Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Grim Details

So, now that we know more about the Obama adminstration's first obscenity prosecution, let's see if anything we predicted turned out to be wrong.

Here's a short, straight account of the case so far from USNewswire:

Master of Pain, Barry Goldman Indicted in Montana; Faces Five Years

--press release

WASHINGTON -- A Florida producer has been charged by a federal grand jury in Billings, Mont., with distributing obscene DVDs through the mails, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich and U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana William Mercer announced today.

In a sealed indictment returned by the grand jury on Aug. 20, 2008, and unsealed today in federal court in Billings, Miami resident Barry Goldman, 58, doing business using the names Torture Portal, Masters of Pain and Bacchus Studios, was charged with three counts of using the mails to deliver DVDs containing obscene films to an address in Billings and one count that seeks forfeiture of certain assets of the defendant. The specific films named in the indictment are "Torture of Porn Star Girl,""Pregnant and Willing" and "Defiant Crista Submits."

If convicted, Goldman faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the three counts charged in the indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kenneth Whitted of the Criminal Division's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana. The investigation was conducted by the FBI's Adult Obscenity Squad based in the Washington, D.C., field office, with assistance from the FBI's Billings field office.

An indictment is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent of the charges, and it is the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

_______________________

So, content involves BDSM porn, specifically using he T-Word. Apparently, the new administration hasn't quite made up its mind on the subject of torture itself, but it knows just where it stands on the use of the word.

And then there's the matter of where the case originated: the FBI's Washington-based obscenity squad. And the matter of where the actual proceedings are being brought: in D.C. by our old friends at Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, home base of Bruce Taylor and enabler of Mary Beth Buchanan.

So far, so utterly predictable. For a cold case left in the freezer by the outgoing regime, this one seems to be defrosting rapidly.

Later, we'll get to the bad news.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The More Things Change ...

I hate to say I told you so, but ... From our friends at AVN:

NJ Producer Charged With Mailing Obscene Material

By Mark Kernes
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Barry Goldman, a Jersey City-based producer of adult DVDs, has been charged with eight counts of using the mails to send allegedly obscene DVDs to undercover postal inspectors in Virginia and Montana, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

In a turn of events which should give adult content producers cause for concern about Attorney General Eric Holder's commitment to free speech, a federal grand jury this week returned the indictments against Goldman, which include at least one count of obscenity-based violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

"The indictment seeks forfeiture of the proceeds from the sale of the DVDs, along with property used in producing the DVDs, all web sites operated by Goldman and other property," the DOJ press release said.

It is not known when the sting operations which gave rise to the grand jury proceedings were perpetrated, but it unlikely that the investigation had begun during Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey's tenure at Justice—a gap of more than six months. This suggests that the FBI's "Adult Obscenity Unit," which was credited with conducting the investigation that led to the indictments, is still operating, and that the change in administration has not significantly affected its work or mission.

If convicted on all counts, Goldman would face a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison, and $2 million in fines.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Could be this was already in the works before Holder arrived, but he certainly could have put a stop to it. And he didn't.

The only remaining question, and I'm not too optimistic about it, is how many of these things we're going to see under Mr. Holder. I have a sinking feeling that this is the beginning of something less oriented toward headline-grabbing and more motivated toward actually hammering the porn business.

Remember what I said about Cat MacKinnon's payoff for helping out Mr. Obama?

I think we're looking at it right here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fl Gov. Official Fired due to marriage to a porn star...

I hate to say this , but yeah, filed under typical.

I'm not very surprised by this, but I am somewhat surprised considering next to CA, FL produces probably the most pornography in the US. I was just there, aside from rather conservative Orlando (home of DisneyWorld!), porn and such seems to be pretty much tolerated in FL and seen as, well, a business...as do various other forms of adult entertainment. What even makes this more disgusting and unfortunate is it seems like this fellow was good at his job....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The LA HIV-in-Porn "Outbreak" Series Continues: "Patient Zero" Gets Her Turn At The Mic

Nothing says that drama in LA will ever be boring....and the continuing saga of "HIV-in-Porn Outbreak: The Series" just reached another level in excitement with the emergence of the actual "Patient Zero" into the spotlight....armed with lawyers, of course.

