Dear Mr. Weinstein,
I have great respect for the work AHF and other AIDS charities do. Indeed, I have been a longtime supporter of SF based AIDS charities and have helped raise funds for HIV prevention.
You have spent valuable donor money battling the adult video production community for many years as what appears to be your priority. This dates back to lawsuits you filed against AIM (the much cherished performer-created testing facility and database) which eventually put them out of business, to your lobbying efforts with Cal/OSHA, to numerous complaints you have filed against my and other production companies, to Measure B which mandates condoms in LA, to various bills you have sponsored with Assemblymember Isadore Hall, and on-going PR attacks on the industry.
If the current direction continues, I believe it to be inevitable that what remains of the adult video industry will leave the state, and threaten the performer protections we’ve worked so hard to create. AB 1576 will force 14 day testing and mandatory condoms, plus record keeping that invades performer privacy; new Cal/OSHA regulations propose to require condoms for oral and protection of other mucus membranes such as eyes. I’m afraid it is just a brutal reality that the industry will leave California under these regulations. Abroad, standards are lower than what the industry already self-imposes here in the US. Worse, I fear smaller production companies will shoot underground and that we will see a reduction in the safety on-set that the industry has worked very hard to build over the last decade.
I come to you as a more reasonable person than you might imagine. Back in 2004, when the last verified on-set transmission on an adult video set in the US took place, I went on CNN saying I felt condoms should be mandatory. I then attempted, along with other companies such as Vivid, to shoot with condoms required. Various product lines had to be shut down, but it was actually pressure from the performers themselves that eventually persuaded me to relax out policy back to condom-optional. In a survey I conducted in 2005, a majority of both female and male performers wanted this policy returned. Ten years later, with testing now improved and not a single on-set transmission on a testing-mandatory set, I stand by this decision. I could not, in good conscience, write this letter did I not believe in the track record of the industry.
I trust you believe you are doing the right thing and I agree to disagree with you. However, I am the eternal optimist and I am writing this in the hope that there is still a chance for common ground which will allow the industry to function while staying in California, and yet go a long way towards alleviating your concerns. There are various measures I believe in, and I would like to list them below:
Firstly, I believe performers need to be protected — but with the flexibility offered by a testing OR condoms approach. The adult industry is made up of diverse communities — kinky, gay, straight, couples, large studios and small webcam operations — and a one-size fits all approach is disastrous. Many gay studios, for instance, use condoms because they believe that testing violates hard-fought medical privacy rights. Just as many straight performers rely on testing because of the discomfort used by condoms. If a performer doesn’t use condoms, they should be tested before performing.
Secondly, we need education. If a scene is shot without condoms, we should remind viewers that the actors have been tested, and encourage them to do the same. We should also make sure that anyone entering the industry knows how to protect themselves, and what the risks are.
Thirdly, condoms truly need to be optional on-set, even if everyone has been tested, and performers need to know that they can request one without discrimination. In response to performer feedback, we use a double-blind condom system at Kink, and explain to all performers that it is their right to request a condom at any time, for any reason — and many do. But the majority — for reasons that range from discomfort to confidence in the testing system — don’t. If you want to protect performers, let’s empower them to make that choice.
Lastly, I know you have mixed feelings about PrEP, the new medical regimen that can help prevent HIV transmission. It’s not well-understood yet by performers, but I believe we owe it to the communities we serve to evaluate this on its merits. The fact is, none of the performers you bring to your press conferences would have been protected had AB1576 been passed ten years ago, because no California condom law is going to protect performers during their personal lives, or shooting on unregulated sets overseas. PrEP, if it works as advertised, could do just that. In fact, we’ve recently begun working with HIV and sex worker health organizations to develop an educational program about PrEP specifically targeting adult performers — it would be great if you could be a part of it.
Please, Mr. Weinstein, take this letter at face value. There is no hidden agenda. I am reaching out to you and AHF in the hopes of a day where we may sit across the table from one another and agree on common goals and strategy on protecting performers, as opposed to continuing this battle. I hope to hear back from you.
Founder and CEO, kink.com
This open letter was originally posted on Peter Acworth’s personal blog