Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Seems some of the most talented and innovative artists, writers and photographers have joined forces with the consensual BDSM community to oppose the newly inked ban on so-called "extreme porn" jammed through Parliament under relentless radfem pressure.
From The Independent:
To some people it is exactly the kind of protective legislation that Britain needs in a world where access to a vast array of pornography is available at the click of a mouse. To others, a new law banning "extreme" pornography gives the Government unprecedented powers to police bedrooms (and basements).
Critics, including at least two lords, say that legislation coming into force next month forbidding the possession of "an extreme pornographic image" will criminalise thousands of previously law-abiding people who have a harmless taste for unconventional sex.
Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 comes into force on 26 January and makes owning offending pictures a criminal offence punishable by up to three years' imprisonment. An image is deemed to be extreme if it "is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character" and portrays in any way an act which threatens a person's life, or which results or appears likely to result in serious injury to someone's genitals or breasts.
The law was passed earlier this year following a mother's emotive campaign after her daughter was killed by a man who claimed he was addicted to violent porn.
Opponents have no problems with two provisions banning images of bestiality or necrophilia - both of which are already illegal to do - but fear that the other definitions are so vaguely worded that even images of consenting adults engaging in fictional violence will now be outlawed, giving Britain the toughest anti-porn laws in Europe.
Members of Britain's BDSM (bondage, domination and sado-masochism) community, as well as those in the gothic and alternative scenes, complain that they are being unfairly targeted. "I firmly agree that images of non-consensual activities which involve violence should be criminalised but this is a badly worded law that risks criminalising thousands of ordinary people," said Claire Lewis, a 35-year-old disabled rights activist from Manchester who has set up the Consenting Adult Action Network (Caan). "The Government seems to be convinced that if people like us look at pictures for too long we'll end up turning into abusers. That's outrageous."
Caan campaigners plan to burn their pornography collections outside Parliament. A second group, Backlash, is hiring lawyers from the leading human rights firm Bindmans to contest cases when they come to court.
Myles Jackman, Backlash's legal adviser, said: "Ultimately it will be up to a magistrate and a jury to decide what constitutes extreme pornography but the wording is so impossibly vague it could constitute anything. Take the phrase 'life-threatening'. There is, I understand, a genre of porn known as 'smoking pornography' which you could argue combines pornography with a potentially life threatening act."
Story continues below
Its supporters include the photographer Ben Westwood, eldest son of the fashion designer Vivienne. He fears some of his pictures, which often show images of people bound and gagged, could be outlawed in the new year. "I simply don't believe it is the Government's business to interfere in people's sexuality," he said. "What particularly offends me is that these laws were brought in without any consultation whatsoever with the people they affect. That is not a democracy."
The outlawing of extreme porn won the backing of the Home Office, under the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, after a three-year campaign by Liz Longhurst. Her daughter, Jane, was strangled by Graham Coutts in 2003. During his trial, Coutts said he had a fixation with asphyxiation porn and necrophilia. A petition started by Mrs Longhurst to outlaw violent pornography garnered 50,000 signatures.
The Bill went through the Commons unchallenged and only in the House of Lords was there any significant opposition. Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrat peer, argued that the legislation would justify the Government "walking into people's bedrooms and turning them into criminals simply for viewing something".
The law is a significant change in direction for policing pornography in Britain because it shifts the burden of guilt from those making the pornography to those viewing it.
Enthusiasts of gothic horror and burlesque shows - which often feature pseudo-violence such as fake knives and participants covered in mock blood, say they are concerned that their artistic creativity will be stifled.
There are also concerns about how the law will be policed. Caan has taken a dossier of images to three major police forces: not one could yet say which pictures would be deemed illegal. One month ahead of the legislation being enacted, the Association of Chief Police Officers has yet to draw up any guidelines on how it is to be policed.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Justice said the new law would only be used to target the most extreme cases. "The new offence only covers the possession of images, it does not limit private sexual behaviour," she said.
It is little consolation for Westwood who has vowed to continue his erotic photography regardless: "I'm not going to stop what I do and nor should anyone else. There are already laws in place to stop people harming each other."
Best of luck to the determined advocates of freedom of expression across the pond. We could use a bit of that determination from some of our more public media figures here when it comes to defending artistic liberty.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The story from Ars Technica:
Kevin Martin, the Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, called Ars Technica today to let us know that he has revised his proposal to roll out a free (and smut-free) wireless broadband service. In an effort to corral more votes, Martin has already circulated a new version of the plan, one that removes the controversial smut filtering requirement.
Why the change? "I'm saying if this is a problem for people, let's take it away," Martin said. "A lot of public interest advocates have said they would support this, but we're concerned about the filter. Well, now there's an item in front of the Commissioners and it no longer has the filter. And I've already voted for it without the filter now. So it's already got one vote."
"Got anybody else?" I asked him.
"Not yet," Martin admitted with a chuckle. Then he expressed a bit of impatience with his four colleagues. "This is an item that has been pending at the Commission for several years, that the Commissioners were originally critical of not having moved forward faster," he said. "Other Commissioners said, 'We're overdue; we've got to do this.' But when an actual item is put forth where you have to make a hard decision, they say, 'Well, I'm not so sure what I want to do anymore'."
So...what happened in the intern that forced Martin to drop the porn filters?? Well, there was the strong opposition from various civil liberties and public interest groups, covalesed around the group Center for Democracy and Technology, who called the proposed porn filters a back door gateway to censorship. There was also the strong objection from existing wireless Internet providers who complained mostly about the competition that the "free but porn-free" service would bring to their own services, and about the possibility of interference with their own wireless channels. And then, there was the gripping that the auctioning off of the spectrum would have been designed as to favor one company -- M2Z Networks, whom had first offered to build the first wireless network, but without any public bidding. (Strangely enough, that brought out the ire of even conservative Republicans, who would usually be running over themselves to support a censored Internet medium, but nevertheless back the notion of "free markets" rather than government regulation setting the standard.)
The most intriguing and possibly exciting news, however, is that Martin is still proposing that a free wireless Internet service be implemented, but without the filters and with more open access/net neutrality requirements. The basic speed offered would be modest (768kbps), but under the rule proposed, the winning bidder would be forced to allow any device or application to be connected to the network, and there would be timetables for getting access available to end users (50% within 4 years; 95% by the end of the 10-year license period).
For a person like me who is tired of paying through the nose for Internet service, this is excellent news indeed. Anything that challenges the current cable/DSL/satellite monopoly and brings Internet access closer to the majority of people is a good thing. Though, I'd prefer a higher floor for basic speed (like, maybe, 2 to 3 gpbs) and stronger protections against interference and reliability of signal.
At least someone out there gets it about the First Amendment and free speech. Take that, Andy Burham, and just cram your censorship proposal right up your New Right Laborite ass. It just doesn't play here.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Internet sites could be given 'cinema-style age ratings', Culture Secretary says
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites.
The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.
Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”
ISPs, such as BT, Tiscali, AOL or Sky could also be forced to offer internet services where the only websites accessible are those deemed suitable for children.
Mr Burnham also uses the interview to indicate that he will allocate money raised from the BBC’s commercial activities to fund other public-service broadcasting such as Channel Four. He effectively rules out sharing the BBC licence fee between broadcasters as others have recommended.
His plans to rein in the internet, and censor some websites, are likely to trigger a major row with online advocates who ferociously guard the freedom of the world wide web.
However, Mr Burnham said: “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.
“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”
Mr Burnham reveals that he is currently considering a range of new safeguards. Initially, as with copyright violations, these could be policed by internet providers. However, new laws may be threatened if the initial approach is not successful.
“I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online,” he said. “More ability for parents to understand if their child is on a site, what standards it is operating to. What are the protections that are in place?”
He points to the success of the 9pm television watershed at protecting children. The minister also backs a new age classification system on video games to stop children buying certain products.
Mr Burnham, himself a parent of three young children, says his goal is for internet providers to offer “child-safe” web services.
“It worries me - like anybody with children,” he says. “Leaving your child for two hours completely unregulated on the internet is not something you can do. This isn’t about turning the clock back. The internet has been empowering and democratising in many ways but we haven’t yet got the stakes in the ground to help people navigate their way safely around…what can be a very, very complex and quite dangerous world.”
Mr Burnham also wants new industry-wide “take down times”. This means that if websites such as YouTube or Facebook are alerted to offensive or harmful content they will have to remove it within a specified time once it is brought to their attention.
