JOSH: Why do you think porn is a focus of Michael Weinstein?
PAUL: I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because he needs to see people suffer. It clearly has nothing to do with health since there are so many ways he could’ve used the millions of dollars he’s foolishly thrown at his various misguided follies, including the current California Prop 60. I remember I was in the audience at a conference about the great promise PrEP held for hiv prevention. I asked the panel—which included the directors of Stop Aids San Francisco and Grant Colfax (who went on to become “aids czar” for President Obama)—why they thought Weinstein—and no one but Weinstein—was fighting against PrEP, spending millions of dollars to try to turn the public against it. They shook their heads and said that they had no clue, that Weinstein has his own personal agenda. Obviously that’s the case with porn as well. It is irrational.
There’s also the possibility that Weinstein has an addiction to getting public attention. A few years ago, Weinstein wrote what I found to be a tremendously sad article. It was called “Not Gone but Forgotten” and I think it was more revealing about his nature than he meant it to be. He described being on a gay cruise and how he hated the fact that he was surrounded by gay men who were having fun, enjoying themselves. At social events on the cruise he made a point of announcing that he was, as he loves to say, the president of a large aids organization. And he relished the discomfort that he caused.
I’ve spoken with a lot of people in a lot of great organizations over the years and not one has ever had a good thing to say about Michael Weinstein. And these are AIDS organizations around the country, gay political groups, queer health organizations. The sole common thread is that this man has undercut them, stabbed them in the back, and served his own peculiar agenda regardless of the consequences for anyone else in the community.
JOSH: So why is he interested in porn?
PAUL: Possibly because porn has no interest in him.
JOSH: What about the adult stars he parades at press conferences?
PAUL: I haven’t met them personally so I can’t say anything about them as people. But it’s telling that they’re all being paid by Weinstein and they only speak from scripts. At the last Cal-Osha hearing, every person speaking for AHF literally said the same thing because they’d literally been given a script to read. And it’s come out, of course, that they stretch the truth quite a bit. One, for example, claims that he sero-converted on set at a gay porn shoot. But it turns out that the shoot was a condom shoot and he literally had done nothing even remotely risky. Coincidentally, he’d had escort ads up and in the ads promoted himself as someone willing to have unprotected sex. Another of the AHF reps told a similar tale involving his seroconverting in a porn scene. He repeated the story until someone in porn checked up on it and learned that the guy he’d had sex with in the scene was and is hiv negative. He stopped telling that part of his tale after that. This seems to be a fairly typical situation for the AHF reps. They’re paid to tell whatever story that AHF pays them to tell.
No one who speaks against AHF is paid to do so. No one is given a script, and no one suggests what to say or not to say.
JOSH: Tell me about Prop 60. What will happen if it passes?
PAUL: To be blunt, people will die. Not in porn, of course, because the truth is that porn is one of the safest work environments in the world. But in the industries in California that depend on regular and thorough industrial safety oversight by Cal-OSHA, industries like farming, construction, factories, trucking and so on, the number of deaths will rise. Prop 60 would change things to make it law that Cal-OSHA has to investigate every complaint brought by any random citizen against anyone involved in porn. Let me repeat this: Prop 60 would make it law that anyone can sue anyone in porn—performer, director, producer, distributor, affiliates, owner of tumblr blogs, etc—and the lawsuit can be initiated years after the production had occurred.
“To be blunt, people will die.” – Paul Morris on Prop 60
So if you’re anyone who, for example, has a religious bias against porn and you find a video in which it doesn’t seem that condoms were used (and you can sue regardless of actual condom use) you are financially incentivized by Prop 60 to file a complaint. Even if the shoot happened in another State or country, so long as any income was derived by anyone in California, lawsuits can be initiated—at taxpayers’ expense.
If Cal-Osha finds that the complaint is without merit, the case would then be referred to the new porn czar—Michael Weinstein—who, again at taxpayers’ expense, will be paid to sue the performer and/or the company and/or anyone who has been involved in any minor aspect of production—the make-up fellow, the gaffer, the food serve workers—distribution, promotion, etc. There’s no limit to the number of lawsuits that will result.
And as you likely know, Michael Weinstein’s loves suing people. You could think of it as his signature form of adult tantrum-throwing. Prop 60—which he wrote, by the way—would give him carte blanche to sue anyone in porn at any time for the rest of his life.
Part of the Prop 60 lawsuit process is that the personal information of the performer would be given to the person initiating the suit. While this wouldn’t have much effect on producers, it would be disastrous and dangerous for the performers. A stalker, for example, could lodge a complaint with Cal-Osha and acquire the home address of any performer cited in the complaint. The stalker, on the other hand, would be allowed to remain anonymous. Weinstein/AHF has already done this, by the way, resulting in a young female performer losing her home and having to move into a safe house to avoid stalkers.
Prop 60 is condemned by the Democrats, the Republicans and the Independent parties; it’s been condemned by the SF Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno Bee, etc. by Buck Angel, Sister Roma, the Free Speech Coalition, APAC (the union for adult performers) and by hundreds and hundreds of adult performers, male and female, gay, straight, bi, trans, and on and on.
It’s a bill written and sponsored by an organization that makes condoms (and profits from tax write-offs related to their condoms) and it requires that condoms be used everywhere. Weinstein/AHF is literally the only organization in support of Prop 60. It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to see through this sham.
Let me add here that the only reason it has a chance of passing is because of the public’s misconceptions about porn. The fact that it’s called “Condoms in Porn” makes it all too easy for voters not to take the time to actually read the thing. I can imagine sweet little blue-haired matrons automatically approving of anything that reigns in what they imagine to be the lawless wilderness of pornography. What they wouldn’t realize, of course, is that in voting for it they’re actually reducing the on-the-job safety of their grandchildren who work in factories, on farms, in offices, for trucking firms, at construction sites.
