Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harriet Hartman Strikes Again

Over in the U.K., the war on sex work and porn rages on, with ominous implications for our own situation. Here's the latest from AP:


LONDON (AP) — Classified ads are the latest target of the British government's crackdown on the sex industry.

Minister for Women Harriet Harman on Thursday urged members of the country's largest women's organization, the Women's Institute, to complain to editors who run sex ads.

She said the ads were often disguised as advertisements for massage parlors or escort services, but she said sex is what is usually being sold.

"Many are young women from Eastern Europe, from Africa or Southeast Asia, tricked and trafficked into this country and forced into prostitution," Harman said.

But a spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, which promotes the decriminalization of prostitution, said this is not true.

"Most immigrant women working in the sex industry are not being trafficked," said spokeswoman Cari Mitchell. "Members of the WI are being asked to assume anyone coming from another country is being trafficked, which is an absolute lie."

The Home Office last week announced plans to make it a criminal act to have sex with women forced into prostitution — even if the man did not know the prostitute was being "controlled for another person's gain."

Critics say that will only force the sex industry further underground and expose female workers to a greater risk of violence. They also say online versions of the ads will increase.

British lawmakers heard evidence in Parliament Tuesday against a separate ban that would impose stricter licensing requirements on lapdancing clubs.

Peter Stringfellow, who owns nightclubs that feature lapdancing, said the current licensing laws — those that treat his establishments and others like pubs — were sufficient.

"I'm not a sex encounter club, and I don't want anyone coming in my club thinking they're going to get a sexual encounter," Stringfellow told the committee.

The usual yap about trafficking. The usual excuse of imposing restrictions on sex commerce to protect women. The usual victimization of one class of women to satisfy the prejudices of another.

The daily truth of what happens when radfem thinking gets its death grip around the throat of public policy.

Think it can't go that way here? Consider the impact on all those college students of Bob Jensen's traveling dog-and-pony show with his little Reefer Madness movie. He's talking to those who will be making social and political policy in this country in a very few years.

The early effects of this thinking are already visible. Classifieds for sexual entertainment and/or services have already disappeared from publications in this country ranging from alternative weeklies to New York Magazine under pressure from radfem leaning staff members working with outside pressure groups.

Our side has all but lost the battle in much of Europe. Americans tend to be more stubborn about having their personal lives and those trades that cater to them regulated, but the battle over individual sexual liberty is already joined, and judging by the results of the last election, I'd say our side isn't doing all that well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Louisa Turk/Crystal Gunns: How Your Porn Past Can Come Back To Affect You

Anyone who says that we are a progressive country regarding sex and that porn is now accepted should have a word with Ms. Louisa Turk. What she is enduring now proves that the mentality of the witch hunt still holds true today.

The original article from X-Biz.com:

N.J. Teachers' Aide Outed as Ex-Porn Star

VINELAND, N.J. — Louisa Tuck, a woman who works at D'Ippolita Elementary School as a school aide and at the Vineland YMCA, has been discovered by local parents to be a retired adult performer who worked under the name Crystal Gunns.

Tuck, now 32, has posed in adult magazines, with an interview and pictures in Score as recently as October 2005. She also appeared solo and girl/girl scenes in three DVDs, according to the Internet Adult Film Database. In April, Score named her model of the year after a vote by its website members.

School officials have declined detailed comment, but they have confirmed that Tuck is Crystal Gunns.

Board of Education President Frank Giordano said that he thinks Tuck should not be at the school, but there is little he can do about it. School board attorneys do not believe they have any legal grounds to remove her from her job because of her past background.

"She has not done anything wrong," Vineland School spokesperson John Sbrana said. "She has not committed any crime. She's entitled to her privacy like anyone else. There is no action against her."

According to Sbrana, school officials found out about Tuck's adult past through parent complaints. "This isn't the kind of information that you come across accidentally," Sbrana said. "You'd have to go quite out of your way to find out."

Tuck said she was not alone in having a past that people were at odds with.

“If this is about morality, our president-elect has admitted to doing crack, and he’s our president," Tuck said. "Does that make him a bad person? Bill Clinton smoked pot. Does that make him a bad person?”

Actually, Ms. Turk, in the eyes of those folk harassing you, you are considered to be a worse person than even Bubba Clinton or Barack Obama...simply because of your past profession. After all, they can't allow our impressionable youth to be getting BAD IDEAS about sex. And oh, we just can't have such sluts teaching our kids...next thing you know, they'll be having open sex on the school halls. And...those BOOBS just sticking out there...don't you know that you will be attracting impure and dirty thoughts in those children just by your existence there??

All sarcasm aside, though...it takes one hell of a vendetta and a lot of snooping to out a woman like that...sounds to me like some of these fools have a solidly antiporn agenda going. Too bad this woman, is going to suffer because of such stupid prejudice.

Renegade & Robert Jensen in MN: TPoP

Rather than repost the whole thing, I am just using the link method.

Here is the initial rundown.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Out With the Old, In With More of the Same

More evidence that the Obama team will tilt toward prohibitionism. The subject here is drugs, not porn, but the emerging policy posture on social issues seems pretty obvious:


Let's see, we've got this guy as the drug czar (I thought the Russians fought a revolution to get rid of czars, but what do I know?)

We've got Eric Holder as A.G. with his grand plan for driving porn off the Internet.

What's next? Bob jensen as porn czar?

And just because Obama voted against down-zoning porn shops back when he was a state legislator doesn't neutralize the toxicity of the appointments he's making now.

When it comes to social issues, talk of change seems so far to mean changing the faces but keeping the same bad ideas.

I'm in MN...

Wish me luck!

I feel like a gladiator!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

But Wait, There's More!

Meanwhile, the discussion page is back up at the TPoP promotional site. It would seem that some visitors are a bit miffed at the astronomical price the producers charge for it.

So Robert Wosnitzer offers this labored explanation, which I'll take the liberty of fair use to bring you. It's a bit dated but reveals a couple of interesting things:

"Hi everyone -

I am the Associate Producer and Co-Writer of The Price of Pleasure, Robert Wosnitzer. Generally speaking, we've set up this forum for people to address issues, raise questions, make comments, etc. about the film and the related topics. As a user forum, we've agreed that we, as the filmmakers, will seldom respond to the discussions, in deference for people to voice their opinions freely and engage some of the questions that we've tried to raise in our film. We don't want to stifle any conversations or debates, and believe in our audience to engage one another however they choose.

On occasion, we will, of course, respond to specific questions, and try to clarify some points about the film, and address concerns. Clearly, the concern being expressed in this thread is one of those "warranted moments"

We completely understand and empathize with the frustration of those of you who wish to buy and/or view the film and find themselves unable due to the high cost of the film from MEF. So let me address both the reasons for this, and the solution that is forthcoming:

1. Media Education Foundation has been the distributor for all of the films we've produced in the past. They've provided us with extensive logistical support over the 4 years of production, marketing, and packaging of The Price of Pleasure. As some of you know, Media Education Foundation primarily distributes to university libraries, academic departments, and non-profit groups. As these organizations are very large, the institutional price reflects the norm for licensing these institutions to allow the institution to screen the film as often as they like, and to allow people affiliated with the institution to see the film as often as they like, in perpetuity. So, it is a very different agreement than the agreement for individual sales.

