Saturday, May 24, 2008

Defend Our Porn vs. Free Speech Coalition???

Interesting blog entry by Audacia Ray over at her Village Voice sex blog Naked City on the apparent rumblings over the Free Speech Coalition's alleged ineffectiveness (with more trenchant criticism an example linked here, and why John Stagliano saw fit to form his own organization in response.

Maybe this is just the usual gossip and rivalries...or maybe it's something more substansial??

Update: More like the usual gossip and rivalries: thanks to Ernest and Chris Hall for setting me straight on Mike South and his hidden agendas. Serves me right for not checking my sources....a big damn FAIL for me on this one. Ugh.


  1. Trenchant criticism? Are you joking me?

    I have plenty of experience with lefty orgs who look and act suspiciously like the "radical" group in The Life of Brian. (I volunteered at Pacifica Radio for several years in the nineties, for instance.) But if you want to build a critique, you damn well have better links than some needle-dicked wonder whose first criticism of the FSC is that the women who work for them are fat and ugly:

    At the time I was there, the FSC flew in a bunch of 450 pound women from around the country to train as telemarketers to solicit new memberships. One of the women was so fat that she couldn’t even walk. They flew them into L.A. and put them up in a hotel all expenses paid for a week. Your membership dollars at work.

    I remember meeting the executive director at the time. Let me put it this way… She didn’t look like the type of gal who enjoyed the conversation of a man.

    I'm willing to listen to what Dacia has to day, but this misogynist twerp can go fuck himself.

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  3. First of all, full disclosure is in order when it comes to any comments I might make regarding Mike South, He's used his site to call me "a fucking moron" among other things related to my work at AIM, another of his favorite targets, so I admit to being less than objective where Mr. South is concerned.

    I can say, without fear of contradiction, that he is unswervingly hostile to AIM and everyone associated with it and likewise to the FSC and everyone associated with it as well. I can also say that any discussion of what went on at the FSC "a few years back" is completely irrelevant at this point, as the entire management and governing board of the FSC has turned over since then and an extensive reorganization has followed. There was a period during which a senior staff member at FSC was found to be diverting resources and raising funds for his own use and he is now long gone.

    I can only add that it's typical of South to continue to vent his spleen at an organization of which he has no current knowledge, as he never drops a grudge or recants an ignorant statement under any circumstances. He is essentially an embittered outsider to the mainstream of the industry who lives in Florida and has little direct contact with the day-to-day operations of the vast majority of companies, institutions and personalities associated with the X-rated production business.

    Now then, let's have some truth about the FSC, John S. and the internal politics surrounding these comments. Much as I admire and like Audacia, I wish she'd done a little more homework before stirring this pot with what amount to some vague innuendoes. Good journalism rarely ends in a question-mark.

    The FSC has indeed had a troubled history that doesn't need rehashing at this point, but is now under the direct management of Diane Duke, a dedicated First Amendment advocate with a long history of activism in a variety of progressive causes. She is, among other things, a former vice-president of Planned Parenthood and was recruited to take the helm at FSC after an exhaustive search and solely on the basis of her qualifications and enthusiasm. Diane cannot and should not be held responsible for the FSC's past failings, of which I have been quite critical myself on more than one occasion in both public and private settings.

    Much of the hostility toward FSC in some quarters of the industry, as toward AIM, arises out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the organization's intended purposes. It is meant to act as a communications, lobbying and advocacy organization for the whole industry, not a legal aid society for individual companies that come up against the authorities. It has neither the money nor the mandate to act in that capacity, although it does monitor specific cases and keeps its membership updated regarding their progress. It also maintains a full-time lobbying presence in Washington D.C. to speak on behalf of the industry and organizes the yearly lobbying efforts at the California State Capital in Sacramento, attended by Nina and other well-known industry supporters.

    In all fairness, the FSC can't be blamed for failing to do things it never said it would, such as hiring lawyers for pornographers who get busted or raising funds for the defense of particular cases. It can and does refer companies to appropriate counsel and keeps the community updated on the progress of legal cases through the judicial system, but it only participates in litigation involving the industry as a whole, mainly through civil actions challenging collective First Amendment infringements like the "restructured" version of 2257.

    The FSC. opposes all adult obscenity prosecutions equally, believing them to be unconstitutional in essence, and does not generally pick and choose among defendants in adult obscenity cases when it comes to supporting their rights under the law. This, ironically, has also made it a target of critics within the porn community who think it should decline to criticize some prosecutions while stepping into the ring to fight directly against others.

    The FSC. came under considerable pressure from some of the most powerful players in the industry, for example, to distance itself from Rob Black and the Extreme Associates case because of a view, held in certain quarters, that Black had behaved irresponsibly and brought grief on all of us. The FSC. declined to disavow Extreme as unworthy of defending despite this pressure and made some of those powerful players quite angry in the process.

    Likewise, the FSC has not taken up the banner of EA's specific case as its own, and I doubt John would want it to. John is a libertarian conservative, highly suspicious of what he calls "group-think" and undoubtedly prefers to speak for himself rather than allow any industry-wide organization to do so on his behalf.

    I have no reason to believe that he has solicited assistance from the FSC. or that he ever would, and the suggestion that there is some "FSC. v. Defend Our Porn" conflict is unsupported by anything I've heard from either camp, though I am rather closer to both than those doing the talking on this thread, to put it mildly. While I have, as previously stated, had differences with both in the past, my current relations with the parties in question are perfectly cordial and the last thing I want to see, or that anyone in porn needs, is the sowing of division within our ranks as we face a common threat from a common enemy.

    John is perfectly capable, both financially and intellectually, of mounting whatever efforts may be needed in his battle with the feds and would never cede control over such efforts to any outside entity. Likewise, the FSC. doubtless stands ready to assist EA however it can pursuant to the organization's long-term goals in opposition to all such prosecutions.

    Now, are we clear on this? I certainly hope so. And I would prefer to think that contributors here would take a moment to inform themselves from more reliable sources before posting what amounts to gossip and deliberately divisive scandal-mongering from those with various personal axes to grind on this blog.

    These are very complex matters that some seek to oversimplify or distort for their own ends and it does us no credit to allow ourselves to be dragged into that kind of mud-wrestling match.

