Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Condomgate" Update: Common Sense 2, Anti-Porn League 0

Well, Michael Weinstein's attempt to forum-shop his way to imposing mandatory condom usage on the LA porn industry didn't work out as well as he planned. Smacked down in Alameda, he tried to get revenge in the LA court system..and got whupped on even worse.

The story from XBIZ.com:

L.A. Judge Rejects Mandatory Condoms on Porn Sets

 
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Tuesday rejected the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s request calling for mandatory use of condoms on porn sets.

In his decision, Judge David Yaffe said the county has broad discretion in how it oversees public health and dismissed a petition seeking a court order to compel health officials to require condom use on porn sets or take other reasonable steps to stem the spread of disease.

AHF filed suit in July, just weeks after a performer known as Patient Zero tested positive for HIV and county health officials released data that showed 18 HIV cases and more than 3,700 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis had been reported since 2004 by the AIM Healthcare Foundation.

Last week, AHF delivered a petition to the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, asking for a change in regulations over bloodborne pathogens. The petition seeks to require condom use on the porn set.

But in a "preemptive move," the adult film industry's Free Speech Coalition published a draft of its own bloodborne pathogen plan. The FSC’s plan covers worker safety and addresses numerous practices over everything from controlling waste to housekeeping to the cleaning of sex toys. It also addresses training, as well as pre- and post-scene evaluation, and makes examination recommendations for new-to-the-industry performers.

Brian Chase, the AHF’s attorney, told XBIZ while the organization is disappointed with Yaffe’s ruling, the group plans on appealing his decision.

“At the end of the day, this is a new issue for the courts,” Chase said. “The court in the ruling said that Public Health has the discretion to do something about the possible spread of bloodborne pathogens or they could do nothing at all.

“Our contention is that Public Health does have an obligation and that they can’t just sit on their hand for 10 years and do nothing about it.”

Chase noted that AHF will file its appeal 60 days after the final ruling is handed down by Yaffe.

 Now, this isn't going to deter Weinstein one bit, since in addition to the appeal, AHF is also appealing to Cal-OSHA to attempt to strong-arm the condom-only rules through through the regulatory process...but with these court rulings, I'm guessing that that will probably come up short, too.

But...how about the FSC actually getting aggressive and proactive for a change and promoting their own policies for protecting performers?? Better late than never, I suppose..but welcome.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

California Anti-Porn Cabal Gathers to Plot Counter-Attack

After receiving a well-deserved ass-kicking from Alameda Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith for their ill-starred attempt to bully AIM into giving up its confidential client records by subpoena, Cal-OSHA's anti-porn warriors gathered with their small but noisy claque of supporters, including such drearily usual suspects from AHF and L.A. County Health in semi-seclusion at UCLA on Friday to strategize their next moves in the ongoing attempt to regulate the porn industry out of existence in this state. Though they denied admission to anyone from AIM, FSC, industry journalists and/or any actively working performers, they did duck their heads out long enough to fire off a few shots at those who they see as obstructing their noble mission to save us from ourselves.

I'll have something to say about this ... you can bet on it ... but first please give a read to Mark Kearnes excellent account from AVN Onlline:

http://business.avn.com/articles/36918.html

Love that part about "raising money to keep performers unsafe." Nice try, but until all of you crusaders can explain what you were doing to help during the past ten years when we were, in fact, keeping performers safe, maybe you should STFU.

While farm workers in The Central Valley continue to die in the fields of pesticide exposure and Los Angeles struggles to come up with the funds neeeded to re-open its largest public hospital, and prove itself competent to the federal courts to do so, these self-appointed monitors of civic morality persist in wasting the taxpayers' money and endangering existing safeguards that have protected performers far more effectively than workers in numerous other industries their agencies supervise in pursuit of an increasingly transparent personal vendetta.

Clearly, the lives and health of porn performers mean far less to these people than demonstrating the ability to impose their will on anyone who dares oppose them. Noble posturing aside, this is about the exercise of raw political power toward personal objectives. It's despicable in its entirety and it will ultimately fail, though at what cost to the welfare of performers and the rights of this community remains to be seen.

When government officials meet in secret to decide the fate of others, the results rarely serve the common good.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

RIP: David Aaron Clark

Via BlueBlood comes the news that innovative porn director, erotica writer, and all-around creative personality David Aaron Clark passed yesterday at age 49. Amelia G memorializes him here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One For The Good Guys: Maryland Regents Defy Legislative Porn Regulation Order

Of all the contentious issues regarding the availability of porn, nothing is more contentious than the issue of the availability of porn on college campuses....especially when legislators intervene to attempt to impose their own restrictive philosophies on the more liberal regimes of public universities.

In one such state -- Maryland -- there has been a recent ruckus over the proposed screening of a porn film -- Pirates 2: Fernghetti's Revenge -- at the University of Maryland at College Park; resulting in the Maryland Assembly passing laws requiring universities there to set up restrictive policies banning the screening of "obscene" material (which, it was hoped, would also include sexually explicit work considered to be "pornography").

Well...turns out that the Regents of Maryland -- the official ruling board for Maryland's state colleges and universities -- investigated the impacts of such regulations and decided to send a message back to the Assembly there:  "Thanks, but no thanks."

Quoting in full the story from the Washington Post, with particular emphasis added by me (h/t to Porn Perspectives):


Maryland universities defy order to regulate pornography




Regents of Maryland's state university system voted Wednesday to defy a legislative order to regulate pornography on campus, concluding that any such rules would be impossible to enforce. 

The legislature gave Maryland's state-funded universities until Dec. 1 to submit policies on "the displaying or screening of obscene films and materials," language written into the state budget in April.


Maryland's General Assembly asked for the rules in response to a dust-up over the proposed screening last spring of the adult film "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" at the University of Maryland. State Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) threatened to deny state funds if the university allowed a full screening. Instead, portions of the film were shown on campus. 

The university system consulted with the attorney general's office and with Robert M. O'Neil, a First Amendment expert at the University of Virginia. Researchers determined such a rule would make the University System of Maryland the first higher education entity in the nation to adopt rules for the acceptable use of pornographic films on campus. Upon further review, they decided it would be legally indefensible.

A report to the university system's Board of Regents from Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan states that any policy "would put the universities in an untenable position and subject [them] to legal challenges." 

Regents voted Wednesday afternoon to accept Kirwan's recommendation.

The review found that pornographic materials generally have constitutional protection unless they are deemed obscene. But "there are few, if any, films that have been declared obscene by any court," the report states. As a result, top legal minds "have not been able to draft a policy that is narrowly targeted toward 'obscene' films."

A broader rule to govern pornography would probably be found unconstitutional, the report states, because governmental restrictions on speech must be "content and viewpoint neutral," and cannot be confined to adult films.

Enforcing such a rule might require the creation of a panel to review all films shown on every campus for "purely entertainment purposes," the report states, to determine whether they might need to be augmented with an educational component.

That no other public university in the nation has a policy on pornographic displays "speaks volumes," the report states.

The legislative requirement applies to the 11 colleges and universities in the state system, along with Morgan State University, St. Mary's College of Maryland and Baltimore City Community College.


At least there are some college campuses where free speech is treasured and protected. Brava to 'ya. Maryland.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Odds for Sods

Who's Nailin' Palin: The Next Generation

In a publicity stunt worthy of Larry Flynt, Playgirl.com has just shot a layout of Levi Johnston (though recent word has it that he will not be giving the world "The Full Monty"). For those not familiar, he's the wayward father of Sarah Palin's new grandson, and player in the real-life soap opera that is the Wasila clan. Fleshbot, who was holding a Fleshbot Award ceremony right around this time, was quick to bestow him with a "Mainstream to Porn Crossover" Award.

Over at The Awl and the awsome Porn Perspectives, this news has segued into an interesting discussion of the decline of Playgirl magazine, mainly as a function of how they were unable to ever fully appeal to either a gay male or straight female audience, in no small part because it has long been a back-burner publication of some fairly low-end men's magazines. Porn Perspectives hopes for some publication to hit the niche Playgirl was originally supposed to hit, namely, a high-end porn publication or site with appeal to straight women.

Easier said than done – while its definitely the case that plenty of straight women look at porn, attempts from Playgirl to Candida Royalle to come up with something with broad appeal to straight women have never been entirely successful. This has been not only true of specific publications and film series, but even any attempt to come up with what "straight female porn" as a genre should look like.

'The Feminist Pornographer'

On a somewhat related note the Albequerque Weekly Alibi profiles Tristan Taormino. Contrary to the received wisdom in the feminist community, which seems to posit that feminist porn can only exist in complete opposition to "mainstream porn", Taorimino discusses how Vivid CEO Steven Hirsch has not interfered with her creative control, and the good working relationship she has with porn stars.