We've committed to pursue this distribution strategy at this time, as we do feel we are able to reach a large audience in an efficient manner.

At the same time, we do realize that this strategy prevents an even wider audience to see the film, which is painful for us, and for potential supporters of the film. Individual sales will be available after a requisite amount of time to allow the institutional market to respond to the film.

I know it is frustrating, but please be patient, and we will let all of you know when the individual copies will be available for purchase at a nominal price.

2. The Price of Pleasure is currently being considered for several film festivals in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Film festivals (typically) request that to be considered for selection, individual sales are not made until after the festival screenings. We make no money from being selected into film festivals, and we see it as an opportunity to reach a larger audience, and to bring them into the conversation of the film. So until the film festival circuit has been completed, it is one more reason we're unable to offer individual copies at this time.

3. We're doing our best to schedule as many screenings in as many cities as possible so that many people will have an opportunity to see the film, and, importantly, to participate in the panel discussions with us after the screening. We recently screened the film in Austin, Texas, and the film recently premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival. There are screenings scheduled for the following cities, with some details still being worked out:

Chicago: Tentatively scheduled for October 10.
New York: October 17
Los Angeles: October 30

At these screenings, we are contractually permitted to sell a limited number of individual copies at nominal prices. If you can attend any of these screenings, it would be great to see you all!

4. Briefly, I wanted to address the tension of "profits" and the social activism we strongly advocate. We have completely self-financed this project, with very limited outside support. We chose to self-finance this project for several reasons, primarily because we felt it is a film that needed to be made no matter the cost. Secondly, it is monumentally difficult to attract financing for a project that incites such strong reactions, agendas, and political passions. We also wanted to remain independent so that the film's content is our voice, and was not inscribed with agendas that we either found unpalatable or narrow. Third, we are committed social activists with various projects in production across a range of issues (racism, sexism, globalization, poverty, etc), and any "profits" generated from this or any other of our films funds these other projects. As academics, we are financially supported by our institutions (salaries, benefits, etc), which does allow us to not only make films such as The Price of Pleasure, but also to make films that wouldn't otherwise receive funding or have a built-in large audience. Our position as salaried academics allows us to not privilege profits over production, which is why we, personally, do not profit from any of our projects. We fully understand the privilege we have as academics and the support we receive from our institutions, which is why we also try to fund projects that we ourselves do not produce. Clearly, revenues from The Price of Pleasure and our other projects further this cause, enabling ourselves and other media producers to make work that we find imperative.

Also, MEF deploys a similar strategy. While certainly their prices appear exorbitant, it is not only in-line with institutional rates, but the revenues generated by the films in their catalogue enable them to continue to produce and distribute films with vital social and political content that would otherwise be left out in the cold. So while it is frustrating to see those prices at this time, we hope you can consider some of these elements that occur "behind the scenes".

5. When we are permitted to engage in individual sales, we will be sure to make a large announcement on our website, and contact those of you who have expressed interest.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this, and I do hope it provides some context and clarification. If there is anything else that I can answer or clarify, feel free to email me or Chyng anytime (our emails are on the "Filmmaker" page). And to reiterate, this is a rare occasion where we will respond to postings on this site unless directly asked.

All the best


You will note that the producers make no secret of their intent to distribute TPoP to the general public. They are already doing so at screenings, per Wosnitzer's stated intention in paragraph 3.

You will also note that in paragraph 5 he promises "to make a large announcement on our website, and contact those of you who have expressed interest," when sales are opened to one and all."

In what way do these stated intentions square with the very limited exemption for educational and institutional use of 2257 regulated materials under the law? Advertising this schlock on the Web and selling it to all consumers unquestionably puts TPoP's producers in the same category as producers and distributors of commercial pornography.

Wosnitzer proudly promises to violate federal law with this product as extensively as possible at the earliest possible date.

If anyone in our business made a similar pronouncement, it's not hard to imagine what would follow. Even with the F.S.C. injunction in place, I seriously doubt that any producer using the same material that appears in TPoP could boast of future plans to flood the market with it regardless of the blatant non-compliance of its presentation without receiving an immediate visit from the feds.

I'll be looking forward to that "large announcement" on their Web site. At that point, any meaningful distinction between what these people are doing and what John Stagliano was indicted for will vanish. And Stagliano's material is, in fact, fully 2257 compliant.

Looking at the facts, TPoP's site shows a trailer for sexually explicit material that can be viewed by anyone, minors included, and will soon be using it to market said sexually explicit materials to general audiences. That's the key issue in dispute in the Evil Angel case.

How many laws will these people break before something is done about it? I guess we'll be finding out soon.

ABC Hearts TPoP

Big surprise that a piece of lying anti-porn propaganda would find a warm welcome at ABC (Anti-porn Bullshit Conveyer).

You will note that in the generous ABC Web site gloss, not one sentence is given to anyone who might articulately rebut the many lines given over to smarmy maundering by Bob Jensen and the protestations of objectivity from Chyng Sun. From our side, nary a word.

But of course, the nice folks at the ABC News Web site helpfully provide a live link to the TPoP promotional site, with no adult content warnings whatsoever. Wonder if that makes them accessories after the fact to the commercial distribution of non-2257 compliant sexually explicit materials.

This kind of MSM coverage does seem to validate my concern that TPoP would get wide and unquestioning exposure at all of our expense. It's creators can go anywhere they want and say anything they please about us and we get no opportunity to reply.

I can't say I'm surprised, but I am mildly nauseated.

Here's the write-up:

Shot at the AVN Show, "Price of Pleasure" Documentary Highlights Violence in Porn Videos

--ABC News

A new documentary being shown on college campuses takes aim at violence against women depicted in the $10 billion U.S. sexually-oriented video industry.

The film "The Price of Pleasure," was screened at the University of Texas last week, kicking off a five-month nationwide tour at 13 college campuses and community centers.

Filmmakers Chyng Sun, Miguel Picker and Robert Wosnitzer teamed up with University of Texas professor Robert Jensen and researcher Gail Dines in 2004 to document the Adult Video News annual pornography convention and to juxtapose it with trends of sexual violence. Sun invested $60,000 into the movie for research and resource access. The remaining $20,000 to produce the film was funded by a few donors and the NYU Research Challenge Fund.

Jensen has researched the pornography industry for more than 20 years.

"I had used pornography like most men do in this culture and had a pretty normal experience with it," said Jensen. "When I went back to graduate school, I started reading feminist literature, and it opened a whole new way of seeing the issue."

Last week, the film was shown to a packed lecture hall where UT students overflowed into the aisles. Some of the material presented in the film focuses on the subset of porn that includes scenes of graphic violence, mainly directed against women. The graphic scenes prompted some viewers to cover their faces during the movie. When the lights went up, Jensen appeared at the podium to address the silent audience.

Rachel Willis, a senior at the college, wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke about what she saw.

"I have never watched porn consistently but I never minded it until now," Willis said. "I think the quote that resonates with me most is that 'When violence is sexualized, it becomes invisible.'"

Senior Amena Sengal, who works for UT's Gender and Sexuality Center as a research assistant studying pornography, said what she saw made her "more cautious" about watching porn."

"Actually, during the film, I was trying to analyze whether or not the films we were showing the participants [at the center] are in any way degrading," Sengal said. "Then I remembered that the films we show are the ones geared to women -- the 'femme' production ones. So, I feel a little better, but still not that much better about porn in general."