The story, courtesy of Courthouse News Service:

ALAMEDA, Calif. (CN) - A porn film actress whose positive HIV test made news in June claims state health officials violated her rights by demanding her medical records. Filing her complaint under the name "Patient Zero," the woman sued California OSHA and the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation.

Zero claims that after she tested positive for HIV, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health subpoenaed her health care provider for her records and personal information, in violation of her right to privacy.

She says that in June the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM), which provides health care to sex workers, told her she had preliminarily tested positive for HIV. She says the Foundation quarantined her and everyone known to have had sexual contact with her, and reported her case to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.


Cal/OSHA then conducted a surprise inspection of AIM and demanded the medical records of HIV patients, including Patient Zero, but AIM staff refused, she says.


After the inspection, she says, her attorney learned that Cal/OSHA was meeting with the medical facility's staff to try to get the records of patients with HIV.


She says her attorney wrote a letter asking that OSHA respect the actress's privacy when conducting the interviews. OSHA did not respond, though it confirmed receipt of the letter.


The actress says some of the news reports in June contained her true name and other identifying information. She demands damages for civil rights and constitutional violations, and violations of the health and safety code.


She is represented by Lori Rifkin and Elizabeth Gill with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Now, it's interesting to ask why AIM is a defendant in this suit of "Patient Zero", since they were probably acting under duress against their strict policy of confidentiality; and because the real threat of public outing came mostly from Cal-OSHA, the LA County Health Care officials, and (indirectly) the AIDS Health Care Foundation, which, as you all know, has been pushing just as hard for public outing of all performers involved as a means of promoting their mandatory condom usage policy.

Not so surprising, though, is the appearance of the ACLU in this; since they have been consistent on defending the rights of performers and HIV+ persons to the right of privacy and confidentiality.

As for the public outing concerns: while the one performer who was confirmed to have performed with "Patient Zero" after she was infected (and was confirmed NOT to have been infected, BTW) has been exposed to the public and has even posted in some adult message boards (per BPPA policy regarding respecting performer privacy, we will not reveal his name here), there has been nothing publically outing "P0" as of yet...and I'm sure that until she decides to reveal herself, there probably won't be any, either.

So...the saga continues.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

HIV-in-Porn "Outbreak" Update: Revenge of the Whiners

Seems like some people are kinda upset that the latest HIV porn "outbreak" in LA didn't quite turn out as planned. All that posturing and blustering about a major outbreak that would send in the regulators...and only ONE performer ends up confirmed as infected. (Not even the other performer who performed with Patient Zero ended up contracting the virus.)

Oh, but it must suck real bad to be a member of the chorus who was so sure that they were going to exploit the outbreak for their own political agenda of imposing draconian measures through the state of California.

So much so, in fact, that now they are attempting to force themselves on the health authorities anyway.

The story from XBiz.com:

LOS ANGELES — The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has filed suit against Los Angeles County public health officials, claiming they have not made any moves to require condom use on the porn set.

At the heart of the suit, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has asked Los Angeles Superior Court to order condom use or take other "reasonable steps" to put a crimp on the spread of disease.

County health officials, the foundation says, are obligated to carry out California's §120175, which essentially empowers officials to take action relative to the prevention or spread of communicable diseases.

Michael Weinstein, president of the Hollywood, Calif.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation — one of the largest community-based HIV/AIDS medical providers in the nation — told XBIZ last month that health officials “have been asleep at the switch with regard to monitoring HIV and STD prevention and testing in the region's porn industry.”

Weinstein also said that Los Angeles health officials are “afraid of the industry."

“The industry wraps itself in the 1st Amendment,” he said. “It has much too much power in the halls of Sacramento and the county defends them, or they just don't want to take responsibility.”

The suit is more than one month after revelations made clear that an adult film actress tested positive for HIV and 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.