Liberal Feminist Porn Wars

Renegade Evolution, Natalia Antonova, and Anthony Kennerson have responded to Amanda Marcotte's kneejerk and snobbish response to Playboy model Joanna Krupa's statement about feminists. Now I will admit that Krupa definitely was provoking a response by calling out of feminists specifically, and was using a blanket argument about "empowerment" that's a bit simplistic. Still, the liberal feminist "big blogs" who chose to take the bait – Pandagon, Salon's Broadsheet, Bitch, and Feministing – definitely did not put their best foot forward in the least, largely acting with collective indigence that a mere porn model would have the temerity to question them, in several cases also blaming women like her for other women's body image issues. I don't think any of the major feminist blogs that responded had much of anything worthwhile to say, but Amanda Marcotte's response in Pandagon has perhaps drawn the most heat for sheer cultural snobbery and, once again, talking down her nose to sex workers. And certainly Marcotte, a latter-day yuppie if there ever was one, really doesn't have much business attacking somebody like Krupa for her particular path to upward mobility.

However, Natalia Antonova really scores a major win in my book for her followup post in defense of Sasha Grey. Natalia has saved me from writing an article, because she actually succeeds in making all the points I would have made regarding Sasha Grey and catty responses toward her:

I like Sasha Grey. Not necessarily for high-falutin’ pseudo-intellectual reasons either. I think she’s really pretty, and she seems to be the type of person you could have a genuine conversation with, and that is really all I need.

[....]

A lot of people have this smug response to Grey – “oooh, she thinks what she’s doing is art, girlfriend’s in denial, she has no idea WTF she’s talking about.” I think that what these people really want is for Grey to go on a popular talk show and completely break down, send mascara running down her cheeks, and tell everyone about how she really WAS in denial, how soulless and horrible and disgusting her life truly is, and how she’d rather do something more wholesome and fulfilling from now on – stock the shelves in a rural Mississippi Wal-Mart for minimum wage, maybe. I think what grates on everyone is that Grey appears to actually know exactly what it is that she’s doing, and that just doesn’t make sense. Porn stars aren’t supposed to act self-aware. If they do act self-aware, they’re supposed to be doe-eyed and apologetic. And if they’re not doe-eyed and apologetic, they certainly can’t appear to be smarter than you.

[continued]

Addendum: I had missed this, but a discussion of the Marcotte article came up on one of my favorite porn forums, the LezloveVideo Group. Nica Noelle of Sweetheart Video posted a particularly interesting comment that's well worth a read. This part was particularly quotable and pretty much sums up so much of what war wrong with the latest round of feminist commentary:
I will say that some feminists are very threatened by sexy women for reasons I can't understand. Some "feminists" have A LOT of very strange ideas, if you ask me. Calling yourself a "feminist" doesn't mean you're suddenly logical or reasonable or speaking for anyone other than yourself.
Yep.

One for the Sex-Poz Basic Library

Anthony Kennerson reposts a blast from the past, Sheld0n Ranz's 1989 interview with Nina Hartley in the progressive Jewish zine Shmate. Its very in depth and is a very good exposition of Nina's ideas on sex-positive feminism. Reposted in 5 parts:

Nina Hartley SHMATE Interview by Sheldon Ranz — Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Surrealistic Porno

On a lighter note, over at the haunt of my favorite art blogger, Dennis Cooper, guest blogger Tomáš Svec presents his list of 10 Best Surreal Fantastic Porn Movies. Cafe Flesh and beyond from an era when "art film" still had racy connotations.

On a side note, anybody have any idea whatever happened to Rinse Dream/Steven Sayadian? He seems to have disappeared from the face of both porn and art cinema in 1993 and hasn't been heard from since.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mary Beth Buchanan Rides the Bus

Finallly, some good news, by way of AVN.

http://business.avn.com/articles/36658.html

Just in case you've been living in a cave for the past few years, Buchanan was the mostly madly partisan of all W.'s federal district attorneys and led the charge on adult obscenity prosecutions with her indictment of Rob Black and Lizzie Borden, as a result of which, both are bankrupt and sitting in federal prisons at this very moment.

It was also Buchanan's handy work that landed actor and comedian Tommy Chong behind bars for selling bongs through the mail, thereby protecting society from yet another terrible menace, no doubt.

Not only was Buchanan a vainglorious headline grabber with a rabid enthusiasm for the right-wing social agenda, she was also an inept and irreponsible officer of the court, as the article above, and the embedded link to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, make quite clear. She was deeply involved in the Bush administration's efforts to place their own kind in federal D.A. jobs all over the country and her conduct in office, which included failed attempts to prosecute the county coroner, with whom she had a personal beef and illegal use of privileged conversations between defendants and their lawyers recorded while the defendants were incarcerated.

Word has it that she now plans to run for elected office. She'll no doubt try to appeal to social conservatives in her right-leaning Western Pennsylvania district, but as new scandals break with predictable frequency, she's likely to find herself running from it instead.

Meantime, our suggestion to this grandstanding smut-buster is not to let the door hit her on the way out.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Defining Pornography

We talk about it here, and we defend it from its legions of enemies, but what do we really mean when we use the word?

In a challenging conversation at Ren's blog with someone who outspokenly dislikes porn, that question has been put to me. I'll start with a quote from that conversation, which I invited by suggesting the commenter ask me some questions about pornography. I'll state from in front that I'm not interested in debating with this person. I want the opportunity to answer specific questions rather than range back and forth over broad political issues.

I'm sure others will join in, but before doing so, I want all to keep in mind that I invited a visitor here and I would like this guest treated as politely as I wish we were treated in the territory she more often frequents. Let's see what kind of example we can set here.

"Pornography, I don’t like it. I think it shows a view of women’s sexuality that is unreal and exploits women. Admittedly, some of my attitudes are colored by personal preferences. If a man ejaculated on my face I might be tempted to erm….bite, hard. But that’s me, and I’ve heard other women say they like it. (I suspect they’re nuts, but then again….working for the open mind here.) Also, I think there is enough research on the shaping of men’s attitudes to warrant a close look at porn and its effect. Plus, enough women involved in porn have described their own exploitation to cause concern.
HOWEVER, I’m willing to listen to other positions. I’m just going to be very, very hard to convince. So… I’m going to have to think about what questions I want to ask. The first one that comes to mind regards the existence of women-centered “porn?” Ah, but, that is a mutually exclusive term. You see, *I* define “porn” as that which degrades, dehumanizes or otherwise belittles women (or men, for that matter). I dislike that which strips women (or men) of their humanity and turns them into vulvas, mouths, or penises with legs.
So, maybe we need to start with defining the term."

I have an answer to this, but it will need to wait a bit until I've forumulated it properly.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It "White Ribbon Against Pornography Week"!

For the many of you who have probably failed to notice, its "White Ribbon Against Pornography Week", apparently coming to a close tomorrow. This event, sponsored by the ever-wonderful Morality in Media, is designed to spread "awareness" of the harms of pornography and renew the fight for the zealous enforcement of obscenity laws.

Over at Carnal Nation, Marty Klein posts some ideas of his own about spreading awareness of pornography issues this week, or whenever such a "white ribbon" campaign is declared. Interestingly, the anti-porn patrol have descended from the sky even on a sex-positive blog like Carnal Nation to "raise awareness" of the harms of pornography. Some of us on the other side have been countering such propaganda with simple facts, though I'm not so sanguine as to whether this will raise the "awareness" of the antis.

Another thought – perhaps there needs to be a week to raise awareness of the victims of obscenity laws.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why the Zicaris Don't Belong in Jail

Here's an excellent piece from Reason.com that just about says it all concerning the absurdity of jailing people for offensive images while Hollywood liberals line up to defend a man guilty of committing heinous crimes against a minor:

bhttp://reason.com/archives/2009/10/27/in-defense-of-extreme-porn
Reason Magazine


In Defense of Extreme Pornography

Why Janet Romano and Rob Zicari have no business being in federal prison.

Greg Beato | October 27, 2009

In late September, as a controversial movie director spent the first week of her year-long sentence at FCI Waseca, a federal prison in Minnesota, Harvey Weinstein didn’t bother to circulate a petition demanding her release. Debra Winger didn’t issue a statement protesting the director’s incarceration and anticipating her next masterwork. Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation, didn’t publicly wonder why the government had spent the last seven years trying to put the director in jail.

Maybe Janet Romano should have drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old. Or, at the very least, had better cinematic taste. Unlike Roman Polanski, Romano has never won an Oscar for Best Picture. In fact, the 31-year-old porn auteur, 
whose credits as a director include Pain and Suffering, I Love to Hurt You, Cannibalism, and Sexual Intrusive Dysfunctional Society 2, has never even won an AVN Award for Most Outrageous Sex Scene.

Still, you’d think many of the creative types rallying around Polanski would be equally sympathetic to Romano’s plight. Essentially, she’s in prison for rape, too—as is her husband, Rob Zicari. But as Whoopi Goldberg might have put it, 
the rape that landed them in the slammer wasn’t actually rape-rape. It wasn’t even ‘70s-style-libertine rape. Instead, it was movie rape, a scene enacted by consenting adults.

Zicari and Romano, known in the porn industry as Rob Black and Lizzy Borden, were the primary figures behind Extreme Associates, a production company, which, along with a few others, began pushing the boundaries of what the mainstream adult video industry depicted in the late 1990s.