He also says that the Government is considering changing libel laws to give people access to cheap low-cost legal recourse if they are defamed online. The legal proposals are being drawn up by the Ministry of Justice.
Mr Burnham admits that his plans may be interpreted by some as “heavy-handed” but says the new standards drive is “utterly crucial”. Mr Burnham also believes that the inauguration of Barack Obama, the President-Elect, presents an opportunity to implement the major changes necessary for the web.
“The change of administration is a big moment. We have got a real opportunity to make common cause,” he says. “The more we seek international solutions to this stuff – the UK and the US working together – the more that an international norm will set an industry norm.”
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Vicky Vette's MySpace Blog: The Adult Industry Should Not Have "Teen" Websites
Out of respect for Vicky, I'll just ask you to link to the essay, and solicit comments.
Note that she's not calling for out and out censorship of "teen" sites; just saying that adult consumers should exercise more caution in supporting them out of concern for possibly enabling those who would target young children.
Vicky's also gone on record as supporting raising the legal age of entry into adult to 21 from 18.
In the comments section, I wrote this as my means of agreeing and disagreeing with Vicky's points:
[Posted by me (Anthony_JKenn) today @ 9:21 AM]The floor is open now for discussion, if you are interested.
Interesting take on the subject, Vicky...I can agree with everything you said, but only to a point.
I'm not one for "teen porn" myself (I tend to prefer mature MILF's and Cougars who actually KNOW what the hell they are doing sexually), being that I have no intention of wanting sex with someone young enough to be my daughter. (Unless, of course, she is damn hot.) And it does kind of squick me to think that a lot of those who are into the "Barely Legal" subgenre might have at least in part some tiny level of pedophilic fantasies about banging girls that may be underage or just at the legal age. Plus, there is still a bit of the "stretching the boundaries of taboo" going on, and having "barely legal" porn does tend to stretch the boundary a great deal.
On the other hand, though, I'm not so fond of targeting "Barely Legal" porn as a cause of actual pedophilia, for the following reasons.
1) Note the phrasing of "BARELY LEGAL": meaning that she may just be over the edge of legality, the performer is certainly legal, and has the papers and 2257 compliance to prove it. Why should she be denied her legal right to earn her craft merely because some sick (as in mentally ill) 45 year old man sees her as his personal "jailbait"??
2) I'd say that the majority of the consumers of Barely Legal porn aren't older men looking for fantasies to stoke their pedophilic lusts, but young men of the same age just looking for similar type women. I'm not so sure that I'd count that as promoting kiddie porn...at least not in the traditional sense.
3) Even if there is the typical "dirty old man" using BL porn to get his peculiar rocks off, I still say that it is a suitable alternative to him actually going out and targeting REAL girls. At least, BL porn serves as a release for such fantasies....in the same way that other forms of "extreme porn" serve a similar function. Better to have him jerking off to Internet porn than to be going around real people imposing his desires on unsuspecting victims.
4) Last time I heard, it is still a crime to sexually assault and target underage girls...and this dude whom you described at the beginning is a bona fide criminal who deserves to be placed UNDER the jail....but notice that he targeted much, much younger kids than the target audience of BL porn. (The fact that he was a youth minister should raise some real flags of deep sexual repression coming back to explode on him, too.) To say that BF porn encouraged his assault on 4 year olds is a bit like saying that the Hostess company should be held liable because Harvey Milk's assassin got high on Twinkies, or that the Roman Catholic Church should be held liable because some whackjob quoted the Bible in justifying his killing spree or bombing an abortion clinic. In short, kind of a reach.
In my perfect world, porn would only be performed by mature adult women who were into it not just for the money or the fame, but specifically for the sex, and there would be no need for "barely legal" porn to survive. In the real world, however, the desire for deflowering "new meat" remains strong with a sizeable majority of men, and most of them have money to spend to purchase media that attracts that kind of fantasy. Even if tomorrow you criminalized their fantasies, they would not disappear; they would only seek less legal and safe and more perverse means to satisfy their ends...and that would be a hell of a lot more threatening to legal adult porn than any bit of "barely legal" porn out there.
Finally....while I understand exactly where you are going with this, Vicky, and do think that it would be so much better if men stuck to legitimate adult sex subjects (like, for instance, YOU...heheh), I'd be real careful at this time about calling for restrictions on what is still legal adult material. Given the forces that are in power, it is all too easy for good-hearted and well-meaning regulation to blow up and backfire and be used as a bludgeon against even legal adult material far beyond what was originally targeted. What may be used against Hustler's Barely Legal series today could well be used against MILF/Couogar porn tomorrow...and under the same justification of "protecting children" from "sexual aggression". Who's to say that some right-wing fundamentalist might find YOU to be as much a threat because of your sexual aggression?? And remember, the first letter of MILF does refer to "Mom". And even single Cougars might like to target young men.
Oh....and 18- to 21-year old young adults have as much a right to explore their sexuality as 25- or 35- year olds do; to put them down as automatically inmature and unable to make informed decisions merely because they just reached that age is a bit ageist. Perhaps porn isn't the best place for them to begin their experimentation, but that only states the need for support groups of older starlets and health and safety protections built in so that they have a safe place within the industry to avoid exploitation and abuse.
Just my own ranting and raving, Vicky....take it as you will.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Well, the latest "clarification" of 2257, whle murky as ever on many points, is pretty clear when it comes to the so-called documentary use of sexually explicit images, and any exemptions from 2257 claimed as fair use or under whatever other guise.
Here's what the Department of Justice has to say on this particular subject, word for word:
"Several commenters ask the Department to exclude news and documentary programming from the definition of 'producer'," the DOJ reports. "The comments claim that producers of that programming use footage provided by others under the fair use doctrine. The comments posit that if a producer includes news and documentary producers, then such producers either will lose the ability to obtain footage depicting any adult sexual conduct, or will be forced to make payments to the original producer notwithstanding the fair use doctrine. The Department declines to adopt this comment. The First Amendment does not permit even a bona fide reporter to trade in child pornography in order to create a work of journalism."
Are you paying attention Professor Sun, Mr. Wosnitzer, Dr. Jensen and Dr. Dines? You better be, because that's you all the feds are talking about, and they're not buying your lame excuses for ducking 2257 compliance any more than I do. You better get those records, cut that footage, pull these products from distribution or be ready for a knock on the door at some point during regular business hours.
It's a rare day indeed when I agree with the D.O.J. but in this matter we're very much on the same page, and when the F.S.C.'s lawsuit is finally negotiated to a settlement, as I believe it will be in the first few months of the new administration, I'm quite sure we'll still be in accord on this particular topic.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Needless to say, from a sexually progressive standpoint, these new rules are, if anything, worse than the original....and serve the basic purpose of essentually using paperwork to drive the porn industry out of existence.
I'm sure that there will be more info out on the reaction to these new rules (and I'm guessing that Ernest will have a word or ten thousand to say on this, too....but I discovered this morning an online essay posted to a blog called his vorpal sword that pretty much nails the motivations behind both the 2257 and the "medical conscience" regulations to the point: as the latest bomb in the antisex/morality wars.
It's such an awesome essay that to merely quote snippets would do it no justice...so I'll just offer the link and ask you to go there and read it for yourself.
his vorpal sword: Death-O-Rama, or, Porn Free
The essayist even mines the recent passing of the original "Deep Throat", the Linda Lovelace movie of the same name, Traci Lords, and the passing of Bettie Page, and some history of the Sex Wars. All in all, a complete and thorough dissection of the antisex morality.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Looks like the porn witch hunters have claimed another scalp. From X-Biz.com:
The 32-year-old Tuck wrote in her letter that she was leaving D'Ippolito Elementary School "in good standing," though she made no mention of the controversy that surrounded her "outing" as a former adult film performer.
After leaving the industry, Tuck took the teacher's aide job, working in the school's cafeteria and helping out on the playground. Vineland School spokesperson John Sbrana said that he found out about Tuck's past because of complaints from parents – parents who are apparently fans of Tuck's past work.
"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."
When word first broke about Tuck's work in adult, the school and school board took no action, because as Sbrana said, "She has not done anything wrong. She has not committed any crime. She's entitled to her privacy like anyone else. There is no action against her."
Vineland School District Superintendent Charles Ottinger agreed. In a statement released in November, he said, "It's one thing if it's an illegal activity, because that would come up in the check. There is no way for us to know if a person is involved in these types of activities."
But despite those sentiments from the school and school board, Tuck's story spread through hundreds of news outlets, even though Tuck limited her public statements on the matter. Tuck's attorney, Jeff DiLazzero, hasn't commented, either.