Those numbers were revealed by the AIM Healthcare Foundation, which monitors sexually transmitted diseases for the industry.
Ahhhh....actually, that last sentence isn't quite right, XBiz; those numbers were revealed by the Los Angeles Times in their attempt to smear the adult industry; AIM later rebutted them by informing that those numbers included mostly gay men who were infected with HIV outside of the hetero porn industry; plus private users not affiliated with porn whom had used AIM's testing services for their own purposes. Factoring in those caveats, the actual number of porn performers infected with HIV after the Darren James/Lara Roxx outbreak in 2004 is....exactly ONE. As in, Patient Zero from earlier this month.

While that was going on, I'm sure that plenty of "civilian" folks in LA were getting infected with STI's....a lot more than the one person who more than likely missed her regular testing period and got infected from outside. But, hey, can't let the truth get in the way of a good crusade, can't you, Mr. Weinstein??

Maybe your folks and the Durex condom company can get their paid employees to picket Larry Flynt's place again, ehhh???

Either way, it's going to be very interesting when and if they decide to enforce that code and attempt to enforce that law...I'm sure that the countersuits are already being planned.

I guess that Cali being broke isn't going to stop these fools, isn't it??

UPDATE: The AHF has just released a press release to the public announcing their lawsuit against the LA County health officials; I can't find the original link, but a copy is available through the Luke Is Back blog here. A press conference is scheduled for tommorow; I'm sure that Weinstein will be on his rant bigtime.


UPDATE #2: Amid all of the promotion of mandatory condom usage in porn, here is an article that attempts to bring some evenhandedness and context to the controversy. Monica Shores just posted over at the excellent blog Carnal Nation an essay that debunks the arguments for mandating condom use, and shows the hypocrisy of those who speak with one voice and behave the opposite.

[....] Everyone’s blogging about the best ways to combat the spread, speculating on what mistakes spurred such high numbers, discussing how to care for those already infected. The Internet’s on fire with HIV debate, alright, but only to the extent that it involves porn—because every aspect of the sex industry presents an exciting new way to be self-righteous and point fingers. That’s perhaps the most important point to keep in mind when examining the recent fracas; critics often seem to care less about HIV as it affects the general public and more about how it will allow them to criticize and police pornographers.

[....]

The line that consumers won’t buy porn made with condoms is by far the most common reason given by adult industry spokespeople when pressed to explain their lack of latex. Lux Alptraum wrote a strong indictment of consumers who criticize the choices of porn companies while supporting those same choices with their purchases, and she’s right that there’s a strong disconnect occurring between what Americans profess to care about and what values our behavior indicates. How can the call for mandatory condom use on adult film sets be so vociferous when we still allow our politicians to allocate massive amounts of tax dollars for abstinence-only education, an approach which often spreads lies about condom effectiveness? Why are we so eager to police the behavior of this select group of adults when we’re not even willing to provide our teenagers with the necessary information to choose condoms in their personal lives?

Sex workers are often the target of social anxiety about morality and disease, and this recent situation seems to be no different. While some individuals calling for increased condom use in porn films (Audacia Ray, for instance) are speaking out of genuine concern, much of this recent discussion reeks of hysteria and scapegoating. The LA Times was the first to report the claim that there had been 16 undisclosed cases within the adult industry, misinformation they retracted five days later with the explanation that those positive cases were of individuals who may not have been working in porn at the time. In this same article, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles county’s health officer, was quoted as saying “The system we have and the laws we have do not facilitate the kind of contact tracing and verification that we'd like to see.” This statement is ominous verging on terrifying for those who fear public exposure as an individual with HIV, or punitive action should they have worked while positive.

[....]

The adult industry, in addition to defending their current procedures, has pointed out that this push for more policing of the industry feels born out of the disregard with which the industry is held rather than an understanding of performers’ needs and OSHA’s capabilities. Thomas Roche painstakingly attempted to untangle all the he-said, she-said aspects of this drama, and after considerable legwork, arrived at the conclusion that this recent positive test result is not necessarily an indication of failure with the current AIM procedures.

Underneath the blaming and moralizing, there’s the crucial question of what workers themselves want, and why. Nina Hartley and Belladonna have both come out in support of testing and emphasized their desire to keep their sex scenes condom-free. They say that the friction from condoms during long filming periods decreases their desire, thereby affecting their performance, and more importantly, chafes and tears sensitive vaginal tissue.