Of course, it wasn’t just porn that was growing more extreme in those days—all pop culture was. It was the heyday of Marilyn Manson and Eminem, South Park, professional wrestling, Jackass, Fear Factor, World’s Wildest Police Videos, Girls Gone Wild, Tom Green, and most of all, the Internet, where websites like Rotten.com and Stileproject.com were assembling vast visual libraries of any taboo or depravity that could be digitized: gruesome crime and accident scene photos, animal snuff, people disfigured by bizarre medical conditions.

Along with everyone from NBC executives to computer nerds living in their parents’ basements, Zicari and Romano simply jumped into the fray. Hollywood slasher films chopped nubile teens into pieces, so why couldn’t they simulate similar antics in their own efforts? Hollywood reality shows featured contestants eating pig rectums for money, so why couldn’t they engage in their own gross-out stunts?

In their videos, female performers (and the occasional male one) were slapped, spat on, and verbally degraded. Rapes and murders were depicted. Vomit was vomited, then consumed again along with other bodily fluids. And of course there was explicit hardcore sex. Had Zicari and Romano stuck to just rape and murder, with some R-rated nudity to complement artful scenes of mutilation and dismemberment, as Hollywood does in movies like Hostel and House of 1000 Corpses, they could’ve avoided a lot of trouble. Likewise, had they focused on hardcore sex and kept the violence and puke out of it.

By mixing these various elements, however, they earned a 10-count indictment on obscenity charges in 2003. In the eyes of many in the adult industry, they’d brought this trouble on themselves. A year earlier, a PBS Frontline documentary on porn included shots of Romano filming simulated rapes and murders that the members of the Frontline crew found so disturbing they fled the set. At a time when anti-porn organizations were increasingly pressuring the Bush Administration to resume obscenity prosecutions against the adult porn industry—which had fallen by the wayside during President Clinton’s years in office—this was not exactly the kind of PR effort that mainstream adult companies like Vivid Entertainment and Wicked Pictures wanted to put out there. Nor was Zicari’s combative rhetoric appreciated. “We've got tons of stuff they technically could arrest us for,” Zicari told Frontline. “I'm not out there saying I want to be the test case. But I will be the test case. I would welcome that.”

In 2004, when I interviewed Zicari for a Reason article on the federal government’s newly energized campaign against the porn industry, he remained defiant. “This is the World Series, and they're the Boston Red Sox,” he exclaimed. “They're getting a chance that they haven't had in 9 billion years, and if they blow this, they can never come back. Because where can you go after a jury says there's nothing wrong with these movies? How do you go after a movie involving a husband and wife and the guy's wearing a condom? How do you get someone to go after that, when you couldn't even prosecute a tape where the guy comes in the girl's mouth, and then he fucking stabs her? This is their one shot, and they fucking know it.”

In January 2005, it seemed as if the federal prosecutors had whiffed—U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster dismissed the charges against Romano and Zicari, ruling that federal obscenity laws were unconstitutional because they violated one’s “right to sexual privacy, which encompasses a right to possess and view sexually explicit material in the privacy of one’s own home.” Later that year, however, an appeals court reversed this controversial ruling, and the government resumed its case against the couple.

As the case dragged on, it attracted less and less attention, ultimately becoming the the judicial equivalent of the celebrity who you thought died years ago but is actually quite extant. And while the federal government never really ramped up its crusade against the porn industry enough to satisfy the anti-smut forces or terrify Playboy subscribers, it did continue to intensify its efforts. In 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expanded the government’s anti-obscenity efforts by creating the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, which, he explained, would be staffed with the DOJ’s “best and brightest” prosecutors.

In 2008, those prosecutors won a victory against Paul Little, aka Max Hardcore, convicting him on 10 counts of violating federal obscenity laws, a verdict that led to a 46-month prison sentence. Earlier this year in March, just a few weeks before their own case was scheduled to go before a jury, Zicari and Romano accepted a plea bargain when the government offered to reduce its case against them to a single count of conspiracy to distribute obscene material.

“We felt like they had the best chance to get the least amount of time if they pled,” says Jennifer Kinsley, an attorney at Sirkin Pinales & Schwartz, the law firm that represented Zicari and Romano throughout their seven-year legal battle. “Financially, this case really destroyed them. People became afraid to do business with them on the production side and the distribution side.” Their business no longer exists. Neither one has produced or directed a video since 2005. “They went from living in a very nice house that they owned to sharing a small apartment with a roommate.”

Now, they’re in prison, Romano at FCI Waseca in Minnesota, and Zicari at FCI La Tuna in Texas. According to Kinsley, Zicari was supposed to serve his sentence at FCI La Tuna’s minimum-security satellite facility, but he mistakenly reported to its primary facility 30 miles away. Instead of transferring him to the satellite facility, however, prison officials kept there. “But then they ended up putting him in solitary confinement [for nearly a month] because that was the only space they had available,” Kinsley says.

Granted, hardcore pornographers don’t make for the most sympathetic victims, even when they’re financially strapped and thrown in the hole simply 
for poor navigation skills.

Ultimately, however, two American citizens are currently spending a year in prison for making movies that involved adult actors participating in fictional scenarios with their full consent. The rapes and murders they staged were no less imaginary than the rapes and murders Hollywood stages with far greater verisimilitude every day. The gross-out stunts they engaged in were no grosser than the bug-eating contests of reality TV or the bodily fluids gags that can be found in countless Hollywood comedies.

Unfortunately, Romano and Zicari had the audacity to mix genres of entertainment that, while permissible on their own, are apparently not allowed to be combined. And thus they managed to achieve what not even John Waters ever accomplished: They were sent to prison for having bad taste.

But those with better taste shouldn’t expect immunity now that the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force has extended it winning streak. As Rob Zicari told Frontline 2002, it’s not as if anti-porn advocates make distinctions between good pornography and bad pornography: “They want to get rid of everybody. The Christian right, the fundamentalists, they don't like pornography. It doesn't matter if their movie is a married couple having sex in the bed, and they're loving each other, or it's our kind where it's like some pimp having sex with some street hooker in an alley for crack or something. They don't look at it that way. They look at it as sex, filming it, and distributing it to the masses…”

Currently, the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force is led by Alberto Gonzales appointee Brent Ward, a man who once led a crusade in Utah to get nude art-class models to wear bikinis. According to Jennifer Kinsley, the Task Force isn’t just continuing old cases that began in the Bush era, it’s also actively seeking out new ones. “Someone was asking me the other day why this is still happening,” she says. “I think the reason is that Brent Ward is still there. Had he been asked to resign, I don’t think these cases would still be going on. But basically the Obama Administration has left the previous decision-makers in their offices.”

Those decision-makers remain in office in part, no doubt, because so few people have even acknowledged, much less objected, to the fact that our federal government is sending people to prison for thought-crimes. In the July 2009 issue of Reason, Jacob Sullum reported on the case’s outcome, but throughout the mediasphere, coverage was scant. The New York Times made no mention of Zicari and Romano’s conviction or subsequent sentencing. Nor did The Washington Post. The Los Angeles Times ran a 131-word AP story. Now that the two convention-flouting provocateurs are actually sitting in jail, though, perhaps their ordeal will seem compelling enough to inspire their Hollywood brethren to at least circulate a petition or two on their behalf in the name of artistic freedom.

Contributing Editor Greg Beato is a writer living in San Francisco.

_____________________________________________________________________

Worthy of note here, besides the obvious import of the case at hand, is the attention given to Brent Ward and his smut-buster squads continuing presences, and continuing activity, under the new administration.

When I began seeing pro-Obama icons popping up on anti-porn sites and blogs after the MacKinnon endorsement in The WSJ, I told you so.

Now I'm telling you so again. These guys are exactly zero improvement over the last bunch when it comes to porn. Before the day is done, they may prove to be worse.

Maybe some of the good liberal and progressive types who gave their money and their votes to Obama might care to start sending a few emails and actual letters about this nonsense. Maybe even a few of those great creative thinkers who see fit to raise a great public outcry over the terrible injustice being done to embattled genius and convicted rapist Roman Polanski might spare a minute to say something about what's been done to the Zicaris, who harmed no one, particularly no minors, in the making fictional pictures for public consumption.

Maybe tomorrow the sun will rise in the west. I'd say the odds are about the same.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Weinstein/Lubben Alliance's Response To Getting Stoned By The Courts?? Go Donald Wildmon And Boycott For Condom-Only!!

Gee...you'd think that Michael Weinstein and his newest BGF Shelley Lubben would give up the ghost after their attempt to impose condom-only rules on the porn industry got shot down faster than a bird in a hailstorm...but you would be wrong.  Now, they are attempting to use the old efforts of economic coercion to do for them what they couldn't do with the law.

Once again we rely on X-Biz.com for the story.






 
LOS ANGELES — A movement to make porn films condom-only is sure to gain further traction on Wednesday as two groups plan to protest the Marriott hotel chain.


The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Pink Cross Foundation claim Marriott acts as a “middleman” in selling condom-less porn productions because it makes millions from the pay-per-view lineup it offers in its hotel rooms.