  4. Let me make this perfectly clear from the jump: The only reason I cited Mike South's criticism of the FSC from the beginning was to point out the current controversy and division between the FSC and certain groups and individual personalities in the porn industry.

    I do NOT in any way support the kind of personal attacks and gossipmongering reflected in the paragraph that Chris cited (and I never said that Mike South couldn't be a certified asshole with not-so-hidden personal agendas; only that he was very critical of the FSC).

    And I would agree strongly with Ernest that the issue is far more complex than the title of this entry would assume, and I apologize for not making that complexity more clear. I do think, though, that there is, even among the ton of BS and gossip, a legitimate debate about the effectiveness of the FSC when it comes to defending the rights and resources of the industry. It is just too bad that it is mostly dominated by misogynist greedheads like Mike South and gossipmongers like Luke Ford.

    Again, I will apologize to all for inadvertently giving my share of the bandwidth here to such nonsense.


  5. Anthony,

    Understood. The problem with our business is that it's so chock full o' nuts even the blindest squirrels have trouble missing a few.

    And though I utterly reject all the paranoid explanations offered by the usual suspects for why the FSC hasn't been more effective, I share the opinion that it hasn't ever performed up to expectations, and in that I have good company as well as bad. The incoming leadership of the FSC has the same perception. The question is, what is to be done about it? We now have extremely competent leadership in place, and I think if you met Diane and those responsible for bringing her onboard you'd agree immediately, but that leadership inherits a lot of inertia from previous regimes.

    I've spent a number of hours with Diane, as has Nina, and we all have a sense of where the FSC could go to be of use. It's always been as much of a trade organization as anything else, and as such it needs to be more transparent about the breadth of its mission.

    It is not the sex-industry branch of the ACLU and has neither the funding nor the ambition to take on all causes related to sexual freedom, or even all cases related to sexually oriented freedom of expression.

    Ultimately, its mission is to represent the interests of the porn industry, principally by speaking both for and to it. The FSC needs to concentrate on its political mission to oppose anti-porn policies in government, its educational mission to counter the endless barrage of lies and hate-speech directed against the industry from pressure groups of all persuasions, and finally but not least importantly by any means, its custodial mission to advocate for better industry standards and practices that will make us less of an easy target for all our opponents.

    That's a lot of heavy-lifting for a small organization that doesn't have a ton of money (yeah, I know, just like AIM, everybody's raking in the dough and sneaking out the back door with it - just like all those "experts" insist) or the unified backing of the major players in the game.

    There are tremendous divisions within the industry and a history of personal rivalries and resentments that make cooperative action very hard to organize. We've talked about the difficulty of creating unions for performers and crews, but the picture is no simpler on the management side of the table.

    I recently argued in my X-Biz column, which is aimed mostly at producers, that among the other things porn needed was an equivalent of the MPAA - a trade group with real leverage both in and out of the business it represents. There are many things I dislike about the MPAA, not least of which is its antagonism to sexual subject matter in mainstream film, as embodied in the highly punitive ratings system. And I was no fan of Jack Valenti, who was a sort of czar in the tradition of Will Hayes whose individual judgment had a lot to do with what films you could and could not get made and released. But unlike Hayes, Valenti used the fulcrum position he held to influence the political culture to the benefit of the film business overall.

    Not only are we in no danger of falling under the domination of some Machiavellian power player like Valenti, in our business we're almost incapable of assembling the key figures in the industry together for anything more purposeful than giving each other awards. I do see some changes in this climate, embodied in things like the series of discussion forums X-Biz has sponsored over the past year or so to address important challenges we face in common, but at those conferences I still didn't see some of the critical decision-makers I would have liked to.

    The sad fact is that even if there were unions for porn workers, there would as of now exist no organization empowered to sit down and negotiate with them in the good-faith expectation that any agreement reached would be implemented with any real consistency.

    This is a young industry with an ever-changing line-up of personnel at all levels and in all positions. It has few institutional structures and virtually no institutional memory.

    That's one reason why I think it's significant that the current leadership of the FSC has worked out and ratified a code of ethics and best practices meant to be broadly applicable to the whole business.

    It's pretty basic, but it does speak to both industry and community concerns, which is what a trade organization with a broader portfolio and greater resources might do to better effect. The FSC is just taking the first steps down a long road toward creating an industry the public will better understand and accept, and then pushing hard for that acceptance.

    There's been a lot of time wasted on squabbling and ego-driven internal conflict, reflected in the FSC's mixed record and the poor job of persuading the larger society of our legitimacy. These things won't just go away overnight. And the kind of irresponsible trashing of the FSC, AIM and everyone else who tries to do anything worthwhile in this community by venom-spewing gossip-mongers does not help.

  6. First off, the link to the Naked City post needs to be fixed – the same URL was entered twice, creating a broken link.

    This is an issue I have some definite opinions on – I think there needs to be a diversity of groups out here on the pro-porn side, coming from a variety of perspectives. I think the Free Speech Coalition does some excellent work, but when it comes right down to it, FSC is an industry lobby. No inherent shame in that, pretty much all industries of any size have them.

    Still, there is a bit of a difference between that and a pro-sex-worker rights perspective or defense of sexual expression and sexual freedom for its own sake, those positions being pretty much where I'm coming from. That puts me on the same page as "the industry" much of the time, but then again, I'm not a blanket apologist for the porn industry or any other industry, though that hasn't stopped antis from accusing me of such.

    Anyway, I think having several organized efforts working against censorship of sexual expression is a good thing, as long as they're not actively working against each other. The more different perspectives there are on "the pro-porn" side, the broader the movement is, and the less it can be dismissed as simply the big bad "multi-billion dollar" porn industry against "women", "children", "the public interest", etc.

    Its unfortunate that the ACLU isn't more involved in this area, but they unfortunately seem to be moving away from porn and "hate speech" cases that in the past have been unpopular with their donors. Feminists for Free Expression and National Coalition Against Censorship have also done some good work in the past, but again, are less active around porn in recent years. (Though FFE did link to Ren's International Sex Worker Rights Day post.)

  7. IACB,

    Couldn't agree with you more. Porn may not be the economic powerhouse both its chieftains and opponents claim it to be, but it is too big to be effectively represented by any single organization. There are too many important voices that need to be heard (as opposed to those who have taken it upon themselves to make sure they're heard for whatever reason).