Junior Buddy Schultz said after seeing the film he would re-evaluate his own views as a porn user.

In 2004, filmmakers Chyng Sun and Miguel Picker teamed up with University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, pictured here, to document a major annual pornography convention and to juxtapose it with trends of sexual violence.

"It [the movie] made me think about myself," said Schultz. "I'm definitely going to think about it a lot more in the next few days. There are a lot of concepts that I never thought about, and I think I will change the things I do."

Porn videos do serve a legitimate purpose, said journalism senior Albert Alvarado.

"If someone wants to go home and get online and watch porn, then what business do I have telling them him or her what to do?" he said.

Jensen said he is preparing to screen the documentary at Augsburg College in Minneapolis on Friday.

Jensen said he was inspired by feminist theory that originated in the late 1980s by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. His interest led him into a dual role as researcher and activist.

Porn has become more normalized in the U.S., said Jensen, who hopes that the release of "The Price of Pleasure" will promote reflection and discussion of porn's place in society.

Sun said the documentary is aimed at promoting "an open discussion about the topic...I have no plan of shutting down the industry. But looking into it is a great way to see how racism and sexism interlock and can stir up the core of sexuality."

Sun met Jensen when she was making her second film, "Beyond Good and Evil," and met Dines, a professor at Wheelock College who has researched pornography for more than a decade, while making her first film, "Mickey Mouse Monopoly." Sun said she was impressed with both scholars and looked into their own specific research.

"They had both worked on pornography, so we talked about the possibility of making a film on the topic," Sun said. "I came into the film with no agenda because there are so many conflicting and complex issues that I had to think through. This one medium [pornography] has so many outcomes, it just depends on how people use it."

Theories about the affects of sexually explicit films on society abound. Some say that porn, which is largely protected by the First Amendment, sexually liberates women, while others argue that porn has indirectly increased sexual violence toward women and eroded relationships.

Though there's no definitive study on porn and violence, most research, including a 2002 article in the Journal of Sex Research, found no connection between those committing rape and the viewing of pornography.

Sun decided to take a deeper look at the porn/violence connection by organizing a team of researchers to analyze the amount and type of aggression used in popular porn films. Sun compiled a list of the most-rented and best-selling porn videos during a seven-month period, as reported by AVN. She then randomly selected 50.

"In many cases, anti-pornography groups use the worst- case scenario, but porn is very diverse," Sun said. "We decided to look into popular pornography to make our study reliable."

Her team then recorded each instance of aggression (including spanking, gagging and verbal abuse). Their definition of aggression included "any action causing physical or psychological harm to oneself or another person, verbally or physically."

"Overall 94.4 percent of the aggressive acts were targeted at women," she said, and "95.5 percent of the female characters who were the targets of aggression actually expressed enjoyment or had no response at all."

"Violence is met with acceptance or pleasure. So what does that mean for the viewer?" Sun said.

In the course of her research, Sun noted a much higher frequency of aggression than reported in an earlier group of content analysis studies that also evaluated porn, conducted in the early '90s. This may be partly due to the way the researchers choose to define aggression in the films studied.

Says Jensen, "The question is often asked, 'Does pornography cause rape,' and the answer is obviously 'No.' I think the question is better framed, 'Does pornography contribute to a culture in which rapes happen at the epidemic levels it does?'"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And Just to Further Lower Expectations of Labourites, Liberals and Leftists in General ...

Check this out and see how much ground we've lost on that end of the political spectrum:

LONDON (AP) — The British government wants to make it illegal to pay for sex and is considering a plan to "name and shame" men who visit prostitutes — a move critics say would turn back the clock to Victorian times.

The sex trade is already heavily restricted in Britain, unlike in many of its European neighbors where prostitution and solicitation are tolerated in some form. Denmark has even decriminalized the business.

But Britain wants to go its own way, marking yet another foray into human foibles by a government many people call overly moralistic.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the son of a Presbyterian minister, has already backed a series of sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, called for tougher drug laws and scrapped plans for Britain's first Las Vegas-style casino.

Officials say there is also a need for a crackdown on prostitution.

"Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing," Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told The Guardian newspaper over the weekend, ahead of the government's announcement of the plan's details Wednesday.

Any changes will have to be approved by Parliament, where Brown's Labour Party has a 63-seat majority. Debate is expected next month.

The proposal would make paying for sex illegal and carry additional penalties for men who have sex with women forced into prostitution, the Home Office said. But it declined to give details on fines and other penalties before the formal announcement.

Men who frequent prostitutes could also be identified publicly, as they are in the London borough of Lambeth, where police send warning letters to the homes of drivers whose license plate numbers are caught on closed-circuit television picking up street walkers.

In addition, the plan would make it a criminal offense to pay for sex with a prostitute "controlled for another person's gain" and could bring rape charges against men who knowingly paid for sex with a woman forced to work as a prostitute.

Under current laws in England and Wales, it is illegal to loiter and sell sex on the streets or elsewhere in public. Keeping a brothel is unlawful, but a lone woman selling sex inside is not. Similarly, paying for sex is legal. But solicitation in public — commonly known as "curb crawling" — is not.

Some 80,000 prostitutes are estimated to be working in Britain, the same as during the Victorian Age — an era when a raft of laws were enacted in a vain effort to curb the flourishing sex trade. These days, cards advertising purported escort services and erotic sites on the Web are plastered inside the country's iconic red telephone booths.

Sex workers criticized the government's proposal. They said they might be put at greater risk if they had to ply their trade in remote neighborhoods or to work alone.

"The plan is puritanical," said Cari Mitchell, spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes.

"If they make solicitation illegal and start outing clients, men are going to be more nervous and women will be forced to make hasty decisions to survive economically. As Britain and the rest of the world face dire economic circumstances, the government should try to help women rather than make things harder."

Britain made global headlines in 2006 when a man murdered five prostitutes in Ipswich, about 70 miles northeast of London. Recent headlines, however, have focused on police raids on brothels where women from eastern Europe, Asia and Africa have been forced into the sex trade.

There is growing debate on whether a crackdown would lessen violence or cut down on human trafficking.

Scottish cities such as Edinburgh used to have "tolerance zones" where prostitutes were allowed to work freely.

But when the zones were scrapped in several cities years ago and curb crawling was made illegal, reported attacks on sex workers increased because prostitutes were forced to work in more isolated areas, according to the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, which represents workers in the sex industry.

In the Pacific nation of New Zealand, where prostitution was decriminalized in 2003, sex workers said the change has given women greater legal protection.

"I do think it's extraordinary that the U.K. is considering such a dreadful turn," Catherine Healy, national coordinator for New Zealand's Prostitutes' Collective, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We know from a lot of research ... that sex workers in this country are feeling much safer, better protected."

The Home Office said the government's plan was put together after top officials visited Sweden, where selling sex is legal but paying for it is not. Norway plans to introduce similar legislation.

Prostitution also is illegal in Britain's closest neighbor, France, but it is largely tolerated in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece.

The sex trade is legal in many parts of Germany. In Cologne, the first German city to introduce a prostitution tax, the government collected more than $1 million in revenue in 2006.

In London, sex workers expressed opposition to the government plan.

"We all support measures to protect prostitutes, but this isn't the way," said a 36-year-old prostitute in London who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the risk of prosecution.

