Last week, three large adult industry STI testing and treatment facilities were served subpoenas demanding the release of adult performer medical records dating back to 2007. Filed by Michael Weinstein of the Aids Healthcare Foundation, the subpoena is part of an ongoing crusade against condomless porn--one that is far from over. Weinstein is seeking to pass "The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act," a broader, state-wide version of Measure B, the 2012 ballot-measure that mandated condom use on adult film sets in LA county.
Below, Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition provides some backstory on the subpoena, Weinstein, and the scary ballot initiative that would bring mandatory condom use and community policing to Adult Film across the Golden State.
So who is the subpoena directed at?
CTI Talent Testing & Cutting Edge Testers are the main centers: they have multiple locations and draw centers, so it's not like Weinstein just picked 2 random places in the valley that people go to. The third one, West Oaks Urgent Care, is more of treatment clinic --that's where you would go if you had an STI and needed to get antibiotics. So Weinstein has used that testing center before in studies to show that there's a high incidence of STIs in the industry--Since that's the place people go if they have an STI [it's a] skewed sample and also doesn't say anything about did they get it onset or how they got it. So he's using the third site to get the numbers higher.
And so in terms of that, so he's not asking for aggregate data, he's asking for thousands of pages of individual medical records, possibly with names redacted. Is that correct?
Yeah. And in theory, you can say, well, we're gonna have data from all of these people in Hollywood and the names & addresses are going to be redacted so it's anonymous. But if you've got performers that are living in specific areas, that's very identifying, it's not at all safe, and as we've found with everything from the Porn Wikileaks data breach a few years ago to Ashley Madison, the data has a way of getting out--particularly when stars are involved, particularly when you have a class of people who are more at risk for stalkers
So I don't trust that everything is going to be redacted and everything is going to be fine. And often, if there's a scare, you test performer partners to try to do a genealogy of the virus, to figure out if i's onset or offset infection...those people are going to get pulled in this as well.
What is the point of the subpoena?
It's theoretically for a lawsuit relating to Measure B, which doesn't make a lot of sense because that's legally a free speech issue. I think it's to get data to support [the statewide initiative], you know, the same thing, harassing performers.
And this is not the first time Weinstein has crusaded against condomless porn...can you give some background?
This has been this long process where he seeks to use sort of the low-information voters and bias against sex workers to pass information that he feels that is in the interest of performers but which performers oppose. -- Weinstein has been opposed by the ACLU, the San Francisco Aids foundation, the LA commissioner on HIV. So with measure B...they didn't enforce it--They weren't doing on-set inspections for those reasons.
So in the new ballot measure which is statewide, Weinstein has included enforcement mechanisms that allow any resident of California who watches a film to bring legal action. So if the state decides not to enforce this, Michael Weinstein is going to himself. He can bring a suits against whoever he wants for not using a condom.
How is the community policing thing something people supported?
It's written, ostensibly, to allow performers to sue studios if they don't use a condom. There's some element of "we have to have some protection for performers who want to do that" which may be well and good.
It's also ostensibly written to target producers...There is secondary language that says performers are excluded unless they have a financial interest in a film. Which, you know on the surface seems okay. However, most performers are also producers at this point. They cam, they trade clips, they do content trays, they have their own websites. And the places where they'd be least likely to use condoms, like on a cam video with a boyfriend, those are also the places where they have ownership of production.
So what that means in reality is that anyone, from a conservative family member to a stalker to just someone who wants to make money, because there's a financial incentive attached--any judgement they get they can get 25% plus legal fees. So you're creating an industry of people suing performers who don't use condoms.
It's interesting that Weinstein didn't see the performer/producer issue.
He doesn't work with performers groups let alone producers, so he doesn't really know what the ramifications are. It's also one of the things, the ends justify the means, if he can stop people from not using condoms, it really doesn't matter what happens to performers or how it effects them. It's typical Weinstein, it's really just deaf to performers with him, and it has just tons of unintended consequences.
He doesn't care that performers might be endangered by this, because for him they're already in danger. You know, it's sort of the same rationale of trafficking legislation, which is "we don't think you should have to do this. "You're in danger and you don't know what you're doing. We're going to save you. And if this ruins your life, it's sort of for the best, we have to destroy the village in order to save it."
What do you think makes Weinstein so passionate about condom use in adult film?
I mean, this is the question, we get back to this every time with Weinstein: "What is behind this? There's not a huge health-crisis." As a industry and as a performer, we're always looking for ways to increase safety, even for financial reasons, you know, you can't shoot if you have an STI.
My sense with Weinstein is that this is about sending a message. He's said numerous times, "this is bad behavior, it encourages people not to use condoms." I think that's part of it. He's also very focused on condoms in general, from things like PREP and Truvada opposition.
Why is Weinstein so successful?
AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the biggest HIV outreach organization in the world, it has tons of cash. I think people think of the adult industry as just a fountain of cash. And obviously with the availability of free content online in general, It's just not the case, there's very tight margins. So we're really fighting in some ways a gorilla battle against Weinstein.
In terms of the Cali-Wide measure B thing or generally, is there anything you would ask someone reading about this to do?
They're still collecting signatures [for the California Ballot Measure], so certainly tell people that they shouldn't sign the petition right now. It has enough signatures to get on the ballot, but we don't know if they're all valid so he's still collecting.
And then we don't want you to vote for the Ballot measure, that's the big thing. Eventually, we don't want you to vote for this. So anything people can do to get the word out about the logistics of that ballot measure.
Beyond that, I think overall, to be suspicious. I guess there's a sort of...to not take at face value these people that say they're coming over to save a population, to always look for performers voices.
Photo Credits: top image courtesy of Street Fighters for Public Health. Body images taken by Rosa Trieu/Neon Tommy in during a press tour in opposition to the 2012 Measure B. Thirty performers volunteered to be a part of the tour. (Creative Commons, Flickr)