    I would like to see performers, production personnel, producers and consumers all have platforms from which to speak. This is certainly how the other side plays it, coming at us from every direction in every variety of specialized interest groups. We could take a page from our foes here and make sure that there are several allied groups whose names could appear at the bottom of, say, a full-page ad in the NYT regarding some piece of prohibitionist legislation that endangered us all.

    On other issues, it would certainly be possible that these diverse organizations might speak in opposition to one another. That's a risk you take when you encourage people to speak up. Somebody may not like the message. But that may be exactly the message that somebody needs to hear. I would wager that long before a worker's group got to the point of taking some formal stand against some particular practice or specific company, the word would be all over town, which might serve as some constraint on what the less responsible members of our community have been known to do.

    The plain truth is that we need each other, and we need each other's support. For this, everybody will have to give some to get some. That's the reality of labor relations.

    On the plus side, no one makes the case better for the truth about porn, as opposed to the lies passed off by those who hate it, than those who actually make it and are therefore most commonly regarded as its victims. Fortunately, for the most part, the porn business has no ugly secrets to hide compared to most industries, as the desperate and pitiful attempts made by the other side to come up with credible "victims" has demonstrated.

    It's worth letting go of the stiff segregation that still exists in many quarters between the deciders and everybody else to get a little more diversity out on the front lines than we have now.

    If you look around at the companies that do the best numbers, you'll observe, with few exceptions, that they're the ones who adopt this model, from the EA family to Vivid. It's smart to regard those you work with as assets and allies rather than just another type of pain in the ass.

    But we have to start somewhere, especially as traditional defenders drift away to some extent (I wouldn't be too quick to count out the ACLU as long as Nadine Strossen's around) while we become a more attractive target to a wide range of antagonists.

    This is why the whole idea of the FSC v. Defend Our Porn thing is so unhelpful at this moment. We need both, working together where they can and giving each other space where their interests diverge.

  8. "Fortunately, for the most part, the porn business has no ugly secrets to hide compared to most industries, as the desperate and pitiful attempts made by the other side to come up with credible "victims" has demonstrated."

    Well, I don't think the porn industry has any big ugly secrets, but individual incidents, that might point to larger problems – that's where I am critical of the industry. I do think abuses happen within the industry – when I hear somebody like Anne Howe (who may not be an A-list porn star, but is definitely an established performer, and very much not part of the Shelly Lubin crowd) say that they've done performances where they were hurting and literally forced to continue, I take that seriously. Or Kayden Faye ending up in the hospital and leaving porn entirely (with the exception of for her own paysite) after a bad shoot with (And, yep, I'm aware of's otherwise good track record – I'd still like to know what the fuck happened in Kayden Faye's case.)

    I don't think that's the norm, but I think stuff like that calls for better protection of the rights of performers so that nobody can get away with doing shit like that to them. Its unfortunate that's its proven practically impossible to organize the equivalent of a Screen Actors Guild for porn performers.

    And, of course, taking a broader view, porn is ultimately a global industry, and how good the porn industry is to work for varies from place to place. A few performers have had less-than-stellar things to say about the French porn industry, including Rebecca Lord, who's opinion I hold in high regard. (She has good things to say about the mainstream US porn industry, though.)

  9. IACB,

    I grant your central premise here, which is that bad things do happen in the porn business. I'm not in a position to comment from first-hand knowledge about the two specific incidents you cite, but I wouldn't insult anyone's intelligence by insisting I'd never seen anything ugly in twenty-five years of doing anything for a living. However, I can say I've never seen anyone "literally forced" to do anything on a porn set. Please consider the implications of that language before taking or repeating it at face-value.

    Such a use of literal force would be a crime called forcible rape, in this instance one committed in front of numerous witnesses. Was a weapon used, or a credible threat made? Did the accuser attempt to leave and was physically restrained from doing so?

    If any of these things occurred, the police should have been called, arrests made and charges pressed. The L.A.P.D is no ally of the porn business and would dearly love to make such a case against the parties involved if given the opportunity. If Howe's claims are credible, and in substance as you claim them to be, I'm sorry she didn't go to the proper authorities and surprised no one else present at the time did. Instead, she seems to prefer to make her case in the blogosphere. This neither proves nor disproves her claims, but pornographers, like any other citizens, are entitled to the presumption of innocence until a court of law proves them guilty. And yes, that law does apply to accusations of rape just as it would to those of any other crime.

    Have I seen injuries or know for certain of instances in which they've occurred? You bet. And by no means are such injuries limited to bondage sets. Nor are performers the only ones injured, though I've long since given up on anyone thinking of crews as human beings also. Our employers certainly don't or they wouldn't consider fourteen hour days routine. And fourteen hour days are exactly the kind that lead to injuries.

    Still, considering the thousands of videos shot over the past thirty years and the thousands of people involved in shooting them, I would say our injury rate in porn ranks us pretty low on the list of dangerous businesses. I've had this argument with others before who just couldn't see how an industry in which neither unions nor government regulate every aspect of every production remains relatively safe, while mainstream film making, which is heavily supervised by both, still manages the occasional Twilight Zone incident that makes the papers and a small but predictable incidence of death and serious injuries of stunt players and crew members each year that never even make the papers.

    So when you call for "broader protection," I can't help wondering what kind, by whom and using which means.

    And the expansion of this discussion to include all pornography made everywhere is usually a debating ploy used by prohibitionists to associate the lawful industry as its practiced in this country, which produces more porn than the rest of the world combined, with kiddie porn, human trafficking, forced prostitution and every other form of sex commerce, legal and illegal, in the world.

    I don't doubt that porn is a rougher game in other countries, especially those in which it's legal status is shaky, and I've heard both good and bad stories coming out of Europe, any or all of which might be true or not.

    My point here is that presumptive extrapolations from the anecdotal testimony of one or two sources shouldn't be used to form the basis of a call for broad regulations in this country against practices that are already prohibited here under existing law.

    Realistically, the only ones who can really put a stop to either illegal or negligent behavior on sets are those to whom they happen or who witness them happening. No off-the-books settlement of the sort performers have been known to make should be an acceptable excuse for putting other performers in danger by failing to insist on full disclosure of the precipitating incidents. No one who has been present when any form of coercion was employed in the making of any production should fail to report behavior to the cops if it rises to the level of physical force and to the owners of the company if it takes the form of implied threats of retribution.