In the United States, where prostitution is illegal except at a few brothels in Nevada, authorities have recently taken aim at cracking down on prostitution arranged over the Internet.

As part of Craigslist's agreement with attorneys general around the U.S., anyone who posts an "erotic services" ad will be required to provide a working phone number and pay a fee with a valid credit card, which would make it easier for authorities to track them down.

Don't Say I didn't Warn You

There's been a lot of "Ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead" kind of celebration about the end of the Bush era and the promise of a new dawn for everyone who endured the last eight years in a state of permanent midnight.

Who can blame anyone for being glad to see the last of W. and his minions? I certainly am.

But I've said here and elsewhere that the new guy, for all his charms and graces, may prove little friendlier to the likes of us than his predecessor. He may make less of a big deal out of hammering at us, as his base is likely to regard that as a low priority, but there are elements in his coalition who have their own reasons for hating porn and their own agenda for doing something about it.

Here's what I had to say on this subject in my most recent business analysis column for trade journal X-Biz:

Hold the Champagne

As we’re all finally coming to understand, it’s impossible to discuss financial issues intelligently without taking politics into consideration. Starting at the top, we need to face the fact, clearly understood by both gentlemen in question, that Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Bubba wasn’t exactly a friend to porn, what with his ink at the bottom of both the C.D.A. and the original iteration of 2257, but he was willing to let it pass by with a nudge and wink. He did disband the D.O.J.’s anti-porn unit and there were no adult obscenity prosecutions under his administration.

While I don’t feature Obama pandering to the religious right with such prosecutions in the future, I don’t think he has a nudge or a wink in him. He may have a pretty clean, if short, voting history on First Amendment issues as a legislator, but he and his subordinates may be open to arguments from their own side of the fence that could work against us more damagingly as a group than the scattershot indictments favored by his predecessor.

The most ominous sign of what may lie ahead is the Obama campaign’s altogether-too-cozy relationship with U. Michigan law prof. and radical feminist porn-basher nonpareil Catherine MacKinnon. Back in the Eighties, tribal elders may recall, MacKinnon led a headline-grabbing attempt to legally define pornography as a form of sex discrimination, thus opening its creators to potentially ruinous civil litigation. That plan ultimately failed due to opposition from civil libertarians, mainstream feminists and, ultimately, appellate courts. But the strategy it represents lives on, and MacKinnon still advocates it vocally.

What she hasn’t been particularly vocal about until recently is presidential politics, but when Obama was struggling with feminist resentment for trumping Hillary Clinton, MacKinnon came off the bench for him with a big endorsement in that peerless tribune of progressive thought, the WSJ. She stumped for him. She helped him. He owes her. That’s the way the game is played in the part of the country and political class from which both hale.

Though MacKinnon’s brand of anti-porn zealotry was largely marginalized during this industry’s great expansion over the past ten years, it’s recently seen a spurt of new activism, particularly on college campuses. Every day, it would seem, a new anti-porn feminist blog or anti-porn feminist documentary like the Reefer-Madness-style “documentary” The Price of Pleasure appears on the scene. Looking more closely at the recent election, we see some seemingly contrary currents at work in a way that shouldn’t be ignored. Obama won by a few points against the most unpopular president since Hoover, defeating a campaign that will be studied in the history books as a negative example, but other victories that day suggest he received no mandate for sexual liberation. Three states, including this one, had constitutional amendments on their ballots banning same-sex marriage. All three won. In San Francisco, arguably America’s most tolerant city, an initiative to decriminalize prostitution was soundly defeated.

Clearly, a nation waking up with a very bad economic hangover from years of overindulgent consumerism, of public piety and private vice, was in no mood to party. While the success of Proposition 8, which producer Christian Mann compares to Dred Scott, here in California may have been in part the work of outside money from religious pressure groups, the lack of local counter pressure was more disheartening. Why indeed would so many people vote to strip others of a right so basic to personal happiness? That they did suggests more a longing for the past than a hope for the future.

All of which brings us to the prospects of not only diminished discretionary income with which to buy what we make, but potential regulations that could add to our troubles when it comes to making what we make.

I would never previously have expected this state to embrace some of the preposterous schemes to legally enforce some kind of safe-sex regimen in the creation of sexually explicit media, such as have been suggested by a few public health officials in these parts since 2004, but after Prop. 8, I’m not so sure. I used to consider myself lucky to live in a pretty tolerant part of the country, but I don’t feel quite so lucky at this point.

Add to these newly exposed veins of public narrow-mindedness a generalized enthusiasm for greater regulation of commerce brought on by an orgy of madly destructive laissez faire capitalism, throw in some resurgent identity politics, and you’ve got a recipe for official meddling made worse by the lack of any serious attempt to oppose it.

Those opposed to Prop. 8 did not have their shit together. Neither do we. After years of identifying the religious right as our principle opponents and the particular politicians they supported as our greatest threats, we’re dug in with all our guns facing the wrong direction.

We’re a fairly successful but even more visible vice business in a socio-political climate that’s both anti vice and anti business.
How badly can this really affect us? Look to Europe for some dark hints. Left-of-center Social-Democratic governments on much of The Continent have recently sought to re-define what we think of when we use the word “European.”

The U.K.’s new ban on “extreme pornography,” championed by anti-porn feminists like Catherine Itzkin, makes possession of materials depicting a variety of simulated acts criminal for the first time. In Holland, banks taken over as part of a government bailout are cutting off the merchant accounts of X-rated Web sites while Amsterdam city officials shutter the windows of the city’s fabled red-light district. In Sweden, patronizing prostitutes is now illegal and Norway seems prepared to enact a similar law. Germany, once the major source of the kind of porn banned under the U.K. statute now imposes some of the strictest regulations on lawful pornography in the industrialized world. While much of this had been done under the rubric of halting human trafficking and preventing violence against women, evidence suggests that these laws have only brought back old abuses from earlier attempts of prohibition, but that hasn’t stopped the steady march of such measures across the E.C.

What form might similar infringements take here? That’s exactly what we don’t know yet. We can probably assume they won’t be content based. That’s a third rail for liberal politicians the way gun control is for their conservative counterparts. But it’s a safe assumption that efforts to control access to adult Internet content, which has become a central rallying point among anti-porn activists right and left, will intensify and efforts aimed at “reducing demand” by treating pornography possession as an enhancement to the severity of other offenses and assorted restrictions only lawyers can devise are not unlikely. And then there's the option of inflicting stiff taxes on both porn manufacturers and porn consumers just at a time when neither can afford them.

Our best bet for now is to strengthen our ties to our traditional political allies, First Amendment supporters and mainstream media producers who might be the next targets of “regulation for the public good,” by mounting a strenuous effort to make our own case to the public before those who despise us seize control of the high ground amid a generalized anhedonic funk gripping the nation.

And this just in from our friends at AVN:

Obama's AG Pick Has Anti-Porn Past

By Mark Kernes
WASHINGTON, D.C. - According to Reuters, President-Elect Barack Obama has conditionally offered the post of Attorney General of the United States to Eric Holder, a 57-year-old former Deputy U.S. Attorney who served during the Clinton-era reign of Attorney General Janet Reno.

While Holder will have to undergo an extensive vetting process before officially being offered the job, he has already generated concern in the adult industry over a decade-old memo he wrote on the topic of obscenity prosecutions.