Tuck's resignation will not be official until the local board of education approves it. Their next meeting is set for Jan. 21. Until then, Tuck could still change her mind and keep her job, because no one has asked her to leave it.
Oh, but of course, there's no action against her...because the very idea is to so shame her for being such a evil slut and outing her publically for an activity that harms no one but just might challenge some people's ideas about women from....THAT profession. No, so much better to simply undercut her with rumors and misstatements about how she might infect the poor impressionable students with....her breasts?!?!?!
We might as well just have every former porn starlet just wear a scarlet "P" on their chests, then, shall we?? The better to keep them away from any position where they can corrupt impressionable children who might be strayed from the proper and prudish path.
Of course, the school will be without a capable teacher's aide who probably was loved and respected by children and staff alike....but 'ya gotta break some eggs, you know.
So much for the alleged "mainstreaming" of porn....
The proposal was scheduled to be debated and possibly approved by the FCC at a hearing on December 18th...but due to increased opposition, it's now been pushed back to after the inauguration, at least/
The story from the online Wall Street Journal:
What is particularly interesting is the opposition from the Bush White House....one would think that the Religious Right faithful (aka "the Base" of the GOP) would love the idea of imposing a porn-free Internet on the poor and working stiffs (no pun intended)....but on the other hand, the more "libertarian" and capitalistic wing probably wouldn't be so fond of having a government sanctioned "free" spectrum directly competing with their proprietary companies.
WASHINGTON -- Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Friday evening canceled next week's meeting at which the commission was scheduled to vote on a free Internet plan, after receiving a letter from key U.S. lawmakers asking him to hold off.
Sen. John Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), and Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), who will chair the Senate and House committees overseeing the FCC next year, earlier Friday sent a letter to Mr. Martin asking him to cease actions on controversial policy proposals.
Mr. Martin had proposed that the FCC vote Dec. 18 on rules for a sale of valuable airwaves that would have required the winning bidders to offer free Internet access to 95% of the country.
That item is opposed by the White House. Bush administration officials disapprove of spectrum auctions that impose conditions on the owners. Other critics have raised questions about whether the plan will work, noting that only one business thus far, M2Z Networks Inc., has offered a business model that includes free Internet.
Under Mr. Martin's plan, the free Internet proposal would have been smut-free, including a filter for pornography. Adults over 18 would have been able to opt out. Civil rights groups had raised questions about that idea, worrying about whether it would interfere with users' privacy and free speech.
Mr. Martin also wanted the commission to vote next week on a plan opposed by the cable industry that would have strengthened TV networks in negotiations about how they are carried by cable providers.
Both of Mr. Martin's proposals, if approved by the full commission, almost certainly would have been challenged, either in court or through the FCC's internal review process.
"We received the letter from Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Waxman today and spoke with other offices," said FCC Spokesman Robert Kenny. "In light of the letter, it does not appear that there is consensus to move forward and the agenda meeting has been canceled."Mr. Kenny added that noncontroversial items on the agenda could still be approved by the commissioners on the five-member body without a meeting. For example, Martin had included changes to emergency 911 call rules and satellite interference rules on the meeting agenda.
The letter from Rep. Waxman and Sen. Rockefeller is just as interesting, since there was some interest in the original proposal from some prominent Democrats...but I guess that the combination of opposition from the major wireless providers and the civil libertarian groups was just too much.
Either way, I see it as a net gain...perhaps after Obama is sworn in, cooler heads will prevail and we can work on an alternative that offers increased and improved Internet access to those not currently affording it, but without the content restrictions imposed from above. (Filters and other means of addressing inappropriate and objectionable content imposed by end-users on their own computers and by parents on their own children, of course, get absolutely no opposition from me or any other fair-minded progressive.)
Friday, December 12, 2008
Bettie Page (1923–2008)
Bettie Page Memorial site
LA Times obit
Susie Bright comments
And going back to one of the original questions of this blog – "Why pro-porn?"
Because sometimes, just sometimes, it creates icons like this, that's why.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Who the hell makes porn in New Hampshire you might ask? In this case the old maxim about "hard cases make bad law" seems to have been reversed, with some good law being harvested out of a dodgy case. Apparently, the defendent, Robert Theriault, was a county court baliff who approached a couple (while still in uniform, apparently) who had just paid a traffic ticket and offered them money to make a "fuck flick". According to an earlier article, this was accompanied by a story about how he was "an investigator" testing different kinds of condoms, as well as the ability of different electric blankets to increase sperm count. (You can't make this stuff up.) The couple actually went through with a sexual performance for this guy, but later had a change of heart about the whole thing. Eventually, the incident was reported to the police and the fool was quite rightly releived of his job as baliff. However, he was also arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution, something he was successfully convicted of in lower courts.
Ultimately, the State Supreme Court did what it was supposed to do, and didn't allow the urge to punish one person's sketchy activities to impinge on everybody's rights. Its unfortunate the court in the Max Hardcore case wasn't operating on the same principle.
Monday, December 8, 2008
And who do we suppose lobbied for this lovely change of policy? Three guesses on that one.
Anyway, here's the bad news from AP:
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Amsterdam unveiled plans Saturday to close up to half of the famed brothels and marijuana cafes in its ancient city center as part of a major cleanup operation.
The city says it wants to drive organized crime out of the district, and is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including prostitution, gambling parlors, "smart shops" that sell herbal treatments, head shops and "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly.
"I think that the new reality will be more in line with our image as a tolerant and crazy place, rather than a free zone for criminals" said alderman Lodewijk Asscher, one of the main proponents of the plan.
The city said it would also reduce the number of business it sees as related to the "decay" of the center, including peep shows, sex theaters, sex shops, mini supermarkets, massage parlors and souvenir shops.
The city said there were too many of these and it believes some are used for money-laundering by drug dealers and the human traffickers who supply many of the city's prostitutes.
Asscher underlined that the city will remain true to its freewheeling reputation.
"It'll be a place with 200 windows (for prostitutes) and 30 coffee shops, which you can't find anywhere else in the world — very exciting, but also with cultural attractions and you won't have to be embarrassed to say you came," he said.
Under the plan announced Saturday, Amsterdam will spend euro30-euro40 million ($38-$51 million) to bring hotels, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques to the center. It will also build new underground parking areas for cars and bikes and may use some of the vacated buildings to ease a housing shortage.
Amsterdam already had plans to close many brothels and said last month it might close some coffee shops throughout the city, but the plans announced Saturday go much further.
Asscher said the city would use various techniques to reshape the area, including rezoning, buying out some businesses and offering others assistance in "upgrading" their stores. In the past, the city has shut a number of brothels and sex clubs, relying primarily on a law that allows the closure of businesses with bookkeeping irregularities.
He said the city will also offer help for prostitutes and coffee shop employees who lose their jobs as a result of the plan.
Prostitution, which has spread into several areas of the center, will be allowed only in two areas — notably De Wallen ("The Walls"), a web of streets and alleys around the city's medieval retaining dam walls. The area has been a center of prostitution since before the city's golden shipping age in the 1600s.
Prostitution was legalized in the Netherlands in 2000, formalizing a long-standing tolerance policy.
Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but prosecutors won't press charges for possession of small amounts and the coffee shops are able to sell it openly.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Taken point by point:
Claims that 27 million people are held in debt bondage or that 800,000 are trafficked are not supported by any evidence. There are probably 250,000 total sex workers in the US, (less than one per thousand population). This piece claims 300,000 new sex workers with an average age of 13 enter the industry annually. No professional outreach organization or law enforcement agency would agree with this exaggeration. If it were true within five years there would be 1.5 million underage girls in the US sex trade.
You’d think outreach workers and law enforcement folks would notice. You might also wonder where all the new johns were coming form to support a more than six-fold increase in prostitution in just five years. Their figures indicate Finland with a population of just 5 million would see 85 thousand new sex workers in five years. Another anti-trafficking group in California said the number trafficked into Finland was 80 thousand a year.
These people care nothing about the accuracy of their numbers. The US State Dept originally (2001 or thereabouts) estimated 50K trafficked into the US annually. This they later admitted was a number pulled out of thin air. After seven years and 100 million dollars of Federal anti-trafficking money spent about 1100 cases were identified nationally. Virtually all of them had to have some of their facts tweaked to meet the standard for being a trafficking crime.