Aside from the basic financial rationale for opposing Prop 60—it’s going to cost the California taxpayers a bundle—there are also at least seven solid reasons why it would be a disaster if passed:
- Adult performer physical safety would be seriously compromised by the bill. Productions would be forced underground and made covert. This would serve to diminish the agency and well-being of performers. It should be noted that at no time did Weinstein/AHF actually consult adult performers about the bill. Nor did they attend meetings to which they were repeatedly invited at which adult performers voiced their ideas about the matter.
- Critically important smaller/independent producers of alternative porn would be forced out of business by, among other things, costly and Byzantine permit requirements as well as the unending threat of random lawsuits and stalker intimidation that could be instigated by anyone at any time (and paid for each time by the tax-payers).
- The resources of Cal-Osha would be swamped by Michael Weinstein’s complaints—all of which Cal-Osha would be required by law to take seriously. This would make it literally impossible for Cal-Osha to effectively monitor all the other industries in California. Prop 60 would sacrifice the safety and well-being of California workers so that Weinstein’s obsession with porn could be attended to.
- The covert and actual purpose of the bill is to create a government position for Michael Weinstein that’s equivalent in power to the State Attorney General. If the bill passes, Weinstein is automatically legally installed in a job that can overturn decisions by the State Attorney General and Cal-Osha. The job would be for life. The only way to remove him would be by obtaining majority votes by BOTH houses of the State legislature.
- As I mentioned above, Weinstein/AHF have a history of instigating lawsuits for any reason whatsoever. To say that Weinstein is litigious is like saying that Golem was fond of his “precious”. If Prop 60 passes, he will have a financial incentive to instigate lawsuits since Weinstein would be paid for each and every lawsuit—again, by taxpayers. This basically creates a tidy bureaucratic machine that could be used to drain the taxpayers’ funds and funnel it right into Weinstein’s pocket. To put it plainly, Prop 60 creates a sweet “cash cow” with which Weinstein could line his pockets.
- Prop 60 would significantly bolster the Weinstein/AHF program of inciting systematic stigma against the use of PrEP. As you know, they’ve spent literally millions of dollars trying to fight the approval of PrEP by the FDA. They spent additional millions propagandizing against PrEP, calling it a “party drug”. Having failed at those, mandating the use of condoms in all situations and requirement governmental oversight for condom use—and simultaneously making Weinstein/AHF part of the government!—is a desperate attempt to impede public support for PrEP. This is a very, very dangerous step in the wrong direction.
- The California bill is intended by Weinstein/AHF to be the first step in a nation-wide program that would do the same thing for every state in the union—including the installation of Weinstein as a government official in each and every state. If Prop 60 passes, it will signal to Weinstein/AHF that they can do the same in all the other states. Do you want Michael Weinstein to be porn czar for life for the US?
These are only a few of the more obvious problems with Prop 60. All you have to do is actually read the complete bill, verbatim, and the overreach, the loopholes, the brazen attempts to fool the public are all right there. It is a shameful and cynical bill, and the results of its possible implementation would be bad not only for every person associated in any way with adult work, but also for every responsible citizen of California. AHF has a history of social malfeasance and has consistently and notoriously put their own narrow corporate agenda above that of the greater community. But with Prop 60, they’ve simply and finally gone much too far.
JOSH: How are you working to stop it from passing?
PAUL: Everyone in porn is working hard and feeling great pride and solidarity as adult workers. We’ve all been joining forces, communicating and fighting on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—as well as at street fairs and other public events. We’ve been putting up posters, handing out pamphlets, writing letters to editors, calling friends, educating family members. Organizations are throwing benefits for the “No on Prop 60” cause.
We have a webpage that consolidates the opposition to Prop 60: http://stop60.com .
And our efforts are paying off wonderfully: California news agencies are now solidly opposing Prop 60: the LA Times, the SF Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno Bee, the Huffington Post. The California Democratic Party AND the California Republican Party oppose Prop 60. The California Independent Party opposes Prop 60, as does the Courage Campaign (a network of over a million California progressives) and the San Francisco and Los Angeles Young Democrats. That’s just a fraction of the list, and that list is growing. Once someone simply reads the bill all the way through, they inevitably see it for what it is: a very expensive mess.
For much too long, porn has been an easy target for haters. In the same way that for many decades, queers were an easy target in movies, literature and television—always portrayed negatively—porn has been the object of innumerable ludicrous misrepresentations. And those lies and parodies fuel the sense that we are an easy target. Like any oversized and insecure bully, Weinstein/AHF tends to attack those it sees as weak. I think that’s a big reason behind their obsession with porn.
The truth, however, is that porn is a strong, difficult, varied, creative world of production and identity. The truth is that workers in porn are dedicated, incredibly hard-working, intelligent and committed to the social and cultural value of what we do. Again, in the same way that society used to laugh at and malign queers while at the same time depending on their creativity and productiveness, society today has an ambivalent relationship to adult work and pornography. It’s commonplace, for example, to point out that porn has consistently been at the forefront of new technologies. And it’s a fact that every social identity has depended on porn to explore and represent the concrete corporeal expressions of that identity. And the wonderful work of an ever-growing number of indie producers stands in shocking contrast to the sort of slanderous misrepresentations that Michael Weinstein and his ignorant ilk are attempting to perpetuate. I truly believe that in a real sense the battle against Prop 60 will stand as the moment when adult creators and performers as a group finally joined together and said “No more. We will not be denied.”
We’ve had enough of the lies and the nonsense. And we are standing up against it not just as an industry but as a creative community of responsible and empowered adults.