    In short, like workers everywhere, workers in porn have to stand up for themselves at the time rather than abetting abuses by saving their information for public consumption at the safety of a later date.

    Porn is part of the world and the world is not now nor will it ever be a child-safe day nursery. Those who expect the porn industry or any body constituted to oversee it to effectively act in loco parentis both underestimate the agency of the workers themselves and overestimate the ability of impersonal institutions to protect them in a trade uniquely ill-suited to collective solutions, especially when imposed by outsiders.

    This is the core of the endless battle with public health authorities over STD mitigation in the porn industry. Many of them believe that some one-size-fits-all protocol enforced by the public sector would be superior to the voluntary, performer-initiated testing system we have now.

    The statistical evidence collected over nearly a decade of voluntary testing makes it pretty clear that, left to work out their own methods, porn performers are no less able to protect themselves than any other class of worker once convinced that their well-being truly is at stake. There is an inherent condescension in suggestions to the contrary that unfairly infantilizes a large group of consenting adults engaging in a lawful trade.

    You and I will probably never agree on this, and that's not because I'm either a libertarian conservative like John Stagliano nor an unquestioning defender of everything done by anyone in porn by way of securing my own interests in the business. I'm plenty unpopular in certain quarters for the criticisms I've made of certain practices and individuals both publicly and privately. The difference is that my criticisms are founded on 25 years of direct experience in virtually every capacity of the porn-making occupation. If I could think of a better way of fixing our problems than by doing it ourselves, one at a time, I wouldn't be shy about advocating it. But no plan thus far advanced would do anything but make matters worse.

  10. My guess with Ann Howe (aka Melissa Ashley) was that, even after the bad shoot in question, she still wanted to continue to actively work in the industry and probably didn't feel that pressing rape charges against the director and actor in question would be in her best interest to continue to be employed in the industry.

    As for bringing in porn produced in other countries, I think that's totally valid, and I think restricting discussion of "the porn industry" to the big San Fernando Valley studios is actually rather provincial. The porn industry is actually a lot bigger than that, especially when you look at internet porn, and also, the US porn industry distributes and invests in no small amount of content from overseas sources – Wicked distributes most of the titles of the main French studio, Marc Dorcel, and other companies distribute many Central European-made titles, the porn industry there having absolutely boomed post-Communism. (Of course, I will note that what little I've read on the Czech porn industry gives it high marks for its professionalism (analogous to the LA industry, they test regularly and apparently shut down for a month when there was a syphilis epidemic in Prague), albeit, they apparently don't pay as well as the American industry.

    As to who should regulate it – hard to say. Most industries are covered by OSHA or other workplace safety regulation, and these regulations are typically devised by union lobbyists and enforced by having a union system where workers with safety complaints can report violations to union stewards, who can demand action or sue for such violations. Unfortunately the porn industry suffers from having no working union or guild structure, and when it comes to government regulation, is dealing with people who are more interested in using regulation in bad faith to stop porn production rather than protect workers.

    Basically, I'm for a system that empowers porn workers to have the clout they need to protect their own best interests – like we have in more established industries already. Obviously, the position of the porn industry and sex workers vis a vis the larger society doesn't exactly allow for any kind of normal regulation right now, and there's to many people who are merely interested in "rescuing" porn performers for their own agendas.

    One of the many reasons I think the normalization of social attitudes toward the porn industry and sex workers would be a good thing.

  11. IACB: The broken link to Dacia's article is now fixed.

    And I'm thoroughly enjoying this exchange of ideas you two are engaging in...and nodding my head so fast that it is in danger of being snapped off.

    To me, though, working against censorship of consensual sexual expression and supporting explicit sexual media goes hand in hand with pushing for workplace safety protections that respect the rights and safety needs of the performers. The FSC has its own role to play in this; groups like Feminists for Free Expression and the ACLU have theirs, too....and I too am noticing the latter's drawback on sexual issues, though I feel more as if it's due more to a false optimism that the battles have been mostly won on those issues, as well as an increased emphasis on what they see as more compelling issues like illegal government eavesdropping.

    But the main point is not to get caught in the trap of apologizing for every incident which puts the porn industry in a bad name; it is to defend the fundamental basic right of consenting adults to engage in and produce explicit sexual media for the consensual enjoyment of its consumers and fans....while also working for the safest, sanest, and most mutual atmosphere and conditions for those who do the profession to perform their acts. No profession is immune of its dark sides; and porn should not be singled out for theirs any more than any other more "legitimate" profession.


  12. Hmmm since you seem to think I have a personal agenda maybe you can enlighten me as to what it is.

    As for your blanket statement that I dislike everyone involved in the FSC you are...well being a moron. I have the highest regard for example, for Dave Cummings< nice guy and a real hero, but it doesn't preclude him from being wrong or misguided.

    The purpose of the FSC may indeed be noble but words are hollow in the face of inaction.

    What exactly has the FSC accomplished in the last ten years? I prefer to let the record speak for itself.

    If I have an agenda it should be obvious to anyone in the biz....I want the FSC disbanded and replaced with something EFFECTIVE. As it is the years of ineptitude have made the organization little more than a joke.

    Mike South

  13. Oh and I might add the cited post wasnt written by me It was written by a director in LA I think you mentioned something about journalism and research...try it sometime.

    I actually like you fine Ermnest but that doesn't preclude you from being/acting like a moron.

  14. Hello Mike,

    I wondered when you'd show up here. I figured it was only a matter of time.

    And speaking of time, I have little to waste on you, so I'll dispatch with the "issues" you raise as quickly as possible.

    First of all, I wasn't the one who cited you here. I wouldn't cite you anywhere. You can beat your own drum perfectly well with no help from me. And as both you and the "director" in question (previously unknown to me) weighed in on the same thread in general agreement, it's not unreasonable to assume you share similar views. However, I made no reference in my comments to the "director's" remarks, only to your oft-restated contempt for the FSC, so once again, you didn't bother to sort out the facts before issuing forth with the expected diatribe.

    I was also not the one who accused you of having hidden agendas. Your agendas are perfectly obvious, usually stated just as bluntly as you stated them in your post on this blog.

    Before you attribute comments to me or anyone else, you might try reading them all the way through and checking out who posted them first.