The groups are planning a “Porn In” Wednesday night at the downtown Los Angeles Marriott. They also will announce a viral and print ad campaign for a hotel boycott.
They will protest in front of the Figueroa Street Marriott with banners and three-foot wide condoms. Later, a press conference will be held in a hotel room with streaming porn on the room’s flat screen.


Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that until he gets a commitment from Marriott officials to block condomless adult films to their hotel guests he will urge a public boycott of the entire Marriott chain, which pencils out to about 3,000.


“We want to highlight the brazen hypocrisy — the Mormon Marriott’s moral masquerade — of such a so-called family oriented hotel chain profiteering off adult films that endanger the lives of the performers acting in them,” Weinstein said.


The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has taken a stand after an adult performer tested positive for HIV several months ago.

The Los Angeles-based group filed suit against Los Angeles County public health officials, claiming they have not made any moves to require condom use on the porn set, and filed formal complaints against 16 adult entertainment companies with Cal-OSHA in order to push for mandatory condoms at the workplace.

Weinstein said that the viral online component of the ad campaign against Marriott will launch later this week, with the print ad campaign to follow next week in the Salt Lake City area.


“[It’s] home to the Marriott founder’s Mormon religion,” he said. Weinstein was referring to deceased founder J. Willard Marriott, a lifelong Mormon.
Now...one of the grandest ironies is that Marriot has been the target of boycotts for their policy of allowing adult films and videos to be shown in their rooms...but usually it is from the Religious Right who wants to ban them outright, not merely to engineer which particular kinds of films appear.  And, if I remember right, most of the hotel chains that do allow porn movies or porn channels specifically limit them to the late-night cable channels like Spice and Adam and Eve and Hott Network....which for the most part tend towards the straighter, more couples-oriented genres which tend to include condoms anyway.

But then again, one can never underestimate the gravitation force that a microphone has on such a media whore like Michael Weinstein.

 If boycotts from far more politically powerful folk like Donald Wildmon's American Family Association and Morality in Media haven't worked in pushing Marriott towards banishing porn, then how in the hell does Weinstein think that his "pressure" will make any similar headway??  Is he that stupid to think that selective censorship is more feasible and will be more accepted by the swarms of consumers of hotel chains than a total ban??

And...even by the slightly less then slim-to-none chance that Weinstein's efforts succeed, that will certainly put about as much a dent into sales of condom-free porn as...well..a popgun would affect a nuke. I mean, what about all those Internet sites and all the porn produced outside of Utah,and all those other firms, Michael...surely they will succumb to your superior progessive wisdom, too??

Yeah, right.

Still, the notion that a corporate entity like Marriott Hotels could surrender to such nonsense is more than just a slight threat, and given how much the adult sexual media is under the rocks due to the recession, this is something that should be taken very seriously by we who favor freedom of choice and performer autonomy...and who think that performers, not bureaucrats or holier-than-thou activists, should decide for themselves how to protect themselves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More on the AIM/Cal-OSHA Court Decision

Anthony kind of jumped me on this, but AIM has a more complete press release account I wrote yesterday that I believe went out today. It outlines some of the broader issues at stake, and though it reflects our relief over Judge Smith's wise decision, it addresses the serious problems that remain, particular for small, independent producers, and for AIM itself:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SUPERIOR COURT QUASHES CAL-OSHA’S ATTEMPT TO SUBPOENA CONFIDENTIAL AIM MEDICAL RECORDS

AIM’s Financial Woes From Litigation Costs Remain a Threat to Organization’s Continued Operation

On October 15, 2009, California Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith granted a preliminary injunction blocking efforts by Cal-OSHA to force The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation to supply the safety agency with privileged information regarding an adult video performer who tested positive for HIV at one of AIM’s clinics in June 2009.

Concluding sixteen pages of closely-reasoned argument backed by statutory restraints and existing case law, Judge Smith enjoined Cal-OSHA from pursuing access by legal process to AIM’s records regarding this case in crisp, clear, unambiguous language:

“Defendants California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Lee Welsh, and their agents and employees, are restrained from compelling or seeking to compel the disclosure of confidential
medical records, HlV test information, and personal identifying information of Plaintiff and other patients of AIM without the specific written authorization of such patients; and

2. Defendant Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation is restrained from disclosing confidential medical records, HlV test information.”

Judge Smith further held that: “Because CalOSHA appears to have acted beyond its jurisdiction in subpoenaing this information, and because obtaining the information would
impermissibly infringe upon Plaintiffs and other patients' Constitutional privacy rights, Defendant's argument that an injunction cannot be granted, pursuant to CCP 526(b)(4), to prevent execution of a public statute by a public entity for the
benefit of the public fails.”

This stinging juridical rebuke after weeks of pre-trial maneuvering by Cal-OSHA, including unannounced inspection of of AIM’s Sherman Oaks clinic, the theft of patient release forms from the clinic’s waiting room , and heated courtroom theatrics from Cal-OSHA counsel Amy Martin, slams the door on the agency’s attempt to dragoon AIM into its witch-hunt against adult video producers by overriding state and federal protections of doctor-patient privilege through the use of Cal-OSHA’s highly limited and employment-specific subpoena powers.

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this victory for the medical confidentiality rights of adult video performers and for AIM’s ability to provide testing, monitoring and treatment for those performers free of unlawful state intrusion. Cal-OSHA made no secret of its intention to use whatever information it might have obtained through this subpoena to establish connections between AIM patients and the producers who engage them and thus to justify the imposition of potentially ruinous fines on those producers on the dubious grounds of engagement in proximity to the detection of sexually transmitted infections.

This was a heavy-handed attempt by a state agency to write new law expansively reinterpreting its mandate with the intent of punishing adult video producers for misfortunes to which those producers causal relationship cannot be medically or legally established. The court found Cal-OSHA’s claims to such authority entirely meritless and its methods in contravention of existing law.

Thus Cal-OSHA has failed in its attempt to use the Adult Video Industry’s key STD testing and monitoring organization as a weapon against that industry.

But however welcome Judge Smith’s wise ruling may be, it by no means eliminates the threat of Cal-OSHA’s ongoing vendetta against our community of performers and producers, and while it protects AIM from further harassment by Cal-OSHA’s agents and employees, it leaves AIM in dire financial straits that threaten the foundation’s ability to operate as it has with such success over the past dozen years. Litigation of this type is catastrophically expensive for a small, non-profit organization supported by voluntary donations and the at-cost services it provides. AIM has no budget for paying attorney’s fees, travel expenses for repeated trips to Oakland, where the case was heard, research expenses and the other financial burdens imposed by having to defend itself, and the industry at large, against the vastly greater resources of state government.

As of now, AIM has unpaid debts arising out of this case in excess of $170,000 dollars, and if those debts are not paid, AIM’s clinics face the very real possibility of having to close its clinic’s doors for good within before the year is out.

If that happens, AIM’s courtroom victory will look a lot like defeat for everyone involved in the making of adult video. Cal-OSHA and other governmental agencies and certain NGOs do not believe in our ability to regulate ourselves and protect the health of our performers. AIM’s extraordinary record since its inception of doing exactly that is the industry’s most compelling argument against the heavy-handed and most probably ineffective regulations these outsiders wish to impose.

The exact number of HIV-positive Adult Industry performers revealed by AIM testing since 2004 totals five people – four performers infected as a result of a single incident in 2004 and one performer in 2009. In this most recent case, AIM put 19 people under quarantine, including performers and non-performers, and this patient’s case was determined by AIM to have occurred outside of the Adult Industry performer population.

Since 2004, new cases of HIV among the general population of Los Angeles County averaged about 3,000 per year.

Our statistics for other STDs, including gonorrhea, Chlamydia and syphilis, show a steady 2.4% incidence in our client population at any given time, considerably lower than the average for sexually active young people with similar demographics. Indeed, when it comes to the risk of disease, the surrounding population represents a far greater danger to our clients than they to it.

Despite sensational, misleading and often outright fabricated claims to the contrary by various public officials and spokespersons for private organizations, adult video production remains remarkably safe from the risk of disease, largely as a result of AIMs vigilance in keeping infected individuals from entering the talent pool and identifying such individuals immediately if they become infected after entering the industry.

Were AIM to cease operation, those safeguards would be gone and claims that adult video production constitutes a clear and present danger to the health of its participants and to the surrounding community would be much more difficult to refute.

In addition to the wisdom of Judge Smith’s finding in favor of the injunction, she sounds a cautionary note none of us can afford to ignore:

“California law erects strong safeguards to prevent the disclosure of HlV-relatedinformation. Health and Safety Code section 120975, in Chapter 7, applies to HIV testing generally and states:
[t]o protect the privacy of individuals who are the subject of blood testing for antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus (HlV), the following shall apply: Except as provided in Section 1603.1 [disclosure to blood banks], 1603.3 [notification of blood donors], 121022 [report to local health officers], no person shall be compelled in any state, county, city, or other local civil, criminal, administrative, legislative, or other proceedings to identify or provide identifying characteristics that would identify any individual who is the subject of a blood test to detect antibodies to HIV.
Section 120980 provides civil penalties for persons who negligently disclose, and criminal penalties for persons who willfully disclose, the results of an HIV test.