Addressed to all 94 United States Attorneys on June 10, 1998, the memo was titled "Prosecutions Under the Federal Obscenity Statutes". Adult industry attorneys have since referred to it as "The Holder Memo."

"As you are aware," Holder wrote, "within the past few years there has been increasing concern about the distribution of obscenity and child pornography both by traditional purveyors of "adult material" and in particular by those who distribute such material over the Internet. As a result of this unprecedented growth, I wish to remind you of the Department's policies and priorities in the prosecution of federal obscenity cases... Thus, priority should be given to cases involving large-scale distributors who realize substantial income from multistate operations and cases in which there is evidence of organized crime involvement. However, prosecution of cases involving relatively small distributors can have a deterrent effect and would dispel any notion that obscenity distributors are insulated from prosecution if their operations fail to exceed a predetermined size or if they fragment their business into small-scale operations... In particular, priority also should be given to large-scale distributors of obscenity over the Internet. Because of the nature of the Internet and the availability of agents trained in conducting criminal investigations in cyberspace, investigation and prosecution of Internet obscenity is particularly suitable for federal resources." [Citation removed]

Perhaps even more troubling is a letter Holder wrote to Morality In Media founder Paul McGeady on July 2, 1998, which references a meeting apparently attended by Holder, McGeady and representatives of various religio-conservative pro-censorship groups:

"I appreciated having the opportunity to meet with you recently to discuss the prosecution of obscenity cases," Holder wrote. "Your commitment to this important issue is commendable, and I fully share your concerns about the distribution of obscenity and child pornography, whether it is over the Internet or by more traditional purveyors of such material. I encourage you, and the other organizations with whom I met, to continue working closely with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice as we work aggressively to address this troubling problem. Based on the many insightful comments and observations made by representatives of the various groups who attended our recent meeting, I determined that it was appropriate for me to send a memorandum to all United States Attorneys reminding them of the Department's policies."

Holder's stance on obscenity drew comments from First Amendment attorney and AVN columnist Clyde DeWitt, who dealt with the "Holder Memo" in his column for AVN's September, 1998 issue ("Federal Obscenity Prosecutions in General, and the Internet in Particular".) DeWitt referenced Holder's stance that U.S. Attorneys should follow the United States Attorneys' Manual, which at that time still suggested that adult companies could be targeted using a "multiple-prosecution strategy," where a single company could be indicted in multiple jurisdictions, forcing that company to expend vast resources defending itself, which might bankrupt the company - exactly as the Justice Department intended the tactic to accomplish.

"Perhaps most shocked by the article was Adam & Eve owner Phil Harvey, who had undertaken tireless efforts to have the multiple-prosecution policies of the Department of Justice ruled unconstitutional," DeWitt later wrote. "Indeed, during the course of the wind-up of the very successful PHE, Inc. v. United States Department of Justice case, Phil's company received a promise from the Department of Justice at a November, 1993 hearing that, according to Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Millet, it was anticipated that 'within the near future,' the Department policy would be changed so as to 'no longer encourage multiple prosecutions in obscenity cases.' Accordingly, Phil was to say the least alarmed to find the old policies still in effect."

"I wrote the first article — this was '97, '98 — just generally to inform the newly-emerging Internet community, who didn't remember obscenity prosecutions, of what they were and that it's out there and it's serious," DeWitt recalled. "I mentioned the multiple prosecution strategy, and Phil Harvey called me up or faxed me or something and said, 'What the hell is this? They changed that because of my lawsuit.' I said, 'No, they didn't. here's what it says presently,' and he said, 'Well, that's exactly what it said before!'"

Indeed, the U.S. Attorneys' Manual was not changed until June of '98, just after Holder wrote his memorandum - and that change came at the insistence of Harvey, who contacted the Justice Department to demand that it fulfill its promise.

Since his service under Reno, Holder has worked as an attorney at Covington & Burling, a very politically-oriented law firm in D.C. where, in 2004, according to Wikipedia, Holder "helped negotiate an agreement with the Justice Department for Chiquita Brands International in a case that involved Chiquita's payment of 'protection money' to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group that has been designated a terrorist group by the United States government. In the agreement, Chiquita's officials pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $25 million."

Various conservative websites have also pointed out that as President Bill Clinton was leaving office, and had asked the Justice Department to assess the merits of giving presidential pardons to various applicants, Holder gave a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich - a pardon that has dogged Clinton (and now Holder) since the Republicans took over both Congress and the presidency with the 2000 election.

Holder has not spoken publicly about his current feelings regarding obscenity prosecution since his days at Justice, so hopefully that topic will be broached during Holder's Senate confirmation hearings, and/or by the major news media who may conduct their own "vetting" process.

I'll grant that it's early to make sweeping predictions regarding the incoming administration's stance toward porn and sex work in general, but I suspect we'll turn out to have been more than a little prescient in devoting as much attention as we have on this blog to combatting the propaganda offensive mounted by anti-porn feminists and their supporters over the past couple of years. I'd rather be wrong about this, but I'll be surprised indeed if I turn out to be.

Meantime, best to remember that old saying so popular in France: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Price of Pleasure Web Site Back Up

After a mysterious disappearance for a week or two on either side of The Price of Pleasure's ill-fated presentation in Pasadena, TPoP's promotional Web site is back in operation, with a new schedule of screenings, some new review blurbs (all favorable, of course) and, more interestingly, some subtle but important changes in the synopsis.

Words like "unbiased" and "non-judgmental" have been dropped in favor of "nuanced" and "complex." Of course, it still claims to feature the "voices" of pornography performers, though we know that such voices are heard in under five minutes of the picture's one hour running time, unless you count moans, groans, screams and dirty words in stolen footage from their work as adding a couple of minutes to that total. The re-worded synopsis pretty much abandons all pretense of objectivity in favor of the assertions, never effectively demonstrated in the actual movie, that "the content of pornography has become more aggressive, more overtly sexist and racist." And Sarah Katherine Lewis is now more carefully identified as " former stripper/porn performer-turned-author," perhaps in light of repeated questioning of her status as a personally experienced expert on pornography, with which she now admits to having had extremely little direct involvement.

The discussion page, virtually inactive in the previous version of this promo site has now been deactivated altogether, which may be a preemptive measure of some sort or may simply be a recognition of the fact that TPoP was drawing far more comments elsewhere than it was at its own URL. This does, however, rid the site of the producers' evasive response to an inquiry regarding the staggering $450 price tag for Internet sales of the program, which is now being sold openly to all comers at screenings for a much more reasonable cost.

A quick check of links to other sites may have something to do with the decision to drop the original claims for the film's "unbiased and non-judgmental" approach to the subject matter. The blog-roll is a convenient Who's Who of anti-porn mouthpieces:

The Price of Pleasure Trailer on YouTube

The Price of Pleasure - Chomsky on Pornography

The Price of Pleasure - Donkey Punch

Media Education Foundation

Open Lens Media

Third Coast Activists

NYU Center for Media and Culture

Robert Jensen's Articles on Pornography

Gail Dines' Articles

Stop Porn Culture!

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Feminist Law Professors Blog

The F-Files Radio Program

Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvinist Pigs"

Off Our Backs

Sarah-Katherine Lewis' "Indecent: How I Make It and Fake It as a Girl for Hire"

Against Pornography

Now that's a fair and balanced roster of sources that would do credit to Fox News.