    I'm just ever so sorry I failed to exempt Dave Cummings, who I also like and admire, from your blunderbuss condemnation of the FSC, but since you hammer the organization as a whole whenever you get the chance without specifically listing off all those who may ever have been associated with it and singling out the few not deserving of your contempt, you can hardly expect others to make the fine distinctions you don't bother to make yourself.

    I've already discussed what I see as the limitations of the FSC, its potential to do better and the need for other organizations to focus on other tasks. Enough said on that.

    And if you're going to call me names, whether telling me you like me anyway or not, you could at least try spelling my name correctly. Failure to do so makes your exhortations to "try research" and your comments on the intelligence of others about as credible as most of what you have to say.

    I don't make a practice of visiting your site, having been there often enough to know what I'll find, and I don't consider it my duty to enlighten you about anything, a task beyond the powers of any mere mortal. I don't know whether your agendas are personal or motivated by spotless altruism. Your boorishness speaks for itself, and if anyone thinks that's too strong a word, despite your name-calling here, they ought to go over to your place and read the things you say if they have a taste for vile invective.

    There's an interesting conversation going on here to which, as usual, you have contributed nothing of value.

  15. Now then, after that bit of comic relief, let's get back on topic.


    Regarding the case of Ann Howe, as I've already said, I have no direct knowledge of it and can't speak to the veracity of her claims one way or the other, or to her motives in remaining silent about them until she was already out of the business.

    But I don't disagree that whistle-blowers in porn are no more immune to the consequences of what they say than they would be in any other line of work. Whether you're a porn performer like Ms. Howe or a diplomat like Joe Wilson, if you speak out against those who have employed you, truthfully or not, the impact on your career is likely to prove adverse. In fact, you'll probably be needing a new one. I wish Ms. Howe as good fortune in finding hers as Mr. Wilson has enjoyed as an author.

    I personally believe legal protections for whistle-blowers should be strengthened across the board. Without them, we would never have known about The Pentagon Papers or the sinister facts behind the Watergate break-in. I respect the courage of the Dan Ellsbergs and Mark Felts of this world for calling our attention to official malfeasance. Likewise I respect Karen Silkwood, who may very well have paid with her life for speaking out about dangerous practices in the private sector.

    I have some little experience of what can happen to whistle-blowers in porn myself for having blown the whistle on the HIV risk back in 1993, as a result of which, and of my refusal which stands to this day to work for any company that bars the use of condoms (though not those that allow their use at the performers' option, as opposed to mandating them) I didn't shoot a single BG hardcore scene for nearly five years, and BG hardcore is where the money is in this game. The costs to me were merely economic and I was eventually "rehabilitated" after the harrowing revelations of 1997, but I'm well aware of porn's thin skin when it comes to internal criticism.

    While there is no formal "blacklisting" of those who speak out against what they see as irresponsible or destructive behavior on the part of porn producers as has been alleged by outsiders from time to time, producers tend to hire those who go along to get along, just as do executives in any other business.

    Now then, as to my "provincial" view that the world's largest porn market iought rightly to be our principal concern in this discussion, I think the numbers justify that perspective pretty conclusively. Last year, we released over 12,000 adult video titles in the U.S., a total dwarfing that of all other nations combined. The overwhelming majority of adult Internet sites are also U.S. based, as is the only significant concentration adult publications remaining. As for Americans also constituting the largest share of worldwide porn consumers, what research has been done, including that of the NYT, the WSJ and Business Week, pretty much supports that assertion. I wasn't just talking about major Porn Valley producers. I was talking about the U.S. industry as a whole, which is still the 800 pound gorilla of the world porn market.

    That said, however, i didn't mean to discount the importance of how the porn business is conducted in other countries. There are indeed other significant porn industry communities elsewhere in the world, and what we know of them by second and third hand accounts is inconclusive, but not unimportant.

    For one thing, the largest single porn company in the world, Private, is headquartered in a big, fancy new building in Barcelona. Private sells its products in 60 countries and scarcely bothers with the U.S. (though it has a couple of contract shooters here and sells a few of its titles through an American distributor) because it considers the restrictions and risks of doing business in the U.S. not worth the devalued currency it could make here. That's been the stance of owner Berth Milton for years and shows no signs of changing soon. For what it's worth, Private seems to run its business pretty professionally, but I know nothing of its practices regarding those who work for it.

    Your understanding of working conditions in CR pretty much falls in with what I hear, and that's pretty good. AIM helped set up a clinic in Vienna to do PCR-DNA testing and the Czech producers seem pretty responsible, at least on this score, perhaps in part because they do a lot of business with American companies, a subject you touched on and that I'll address directly a bit further down.

    Japan also has a very substantial home-grown industry with which I have some familiarity and while there are some local peculiarities that might give Americans pause, such as the distinctly Japanese aversion to paperwork and record-keeping, Japanese performers I know have spoken favorably of how they're treated on the set and how much better they're paid there than here.

    The content looks pretty rough by our standards, and certainly exhibit total indifference to our notions of political correctness (there's a whole sub-genre of simulated rape videos available at corner newsstands over there that would get their makers tossed in jail in a hot second here), but actual working conditions are such that few Japanese performers care to trade them for what they could get here. Indeed, it's the performers who prefer to be paid in cash and refuse to sign formal releases of the type we routinely require in the interest of some kind of plausible deniability after leaving the business.

    In a peculiarly Japanese way, some porn stars there achieve a standard of fame approaching that of mainstream actors as few could ever hope to here, while the majority deliberately cultivate a compartmentalized separation between their work on camera and their personal lives.

    Brazil also has a comparatively large porn industry and, from what I understand, not nearly so disorganized and abusive as you might expect in a Third Word country. Condom use is essentially universal in Brazilian porn, though what testing they do for HIV still relies on the ELISA test with its infamous six-month window period.

    The main source of concern for me is the growing number of American companies and American performers who work in other countries with counterparts at the lower end of the production scale. I don't sweat what goes on with Dorcel much, having known so many players who have worked for him, but he's on the high end, as the distribution of his products by Wicked would indicate.

    Similarly, I know that EA has set up a separate branch of its parent company to oversee European operations and feel confident that they observe the same standards there that they do here, which are pretty solid.