Testing is anonymous and, in the absence of a consent to disclosure, results cannot be disclosed to anyone other than the person tested.”

In other words, absent AIM’s voluntary compliance testing program, producers would enjoy no legal right to require HIV testing of performers to insist on the disclosure of any performer’s HIV status. Furthermore, under state anti-discrimination laws, producers could not legally bar performers whose HIV test results are unknown, or even those who are HIV-positive, from performing.

Such is the hellish legal limbo into which this business would be cast if AIM were to shutter its clinics and the 98% compliance with AIM’s voluntary testing program we now enjoy to disappear in the absence of any legally feasible alternative.

AIM has saved this industry from such a calamity through its services for over a decade. Is it too much to ask that the industry in turn martial its financial resources to the utmost to save AIM in return?

We have secured an important victory in one battle. A long campaign lies ahead. The time to demonstrate our collective determination to see that campaign through is now.

____---------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, as AIM struggles to keep its doors open, the swat on the nose Cal-OSHA got from Judge Smith hasn't deterred them from their campaign to drive the lawful porn industry out of California. They have now begun sending inspectors to sets based on lists of filming permits and going over studios and locatioins with a magnifying glass. If they find a loose extension cord or a ladder where it shouldn't be or an improperly mounted fire extinguisher, the inspectors are writing citations on the spot. They're also writing citations on the blood-borne parthogens standards for healtchare facilities, even those said standards have not yet been establishes as applicable to the porn industry. One company was recently cited because a production assitant picked up a used towel without wearing gloves. They've even been inspecting offices where no production goes on in search of minute violations.

If the infractions are small, or even non-existent, the penalties are draconian. The minimum fines start around $15,000 per citation. As you can imagine, it doesn't take many small transgresssions to put a struggling company underwater.

Meanwhile, the LAPD, in the wake of Michael Weinstein and Shelley Lubben putting on their dog-and-pony show for The Board of Supervisors, has formed a special squad to roam the city in search of non-permitted shooting (looking for grip trucks in driveways, etc.) and shutting those shoots down.

All of this comes at a time when production is the lowest it's been in 15 years and talent and crews are struggling to pay their rents.

Meanwhile, both the state, county and city governments are deeply in debt and the most basic services are being drastically cut back. Farm workers are dying from pesticide exposure in the fields of The Central Valley, ER patients are bleeding out in the corridors of county hospitals because there aren't enough personnel to treat them and gang violence is resurgent all over the city.

Yet these taxpayer-funded agencies and organizations continue to find time and money to snoop on porn sets from which no complaints, in a supposedly complaint-driven inspection process, have been made.

This is cruel madness sponsored by a handful of fanatical bureaucrats bent on destroying an industry that pays its taxes, obeys the law and keeps its business very much out of everyone else's way.

And if anyone actually thinks this arises out of something having to do with protecting the health or welfare of performers or others engaged in the making of sexually explicit images needs to be reminded of this little gem of wisdom from Dr. Peter Kerndt of L.A. County Health in his monograph for The Public Library of Science:

"The portrayal of unsafe sex in adult films may also influence viewer behavior. In the same way that images of smoking in films romanticize tobacco use, viewers of these adult films may idealize unprotected sex [16]. The increasingly high-risk sexual behavior viewed by large audiences on television and the Internet could decrease condom use. Requiring condoms may influence viewers to see them as normative or even sexually appealing, and devalue unsafe sex. With the growing accessibility of adult film to mainstream America, portrayals of condom use onscreen could increase condom use among viewers, thereby promoting public health."

But of course, none of this is about content or First Amendment-related concerns. Nope. This is all being done from tender concern for those whose lives are directly impacted.

And what is Dr. Kerndt's long-term objective?

"Lacking the will or ability to regulate itself, the adult film industry needs state and federal legislation to enforce health and safety standards for adult film performers. Local officials lack the authority to impose fines and Cal/OSHA's monitoring and enforcement capability is limited. Short of legislation mandating performer protection, restricting distribution of adult movies to condom-only films may be the one way to have an impact on the industry. If there were organized and truly effective advocacy for performers, then large hotel chains, video retailers, and cable networks could be pressured to purchase adult films under a condom-only “seal of approval.” Alternatively and more effectively, legislation could require that the Custodian of Records (already required under Federal law) maintain documentation of screening tests and condom usage in a film's production. Distribution could be restricted to those films produced pursuant to the standard prior to any sale to cable companies or hotel chains, over the Internet, or in other markets."

That's the agenda, as set by the Number One instigator of this whole situation, and it's working.

The chilling effect has set in. Given my outspoken criticisms of these people and institutions, I have no doubt that I'm high on their hit list. The studio Nina and I share is a couple of miles from all their offices.

Until these matters are resolved, I wouldn't even think of shooting so much as a family portrait here. I'm done in video production until the anti-porn pogrom is either halted by official intervention or, quite possibly, forever if these cranks succeed in forcing their personal crusades down all our throats.

Though we won a victory last week of no small importance, I can assure you no champagne will be drunk here tonight.

More to say on what happens when porn is stripped of legal protections and driven underground and/or out of state. It won't be a pretty read.

And for those who don't think what happens here matters all that much to freedom of sexual expression elsewhere, ponder this: if a handful of motivated bureaucrats can inflict this kind of damage in a state where the porn industry has functioned without major interference for three decades, imagine what can happen in places with no such history and no established precedent for legal operation.

Without laying a glove on Miller v. California, it might very well be possible to make porn production illegal everywhere in the U.S. through the abuse of regulatory procedures. If we lose that fight here, we're unlikely to win it elsewhere.

HIV-Porn "Outbreak" Update: Cal Judge Stones Cal-OSHA, Keeps "Patient Zero" Med Records Private

Well, well, well....it seems that there is respect for privacy regarding medical records after all.  Even for porn performers.

This latest from XBiz.com:


Cal-OSHA Can’t Seek AIM Healthcare Medical Records

 OAKLAND, Calif. — A judge last week OK'd a protective order sought by "Patient Zero" over five years’ worth of information from the AIM Healthcare Foundation that Cal-OSHA had been seeking.

Patient Zero, the adult industry performer who was found to be HIV-positive in June, asked the court to seek an injunction against Cal-OSHA and AIM because released patient-identifying information would violate Patient Zero’s right to privacy and give irreparable harm to her, according to a suit filed by ACLU attorneys.



Alameda Superior Court Judge Judge Winifred Smith, in her ruling said that "once [Patient Zero’s] identifying information is revealed, the disclosure cannot be undone,” and that Cal-OSHA can carry out its probe with a variety of other options.


Smith also said that Cal-OSHA was not acting within its jurisdiction in subpoenaing the data through the years 2004-2009.


“Cal-OSHA is charged with, among other things, investigating 'causes of any employment accident that ... results in a serious injury or illness, or a serious exposure, unless it determines that an investigation is unnecessary.' Smith said in her ruling. “Plaintiff is concededly not an employee of AIM, and Cal-OSHA is admittedly not investigating the safety of AIM's employees, but of adult film industry employers."


Smith further said that Cal-OSHA is limited to investigating employers and their agents.


“There is no apparent need for identifying information of Patient Zero, or of patient-identifying information generally, for the purposes of investigation of AIM as an employer," she said.


The suit over Patient Zero information was put on the fast track after her counsel from the ACLU learned of a meeting slated in July between Cal-OSHA officials and AIM personnel.


The court filing detailed the extent Cal-OSHA used its regulatory power to seek patient medical records at AIM, which provides HIV and STD testing and treatment mostly for adult industry performers.

Cal-OSHA, which conducted a surprise inspection of the AIM facility in Sherman Oaks, Calif., on June 17, later issued a subpoena to AIM but not to Patient Zero, who was informed by AIM on June 6 that results of an HIV test showed her preliminarily testing positive for HIV. (Patient Zero’s identity has never been revealed publicly.)


The subpoena issued by Cal-OSHA included requests for confidential public health records and “personally identifying information of AIM patents who tested positive for HIV that could reasonably be expected to identify or lead to the identification of Patient Zero.”


At the time, AIM personnel refused to produce records.


But Cal-OSHA officials scheduled a follow-up investigatory interview with AIM staff in Oakland, Calif., according to the suit.


Once Patient Zero’s attorneys got wind of the interview with AIM staff, they immediately shot off a request to Cal-OSHA objecting to it.


Patient Zero’s counsel said they never received any response from Cal-OSHA relative to the request; however a receipt of the letter showed that Cal-OSHA special counsel did receive the letter.


Patient Zero's counsel later filed its suit at Alameda Superior Court. Last week, they were successful with the injunction.

Notice especially the graph dealing with Judge Smith's ruling that Cal-OSHA has no jurisdiction over AIM's testing activities of porn performers, since the performers themselves are not employees of AIM.  That alone should put an abrupt end to the screeching of Michael Weinstein that Cal-OSHA or the LA County health officials can use this latest "scare" to impose mandatory condom usage or other punitive measures intended to impose their brand of social engineering.

Now...whether that ruling affects Weinstein's ongoing suit against the LA health officials to enforce the mandatory condom rules through local legislation is still up in the air...but considering that it would be Cal-OSHA that would have been responsible for enforcing the rules in the first place, it would seem to be a fatal blow to such efforts.