Perhaps most significantly, in light of the all the intrigue and skullduggery surrounding October's scheduled screening at the U.S.C. campus in Los Angeles, which was canceled and rescheduled at The Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena at the last minute for reasons presenter Robert Jensen never got around to explaining, TPoP is once again slated to show at U.S.C., this time on February 26, 2009.

I'd be curious to know what obstacles led to the previous rescheduling from U.S.C. to Fuller and how those obstacles were magically made to disappear for the 2/26 date.

If the intention is to propagandize more students with none of those pesky porn people in the auditorium because, like, you know, we've all got such short attention spans from all those drugs and all that PTSD that characterize all our lives without exception, I wouldn't count on that if I were the producers.

They may not be able to count on any other audience in the Los Angeles area, but they can be absolutely assured that we'll be there to make ourselves known, seen and heard as we really are, rather than as the cardboard cut-outs offered up by this so-called "documentary."

Perhaps this time the producers themselves will have the guts to show up and face all the people they lied to and whose interviews they distorted in the making of this monstrosity instead of leaving it up to Jensen to clean up their mess for them.

I have my doubts, but you can bet I'll be there to see for myself, and I'll have plenty of company from within our ranks.

TPoP's creators may be able to show their masterpiece unchallenged to uninformed viewers elsewhere, to admit minors to screenings and sell copies at the door in clear violation of even their dubious claim to exemption from 18 U.S.C. 2257 regulations under the educational and research use clause and to otherwise flout federal law with a collective sneer on their mugs, but whenever they come here, they will find us waiting for them.

I truly look forward to our next encounter. I'm sure they'll have a few new tricks up their sleeves.

So will we.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What a fool believes

There's an interesting post about TPoP written by a student at UT Austin (where Robert Jensen calls home) in a class blog. Its pretty clear that this student isn't thinking critically about what Jensen or TPoP is telling him, and generally, he doesn't come across as the brightest bulb in the pack. But what's interesting here is what "facts" are picked up about porn and people in it by those who aren't engaging this subject critically. To wit:
...Professor Robert Jenson is a professor from UT who has been following and analyzing the pornography industry from a feminist perspective for over 10 years. He was in the movie and also at the screening....The Doc then went into how the pornography industry objectifies women. Most porn stars have little to no education, and are basically forced into prostitution/stripping/pornography as a viable alternative to making money to support themselves. They could make more in a day at a pornography shoot than they could make all month as a waitress or at any other entry-level job position. Pornography filmmakers take advantage of that and force these girls to act and fake pleasure in their films, while the girl is often extremely not happy to say the least. She just does it because it is a job. The filmmakers often make these girls do "fantasy" type things that are far beyond normal sexual acts. This causes some pornography consumers own sex lives to be extremely twisted and perverted, usually destroying their relationships with their wives and girlfriends. The industry makes over a billion dollars a year. All in all this was definitely an interesting documentary that I would recommend to anyone in the class.
(Emphasis mine.) I think this speaks volumes about the real message TPoP and Jensen are conveying, in spite of the disclaimers to the contrary. For all their rhetoric about being absolutely against media that defames women, these people are certainly happy to engage in some rather nasty defamation of a whole group of women when it serves their purposes. "Honest and nonjudgmental" indeed!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Now Then, About that TPoP Screening ...

Okay then, now that I’ve got a minute off from the mighty labor of burying the world in evil smut, I can at last report my experience of seeing The Price of Pleasure presented in public by no less than Bob Jensen himself. Unlike him, I don’t set out to be anti-climactic, but I must fairly warn readers that the whole affair was pretty desultory in the end.

After so many changes of venue and so much ambiguity generated around the question of whether TPoP would even get its long-awaited debut, what appears to have been a deliberate attempt at audience suppression proved largely successful. Upon arriving at The Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, I found myself in a large room with about a dozen porn people and the good professor himself. Evidently, no one else cared enough to figure out where and when this deal would finally go down. The resulting encounter was fairly surreal, but revealing in its own way.

Jensen was ever so friendly as he greeted Nina and me by name, and if he recognized any of the others, he certainly betrayed no antagonism toward them. He later gave credit to his years of teaching in Texas for his cool demeanor in the face of a jury that would have caused Daniel Webster to recuse himself. Also present were porn journalists Mark Kearnes from AVN and Gram Ponante, whose excellent account is already linked here. Penthouse Media exec and longtime XXX feature director Kelly Holland, who was interviewed for the movie but somehow failed to make the final cut, grabbed a seat up front. Hatman, given a particularly unflattering haircut in the sequence shot at the Evil Angel booth during AdultEx 2005, settled into our row with his trademark fedora tilted down over his eyes. Awesome performer and super-smart Internet whiz Mika Tan sat next to us, notebook at the ready. Video dominatrix-turned-producer Vanessa Blue was there with Michael Fattorosi, Joanna Angel’s attorney. There were also a couple of strangers present, but all in all, it was what stand-up comics would call a tough room for Jensen’s material.

But that didn’t stop him from introducing himself and the movie, making it plain that, though he is ubiquitous onscreen throughout it and is credited as a “senior consultant” on it, he was not one of TPoP’s producers and couldn’t speak for them, though after the presentation, he would take questions from the floor regarding it.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already plowed through my gazillion-word dissection of TPoP itself, and there’s not much more I can say about it after viewing it on a theater screen, other than that making bigger doesn’t make it any better. We all sat through it in grim silence, and when it was over, there was no applause.

I’m sure that came as no surprise to Jensen, who nevertheless commenced the spoken part of the program with a few words clearly meant for this crowd. He wanted us to know that he opposed censorship, as did others who adhered to the radical feminist analysis (though he did admit to favoring measures like the defeated MacKinnon ordinance that would have opened pornographers to civil liability for discrimination against women who felt they had been harmed by pornography, without specifying how harm would be defined). And somewhat to my surprise, he seemed to want us to believe we all shared the common conviction that shaming people for either creating or consuming pornography helps no one. He went so far as to dismiss shame altogether as “a useless emotion.”

Though Jensen draws a distinction in his writing between shame and what he calls “useful guilt,” shaming porn consumers into changing their habits is one of the obvious objectives of TPoP, the other being to shame liberals into abandoning their tradition of supporting First Amendment protections for sexually explicit speech.

Moving along as he would in front of a class full of lower division collegians unfamiliar with what passes for leftist thinking in this country, he moved quickly and cleanly away from the content of the film he had just shown us to propound his theory – presented as fact – that we live under patriarchal capitalism which has shaped our thinking about everything, including sex. He made the claim that human history is a mere eight thousand years old (ironically the same number creationists like to assign to this planet’s period of existence) and that “there is anthropological evidence” to support his contention that prior to the invention of civilization, of which he seems to entertain a low opinion, we all lived in non-hierarchical bliss, free of the oppression of masculinity as we know it. Get it – civilization equals male domination.

That nature itself, completely removed from hominid influence, is clearly hierarchical and that sexual selection that powers evolution tends to favor aggressive mating behavior doesn’t fit this theory, and therefore does not merit the professor’s attention. But then, his colleague Gail Dines, of whom he always speaks so highly, has already stated that she distrusts arguments taken from nature (directly to me, in fact), and for much the same reason creationists distrust such arguments I’m quite sure. They don’t support a generalized indictment of either civilization or socially constructed masculinity.

