Thursday, June 18, 2009

AbbyWinters Raided!

Well, if there was ever an answer to the question, "Why defend porn? Why does it need defending?", it certainly came in the form of reports on the Somebody Think Of The Children blog and XBiz of a police raid on the offices of GMedia (owner of AbbyWinters.com) and the arrest of owner Garion Hall. Thankfully, the raid ultimately didn't amount to much, with Garion Hall being released without charges, no other arrests, and with no seizure of equipment. But one has to ask, given the generally high regard for AbbyWinters and related sites as progressive porn, as well as the supposedly more enlightened attitude toward sex work in Australia, how did it ever get to the point where this company was raided?

While AbbyWinters is highly regarded for its progressive and ethical stance in porn production, its has for several years been a target of the likes of Gail Dines and Robert Jensen who seek to fundamentally attack the idea that there could ever be a such thing as "feminist porn". Based on rumors I've seen posted, GMedia and related companies are also the site of fair amount behind-the-scenes squabbling and dirty laundry among the producers and staff, several of whom have left after conflicts with Garion Hall. There has also been ongoing controversy over shadowy founder and chief photographer "Abby Winters", who is probably not a real figure, but is presented as such by G Media, leading to accusations that this is once again an alt-porn company falsely creating a "woman-owned" image. And most notably, there was the very public break by GMedia model Liandra Dahl, who came to see AbbyWinters and the other Aussie alt sites (such as IFeelMyself) as not meeting her ideals of what a feminist porn site should be.

Unfortunately, what should have remained an argument in the porn, sex-positive, and feminist communities found its way into the the Australian right-wing tabloid The Herald-Sun, which in late 2007 published a sensationalist pair of hit pieces against G Media in late 2007. (Liandra Dahl, for her part, turned up most recently in the comments at the Somebody Think Of The Children post, rebuking the Herald-Sun for its coverage and the police for their raid.)

After that minor tempest, AbbyWinters largely stayed out of the spotlight, except as part of the lager controversy around proposed internet censorship in Australia (thankfully defeated). However, Keith Moor, the Herald-Sun yellow journalist responsible for the earlier hit pieces, was not about to let the story go and went to the Victoria Police with "evidence" of that Garion Hall was luring naive teenage girls into pornography and shooting illegal content. Apparently, there is some case for the latter "legal" claim, in that Victoria, Australia has the exact inverse situation to California and other US states, in that brothel prostitution is legal, but apparently producing porn isn't, though the latter laws against porn are rarely if ever enforced. (Example #999 of how arbitrary and random laws regulating the sex industry are.)

This was enough for the Victoria Police to launch an "Operation Refuge" against GMedia, which in the end netted – exactly nothing. I'd say Garion Hall should take a tip from Sharon Mitchell and sue this Keith Moor idiot, but perhaps its best to let sleeping dogs lie. However, this does serve as a prime example of how those of us on the anti-anti-porn side are not just a bunch of paranoids defending a "powerful" industry – anti-porn ideology still has the backing of law enforcement and the state and can be unleashed against anybody creating sexually explicit media, whether its Max Hardcore or Abby Winters. Its also far too easy for one overzealous activist or yellow journalist to get a witch hunt like this going. All of which is why so many of us pointy-headed sex-pozzies continue to agitate for an end to remaining laws censoring porn or prohibiting its production.

One more note – while researching this post, I found the Victoria Police actually have a feedback page that says: "What are your thoughts on current Victoria Police initiatives? Let us know - Leave a comment"

9 comments:

  1. All of which points to why I said I thought it was a bad idea to abandon Max Hardcore to his fate.

    Yesterday Max, today Abby Winters, tomorrow the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

    There is no such thing as a little bit of harmless censorship aimed only at the most egregious perps.

    That AW was a constant target of Dines and Jensen was entirely consistent with their opposite view that there is no such thing as harmless pornography.

    There is no middle ground. You favor freedom of expression or you favor censorship. This case is a pretty good example of why that's true.

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  2. Just so you know, IShotMyself and Beautiful Agony (as well as IFeelMyself) are actually owned by a DIFFERENT Australian company, called Feck.

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  3. Hey, thanks for the correction Anon. But are you sure that's always been the case or that there's no relationship between the companies? About a year and a half ago when I was following Liandra Dahl's writing about GMedia, I was under the impression that all of the Australian alt sites were owned by the same company, albeit, with different creative staff.

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  4. So doing some digging around, including on Archive.org, I do see that Feck (Beautiful Agony, IShotMyself, and IFeelMyself) is different from G Media (Abby Winters), and Girls Out West is independent of both. I remember, however, that there used to be a closer relationship, with G Media even being listed as a contact address for Feck sites.

    Apparently, there was a falling out between Richard Lawrence (Feck) and Garion Hall (G Media) a few years back (the "dirty laundry" I refered to in my post), leading to a more clear separation between the companies. (Liandra Dahl had a falling out with both, but particularly with Richard Lawrence, culminating, I think, even the threat of a lawsuit by Lawrence.) More details from an old Fleshbot comment here.

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  5. I lived in Queensland, Australia, for a time back in '91-'92. Although QLD at that time was one of the most conservative states in the country, it was still legal for individual women to advertise in local papers as sex workers, working out of their private homes. Brothels were/are today legal in several other states, and it's a fairly open situation overall in the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT), which is the Oz equivalent of Washington, DC, where all the politicos live and work (go figure!). Correct me if I'm wrong, but currently porn is legal only in the ACT.

    Given the country's generally open view of prostitution, it seems odd that porn is so restricted; however, this might be due to the overriding provincialism that still exists from its ties to the British Commonwealth. Still, the porn laws are rarely enforced, and only when some pol, media lackey, or private-interest group gets an occasional burr up their bum.

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  6. Third Axis – thanks for the info on Australian porn laws.

    On the the subject of the Herald-Sun story, I increasingly have doubts about whether most of what was reported took place at all. I think Keith Moor simply went to the police with the charges, learned of the police raid, then reported what he *thought* the police were going to do, rather than waiting to cover the event after it transpired. Yellow journalism at its finest.

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  7. You're very welcome. I love Oz, and particularly its people. It's a beautiful and refreshingly independent place, but its laws are somewhat askew. Still, Aussies pretty much go on about their business, and say "piss off!" when the authorities attempt to push them around. Here's a couple of good links to info regarding the current porn laws, and the Eros Association, which represents the Australian adult industry:

    http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens1.html
    http://www.eros.org.au/

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  8. Iamcuriousblue,

    The Australian ISP filtering scheme has not beem defeated. it is still very much on the cards.


    http://www.openaustralia.org/debates/?id=2009-06-24.133.1&s=speaker%3A10337#g133.2

    http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/06/25/australia-moves-block-online-access-games-content-beyond-ma-15

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  9. The discussion over the Somebody Think Of The Children thread here has turned toward (or, less charitably, has been threadjacked toward) a discussion of criticisms of G Media leveled by ex-models and other disaffected associates. The discussion is actually getting into some interesting areas concerning ethical treatment of performers, intellectual property, etc.

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