The number quoted for Finland (population 5 million) of 17,000 is actually the number now quoted by the State Dept. for the US (population 300 million) after admitting the 50K was a wild exaggeration. The 17,000 is probably no better. Last year I asked the public relations guy with Honolulu County’s District Attorney’s office how many cases their office was aware of in Hawaii. He said ONE and that involved domestic servitude, not prostitution.
The average age of entry is not known by anyone. No valid study exists concerning this question. All of us are left with extrapolating conclusions based on our own contacts and knowledge. Since it is clear to anyone familiar with this industry that there is a large and growing segment of women who enter it at college age or thereabouts in order to have an average age of 13 there would need to be large amounts of children well younger than 13 to balance them out. Thirteen to fifteen may be a common age for streetwalkers to have entered the industry, but it is way too young to be considered an average.
Playing up the underage card is a tactic just as inflating the numbers is. In Melissa Farley’s recent book about prostitution in Nevada she reports that “prostitution of 13-17 year old children is rampant according to one police officer”. However arrest statistics for 2006 showed that of over 4500 arrests only 40 were for underage prostitutes. Of these 40 people 29 were 17 years old.
The article points out that much victimization results from teenagers running away. It illogically blames the sex industry for this victimization. A rational approach would be to first concern itself with what they were running away from. It would also take into consideration the lack of legal rights such runaways have and how this plus a lack of life experience almost certainly will lead them into abusive conditions. If the institution of prostitution were abolished, as is the stated desire of the writers of this piece, teenagers would still run away and still be victimized.
Simply stating that children face potentially abusive situation in an industry provides no logic for abolishing the industry. A hundred years ago small children worked long hours in mines and factories under often appalling conditions. No one argued for closing the coal mines or abolishing the steel industry.
The next point is that johns should be arrested for creating the demand for this industry. This is based on the false premise that all prostitutes are abused slaves who desperately need to be rescued. There is a mountain of evidence from prostitutes around the world that contradicts this. The “arrest the johns” mantra shifts blame from the people indicated as causing abuse (pimps and traffickers) to some third party who has not done anything other than agree to give a women some money that she wants form him in exchange for a sexual service he desires.
The arrest the johns argument makes as much sense as an argument to arrest people for wearing or using cotton during the time when black Americans were held in slavery. The growth of cotton has continued without slavery and harms done to young women in the sex industry can be addressed without arresting johns or abolishing prostitution. The 100 million dollars wasted by the Federal Government in its vain attempt to find trafficking victims could have been much better spent funding programs for teenage runaways.
> The next point merely states what the opinions are of some people in Sweden. It also repeats the lie about 17,000 trafficking victims entering Finland annually. There is no more reason to give credibility to the Swedish “experts” quoted here than to the writers of this whole piece; who clearly deserve none.
They go on to state that 70% of the 88,000 prostituted women in England and Wales are under the control of pimps and traffickers. This they argue is a reason to dump the burden of proof issue when convicting johns. This is similar to their efforts in the US Congress to eliminate the need to prove force in getting trafficking convictions. This drive to eliminate the basic rules of evidence in proving criminal cases was objected to by the US Attorney General’s office and others. The authors of this piece offer no evidence to support their claim of 70% . The number of street prostitutes is generally estimated at 10 to 15 %. Interestingly here they quote the number of prostitutes in Britain at about 88,000 Britain has a population ten times as great as Finland where these same people claimed there were17,000 trafficking victims every year.
Their statement about brothel closures in the Netherlands and other trends along those lines in Europe are falsely attributed to evidence of trafficking. This trend is political and follows the successful fear mongering campaign these advocates are pressing on the continent. It has no basis in good public policy.
Finally the quote about how Swedes consider prostitution inherently violent is an insult to women. It puts them in a position of
minors who are not capable of giving sexual consent. It ignores individuality in favor of defining people by membership in a class. In this regard prostitute, john, pimp, etc are all arch-types that hostile individuals get to define with no respect whatsoever for the obviously varying views of the people they wish to define. This is the opposite of “women’s liberation”.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Taken from RawStory.com:
Dem councilman wants to stalk legal patrons of strip clubNow, considering that our President-Elect has so much on his plate already with the economy and undoing all of Dubya's messes, I'm not so sure that he would take that much time off his busy schedule to reward a local New York City councilman...especially one with such a wingnutty form of attitude. But then again, Obama did go so far as to approach fundie Christian/anti-gay bigot Donnie McCracken in the campaign, and he did carry some mixed messages on Proposition (H)8...so he may yet be suspectible to the politics of "sex panic". If this fool does manage to seal a position in his administration, it wouldn't be a good sign.
Early Obama backer seeks administration job
A New York City councilman who objects to the image of a scantily-clad woman which looms over a strip club in a residential neighborhood has decided to take the law into his own hands by photographing patrons of the club and posting the pictures online.
Councilman James Sanders Jr., a Queens Democrat, told the hosts of Fox & Friends on Friday, "We're going to creative civil disobedience to ensure that everybody who goes into that club has a picture taken, and if they are proud to go into the club, we are proud to put it on the web."
"The only problem is that legally, you may not be able to do that," commented host Gretchen Carlson.
The billboard above the club entrance, which depicts a woman whose full breasts are covered only by a narrow strip of cloth over the nipples, is no more revealing than many comic book and video game images. However, Fox News, which showed the full image in the first tease for the story, later pixelated over the breast area and cropped the bottom, creating the impression that the figure might be nude and making the image appear far more lurid.
"We have children," Councilman Sanders explained in justification of his actions. "And any time anyone puts a 25 foot tall display, that they call a sign, on a major intersection where our children have to go to school -- this insult to women, this insult to our community -- we're going to take action."
"We did a mass meeting and had more than 300 people there," Sanders added. "In fact, they wanted to take worse actions than I'm speaking about. We're going to keep this legal."
Fox's legal expert, Judge Andrew Napolitano, then came onto the set, saying, "I have been watching this, and unfortunately the first amendment has some things to say about it."
Sanders acknowledged that "the club is a legal establishment and they are obeying all of the zoning laws," but he continued to claim, "They can advertise, they just don't have to inflict pornography on us."
"Under New York State law," Napolitano explained, "it's not pornographic. ... And as repellant as the business is, it's a lawful business."
"There are community standards," Sanders insisted, "and in our community this is not part of the standards."
"If you want to argue that it violates the community standards, then you have to go to court and get a judge to agree," Napolitano stated. "In my opinion, it's not pornographic, because New York's law is very, very, very broad."
"Where have we come, if that's not pornographic?" Carlson asked. "It looks pretty pornographic to me."
Billboards which publicly push the grounds of good taste have recently raised protests in major cities from Cleveland to Toronto and have been the subject of campaigns by conservative religious groups. Actor turned born-again Christian Stephen Baldwin attracted attention in 2006 when he announced plans to photograph patrons of a sex shop outside Nyack, NY.
Sanders, described by the Daily News as "a former Marine with a maverick reputation," gained attention last spring by campaigning for Barack Obama while most New York City Democrats were supporting Hillary Clinton. The News reported at that time that Sanders was hoping for a job in Washington if Obama won -- and that contenders for his council seat might include both his ex-wife and his current wife, who is his former chief of staff.
And, as always is the case when it comes to sex themes, leave it to Fixed Noise to play both sides of the street: faux moral outrage at "CHILDREN!! SEEING!!! POOOOOORRRRRRNNNNNN!!!!!1111ONE1111!!", combined with enough pixellated titillation to attract the usual rating. I expect BillO to be doing a "Talking Points" segment of his TV show from right in front of the offending advert by this time next week.
The more things change, indeed.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Overall, a pleasant read. Check it out:
Joy King: An inside look at a female porn executive’s life
Joy King has enjoyed her 24 years in the X-rated movie business, but that’s not to say that it has always been an easy road, especially for her personal life.
She grew up in Riverside, Calif., across the street from a horse ranch. “I moved when I could turn the key in the car,” she said, laughing, “and went west.” While working for an auto parts company, a girlfriend told King about a job opening at an entertainment business.
“I was 19, 20 years old and that sounded pretty good.” King was hired by a video distribution company that marketed kids’ productions such as “GI Joe,” “Strawberry Shortcake,” “Gumby” and “Transformers.”
But the company also had an adult division and when the owners learned that King was not offended by the titles, they moved her there and she began marketing to the growing VHS adult market.
After becoming a single mother at 22, King realized she might face special challenges, not only financially but socially. Working in porn, even if off camera, was far less acceptable than it is today. She became especially vigilant to “keep work at work.”
When her son was about 11, “I told [him] that mommy works in a business that he is not allowed to be around,” King explained. I said, ‘We make adult movies only for adults. As you get older you will understand more.’”
