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?:

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.

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


@ 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.


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 - 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.


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.