Of course, that probably won't stop Weinstein from holding one of his pressers condemning Judge Smith as an enabler and a tool of the porn industry who is sacrificing women to their deaths. I wonder if Shelley Lubben or any of the antiporn radicalfems will be accompanying him with the usual horror tales then??

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Graphic Sexual Horror Part Deux

Not at all meaning to steal a bit of IACB's finely-tuned thunder on the subject, I just had to bump this topic up again now that I've seen the movie. Whatever your feelings about InSex or BDSM in general. If you have any business on this blog, you'll see why a graph or two down the road.

So now that I have actually seen this picture, I just can't wait to tell everybody how good it is. It's more than good. It's a fine piece of documentary work on a very difficult subject of which any filmmaker should be proud, whatever the subject may be.

The directors resolutely resist the temptation to oversimplify the contradictions of InSex - its weird visual richness or the sordid circumstances under which it was often created – allowing viewers to make up their own minds.

Certainly, those who were inclined to see InSex's creator, PD, as either a monster or a genius or a mountebank or any combination of the above will find plenty of evidence here to validate their preconceptions. However, they'll also be confronted with plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Special thanks, after the ugly exploitation of sex performers in a tacky hock of agitprop like The Price of Pleasure, to G.S.H.'s co-directors for allowing sex performers to speak for themselves, at length and without manipulative editing. Not surprisingly, they prove perfectly adept at articulating their own experiences without the need for noxious interlocutors explaining that experience for our benefit.

But of all the fascinating topics covered in this riveting film, the one most chillingly relevant to the matters we address here concerns the manner of InSex's sudden demise. PD claims, and it's a claim confirmed not only by other BDSM Web site operators on camera but also by the experiences of others I know personally, that the Bush administration put him out of business by means that make a paper airplane out of The Constitution, set it alight and hurl it in the face of a symbolic target, burning that target to the ground.

Rather than attempting to prosecute InSex for obscenity, which would have been challenging given PD's substantial artistic credentials, agents of The Department of Homeland Security were sent forth to intimidate banks into refusing to process InSex's credit card transactions. A laughable-if-not-so-disturbing charge was leveled to the effect that Internet porn money was being used to finance international terrorism and that banks unwilling to cooperate in putting their clients out of business might have cause to regret their resistance.

Even I might be tempted to dismiss this as grandiose hyperbole, which is entirely consistent with PD's M.O., had I not heard the very same story from several small, independent BDSM site owners who were similarly shut down without warning by banks with whom they had long done business to no ill effect for either party.

This raises a question more disturbing, or at least it should be, to the citizenry at large than any image that ever appeared on InSex. Why would a regime that was torturing people all over the world, often in a sexualized manner but without the williing participation of those being tortured, go to such bizarre lengths to suppress images of people being tortured voluntarily?

Why indeed? What is it about BDSM that inspires such murderous loathing in authoritarian personalities of all stripes? Go anywhere in the world where human rights are routinely abused and what you won't find is any above-ground BDSM cultural representation of any kind. Clearly, in these various dystopias, torture is regarded as a ruling-class monopoly not to be mocked by ordinary folk playing at it for their mutual enjoyment.

Another troubling element of this part of the story is the outsourcing of censorship to the private sector as a way of circumventing legal restrictions on the use of government power.

Strangely, those howling about government involvement in healthcare seem to find nothing troubling about government involvement in mass communications with no public oversight or debate whatsoever.

The triumph of Graphic Sexual Horror, like that of most excellent documentaries, is how many more questions it asks than it answers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Shelley Lubben's latest

Anybody seen this yet?:

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.channel&channelID=42789016

Shelley Lubben packs the LA AIDS Commission meeting. And, yep, if you watch to the very end, the Tim Samuels BBC story is prominently mentioned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Child Porn Menace as Propaganda Tool

Courtesy of our friends at X-Biz, First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters calls out the "All Porn = Child Porn Brigade" and dispatches them cleanly:

"A favorite trick of the censors in this country is to blur the lines between protected speech, in the form of adult erotica on the one hand, with patently illegal material, in the form of child pornography on the other, by mixing the two at every opportunity.

Family Values groups and other opponents of free speech routinely use the terms "pornography," "obscenity" and "child pornography," interchangeably, in the attempt to cause confusion in the mind of the public, and intentionally link perfectly legal content with evidence of a horrific crime. The media often plays along, whether through ignorance or complicity, and refers to the new child porn arrest as a "Pornography Bust."

All of this helps convince the public through confusion, that pornography has something to do with abuse of children, and that all of it is probably illegal somehow. In some jurisdictions, law enforcement investigators seize every chance to mix these concepts in a blender, by charging defendants with obscenity as well as child pornography, no matter how remote the connection, or how strong the evidence. Some evidence of this can be found in a couple recent cases initiated by the Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd. This is the same Sheriff made famous by declaring that he had jurisdiction to regulate anything online, so long as it was available for download in Polk County, Florida. According to Judd:

"But it makes no difference, because if you fed that server or you could receive information off that server in this county, then it gives us jurisdiction. ... Technically I could charge someone in Kansas, if I received child pornography here, obtained a warrant and had him extradited from Kansas and tried here."

Note the stray reference to "child pornography" there. That particular case had nothing to do with children, but was an adult obscenity case against Chris Wilson, arising from his operation of a user-generated content site. This quote provides a unique glimpse into the strategy of many law enforcement agencies and anti-porn groups, who constantly mention child pornography whenever discussing adult erotica.

Judd's office recently investigated an antique store owner by the name of John Denitto, who engaged in some adult content production on the side. Sheriff's Deputies raided the business based on the claim of a "confidential informant" that a teenager was being photographed there. Leaving aside the fact that a teenager can be 18 or 19 and still legally participate in adult photography, this unconfirmed statement gave law enforcement the hook they needed to raid the modeling studio, under the guise of a child pornography investigation. However, no evidence of child pornography was ever found, and the "confidential informant" turned out to be a former "model" herself, who was trying to buy her way out of her own criminal problems by turning informant for the state. Not the most reliable informant, to put things mildly.

But what does a good Deputy do when his information results in the seizure of nothing more than a bunch of video tapes of adults having sex? File obscenity charges, of course! Not much is required to arrest someone for alleged obscenity. A charging document needs to be filed saying that a prosecutor believes in good faith that there is probable cause that the material is obscene. Polk County usually goes the extra step of getting a local judge to sign off on a confirmation that such probable cause exists, but that is all smoke and mirrors. Any erotic work might be obscene, simply based on its sexually-explicit nature. The question of obscenity is left for the judge or jury. Until that ultimate determination is made, it is presumed to be non-obscene under the First Amendment.

Nonetheless, despite such a presumption, just about anybody involved in the commercial production or distribution of adult material can be prosecuted for obscenity. That is one of the (many) reasons the obscenity laws are unfair, unconstitutional and inhumane in modern society. There is no fair warning as to what material might result in serious felony charges, with implications and innuendo of child pornography to boot. Denitto's felony obscenity case remains pending, and no proof of child pornography ever came to light.

Law enforcement and prosecutors know that as soon as the specter of child pornography is raised, the defendant loses public sympathy, support of friends, and jury appeal. So they try to throw it in any time they can.

In another recent case from Polk County, Sheriff Deputies arrested Timothy Keck for numerous counts of obscenity depicting a minor. This sounds like a valid offense, until the facts get in the way. Keck was a former Sheriff's Deputy himself, until he had a falling out with the agency. Oddly enough, he found himself targeted for some Internet surveillance by that same agency, and a warrant was issued for offenses involving child pornography. Keck allegedly used Limewire, a popular file sharing service, to download various images, including numerous drawings of underage individuals engaged in sexual activity. That's right, drawings. Oh, and the investigators apparently also dug up a single image from a temporary cache file allegedly depicting only the genitals of an underage couple in the act of intercourse. It has not been explained how one divines the age of models based solely on a depiction of their genitals engaged in a sex act. But Keck faces one count of possession of child pornography (for the temp file) and 26 counts of distribution of obscenity, for the drawings. This arrest has been described by Judd as the "largest roundup in the county," and "horrific."

Given that Keck was lumped in with 45 other suspects, all of whom are referred to as a group despite the lack of any apparent connection; some of the other images involved in the other cases may well have been horrifying. Child pornography is a heinous, inexcusable crime, and legitimate cases should be vigorously prosecuted. But when politicians or special interest groups start mixing in allegations of child porn with adult pornography, both children and adults become the losers. Trying to force a tenuous charge of child pornography just to tarnish the reputation of a suspect in an adult obscenity case dilutes and reduces the importance — and indeed the 'horror' — of real child pornography cases. Future child pornography investigations will not be taken as seriously by prosecutors, judges and juries, as a result. Adults also lose, when important constitutional safeguards are dismissed or glossed over as a result of the forced connection with child pornography allegations in these cases. Sexually-oriented media is entitled to full First Amendment protection and protecting the most controversial and indecent speech is essential so that all other speech remains securely within the coverage of the First Amendment.