For her son, it wasn’t the nature of the business that bothered him at first as much as it was King’s hectic travel schedule once she moved to Wicked Pictures, located in California’s Canoga Park. She is now the vice president of special projects at Wicked.
But even though she works in management rather than on camera, she’s felt the stigma of her work. Once, after King made an appearance on a talk show, the mother of her son’s best friend refused to allow King’s son to come to her home.
“That was very difficult for him. He was 13 at the time. People who meet me see that I am just a regular person. If you were to meet me at a grocery store, a restaurant and I were to say, ‘I promote porn, I make it — I’m not in it, but I make it,’ well, most people are surprised. So I went over to her home and spoke to her and we resolved it. My son and her son are still close.”
There is a certain irony to the story. When King was promoting Wicked’s actresses, they would sometimes stay at her home, for example, the night before an early morning plane flight. “So as a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kid, my son had Jenna Jameson staying at my house, [actress] Sydney Steele coming over, [actress] Stephanie Swift staying over and you would think that would make him a little horndog who loves women.”
But King’s son, now 23, is gay. “If there was ever a situation that makes it clear [being gay] is not a choice but you are born that way, this is it!”
Her own love life has not been very successful she said, mainly because of the nature of her industry.
“Men are either fans, which is too much, or they are, well, maybe intimated by the industry. Some just don’t like it. So a certain portion of the population will not consider being in a relationship with me because of that.”
How about dating inside the industry?
“I am not interested in dating the talent. I did that for about a minute, I admit. But I had to take a step back and think about my reputation as an executive and how my customers would feel about it.”
One way the adult industry is like any other, she said, is in its double standard for behavior in the corporate suites. “If I am whoring around, I have no integrity. If a man does it, it is just what goes on. When women have done it, it is frowned upon. Nobody thinks twice if a man does it.”
King laughs at the stereotype of the porn king as a skeevy guy in gold neck chains, a paunch and the sunglasses Elliott Gould wore in “Ocean’s Eleven.”
“There is still this perception that [the porn industry] is all run by men, and not very nice men,” said King, who is vice president of special projects at major adult film company Wicked Pictures. “It is not widely known how many women executives there are in this industry.”
King, the woman who helped turn Jenna Jameson into a brand, proves her own point. For years she has been a leading figure in the world of “adult,” as it is commonly known, but hardly anyone outside that world has ever heard of her.
People have heard of Christie Hefner, of course, Hugh’s daughter who runs Playboy. But from the owner of the small adult store near you, to video directors, to promoters, to online porn purveyors, women have quietly become integral to the world of adult entertainment in ways that have nothing to do with wearing stripper heels and a big smile.
One of the earliest pioneers of Internet naughtiness was a woman named Danni Ashe who built her own small digital empire in the early ‘90s.
The co-owner of one of the nation’s top producers of X-rated movies, Digital Playground, is a woman who goes by the name Samantha Lewis. A mother, married to a Los Angeles television personality, Lewis used to work in real estate before investing in porn.
Susan Colvin, who trained for a career in public administration, owns one of the “Big Five” sex-toy makers, California Exotic Novelties.
Former performer Candida Royalle started and runs her own production company, Femme, to make X-rated movies for the “couples” market. She also endorses a line of sex toys.
Diane Duke, once an executive with Planned Parenthood, now runs the Free Speech Coalition, the public policy umbrella organization that advocates for the adult industry. Many other women work in upper and middle management. Some have struck out on their own to create Web sites, others have started porn’s version of “indie” movie outfits.
Having such women in charge might help lift the taboo that, as King says, “sort of lays like a mist over the adult industry,” but it is not likely to cool the fervor of anti-porn feminists. And, while female executives and owners say they hope to bring new perspectives to erotica so that performers receive better treatment, the product improves and there is less misogyny, they may be hindered by economics.
Surprisingly, many women who work in the business say they don’t like porn — at least not the porn that takes up most of the shelf space in adult stores or is downloaded from the Internet. They do not object for moral reasons, they just think it’s a crummy product and often far too misogynistic.
Even King, who likes and watches porn even when it’s not part of her job, finds a lot of “adult entertainment” neither very adult nor entertaining, especially the types like the “Girls Gone Wild” genre that, she says, takes advantage of drunken girls. She defends it on free speech grounds but that doesn’t mean she likes it.
Some women are trying to instill change using as leverage the fact that porn is one industry that can’t exist without females (which is why women performers almost always make more money than men and call their male counterparts “furniture”).
But good intentions and economic empowerment certainly do not mollify anti-porn feminists. “I think the nicest word they have ever used to describe me is ‘brainwashed,’” said veteran performer and business owner Nina Hartley. “Usually it’s more like ‘traitor.’”
An organization called Stop Porn Culture, a group of academics and activists who believe that “patriarchal, capitalist society” fosters porn, states that regardless of who is in charge, many female performers “are under a variety of constraints such as economic hardship and a perceived lack of options. … We are critical of the industry that exploits these women, not the women themselves.”
King finds this 30-year-old argument unconvincing. “If you look at a single mom trying to put herself through college, and she works at a strip club, is she a victim? She’s found a way to earn more than she could waiting tables, working three jobs. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
University of California Santa Barbara film studies professor Constance Penley, who studies the adult industry, agreed. Name an industry that’s different, she said. Because porn involves sex it is subject to what Penley calls “exceptionalism.” It is not judged in the bigger cultural context. But it should be. “You have to ask: Does it have more drug abuse or more suicides, more incidents of girls being sexually abused as children, more cosmetic surgery than Hollywood, TV, the recording industry?” she said. The answer, she pointed out, is probably not. So why pick on sex movies?
Still, having more women signing the paychecks does not necessarily mean the industry as a whole is better for female performers. This is because there is no such thing as “the industry,” just as there is no such thing as “the media.” The sex business has become wildly diffuse thanks to digital technology, pirated downloads and the ease of distribution. There are probably more producers of porn who exist outside industry organizations that try to set standards and police the business than inside them.
“We’re competing with the guy with the camcorder who bought it for $993 at Circuit City, who’s got his girlfriend and somebody else and they’re gonna shoot it and have sex and put it on the Internet,” director Kelly Holland told a Women in Film forum last year.
There are literally tens of thousands of “productions” made each year in the U.S. alone, and most of these are not coming from the bigger companies like the ones Holland works for.
This matters because while more executives may be women, Penley said, “it is, first and foremost, a business.” At the moment, business is lousy. Profits have dropped under the onslaught of the same forces hurting newspapers, book publishers and music companies.
“It is worse than the last recession,” King said. “We have rising fuel costs, the price of DVD cases tripled and we cannot pass that on and we have a very competitive industry.” More important, the Internet is stuffed with free, often pirated, porn. Margins are now so bad that some companies have laid off workers or shut their doors.
That inescapable fact works against changes women have tried to make in the products they produce and sell. For example, several groups of women have tried to create explicit productions, whether for cable TV, online distribution or DVD purchase and rental that appeal specifically to a female sensibility. But aside from Candida Royalle’s Femme series, which gets a big boost by being distributed through mail order giant Adam and Eve, such efforts have been slow to take hold.
They may never take hold. Sensuality, seduction, plot, even good lighting can cost money. “The bulk of pornography is being produced for $17,000,” Holland told the forum. “My budgets are $60,000 for a day-and-a-half shoot. We do two movies in three days and each budget is approximately $60,000. That is astronomically high right now.”
So while more women are calling the shots, they have to respond to a market of primarily male consumers, many of whom find plots simply a waste of time.
Many producers have to crank out sex scenes and most non-star performers have to appear in a lot of them to make any money.
Just because Jenna Jameson got rich doesn’t mean others will. In fact, there will probably never be another Jenna.
“The average lifespan of a porn star now is anywhere from six months to three years, tops,” Sharon Mitchell, who runs the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, said in an interview with legal scholars for a 2006 article in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law. “Then they’ve got no money … they think the money’s not going to end, so they get a boob job and a Ferrari.”
Mitchell, herself a former actress, told the authors said that agents “are now recruiting people from, literally, the middle of the country [who] are 18 years old who haven’t remotely had any type of sex, let alone the type of sex they’re probably going to have tomorrow.” Too often, she said, “agents run them into the ground” signing them to make too many sex scenes, and that can lead to STDs.
Female directors, producers and owners know all this and say they work to fight it, partly by turning away young women they think are ill prepared. A few have suggested that producers should hire women who are at least 21, rather than 18.