Plowing onward, Jensen treated us to an abstract discourse on the commodification of sexuality under patriarchy, of which pornography, prostitution, human trafficking and the sexual abuse of children were all symptomatic. That these things bear no direct relation to one another didn’t trouble him much, but their glib conflation was not a crowd pleaser in that room.

I rather doubt he cared much about our opinions concerning these lofty observations, and though he kept his cool throughout, he didn’t look too happy to be there. But then, I’ve seen him in other places around porn people and he never looks happy to be there. Any sensible person might wonder why someone would choose to spend so much time in places where he wasn’t happy, or for that matter, looking at things like het pornography that he has described as filling him with rage and depression. Such a person might also wonder why a man who identifies as gay, at least in front of gay audiences (http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/gaysex.htm), would immerse himself in images of a kind of sex that, at best, doesn’t arouse him, and at worst, makes him physically ill to contemplate. Thankfully, those present were too sensible to go down the road of ad hominem arguments so often taken by Jensen’s allies.

When Jensen finally wrapped his short dissertation, the questions from the audience were largely polite, but predictably pointed, beginning with Kelly Holland’s entirely logical query concerning her interview’s omission from the film. Holland, who pointed out that she had been a documentary filmmaker prior to entering porn (Jensen even complimented her on some of her doc work in Central America, with which he was familiar), now heads up Penthouse Media after 14 years of making features and markets her products to “a quarter of a million eyeballs a week.” She wanted to know why neither she nor any other director who makes non-gonzo porn got to say a word in TPoP, though several were interviewed. Jensen ducked that pretty easily by reminding us all that he wasn’t one of the producers. Holland wasn’t having any, insistently pointing out that the biggest revenue generators in porn were cable-friendly features that had to adhere to strict standards and practices codes forbidding most of the acts shown in TPoP. In a stinging and wonderfully accurate rebuke, Holland characterized the evident prejudice of the producers as “the uninformed ideas of a few neo-con feminists.”

Jensen quickly and took issue with Holland’s characterization, then pointed to the “research” done by the filmmakers that had led them to conclude that feature porn was essentially irrelevant and that market trends clearly favored what he characterized as violent and abusive sex acts.

This opened the door for my typically blunt lead out: Granted that he wasn’t a producer of the picture himself, did he agree with the producers’ claims that it presented an unbiased and nonjudgmental overview of mainstream, “industrially produced pornography in the U.S. today?”

I am quite certain I caught a momentary look of discomfort, but he when dealing with someone who knows how to defend and indefensible position through the use of rhetoric, I wasn’t surprised to find that “coming from where the producers began” he believed they had indeed done so. And where did they begin? According to Jensen, with no pre-existing opinions regarding pornography (the line taken by producer Chyng Sun in her own description of her participation in this project), but rather with open minds. It was, he claimed, the “evidence” they reviewed in their research that brought them to the point of creating one of the clumsiest pieces of propaganda since the federal government got out of the social hygiene film production business.

Yeah, right. That’s why Jensen, Dines, Ariel Levy, Pamela Paul and an entire blog-roll of anti-porn activists get more screen time each than all the pornographers interviewed taken together. One has to wonder how a man can stand in front of an auditorium full of people who all know he’s lying and say stuff like that with a straight face. Years of academic training alone can produce such a mind.

As Gram observed later, nobody was giving up any points. When Jensen described the science-fair project that passes for original research for TPoP as “a well conducted survey,” I felt the need to point out that the list of AVN best sellers was cardinal rather than ordinal, and that simply tossing them all into a hat and pulling out an arbitrary number as representative of overall porn consumption was certain to be misleading, he actually seemed to pause for a moment before suggesting he would pass on my “questions about the methodology of the study” to the producers when he saw them next. No hint that the research was deliberately skewed by treating #250 on the list as if it did exactly the same number of units as #1 on the list, when the list is plainly described as being in descending order by those who compiled it.

And as for Nina’s insistence that, after 25 years of working with huge numbers of fellow performers, she found the vast majority to be at least as satisfied with their jobs as those she’d met, including tens of thousands of fans during that time, as those holding more conventional employment, while he didn’t come right out and call her a liar, he did the next best thing. Citing an ex-stripper “friend” of his (an ex-stripper likely to be a friend of Bob Jensen would logically be a particularly objective source, right?), he pointed out that she claimed to have said favorable things about her job while she was doing it but said very different things after quitting. Though he couched this in very broad, crypto-Marxist language about labor of any sort, it was pretty clear he considered Nina to be deceiving either herself or others regarding the question of job satisfaction.

And who really cares about that, or the lack of voices of sex workers being heard in the film itself, anyway? The real issue is not how porn affects those who make it (though the film certainly wants us to know that performers are routinely subjected to “torture-like treatments” on the job), but rather how it affects those who watch it. Words virtually identical to those I heard from Dines in Vegas about how many students had approached Jensen in confusion and distress over their experiences with porn followed predictably, as did references to the group of domestic violence counselors in the film who cited porn as a frequent component of abusive behavior. And of course there is that massive epidemic of sexual violence that has followed the expansion of the porn industry over the years, as numerous but nameless studies and surveys have demonstrated.

Challenged on that assertion by several audience members who noted that the incidence of rape had declined steadily in the U.S. since porn legalization, Jensen was contemptuously dismissive of these claims as inaccurate as a result of being based on law enforcement statistics as opposed to the testimony of women. The criteria of those FBI stats, after all, are based on the way the patriarchy defines rape (and therefore convicts people of it) rather than on the reality of one in three women, or maybe one in two, reporting in said nameless studies that they had been sexually assaulted in one way or another at some time in their lives.

Holland rose to that one, having spent a good deal of time making docs of her own on the conditions of women in various Third World countries, and made the pretty much indisputable point that women in those parts of the world where pornography is most harshly suppressed were subject to far higher levels of violence, sexual and otherwise, than women living in the pornified West. Jensen tap-danced around that one too, pointing out that those cultures were patriarchal as well and that in our culture we express our misogyny differently, but with the same ultimate outcome of oppressing women. Which is to say, living in a society where pornography is freely available and sexual assault is far from uncommon is morally equivalent to living in a society in which women have no rights at all and can be beaten for showing their faces on the street or murdered by their families with impunity for having been victims of rape.

And so it went, back and forth, with everyone behaving quite predictably, including all of us as well as Jensen, holding fast to our positions and yielding nothing. I didn’t feel we accomplished much, other than to give the wonderful Mika Tan a shot at eviscerating the whole program in one sentence (as Gram’s post describes so well), but I did manage to get in one thing that mattered to me, a short statement from Annie Cruz that she emailed me before the event.

Annie is one of the two performers who actually does get to say something on camera in TPoP (Joanna Angel being the other and please don’t irritate me with any bullshit about Sarah Katherine Lewis being a porn performer unless you enjoy being ridiculed), which is to quote her scene prices. She had been interviewed for two hours but that’s all they used, other than some bondage clips of her pirated from kink.com. Annie was understandably unhappy about how the film treated her, but all the jitterbugging around the event date had worked, as I’m sure was intended, to make it impossible for most of those shown in it to attend, as they have jobs to do and can only take so many days off waiting for a film screening.