    But the lesser known gonzo shooters who jet off to Budapest and work through agents of unknown provenance might very well be using less-than-fully-consenting talent for all we know. The language barrier and the fact that porn is seen in much of Europe as just another form of prostitution rather than a branch of the entertainment industry opens the door to a level of criminal involvement that may be invisible to us from this distance.

    I don't think this is common, and from what I can see, the professionalization of porn that has made it so much better of a working environment here does seem to be expanding through Europe country by country. But I do think it behooves Americans who do business over there to know as much as possible about who they're doing business with and to take responsibility for making sure the performers they shoot are treated at least as well as their U.S. counterparts. Off-shoring in search of better value for investment dollars isn't pretty, but it is defensible if you accept the idea that capitalism itself is defensible, which I do within certain limits. But off-shoring to avoid standards of conduct is not.

    And as we've seen, when it comes to shooting outside the industrialized West, American companies have a pretty bad history that's followed them home to roost. The HIV episode of 2004 still looks to have originated in Brazil as a result of American producers eschewing the local practice of condom use without substituting reliable testing as a preventative measure.

    For what it's worth, at AIM, we recommend that American performers who have worked abroad wait through one full testing cycle so we can have two sets of lab results a month apart before going back to work here. We have no power to enforce this, and I don't really see how anyone could, as performers could beat any mandatory requirement of this type by simply traveling on the DL, but it's a common-sense standard that should be observed for everyone's sake.

    So yes, porn is a globalized industry, but its key nexus remains here in Los Angeles, which influences practices elsewhere by what it accepts here. That's why it's important to porn people everywhere to concentrate our efforts at improving working conditions where most of the work is done, funded and consumed. This is the Rome of the porn empire and suggesting that what happens here is the critical determinate of what happens elsewhere is the opposite of provincial. It is a recognition of the key role the U.S. industry plays in how porn is made just about everywhere else other than in Japan.

    Where your views and mine converge is on the priority that should be assigned to completely de-criminalizing and de-stigmatizing the making of adult porn as a step toward the creation of a more responsible industry. While porn is still under attack from every direction, it tends to circle its wagons in the face of all criticism, justified or not, and to neglect reforms that can and should be made without compromising either the content of the pictures or the profitability of making them.

    As of now, there is neither enough consistency within the industry nor enough understanding outside of it to institute any system of regulation without risking a backfire that would result in great harm to the most vulnerable classes of workers and to the First Amendment rights of both producers and consumers.

    First things first. We need to get porn out into daylight before we can really look at what parts of it need fixing. We're a long way from that goal now, and in some respects, getting further away from it as the new right-left anti-porn alliance does its best to kick us back into the closet from which we're just now starting to emerge.

  16. "Last year, we released over 12,000 adult video titles in the U.S., a total dwarfing that of all other nations combined. The overwhelming majority of adult Internet sites are also U.S. based, as is the only significant concentration adult publications remaining."

    First, what is the market share of video titles compared to web porn? I remember reading that the traditional video market is in distinct decline, particularly now that DVD quality downloadable video is available, and all manner of niche-driven specialty sites are out there. Second, yes the majority of adult internet sites are US based, but does that mean simply hosted, or where the content is actually coming from? That's an important difference. (And I'd believe that report, based on my own consumption – I buy or rent maybe a few DVDs each year, but I download a lot of web videos.)

    And perhaps my perception of the market share between US vs Central European porn is skewed by the fact that I have a lot of the latter in my collection. But on the other hand, I don't think its an obscure part of the industry, either – I can walk into practically any porn shop or turn on a porn channel on my TV and find what I recognize are CR productions, very readily.

    "As for Americans also constituting the largest share of worldwide porn consumers, what research has been done, including that of the NYT, the WSJ and Business Week, pretty much supports that assertion."

    How old are those statistics? Because I remember some much-publicized figures like this from the late 1990s, but the porn industry has changed a great deal since then. Internet porn was mostly small photo sites at the time.

    "I don't think this is common, and from what I can see, the professionalization of porn that has made it so much better of a working environment here does seem to be expanding through Europe country by country. But I do think it behooves Americans who do business over there to know as much as possible about who they're doing business with and to take responsibility for making sure the performers they shoot are treated at least as well as their U.S. counterparts. Off-shoring in search of better value for investment dollars isn't pretty, but it is defensible if you accept the idea that capitalism itself is defensible, which I do within certain limits. But off-shoring to avoid standards of conduct is not."

    I actually agree with your sentiment here, and the American investment in the European (and Brazilian) industry is why I brought the subject up, because I don't think one can so neatly separate the US industry from some overseas porn industries. And I can see why the industry expanded into Central and Eastern Europe to such a great degree – economic considerations aside, and as I'm always quick to point out – jeezus, have you seen the talent there? Unbelievable! I think its no coincidence that this is where the fashion industry is getting a lot of their models from. But it concerns me that while places like CR are rising up to a high degree of professionalism, there are also places like Ukraine that are becoming the source of an underclass of very beautiful, but not well-paid sex workers and fashion models, who don't have a lot of rights in the countries they travel to and the industries they work in. (No, I'm not trying to play the "human trafficking" angle here, but there was an excellent New York Magazine article on Ukrainian models in the fashion industry, and it struck me that this is probably a very realistic look at Ukrainian women in the sex and "beauty" industries (albeit the super-extremes of thinness discussed in the article is more a fashion industry vice), once you get past a lot of the overheated rhetoric about trafficking.)

    "Japan also has a very substantial home-grown industry with which I have some familiarity and while there are some local peculiarities that might give Americans pause, such as the distinctly Japanese aversion to paperwork and record-keeping, Japanese performers I know have spoken favorably of how they're treated on the set and how much better they're paid there than here.

    In a peculiarly Japanese way, some porn stars there achieve a standard of fame approaching that of mainstream actors as few could ever hope to here, while the majority deliberately cultivate a compartmentalized separation between their work on camera and their personal lives.

    I'm familiar with Japanese porn (aka "JAV") and have some in my collection. Its a very insular industry in a lot of ways – they pretty much make it for only the Japanese market, and most of the companies there don't even try to export it, but for the fact that there's such big demand for it elsewhere that it ends up distributed overseas anyway. Basically, a lot of Japanese porn is so good, that foreigners will even put up with the weird mosaic censoring that goes with it. JAV feature porn can be pretty impressive as to the level of acting and production values, and is something American pornographers could learn something from. (I think another reason for its popularity overseas is the fact that it features attractive asian women without a lot of the racist cliches that too often American "asian fetish" porn falls into.)