“Do I like sleazy guys trying to take advantage of girls?” King said. “No. Nobody does.” But they argue that tarring the entire adult world with the actions of some is like judging the entire television business by a guy eating animal guts on “Fear Factor.”
When women are making the decisions, they say, things are often different. Performers at King’s Wicked Pictures can choose their male partners, demand condoms and command comparatively high salaries.
“We have been criticized by men in the business who say, ‘Oh, you baby the girls, you pamper them too much,” said Shoosh (who uses one name), co-owner of Triangle Films, a small producer of lesbian-themed erotica. “I never set out to baby or pamper. I am just a mothering kind of person.”
Others, such as Lewis of Digital Playground, insist they are careful to coach actresses about the potential pitfalls of the industry.
Wicked makes about one movie per week, King said, and she watches every one for content. “If I’m offended by it, I am certainly going to say something and try to have it taken out of the movie.”
Still, as business owner Hartley explained, having a woman run the show is no guarantee of a workers’ paradise or a different kind of product. Women, she said, can be jerks, men can be gems. “It’s not a question of gender. If being a feminist means anything at all it means judging the content of character not the gonads they possess.”
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
"December 2 is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Don't be deceived. This is no celebration commemorating the end of a slave trade. The UN designated this day to remind us that slavery remains part of our 21st Century lives.
Slavery is more prevalent today than at any point in history. Free the Slaves estimates that 27 million people are trapped in debt bondage, domestic servitude, hard labor, or the sex trade for little to no pay beyond subsistence.
Of the 800,000 people annually trafficked across international borders, roughly 70% are sold into the sex industry. Inside the US alone, at least 300,000 children and adolescents fall prey every year, and their average age is thirteen. They're lured from their homes by Internet, or as runaways they're picked up within a day by trawling pimps, with promises of jobs, security, and love. Instead, the victims are treated as commodities and forced into a life in which many experience battering, degradation, rape, captivity, and - no wonder - extreme depression.
The sex industry operates by standard supply and demand dynamics. But it's the distribution system, interstate trafficking, that has caught the attention of policy makers. In this case, instead of drugs, criminals are trading in "reusable" bodies - and they're raking in the profits.
Demand by johns. Distribution by traffickers and pimps.
Supply: human beings.
For all we may exalt in rescuing children from brothels, there's a growing recognition within the US and internationally that sex trafficking won't end until demand does. US-based organizations such as the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women are raising public awareness and advocating for policies geared toward the purchasers. The fearless Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, has launched the "No Tolerance Campaign" sending the message that predators aren't welcome in her city. "Dear John, It's over." her billboards announce.
Yet despite these admirable efforts, compared to several European nations, the US is far behind the curve in fighting demand. We traveled to Stockholm and Oslo to meet with government officials, researchers, members of parliament, police, and even Queen Silvia to examine how Sweden has forged the way. After years of parliamentary debate, in 1999 Swedes passed the Sex Purchase Law, which criminalized buying and decriminalized selling sex. This placed the emphasis on the buyers, while allowing women to seek help without being fined or deported. In five years, the number of prostituted women in Sweden dropped 40%. Today, the government estimates that less than 400 women are trafficked into the country, while in neighboring Finland it's 17,000.
The law and its accompanying measures are credited with shifting the entire social mindset to one where buying another human being is simply unacceptable. Today, Swedes consider prostitution inherently violent and harmful to society: Even when it's seemingly consensual, they say, the act is built on and reinforces an oppressive power imbalance between the user and the used. Although there's a very small percentage of women who freely choose to sell their bodies, they are the well-publicized exceptions. Swedes don't build public policy around protecting them when the damage to the large majority is so great. We were told that when young men from around the world were asked in a survey whether they had or would be willing to buy sex, only 11 percent of the Swedes said "yes," compared to 60 percent of Dutch men.
Sweden has inspired a trend. Norway recently made it illegal for its citizens to purchase any sex acts anywhere in the world. And Britain's Home Office just introduced a new law making it an offence to pay for sex with somebody who is "controlled for another person's gain," including pimps, traffickers, and drug dealers who force addicts to "turn tricks" to repay them. (Interestingly, a plea of ignorance is no defense for men facing charges; that's powerful, since 70% of the 88,000 prostituted women in England and Wales are under the control of pimps and traffickers, and the buyer won't have a way to determine if his prospect is among them.) Laws based on the Swedish model are being considered in Israel, India, and even the Netherlands, where a third of the infamous red light district brothels were shut down this year due to the illicit trafficking lurking within the shadows of the legal sex industry.
The US needs to get up to speed with the global abolitionist movement's focus on demand. With the election of our first African-American president, many find themselves reflecting on how far we've come as a nation: from a time when men, women, and children were kidnapped, tethered, and shipped to this country for our use and abuse. We're infuriated over the action, or inaction, of those who came before us, who lived in denial of the suffering around them. In a hundred years, what will our children's children say about us?
Swanee Hunt is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Lina Sidrys Nealon is manager of the Hunt Alternatives Fund Modern-Day Slavery Project."
First of all, let's have a look at this statement:
"Of the 800,000 people annually trafficked across international borders, roughly 70% are sold into the sex industry."
Not only is it unsourced, it's preposterous on the face of it. How could such a statistic be established when the illegal trade in all forms of forced labor is carried on in secret, mostly in parts of the world where officials look the other way and reliable field research is virtually impossible to conduct due to the obstruction of corrupt governments and the inaccessible remoteness of the border areas in the developing world where much of this trade is carried on? Did clipboard-bearing statisticians track down the militias that conscript child soldiers in much of Africa? Did they have access to the sweatshops of China and Indonesia? To the domestic labor pools of the oil-rich Gulf States? Doubtful.
A little poking around on the Web reveals that this questionable assertion comes from the U.S. State Department. You know, the one that's been run by the Bush administration over the past eight years. Yep, that's the same one that denies HIV prevention funding to countries that don't criminalize sex work or sign the requisite pledge to do so.
Yeah, right, the same State Department that sent Colin Powell to lie to the U.N. about Saddam's WMD. I'm sure their intelligence is much more accurate when it comes to a worldwide phenomenon of enormous complexity carried on largely in places where our government has little or no human intelligence capabilities.
But starting from this completely unsupported assertion, the call to arms grows incessantly more shrill ... and familiar:
"For all we may exalt in rescuing children from brothels, there's a growing recognition within the US and internationally that sex trafficking won't end until demand does. US-based organizations such as the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women are raising public awareness and advocating for policies geared toward the purchasers."
Wait a minute. Let's back up here and have a closer look at the "heroic" organizations lionized for combatting this evil trade in women's bodies. A quick look at the roster of groups supporting Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation reveals names we've come to know all too well, including Captive Daughters, Stop Porn Culture, Open Lens Media (producers of TPoP), Anti-porn Activist Network (whose blogroll is a veritable Who's Who of radfem cranks like Diana Russell), Prostitution Research and Education (Bingo! Melissa Farley's home base, and doubtless the source for much of the statistical bullshit in this piece), One Angry Girl ... you get the picture.
Now let's have a look at the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women. Hmm. Seems like the third link down on their homepage goes to the No On Prop K Web site, where we again encounter such APRF notables as Ms. Farley, Catherine MacKinnon, Robin Morgan, Norma Hotaling and, once again, our favorite whack-job, Diana Russell. Right below the anit-Prop K header, we find a call to pressure HBO into dropping its series Cathouse for "normalizing the demand for prostitution." Yes, well, we're sure that HBO's adult programming is largely responsible for the seizure of young African girls to serve as sex slaves for roving bands of armed thugs.
Alrighty then, now that we've seen who the author's friends are, we can pretty much predict what they have to say about the likes of us:
"Although there's a very small percentage of women who freely choose to sell their bodies, they are the well-publicized exceptions."
Well, so much for Ren and Nina and all the other self-identified sex workers who post here and elsewhere. They hardly rate a single sentence, and it's not surprisingly buried in the middle of an encomium to the glories of "the Swedish solution." We're informed, with a nearly audible sniff that: "Swedes don't build public policy around protecting them (the very small percentage freely "selling" their bodies, that is) when the damage to the large majority is so great."