Here are the words Nina read into the record on Annie’s behalf: “I did this interview about 2 or 3 years ago with the belief that it was for something positive. Instead, you're intent was to depict everything that I had to say as inaccurately as you could in order to sustain the stereotypes of our industry.

I have been working in the adult movie business for five years now. I have happily chosen to do this for a living because I am a woman with a healthy sexual appetite. In the last five years, I have met many women, who are just the same. We are exhibitionists, fetishists, and open-minded, free, intelligent women, who -- believe it or not -- have grown up in stable households.

I have never once felt "objectified" by men. As I always tell people, there is nothing on film that I have not done in my personal life. It is unfortunate that there are many things in the world out there that many people deem "taboo" -- things such as BDSM and hardcore bondage as shown in your documentary. What people need to understand is that these are consensual acts between partners. The most common misunderstanding is that BDSM is abuse towards women. What you need to understand is that the difference between abuse and BDSM is that BDSM is CONSENSUAL. It is widely known that there are people, who do not work in the porn industry, that live a BDSM lifestyle. People have their own personal fetishes and sexual desires. We just choose to express them on film.

One assumption that many people have is that porn is for men; that men are the only ones, who watch porn. Women watch porn just as much as men, and couples watch it together. I know this because I watched porn before I started doing it. It's about sexual satisfaction and sexual exploration. Statistics of sex crimes such as rape are drastically lower in other countries that have liberal attitudes towards sex and porn. Think about it.”

And thus it was that a sex worker actually got the last word, for once. Mercifully, Jensen called a wrap based on the hour (and his having a flight to catch early in the morning, presumably to someplace friendlier) and the crowd began to drift off.

It was at that point that I had my only authentic moment with the good professor. As he was closing the door in my face, I did mention to him that, even though we were shown a cut of the movie with the hardcore blurred out, what I had seen (and so had Mr. Fattorosi, as he later confirmed) numerous violations of federal law in the film, although I admitted that this was not Jensen’s problem, as he wasn’t one of the producers.

To my surprise, he hastened to incriminate himself by declaring that the same concern might arise regarding the Stop Porn Culture slide show, in the creation of which he was a direct participant. Then, with a look I wouldn’t call cordial, he invited me to “take it up with the FBI” if I wanted. Both programs were “fair use” (though copyright issues have nothing to do with 2257 compliance), he insisted, and in any case exempt under the educational exception written into 2257.

At that point I felt my own BP going up. My tone was probably no more affable than his when I pointed out that distribution over the Internet for substantial sums of money to anyone who requested these things, or showing them to non-vetted audiences at film festivals and on college campuses, probably vacated that exemption in this case.

That was when he made the most remarkable statement of the evening. Grinning at me, he said that he wasn’t really concerned about the 2257 requirements because he was certain that those who had created the materials used in both TPoP and the SPC slide show undoubtedly had the records necessary to prove that no non-compliant images were present in either. In other words, the creators of these pieces of propoganda were hiding behind the pornographers’ observance of the law to justify their own flouting of it. Asked what made him so sure pornographers were so scrupulous in this regard, he dismissively told me that, “you obey the law because you have a profit incentive to do so.”

This backhanded compliment didn’t so much annoy as puzzle me. Really, how could they be so sure all the images they stole were compliant? After all, Jensen and his allies don’t hesitate to characterize pornographers as pimps, rapists, slavers and torturers. And yet despite the implied willingness to risk the legal consequences of those acts inherent in such accusations, we’re presumed to be extremely fastidious record keepers. I’m rarely at a loss for words, but Jensen had me with that. It was so outrageous an alibi as to inspire laughter, and indeed he insisted he was making a joke when I told him so. He saw no legal problem with this brand of “fair use,” and if I felt there was “a moral problem” with it, well, that was just my opinion.

Some joke. Even funnier would be what would happen if either guiding intelligences behind TPoP or SPC were actually called to account for their flippant attitude toward federal statutes carrying long prison sentences. If they imagine that we would all, in the spirit of good fellowship, make our records available to exonerate these noble idealists, or that any federal judge who had bothered to read the language of 2257 would accept such evidence if offered, they truly live in an alternative universe. I look forward to the day that anyone associated with either comes around wanting any paperwork from me. Nor do I suspect any judge will bother to subpoena any in a court proceeding that may not be as unlikely as these misguided crusaders seem to believe.

The plain fact is that what stands between them and jail is a temporary restraining order obtained by the Free Speech Coalition preventing enforcement of the Bush administration’s expanded version of the statute until the new rules could be full adjudicated constitutional. The operative word here is “temporary.” Sooner or later, there will be a negotiated settlement to the F.S.C.s litigation that will undoubtedly leave intact the core provisions of the law, including the necessity of producers maintaining the required proofs of age for all performers. That part of the law is not in dispute. The hotly contested issue, as I’m sure Dr. Jensen and his associates know, is the responsibility of so-called “secondary producers,” which is to say those who merely repackage and redistribute sexually explicit images as distinct from actually recording them, to keep the same records as the original producers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole concept of secondary producers, which TPoP’s auteurs probably think they are, was eventually discarded, but that wouldn’t help them in any case, as what they have done, with all their splicing and dicing, is to use pirated footage to create a whole, new product, in effect, what we call a comp, or compilation video. And producers of comps were required to have compliant records under the pre-Bush iteration of 2257.

I didn’t get a chance to respond to Jensen’s taunting “joke” about notifying the F.B.I., but it is his mistake, and that of his friends, to assume the authorities don’t already know about all this, and that when either the injunction is vacated or the law re-interpreted, they might very well come around to ask some questions that cannot be answered without self-incrimination of the type in which Jensen engaged when he expressed his confidence that the legal compliance of pornographers would protect him and his fellows from the consequences of their law-breaking. At that time, I suppose, we’ll find out just how seriously these self-styled revolutionaries take their cause.

Those of us who sat through this ordeal went off to dinner and finally did have some laughs, however sardonic, over the nonsense we’d seen and heard. I had the feeling that, long before any criminal liability under 2257 could be established, some unpleasant civil litigation might be headed toward TPoP’s copyright claimants, but that is a subject for another time.

For now, I’m glad we showed our faces, sorry the producers were such chicken-shits about showing theirs, and dazzled as always by the sheer audacity of Robert Jensen’s hypocrisy. He clearly wishes to be thought of as a utopian pioneer of some sort, but whatever utopia he’s hoping for won’t include me, or anyone I care to know.

On that single point, I’m sure he and I find complete agreement.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oh goody!

Look, the anti-porn activism page has arrived! Catchy title, eh? So...(eyeballs header)...original!

My favorite part so far? The photo of the Good Feminist Womyn (I assume) ripping up photos of those bad, bad pornified sluts! Classic!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Price of Pleasure El Foldo in L.A.

Yes, they showed it. Yes, Bob Jensen showed up to defend it. No, the producers weren't there.

But the audience, all seven members of it, were people from the porn industry. And they all had things to say.

I'll give Jensen one thing. He's not a guy who gives it up when faced with those odds.

Other than that, I'll reserve my comments for when I have a little more time, most likely this evening.

Please stay tuned and do not adjust your sets, because we'll be going to the outer limits of rhetorical tap-dancing, and that's not to be confused with Dancing with the Stars.

More shortly.