb 19, 2016 at 1:40 AM ET

Tears, hugs and laughter abounded on Thursday as scores of porn performers celebrated the failure of proposed regulations for the adult entertainment industry. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was unable to secure enough votes to pass rules that might have required goggles and dental dams to be used in pornographic movies filmed in the state.

The vote, held after more than five hours of public discourse at the Harris State Building in Oakland, California, caused the 100-plus members of the adult industry in attendance to erupt in applause. The vast majority of testimony came from performers in opposition to the proposal, including porn industry veterans like Nina Hartley and John Stagliano.

In addition to the fact that the proposals would have either pushed California’s porn industry underground or out of the state all together, many performers and advocates highlighted how strict and over-the-top some of the rules would have been. One, for example, one would have required performers to sport goggles during scenes with “facials,” while another would have necessitated the use of condoms and dental dams during oral sex situations.

During the meeting, several industry members utilized pro-choice rhetoric such as, “My body, my choice,” while others took issue with record-keeping requirements they said could breach performers’ medical privacy.

Among the handful of people that spoke in favor of the rules were representatives from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the chief proponent of the proposal, and HIV-positive former porn performers Cameron Adams, Joshua Rodgers and Derrick Burts (none of whom are confirmed to have contracted the virus on-set). “I did become HIV positive in 2013 while I was in the industry,” Adams told a panel at the event. “I strongly support…regulations to protect workers in the adult film industry.”

More ‘Goggles In Porn’ Proposal Fails

After the vote, pornographic actress Jessica Drake personally thanked each board member—even the three that voted in favor of the proposal. “I’m overwhelmed. I am so grateful for the fact that something has shifted—now they’re willing to listen to the performers and really take it into consideration,” she said.

Wiping away tears, actress Lorelei Lee expressed her relief about the meeting’s outcome, “It just feels so often that we are dismissed,” she said. “We feel all the time like people think we don’t know what’s best for us. People think we can’t advocate for ourselves, that we can’t advocate for own health. So we don’t expect people who have real power to listen to us. So it’s so moving when they really do.”

Veruca James, another fellow performer, chimed in excitedly: “They listened to us about porn! We talked to government officials about porn!”

Eric Paul Leue, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association for the adult industry, choked up as he spoke to a group of supporters gathered outside of the meeting, “Without all of you here today, we would not have achieved this.” He was quick to add, however, “This is not a time to sit back—this is a time to further unite, [and] understand that our diversity is our greatest strength.”

Thursday’s outcome certainly does not put the issue to rest: As members of the Standards Board made clear afterward, the current situation only signals that those who are pro-porn restrictions must now start at square one. On the plus side, however, the board did say that it would work to become more inclusive of members of the adult entertainment industry next time around.

Still, board chairman Dave Thomas underscored the ways in which the industry already flouts California law. “A lot of you don’t want to realize it; you’re already required to use condoms, that’s already the law. You’re just not doing it and nobody’s enforcing it,” he said, referring to a California law on protecting employees from blood-borne pathogens.

“We’re disappointed,” Ged Kenslea, communications director for AHF told Vocativ. He added, though, that his organization will “immediately” file a new petition to Cal/OSHA for consideration.

But despite the celebratory vibes that followed the decision on his end, Free Speech Coalition’s Leue emphasized the need for concerned parties to maintain their focus and continue their activism. “If we’re committed to it, we can achieve that you are all kept safe, and that your rights are prioritized, your bodies are valued and nobody can take agency…away from you.”