And I do love the use of the term "freely sell their bodies." Last time I checked, most of the sex workers I know still had their bodies, but I guess the verb "sell" has a different meaning to these authors. They also use the term "prostituted women" to describe all sex workers indiscriminately, and quickly dispatch arguments about consent thus: "Today, Swedes consider prostitution inherently violent and harmful to society: Even when it's seemingly consensual, they say, the act is built on and reinforces an oppressive power imbalance between the user and the used." Well Go Swedes! Except for Swedish sex workers, that is, especially those who have spoken out repeatedly against the re-criminalization of prostitution there for making their jobs more dangerous and difficult and further stigmatizing them in society, thus making it even harder for those wishing to exit sex work.
Finally, the authors unfurl their true colors in the last graph: "The US needs to get up to speed with the global abolitionist movement's focus on demand." They then go on, rather ominously, to invoke our new African-American president by way of equating their cause with that of anti-slavery abolitionism in the antebellum South. We can only wonder with whom this false parallel is intended to resonate. American liberals who have previously supported things like Prop K, First Amendment rights for pornography and harm reduction strategies for active sex workers perhaps?
Let me be absolutely clear here, as the authors of this disingenuous piece of agitprop are not. Slavery in any form is an abomination. It can and must be actively opposed by every human being who presumes to consider him or herself civilized. I make no attempt to minimize the breadth of this criminal trade in the modern world. It's harder to find countries where it doesn't exist than those in which it flourishes. This is nothing short of a global disgrace.
But when addressing the horror of modern day slavery, it's important to recognize that most involves common labor and not sex work. According to the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, there are over 27,000,000 slave laborers scattered around the globe at this moment. The vast majority of them are subject to forced labor, not forced sex.
And where, according to the U.N., is slavery most common? The worst offenders are not, as the authors of this article would have you believe, "the pimps and pornographers" of the industrialized West. Leading the list of infamy when it comes to slavery are The Sudan, Niger, The United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia and India. In Asia, slaves weave rugs and quarry stone. In Africa, over 100,000 children have been impressed into military service and are actively engaged in armed conflict. Slave laborers also cut sugar cane in Haiti and The Dominican Republic. Slaves, particularly children, are most frequently used as a cheap source of manual labor.
This is not to deny the existence of sexual slavery or sex trafficking. These things do exist and are despicable as well as criminal. They are also a much smaller component of the totality of slavery in the world than the sex work opponents who have seized the vanguard on this issue want us to believe. Their cause is only incidentally the abolition of slavery in general. They are sex work abolitionists. They don't care whether or not the sex workers themselves are, in fact, voluntary, sometimes migratory, participants in an industry that has many injustices and inequities but that does not, in the overwhelming number of individual instances, constitute slavery.
It is a heinous distortion to minimize the real atrocity of slavery as it exists around the world today by conflating it with consensual sex work as these authors shamelessly do, with barely a nod to the suffering millions whose involuntary servitude doesn't involve sex.
That such dishonest partisanship may influence government policy here and abroad ought rightly to concern everyone with an interest in freedom, including those like myself who ardently oppose slavery in all its forms, not just those that suit a narrow political agenda.
Countdown To The New 2257 Regs?
By Mark Kernes
WASHINGTON, D.C. - According to the U.S. Department of Justice's "Semiannual Regulatory Agenda," published last Monday in the Federal Register, the revised regulations under 18 U.S.C. §2257 will be released this month. However, the date listed in the Federal Register for "Final Action" is "12/00/08" - which according to attorney and AVN columnist Clyde DeWitt means that the exact date of the release is uncertain.
"In order for the regulations to be sanctified before Jan. 20, I think they have to be issued by 30 days before that, so it would have to be Dec. 20 or 21," DeWitt said. "But I'm not sure how that works. It's a deadline to the extent that if they don't meet it, the Obama administration can undo what they did. But it should be within the next three weeks, for sure. Bush is doing everything he can to push things like this through before he leaves office."
"We've already received several calls from interested parties inquiring about this subject, and we're looking into finding the answer to that question right now, but we don't currently have that information," a spokesperson for the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Unit told AVN.
According to the Washington Post, though, the final regulations have been ready for nearly two weeks.
"Another Justice rule approved Nov. 19 spells out the personal documentation that sexually explicit performers and related publishers must make available for government inspection," Post staff writers R. Jeffrey Smith and Juliet Eilperin reported. "The underlying 2005 law, intended to keep minors out of such performances, has been challenged in the courts as a privacy violation by sexual swingers and the magazines in which they use explicit photos to solicit partners."
In fact, the regulations have technically been in force since 1996, based on a law enacted in 1988, though revised regs were first proposed under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and finalized in 2005 under his successor, Alberto Gonzales. The most recent revisions were proposed in June, 2007, with a comment period ending Sept. 10, 2007 - and in-between, Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn them, though that lawsuit is currently on hold pending the regs' final revision.
The court challenge referred to in the Post is the Connection Distributing case, filed by First Amendment attorney J. Michael Murray in 1995, which resulted in a panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, on Oct. 23, 2007, overturning the entire 2257 regulatory apparatus. However, that appeal was later the subject of an en banc rehearing by the Circuit in September of this year, and that hearing has not yet resulted in a decision.
Noteworthy is the fact that the DOJ's Agenda indicates that an "analysis" under the Regulatory Flexibility Act is required, but while several witnesses testified through deposition in Free Speech Coalition's lawsuit that the then-existing regulations would require the expenditure of millions of dollars by adult businesses to be in compliance, and require terabytes of storage space to maintain the required records, the adult industry is not aware of any further "analysis" by the Justice Department.
The Free Speech Coalition, in commenting on the 2007 proposed regs, included a study done by a D.C.-area regulatory analyst, which indicated that the proposed regs would have a disastrous economic effect on the industry. Therefore, the Justice Department's claim accompanying the 2005 regs, that, "Based upon the preliminary information available to the Department through past investigations and enforcement actions involving the affected industry, the Department is unable to state with certainty that this rule, if promulgated as a final rule, will not have any effect on small businesses of the type described in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 601(3)," could not credibly be able to be applied to the 2008 revision.
But the question remains, will the regulations actually be released any time soon?
"Keep in mind that we have seen those predictions before, and they have turned out to be not deadline," said First Amendment attorney Reed Lee. "The Semiannual Regulatory Agenda has, all along since the Adam Walsh Act at least, said, 'We're gonna get regs out by such-and-such.' Those '00' dates have been blown in the past. I've said all along that I think this administration is going to try to get regulations out before it leaves office, but one would have thought that they would have tried to get them out by [Nov.] 21st in order not to be within that 60-day deadline period so the regs don't begin to take effect after Bush has left office. Whether they want to try to rush something out on the theory that a new administration wouldn't dare reverse it, I don't know."
Lee said he doubted if the new regs would encompass substantial changes from the 2005 regs, although they would incorporate the new Web-based requirements set forth in the Adam Walsh Act.
"They [the new regs] can't be too outrageous or it will hurt them in the Sixth Circuit and it will hurt them in Denver," Lee opined, referring to the Connection and Free Speech lawsuits. "I think there are people in the Justice Department now who would just as soon let these regs languish until the next administration, and there are also hardliners who want to do everything they can to get at the pornographers and they believe this is their last chance. I can't tell who has the upper hand."
Ron London, a D.C.-based attorney who also deals extensively with the adult industry, had similar doubts.
"What you're having is a change of administration," London said, "and the only thing we've really seen here is the Semiannual Regulatory Agenda, which gives an unspecified date, and at relatively the same time frame, the Office of Management and Budget [OMB], which has to sign off on any new paperwork or recordkeeping obligations adopted by a federal agency, gave its approval to the 2257 rules, which is part of the process of adopting rules. Now, 2257 or 2257A or both have been in the Semiannual Agenda of the DOJ every issuance since the Adam Walsh Act in 2006, sometimes with a specific month attached to them, sometimes with a range of months if I remember correctly, but they've appeared fairly regularly. So it's hard to say, against the backdrop of the waning administration - it may be that they're rushing to get this out before the first of the year, since they don't know if the new administration will have the same impetus to keep this going as they did up until now, or whether it's just a matter of churning, keeping the trains running on time, and it will come out when it comes out, and their best guess is December, but they really don't know when it will come out. It's really kind of hard to read these tea leaves."
"My gut feeling is that there are still some true believers over at CEOS [Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section] who have a last chance at steering these things," he continued, "and they know that if the regulations get adopted, in order for them to get changed or rescinded, they have to go through full-blown notice and comment rule-making."
According to London, an opinion by the Sixth Circuit, en banc, regarding Connection Distributing could change the entire playing field.
