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, 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.


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.

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.

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.