The tactic of mixing child pornography with adult obscenity has been used in countless other cases in the past, including the highly-publicized obscenity case against Mike Jones in Chicago, and the federal obscenity case against certain written stories involving children by Karen Fletcher, a/k/a Red Rose. Child pornography was not the focus of either of these cases, but the concepts were thrown around by the prosecutors in court and in the public, in an effort to tarnish the reputation of the defendant, and make the obscenity charge more likely to stick.

Nowhere is the misuse of child pornography charges more apparent than in the case of 'sexting.' Countless articles, blogs and Op-Ed pieces have come out recently, decrying the use of harsh child pornography statutes against teenagers accused of sending racy photos of themselves. Several states are currently considering legislation to decriminalize the behavior, or reduce its severity to nothing more than a misdemeanor. This is a step in the right direction. Children convicted of child pornography are forced by a federal law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, to register as sex offenders — a label that can deal damage for the rest of their lives. Teens impacted by this registration requirement cannot go to school, find jobs, or lead normal lives. Oddly, this is the only instance where the child porn victim is also the perpetrator.

The end game for the activists and politicians here is to cause the public to immediately associate any incident involving pornography with the rape and abuse of children. If they can somehow work the word "child" into any sentence referencing "pornography" they have achieved a victory. But the misuse, and overuse, of child pornography statutes to prosecute these tangential cases involving cache files, young-looking adults, and sexting behavior, undermines the core policies of the child pornography laws for a cheap political purpose. Children will suffer when these cases are passed over by prosecutors, or dismissed by judges flooded with dubious claims of child exploitation. The censors may gain minor ground with these tactics, but the voices opposing distortion of constitutional freedoms under the guise of protecting children are getting louder."

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Go Lawrence. I have yet to engage in a single discussion with a porn basher in which the subject of kiddie porn didn't come up within the first three minutes.

I have also, as I've said here before, never been shown a single piece of child pornography by anyone other than an anti-porn crusader.

It would seem child pornography is of use to others in addition to pedophiles. Unlike pedophiles, however, censors are without shame.

Nina in the Economist!

That's right. The staid and serious biz journal from London, reporting on the sad economic state of the U.S porn industry actually asked the right person what's up and get some straight answers. Journalism lives!

Hard times
Sep 10th 2009 | LOS ANGELES
From The Economist print edition


A big industry in northern Los Angeles is among the worst hit by the recession

EVEN Nina Hartley, who became a pornographic actress in 1984 and continues to be one of its most sought-after performers at the age of 50, is feeling the recession. “Last year I did a scene a week, this year I do a scene a month,” she says. As a sex celebrity, she has not dropped her fees, charging about $1,200 for a “straight boy-girl” scene. But production has collapsed, and for younger performers so have prices.

The adult-film industry is concentrated in the San Fernando Valley—“the Valley” to Angelenos—on the northern edge of Los Angeles, so the slump in porn is yet another factor depressing the local economy. Pornography had been immune to previous recessions, so the current downturn has come as a shock.

Most of the industry consists of small private production companies whose numbers are secret, but Mark Kernes, an editor at Adult Video News, a trade magazine, estimates that the American industry had some $6 billion in revenues in 2007, before the recession, mostly in DVD sales and rentals and some in internet subscriptions. Diane Duke, the director of the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s trade group, thinks that revenues have fallen 30-50% during the past year. “One producer told me his revenue was down 80%,” she says.

If the Valley used to make 5,000-6,000 films a year, says Mr Kernes, it now makes perhaps 3,000-4,000. Some firms have shut down, others are consolidating or scraping by. For the 1,200 active performers in the Valley this means less action and more hardship. A young woman without Ms Hartley’s name-recognition might have charged $1,000 for a straight scene before the crisis, but gets $800 or less now. Men are worse hit. If they averaged $500 for a straight scene in 2007, they are now lucky to get $300. For every performer there are several people in support, from sound-tech to catering and (yes) wardrobe, says Ms Duke, so the overall effect on the Valley economy is large.

The recession, moreover, has exacerbated a previous crisis. Piracy is the main problem. And the internet, with its copious free clips, is an increasingly viable alternative to the paid stuff. Pornography in general has become “like potato chips, everywhere and cheap, to be consumed and tossed,” says Ms Hartley. It’s not the same as in the golden age when she joined. “The industry will shrink and stay shrunken,” she reckons.
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Alas, I wish she could have been the bearer of better news, but Nina calls 'em like she sees 'em, and right now the view is not pretty. Nor is likely to get prettier soon, as the so-called "industry leaders" have responded to the multiple problems besetting the business like the captain of The Exxon Valdez, or maybe The Titanic.

Some people, includling some readers here, really don't care much what happens at the core of the commercial industry located out here, but if they think having it collapse will provide openings for something better in the hinterlands, they should pause to consider that probability that the economics afflicting Big Porn with its deeper pockets will probably hit even harder among those trying to start new enterprises and find audiences. Mom and Pop porn sites and non-L.A. based production companies are dying like flies at the moment, and the picture isn't likely to brighten for them until it does so for bigger, more robust entities with greater market access.

Still, it's good to see Nina taken seriously by a serious publication somewhere. Maybe it will start a trend.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sweden's schizoid sex policies

Sweden's policies around sex work took a turn for the even more nonsensical recently with government funding of a series of experimental feminist porn DVDs and a website by filmmaker Mia Engberg. Story here, here, and here, via Swedish English-language website The Local.

Keep in mind that this is the same country that bans government employees from staying in hotels where porn is available, and actively prosecutes the purchase of sex. Which makes me wonder about these films – were the performers paid out of this government funding? If so, congratulations, Kingdom of Sweden, you're now a purchaser of sexual services. So will you be remanding any of your officials to custody? Or is that only for regular punters.

First person jailed under UK "extreme porn" law

Via YNOT and The Register, a Manchester, UK man has had his house raided and been remanded to custody for possession of bestiality porn. By all reports, the accused had nothing to do with production of the images. Regardless of one's feelings on the production of bestiality porn, exactly what social good is being accomplished by throwing this guy into jail and otherwise destroying this guys life is beyond me. I suppose defenders of laws like this will say it "sends a message", or some such nonsense.

"Progressive" anti-pornography legislation at its finest here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Chance To Spread Some Positive News For A Change: Help Nina Hartley Get A 2010 SxSW Panel

For all the bad and negative things that have been reported about porn, here's an opportunity to actually spread some positive vibes for a change.

The South by Southwest (SxSW) festival that takes place every year in Austin, Texas is basically their version of the Cannes Film Festival....but with a sizable music and online interactive segment as well. This year, they've decided to include various panels featuring discussion on sex work and sexuality and it's impacts on online social networking.

And this is where Nina Hartley enters the picture.

Nina, of course, is well known and honored for her legacy of sex education and sex-positive truth-telling...but she is now on a mission to expand her reach to include online social networking. Thusly, she is soon to be launching her own sexually-based adult social network (that's sexually based as in discussion, not sexually explicit) , Ninaland, where adults can have a safe space to discuss matters involving sexual progressive culture.

And, just as thusly, she is now publically proposing to score a panel at next year's SxSW festival featuring the impact of adult social networking on Internet porn.

Beginning recently, the folks at SxSW recently developed a "Panel Picker" page where folks can register (for free) and vote for which panels would appear at their show.

Nina's proposal for her panel is now online, and you can go there to see what she would offer....and to vote her in.

The page can be found here:

Nina Hartley's 2010 SxSW Panel Picker Page

Getting her panel into the show would be quite a coup....and getting Nina to Austin wouldn't suck much either.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR














@ Carnal Nation.

AHF's Anti-Porn Vendetta Rages On

Here's their latest salvo, via The L.A. Times:

LA County supervisors urged to step up oversight of porn industry

Saying that the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has minimized sexually transmitted diseases and HIV cases in the porn industry, AIDS activists and former adult film workers on Tuesday urged county supervisors to step up oversight of the industry.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has already filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that the county has failed to prevent the spread of disease in the industry. The organization asked the court to require the county to enforce regulations mandating condom use in adult film productions. The county answered the court petition by suggesting that the public need is “minimal,” because there are only 1,200 adult film performers – less than .01% of the population.

“Would the county of L.A. say the same thing about 1,200 firemen or restaurant workers or bankers?” asked Jessie Gruttadauria, director of public affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “How many performers in this multibillion-dollar industry in our backyard have to get sick before this becomes a public need?”

In June, an adult film actress tested positive for HIV. Also, county health officials released data that 18 HIV cases and more than 3,700 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have been reported since 2004 by the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a San Fernando Valley-based clinic. Clinic officials said the HIV cases did not involve active performers. County officials declined to provide any details about those cases and said little investigation was done. County public health officials have declined several requests for interviews.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, nearly 200 letters had been sent to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky,[pictured] asking him to look into the issue and demand action from the county public health department.

At the meeting, Yaroslavsky called the health of adult film workers a “legitimate issue.”

“If there’s something we can do, we’re going to find a way to do it,” he said. Yaroslavsky said he has asked the public health department for a report on the matter and that it should be completed within two weeks.