    "So yes, porn is a globalized industry, but its key nexus remains here in Los Angeles, which influences practices elsewhere by what it accepts here. That's why it's important to porn people everywhere to concentrate our efforts at improving working conditions where most of the work is done, funded and consumed. This is the Rome of the porn empire and suggesting that what happens here is the critical determinate of what happens elsewhere is the opposite of provincial. It is a recognition of the key role the U.S. industry plays in how porn is made just about everywhere else other than in Japan."

    Well, that's true enough – certainly when 2257 was adopted in the US, that kind of documentation system was adopted all over the world, even though its not the law of the land elsewhere.

  17. As for the Mike South posts, yeah, you were saying about porn world rivalries, Ernest....

    Mike – way to make a good impression, dude.

  18. I should have known, actually i did you answer my post and didnt answer a single question. Which is typical. Impugn me if you like but theres a reason my site does the traffic it does ( and believe me its a LOT) Theres also a reason that I have the ear of people on the adult web community, a community that the FSC is always whoring itself to asking for money.

    They listen because they agree and most, like myself, have at least once been conned into joining the FSC and found out what "value" it actually has.

    You'd do far better as an organization, by choosing to work with us instead of against us. The reasons the FSC has the problems it does is because you have consistently dictated to your members instead of working with them, the result being you have no credibility left.

    Bitch and moan about it all you want here but perception is reality and if you think the perception of the FSC is anything better than what I state....well continue with your head in the sand.

    That said Im outta can say what you like about me, I could care, but remember theres a lot more people feel the way I do than feel the way you do.


  19. Well, now that we have that in writing, we can return to our conversation without fear of further interruptions. Perhaps when the FSC's restraining order against the new 2257 regs is finally made permanent, Mr. South will eat a few of his words, but I wouldn't expect that to happen.

    Let's just talk about the Web v. DVD markets for a minute. Much has been made of how the Web is killing the DVD market, but if you to to GFY or other places where adult webmasters talk business, you'll read the same bitching and whining I hear from video producers, While a few huge mega-sites, many of them associated with big porn companies that also make video, are doing well enough, subscription-driven adult sites, particularly those with automatic re-billing, are dropping like flies in the tough atmosphere of the current economy.

    Their problems result from some of the same bad business practices as those employed for too long by video companies. Slushing out tons of bad product hasn't helped. Neither has the practice of selling membership lists to marketers who flood customers' inboxes with explicit spam. Security concerns about handing over credit card info to adult site operators, with all the MSM paranoia about identity theft, have hurt porn sites, as has their vulnerability to piracy, which is even more of a problem on the Web than it is with DVDs.

    Moreover, much of the novelty of being able to access porn through your computer has worn off and many consumers have begun to turn the webmasters' own games against them. They deal with that auto-rebilling thing by signing up, downloading whatever interests them, canceling immediately before the next billing cycle cuts, and then going back six months later to repeat the process. This makes the expense of providing the constant flow of new content needed to maintain subscriber interest prohibitive as dependable revenue streams dwindle.

    While it's impossible to know what the market share of Internet porn is compared to that of DVD porn, because those statistics are simply too volatile to have any credibility a week after they're compiled, it's reasonable to say that while there may be a lot of porn activity on the Web - some estimate that porn and porn-related traffic accounts for about 40% of the total - how much of that results in paid transactions is, I suspect, a much smaller percentage. Much of the porn on the Internet is either swapped or stolen, so is that really a market? In hard dollars, I seriously doubt it accounts for much of the decline in DVD sales, which is more likely attributable to overproduction and market saturation brought on by the stupid practices of the video industry itself. Everybody blames the Web, but the problem lies closer to home.

    As to this claim:"DVD quality downloadable video is available" all I can say is that I'd like to know where. What is downloadable, over a period of considerable waiting, is a smaller, low-res version of whatever you're trying to get. It in no way approaches the quality of what we can put on a DVD owing the the tricky technical problem of density. A hi-def DVD picture is so dense your home computer will stall out trying to get it anywhere near full-size.

    So far, picture and sound quality on downloads doesn't approach what you can get by simply sliding a disk into a slot and firing up your 42-inch flat-screen and your surround sound system. We're about half a dozen years away from being able to mate your modem to your TV without significant loss of picture and sound quality. If you don't mind sitting in front of a computer monitor and watching a quarter-screen version of a big, fancy feature and listening to a couple of fuzzy tracks through itty-bitty speakers, all while sitting in an office chair as opposed to sprawling on your king-size bed, then these things are not issues, but for most porn consumers, Web smut is instant gratification, or scratches a particular inch, but it's just no competition at all when it comes to product quality.

    Contrary to a lot of crepe-hangers who have been predicting the demise of both DVD and adult publishing since the advent of the Web, both are now in healthier shape financially than all but the biggest Internet outfits.

    And let's not forget that entertainment of any kind isn't fully recession-proof, though those in the business like to tell themselves so. With less discretionary income available, consumers tend to cut loose expensive impulse buying and go back to what they know they like. A one-time DVD or magazine buy is a much cheaper way of scratching the itch reliably than browsing through the jungle of crap on the Internet to find the thing you like. Since most of the content is necessarily hidden behind firewalls, you can't see much before you have to whip out that credit card, so the local adult book and video outlet begins to seem like a more dependable place to do your shopping.

    Now none of this may apply to you, because you're a computer-oriented guy, but the average porn buyer is much more comfortable with the simple technology, similar to that of VHS with which he grew up, of slapping a disk in a slot and pushing "play."

    As to your question about how much material on American-hosted sites is made in other countries, I'd guess it would be fairly little. The dollar is weak against most currencies and since Web operations typically work off smaller budgets, they aren't very competitive overseas. It's much easier and cheaper to buy or make content here than it is to buy it second-hand from most other places.

    And then there is that 2257 problem. Web operators who buy content from other countries put themselves at serious risk in the record-keeping department, since no other country has such restrictive regulations. How reliable are the I.D.s and releases from other places? You don't want to find out by having the FBI go through whatever you think you got from some outside supplier and discover that it's non-compliant.