"If that decision were to come out before the rules were to come out, and the en banc ruling went the same way as the panel ruling, then whether the rules come out or not, what you've basically got is rules adopted pursuant to a federal statute that's been held to be unconstitutional, so the rules would be void," London said. "Now, that being said, the first thing the government would do is ask for a stay of the court's mandate, so the rules could remain in effect until they have a chance to petition the Supreme Court for review, and that would take however long it's going to take, and conceivably the rules would remain in place."
But if the Sixth Circuit does strike down the statute, London is fairly sure that the Obama Justice Department would appeal the ruling.
"In this case, since this is a statute to make sure that underage people don't get used in dirty, filthy adult films, it's really hard to say, 'Ah, we're not interested in getting that statute put back on the books,' at least as a political proposition," he said.
Now for my turn. Let's look at those last two graphs again:
"But if the Sixth Circuit does strike down the statute, London is fairly sure that the Obama Justice Department would appeal the ruling.
"In this case, since this is a statute to make sure that underage people don't get used in dirty, filthy adult films, it's really hard to say, 'Ah, we're not interested in getting that statute put back on the books,' at least as a political proposition," he said."
Remember what I said about Eric Holder last week? Do you picture him dropping the proceedings and letting 2257 quietly revert to the already unconstitutional and burdensome form in which it existed prior to its "restructuring" under Bush? I can envision snow in July in L.A. more easily.
While I do believe that some of the more preposterous and technologically impossible elements of the regulations may eventually be negotiated away in some kind of settlement, I have absolutely no reason to expect any slack being cut for us overall by Holder or anyone else in Obama's crowd.
We need to face the fact that we have no friends in those circles and plenty of enemies.
Don't want to believe it? Wait until you read my next post.
Meantime, get your helmet on because no armistice has been declared in the war on porn and sex work in general, nor will it be. The fire will simply be coming from a new direction, and I already see evidence that the fresh reinforcements over there might be better shots.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Well, now, guess what proposal is coming up on the docket of the outgoing FCC hearings this month??
From the online Wall Street Journal, via Raw Story:
Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing for action in December on a plan to offer free, pornography-free wireless Internet service to all Americans, despite objections from the wireless industry and some consumer groups.The main difference between the original M2Z plan and what is being proposed by the FCC now is that there would be a public auction for the spectrum being offered, whereas M2Z wanted to build the spectrum all by themselves.
The free Internet plan is the most controversial issue the agency will tackle in December. Mr. Martin shelved plans to consider a wider variety of sticky issues pending at the agency, including a request by the Hollywood studios to hobble TVs and set-top boxes so studios can offer copy-protected theatrical releases sooner.
The proposal to allow a no-smut, free wireless Internet service is part of a proposal to auction off a chunk of airwaves. The winning bidder would be required to set aside a quarter of the airwaves for a free Internet service. The winner could establish a paid service that would have a fast wireless Internet connection. The free service could be slower and would be required to filter out pornography and other material not suitable for children. The FCC's proposal mirrors a plan offered by M2Z Networks Inc., a start-up backed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr.
Consumer advocates have objected to the FCC's proposed pornography filter, while the wireless industry has objected to the entire free Internet plan. To address concerns about the filter, the FCC is proposing that adults could opt out and access all Internet sites.
T-Mobile USA, in particular, has raised concerns. The Deutsche Telekom AG unit paid about $4 billion a few years ago for nearby airwaves and has complained that the free wireless Internet plan will likely result in interference for consumers of its new 3G wireless network. The FCC dismissed the company's interference concerns this fall, although T-Mobile disagreed with that finding.
Naturally, the existing wireless industry majors are all in an uproar about the proposal, mostly because it would basically remove a huge chunk of their profit base. T-Mobile has been especially concerned because of fears that the "free" spectrum would disrupt and interfere with their own wireless spectrum that they use for their commercial service....a charge that has been voriferously denied by M2Z and the plan's proponents.
Just as naturally, most consumer groups are very much up in arms over the porn filtering requirement (and who says that it won't be used to go after P2P transfers and use poor Internet users as guinea pigs for other means of government snooping and control, either??), calling it a major breach of First Amendment protections and a priori content censorship. A group of affiliated consumer groups led by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and the excellent Woodhull Freedom Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief expressing their strong opposition to the content filtering (the full brief can be read here -- Warning, pdf file).
Strangely enough, though, the plan does have their supporters, especially in Congress; and not just the typical Religious Right social conservative Republicans who would love to see a porn-free Internet. Quoting from an Ars Technica article from last August:
Yep..more of that wonderful change we can believe in. I'm sure that Ernest is smirking reading that.
Two prominent Capitol Hill Democrats have written a letter to Federal Communications Commission chair Kevin Martin supporting his proposal for a national smut-free broadband service. Their statement takes on wireless company charges that it will interfere with wireless services in neighboring spectrum areas.
"We agree with you that promoting universal broadband is an urgent national priority," wrote Edward Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on Friday. "However, we are concerned that incumbent wireless carriers are seeking unnecessary and unprecedented testing delays to prevent new innovative competitors from entering the market."The letter is the first serious support that Martin's beleaguered scheme has gotten from Capitol Hill. The FCC wants to auction off the 2155-2180 MHz spectrum region to a bidder who will provide a nationwide broadband service that's free from both access fees and pornography. This area of the spectrum is also called the Advanced Wireless Services 3 (AWS-3) region. Martin's plan has come under heavy fire of late, not only from wireless companies and Congressional Republicans, but from public interest groups and trade associations that call it a threat to freedom of speech on the Internet.
Eshoo, in fact, has submitted a bill to the House of Representatives that pretty much proposes what Martin wants. Her Wireless Internet Nationwide for Families Act of 2008 (H.R. 5846), reserves the same chunk of spectrum (2155-2180 MHz) and requires the service to provide technology that "protects underage users from accessing obscene or indecent material." The legislation presently awaits debate in Markey's House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications. It has 14 co-sponsors, mostly Democrats, including Markey.
If this plan gets past big wireless, there is, of course, another hurdle ahead: the constitutionality of a government mandated service that doesn't just obey the FCC's legally shaky indecency rules, but has to block (dare we say "censor"?) the indecency in advance.
As Ars has reported, in July, nearly two dozen prominent public interest and civil liberties groups warned the FCC that the filtering part of the scheme could find itself facing a deluge of lawsuits. So far, proponents of the idea seem to have adopted an "We'll drive off that bridge when we get there" approach to the First Amendment question.
That particular proposed bill did die in the last Congress...but I'm sure that there will be attempts in the new Obamaized Congress next year to sneak such requirements through.
Thus far, the only bone that the proponents of this "free but porn-free" wireless spectrum have thrown at opponents has been an "opt-out" clause which would allow adults to exit the plan and continue to receive unlimited Internet access through traditional channels....at market rates. In short, you would have a two-tiered system of wireless access where the poor and working class would get "free" but greatly censored wireless Internet access, filtered to fit whatever the government (or the agency who wins the spectrum) decides is "proper speech"; and the rich and those willing to borrow up the wazoo get the full unemcumbered access, but at increased prices to make up for the loss of the "freeloaders". All that, and still no net neutrality, either.
Thanks, but no thanks, Mr. Martin. I'd much rather a free system with full access and NO censorship at all from the top end (why not just allow end users through their own filters and blocking software to do the censorship for themselves??)...but if I had to choose between "free but filtered" and paying $60-$100 bucks a month for unlimited and uncensored access, well, I'll just eat the loss and take the latter.
Here's a novel idea, FCC: Why not stop trying to impose the Religious Right's morals on the rest of us, and focus your limited attention span on what really matters to us....namely, how to cut down the excessive costs of delivering Internet service across the board (whether through satellite, cable or wireless), while increasing broadband speed for everyone?? How about actually removing the ties between the Big Media companies and Internet providers and allowing ISPs to offer their services through multiple channels?? Orrrr....here's a even more novel concept: how about just getting the hell out of the way and letting end users decide for themselves what is appropriate for their families to view online?? Just as there is such a thing as the "V-chip" for TV's (and don't get me started on the FCC and their approaching shutdown for analog signals for TVs in favor of all-digital), there are numerous software fixes available for those who want to monitor their child's viewing habits. And there is always the ultimate cure for those who are concerned about too much access to the Internet for children: it's called "the OFF switch." And those things called "BOOKS" don't hurt, either.
And, Kevin Martin should be dumped into the Potomac for this debacle of a proposal...if for no other reason than the fact that he was the Bush Admin's legal counsel for the Gore-Bush 2000 Presidential Theft. And, for being such a censorious, corporatist hack.
[also crossposted at Casa van SmackChron]