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Of course, since we already know County Health's position regarding porn, the contents of that report aren't difficult to predict.

This is really all theater. The supervisors have little direct jurisdiction in this matter and previously showed no interest in it. I doubt they'll "find a way" to do much about whatever the report suggests. Among other things, even if the supervisors were so inclined, there are no funds and no resources to pursue some kind of action in a city that's flat broke and laying off cops and fire fighters. And whose biggest public hospital has been shut down by court order for killing too many patients.

You will note, once again, the recycling of that Big Lie about the "18 HIV cases" reported to County Health by AIM, even though C.H. publicly retracted an earlier claim that those cases were porn-industry-related. That's even admitted in the body of the piece, but in highly ambiguous language that's never clarified because the once very vocal gang at C.H. has been uncharacteristically publicity-shy on this issue since having to eat its words a few weeks ago.

AHF, of course, never hesitates to spread lies in the advancement of their efforts to create a controversy that gets them media attention so predictably. What do you expect from an organization that sues Pfizer because Viagra supposedly enables unsafe sex?

And those "former adult film workers" who signed off on this latest broadside – I find it interesting that they're not identified. Could it be because they're names have become so familiar in this dirty and dishonest campaign?

Also noted, not one quote from anyone active in the industry or affiliated with AIM appears anywhere in this piece.

Attention journalists: when running inflammatory stories regarding local individuals and businesses it is customary to solicit responses from those under attack.

Back to J-School for these Fox News disciples.

Latest On the U.K.s Rad-Fem Rampage

I'm no great fan of American Apparel or its owner's obnoxious behavior, but this is simply preposterous and a disturbing example of what can happen when a certain ideology takes hold among policy makers. Those who don't regard that threat seriously over here need to view this as a heads-up:

from www.industry.bnet.com - The British Advertising Standards Authority has banned an American Apparel ad for simulating child pornography. For anyone who has ever seen an AA ad, this will not come as a surprise.

The ad featured a 23 year old model, “Ryan,” wearing shorts and a fleece hoody. In the UK version of the ad (small image), she is shown in progressive states of undress. A tamer U.S. version (large image) shows pretty much the same thing.

The ASA said the ad, which appeared in Vice magazine, did not violate the industry’s “taste and decency” code given Vice’s targeted audience. However, the ASA noted that the model’s age was irrelevant and found that:

Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.

The ASA also described AA’s defense of its ad:

They reiterated that the ad did not portray the model as a sex object, nor did it portray her in a manner that was negative or exploitative. There was no suggestion that she had been coerced into appearing in the photographs or that she was doing so against her will. AA strongly refuted the complainant’s belief that the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.

In many ways, the case can be summed up as, Who has the filthiest mind? ASA argues that AA is simulating kiddie porn; AA argues that ASA is seeing kiddie porn where none exists. You be the judge!

More importantly, it sends a warning to any advertiser considering using “barely legal” type models in ads: British ad regulators will apply a sensible and obvious principal, if it looks like kiddie porn — even if it isn’t — you shouldn’t be doing it.

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Note the "sensible standard" part in the concluding sentence. Whose idea of a sensible standard are we talking about?

They have no First Amendment in the U.K. and official censorship still exists, but after a long period of relative dormancy, it's use is becoming broader and more heavy-handed every day.

I know there are many who would like to see a similar approach here, though they often deny it, and given what we're seeing in much of Europe, which has traditionally been more liberal about sexual matters than this country, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the possibility of such notions gaining a political foothold over here. Both this country and most of Europe have nominally liberal leaderships that may be particularly susceptible to the appeal of "soft censorship" based on "social harms" arguments.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Now the Brits Get in the Act

The U.K.'s reliably anti-porn Guardian wants to blame Western porn for rape and, of course, unsafe sex and therefore the prevalence of AIDS in Africa on the basis of a few L.A.- made vids that find their way into the bush.

And speaking of bush, before blaming porn for the high incidence of HIV in Africa, perhaps the Bush gang's insistence on abstinence-only programs and withholding of condoms and information about them in Third World countries might be just a tad bit more of a problem than the "harms" of porn where that's concerned, but you won't read anything on this subject in the laughable-but-for-the-subject article I'm about to post.

The insanely retrogressive AIDS policies of the South African government and the influence of The Vatican in that part of the world might have come in for some scrutiny as well.

Rape, for that matter, truly is epidemic all over Africa as an instrument of war, most brutally in places like The Sudan, where porn is heavily suppressed under Sharia law. However, what are a few annoying, contrary facts when you have righteous opinion on your side?

No, it's all about porn, as always.

Here you go. Read it and let those folks at the ever-vigilant Guardian know what you think about this latest dose of stupidity:

Porn Turning African Villagers Into Rapists?

by Tim Samuels

I used to think porn was tremendously good fun. The adolescent thrill of sneaking a copy of Fiesta home inside the Manchester Evening News. Crowding around a PC at university as a smutty picture revealed itself pixel by pixel. Even the equine VHS shown during my first job at GQ gave everyone a good, if not queasy, lads-mag laugh. Any anti-porn voices felt like killjoy whines echoing from the outskirts of Greenham Common.

By the time I'd left the lads-mag cocoon, porn was almost part of the mainstream furniture. But the proliferation of free and utterly hardcore websites visited by kids in their global droves did spark an interest in investigating the industry. The moment porn truly stopped being fun came in a remote Ghanaian village – mud huts, barefoot kids, no electricity. The BBC series I was making about the impact of porn had led me via LA to Ghana.

One of the unforeseen consequences of globalisation is the shocking effect that western porn is having in parts of the developing world. The village has no electricity, but that doesn't stop a generator from being wheeled in, turning a mud hut into an impromptu porn cinema – and turning some young men into rapists, with villagers relating chilling stories of assaults taking place straight after the film's end. In the nearest city, other young men are buying bootlegs copies of the almost always condom-free LA-made porn – copying directly what they see and contracting HIV.

The head of the country's Aids commission says porn risks destroying all the achievements they've made. It's a timebomb, he says. The concerns aren't theoretical – I met young fathers with HIV whose only sex education came from LA, women living in the villages subject to post-screening abuse, and even a shy teenage virgin who has written to a porn outfit in California asking to star in their films (his return address was care of the local church in Accra).

The porn producers aren't deliberately pushing their products into Africa. But the tide of black market DVDs on sale at street markets and hardcore clips viewable at internet cafes is almost unstoppable. Surely this multibillion-dollar industry needs to take some responsibility for the human costs?

Since the only sex education some people in places such as Ghana are getting is via porn films, there is a decent argument for the porn industry to produce more films where performers use condoms. In LA, where the majority of the world's porn is still shot, only one company routinely makes such films.

The condom-only policy adopted following an industry HIV outbreak five years ago lasted just months. If the ambition is to put more condom-using porn into circulation, which will then more likely end up in those street markets or cafes, some serious multinationals could throw their corporate weight behind this. Hotel chains – among the biggest broadcasters of adult material – have not used their immense clout to insist on greater condom use – much to the dismay of the porn-star STD-testing clinic in LA. Mobile phone firms are also surreptitiously making jaw-dropping amounts of money from showing adult content on their handsets. Could their ideas of corporate responsibility take on a latex dimension? Might it actually be that ridiculous for the porn industry itself to adopt a spot of corporate responsibility? These are, after all, major businesses replete with HR departments and plush offices nestling next to mainstream film companies. Bankroll sex safe campaigns, harness the allure of their top stars, maybe even make bespoke films for the developing world which educate as well as titillate. Doing nothing, and leaving western porn to march untrammelled into Africa and other places, is a deeply unattractive prospect.

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Oh yeah, let's not forget to retread all those lies and half-truths about the vast amounts of money being made by huge multi-national conglomerates operating out of luxurious offices in Porn Valley (as opposed to the warehouses and quonset huts where most porn companies really do operate). And BTW, the "dismay" of "of the porn-star STD-testing clinic in LA" over the failure of these vast porn cartels to use their videos as safe-sex PSAs? If, as I assume, the author refers to AIM, AIM has no stated position on any of these subjects, and the author must be telepathic to sense AIM's dismay in this matter, as AIM has never made any public statement supporting any of the nonsense above.

Porn performer health is AIM's concern. Porn content is not. That distinction is what enables AIM to get cooperation from the entire spectrum of performers and companies and preserves its non-profit status as a healthcare foundation, rather than a 527 PAC.

Nice reporting there. Guess they no longer teach journalism at the UK university where Samuels enjoyed his time in "the lad-mag cocoon."

Samuels' piece appears, by some odd coincidence, just before his new TV series "Hardcore Profits" airs on BBC 2.

While the entire article is stupid and offensive, its worst sin is the recycling of the myth that Africans belong to a lesser class of human, subject to instantaneous outbreaks of spontaneous sexual violence at the sight of a naked white woman. That's the underlying assumption of this piece, and oddly in line with the beliefs of David Duke on this issue.

Racist sex panic led to thousands of lynchings in this country. The insensitivity of suggesting that porn turns Africans into sex-crazed fiends is truly breathtaking, not to mention profoundly repellent.