    Nope, most porn, Web or video, is made here. I do agree that the most abusive practices in porn do occur outside the industry hub where I work. They occur on the small sites operated around the country by "hobbyists" using the Web cam as a means to get their rocks off.

    There have been some pretty ugly cases over the past few years involving pro-am operations of this type and that's one reason I'm more comfortable with the centralized production model that largely prevails in this country than I would be with diffuse industry conducting its business according to local custom all over everyplace. The informal mechanisms of protection for talent, mainly word of mouth and the communications channels created by large booking agencies and trade publications, wouldn't be of much help in isolated locations, and the kind of uniform testing we do out here is less likely to occur in places where a PCR-DNA test costs $280 and takes two weeks to come back.

    I don't dispute that the porn industry outside SoCal, taken in its entirety, probably adds up to something approaching the numbers we do here at the center of the porn world, but I think the stats haven't really changed much in the past few years, except for an overall decline in profit margins everywhere. Right now, the law of supply and demand is working against porn almost everywhere.

    Now, is it true that some porn that ends up here by way of Eastern Europe is of shady origins? No doubt, and that is a cause for concern. Companies that buy outside content from unfamiliar sources in remote places may very well be contributing to criminal enterprises, which is one reason why most hesitate to do so. Legal porn is all about staying inside the lines. Big companies like LFP, for example, won't buy content made outside the U.S. except from other large-scale companies with which they have existing relationships and that are based in the countries where the material is produced. That's not only good 2257 insurance, it's a good way to prevent an embarrassing blowback if criminal practices of fly-by-nighters are later exposed.

    All of which speaks to your final point, which is that the laws here make the kinds of horror stories about trafficking and kiddie porn that FAC's love to drag into these conversations essentially irrelevant to legal pornography, which is the only kind I care to defend. Whenever an attempt is made to pull me off my markers in some debate by hauling in this or that "reliable account" of abuses committed half a world away under legal systems where labor abuse of all types is commonplace, I can only deplore such things and say, with great confidence, that nothing we do here actively supports or subsidizes such activities, and that there is little we can do about them other than make sure our money doesn't benefit the perpetrators in any way. On that score, I think we do a pretty good job.

  20. On thing I might add to the list that we don't do and should is educate the consumer better.

    For instance, consumers need to understand that buying pirated DVDs or downloading stolen material will eventually choke off the supply. I know that seems impossible, but for most companies the margin is very thin and pirates can virtually wipe them out. This almost happened to a couple of friends of mind who are just the type of independent, passionate pornographers you'd like to see stay in the game.

    The industry need to make its case to the buying public to pay their fair share and it also needs to help people figure out what's pirated and what's not. Some of the stolen DVD product out there is very slickly packaged.

    I'm actually much more concerned about that than I am about competition from the Internet, and so are record companies, which are likely to become extinct long before the bigger porn businesses.

    If consumers want us to keep making these things, they have to vote with their dollars.

  21. "As to this claim:"DVD quality downloadable video is available" all I can say is that I'd like to know where. What is downloadable, over a period of considerable waiting, is a smaller, low-res version of whatever you're trying to get. It in no way approaches the quality of what we can put on a DVD owing the the tricky technical problem of density. A hi-def DVD picture is so dense your home computer will stall out trying to get it anywhere near full-size."

    First, the comparison I'm making is with standard DVD quality, not HDDVD or Blue-Ray, since I'm not one of the "early adopters" of those technologies.

    Where? Let's see, sites like LSG Models, OnlyCuties, Sapphic Erotica, Little Mutt, Abby Winters, and at least a dozen other sites. Probably the sites, too, though I've never been subscribed there, as that's not my fetish. This is hardly something that's rare. These are sites where I can download 20-30 minute videos, with full-screen resolution and framerate that is at or exceeding that of standard DVD. It you want to compare numbers, I'll have to open up some web videos and DVDs and get the numbers, but I've done the comparisons before and the quality does hold up.

    The videos in question is often not just repackaged DVD content, but content that typically isn't even available on a hard-copy DVD. (Abby Winters and have videos available, but these are selections from the many videos they have available for download – that's not an atypical business model these days.) Production values and performance quality are often better than 90% of what I see in product typical of the LA studios.

    So, no, as a consumer I can say hands down the regular LA industry is not all that's happening and is not even as much at the forefront of technology or production as many there seem to think they are.

  22. It's apples and oranges here. A twenty-minute clip in old format video is hardly comparable to a three hour feature in Hi-def, which is pretty much all us backward, technophobic L.A. cavemen are shooting on these days. Since the price of hi-def equipment has come down dramatically, even gonzo companies are using it.

    And while the producers at a few big Internet outfits are finally starting to figure out that things like lighting, sound, art direction and make-up do matter, most are still pretty crude by comparison to what we put on a commercial disk. Then there's this thing called editing. You'd think a twenty-minute clip might have some, but most are still in the verite style of "put the camera on sticks and let it roll."

    While I'll certainly grant the Web it's greater diversity of activities and niches served, when it comes to production value, Web producers still have a long way to go.

    This isn't about technology alone, though that is certainly a part of the mix. It's about production value and technical skill at making pictures.

    And clips are not now and will never be features. No DVD extras, small casts, limited settings, short running times. The more successful providers are doing their best to imitate what we do on DVD. So who is really leading the parade here? swore they'd never bother with DVD and now they're releasing them through the same company that distributes Vivid. Likewise, several other large outfits like your friends at Abby Winters are finalizing physical product distribution as we speak.

    So I guess our antiquated business model here in Porn Central still has some life in it. Internet producers who want to make real money seem to come to the conclusion sooner or later that physical products must be a part of their mix, and that technical quality must rise to meet that of the viewing equipment consumers have available.

    How big is your monitor screen? How long does it take you to download twenty minutes worth of content, v. two hours worth?

    To sum this up, there are all kinds of consumers in this market. Some want the broad range of choices and instant gratification you get by downloading. Others want the more ambitious, higher quality productions that, so far, only physical media can deliver.

    This will eventually change, and we're not fooling ourselves about it. There is plenty of activity at the major production houses aimed at the day when you really can mate your computer with your high-end TV, but that day isn't here yet.

  23. Please tell me you aren't really this stupid. Tell me you wrote this in a drunken stupor or something.