The full article, which can be found here, is more than worth a read.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ALERT: CNBC Documentary "Porn: Business of Pleasure" Airs Tonight

It's usually news when the mainstream media decides to take on porn; most often, it's not so good.

Starting tonight, though, CNBC, the cable business network, is offering up a documentary program that actually might be promising, even quite progressive.

Titled Porn: Business of Pleasure, the special is designed to take what they call "an inside look" at how the industry is surviving (or not surviving) the economic pitfalls of late, and it interviews both performers (such as Jesse Jane), producers, and executives alike.

The website promoting the special includes a slideshow featuring highlights of the program, which will begin airing on CNBC starting at 9 PM EDT, with repeat broadcasts at 10 PM and 1 AM EDT.

They also promise frequent rebroadcasts in the future, so check your local listings, as the saying goes.


Update (7/19/09): Well...the good folks at Hulu have done us a great favor and posted a clip of the documentary in its entirity and generally commercial free...and they have also freely allowed folk to embed it to their sites/blogs. So, for those not having cable or not able to catch the doc, here it is for you.



Porn: Business of Pleasure (CNBC, via Hulu.com)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Kink.com vs. Matt Smith Saga Continues: Mz Berlin Gets Forcebly Outed

You will recall all of the controversy a while back over an online dustup between the BDSM website Kink.com and the San Francisco-based "alternative" paper SF Weekly over an article by reporter Matt Smith which claimed that Kink.com was receiving California "taxpayers' money" to fund "torture-based violent pornography". The fact that the funds were actually used to train cinematographers and photographers in general and was provided through a third party did not dampen the enthusiasm of Smith's attempted moral sex panic....and it did have the desired results, since the state program did pull its funding for the training.

You will also recall that several porn performers and models who did work for Kink.com also came forth to defend their particular craft and themselves as more than just "torture victims" and to explain the difference to Mr. Smith between nonconsensual torture and consensual ritualized sex.

One such performer -- Mz Berlin -- is now feeling directly the effects of being targeted for her sexuality and sexual choices...personally.

I wrote a much more extended piece with supporting linkage over at my own SmackDog Chronicles blog, due to time constraints I will simply cut and paste the highlights from there.

One performer whom spoke the loudest in defense of her work for Kink.com was Miz Berlin (warning, link NSFW), who is a specialist in the BDSM genre on her own behalf; she used the pages of her blog (NSFW) to rip new orfices on both Farley and Smith for conflating nonconsensual abuse and consensual desire.

Well…Matt Smith didn’t take such insults lightly…he issued a smarmy and snarky rebuttal (in two parts) basically restating his ideology and calling out his critics as irrational, thin-skinned perverts who were misconstruing his motives and distorting him into a “censor”. Along the way, he misattributed a quote to Violet Blue that was actually written by performer Lorelei Lee (remember, this is Violet the Sex Columnist, in case you haven’t noticed); and managed to mangle a phone conversation he recalled with Miz Berlin into a “shouting match” (which she denied in a subsequent comment to Part 2 of Smith’s article.)

But that wasn’t nearly the worst of it…not even close. Turns out that in his zeal to smear Miz Berlin, Matt Smith crossed that proverbial line that is supposed to respect autonomy and human decency. In the rebuttal article posted to the SF Weekly, Smith had revealed Miz Berlin’s real name and hometown.

The name was taken down after Miz Berlin protested….but the reprocussions of the unwanted outing has now come back to haunt her.

You see, Miz Berlin has a family who resides in Shreveport, Louisiana, and a young daughter who lives with her father (Miz Berlin’s husband) there.You can guess what happened when her real name was plastered online…and when her husband discovered her occupation. That’s right, Clones…he’s now seeking to use the child to punish her for her sexuality.

Quoting directly from an article posted in Salon.com’s Broadstreet describing the whole saga:

Smith wound up (NSFW) interviewing Mz Berlin for a follow-up story. In which — despite her express wishes to the contrary — he evidently tracked down and printed her real name. (That version of the story has since been taken down.) When he asked why she didn’t want her name used, Mz Berlin told Broadsheet today, she said, “Because I get naked for a living.” Having her name out there, she said, would make her feel unsafe.

In more ways than one, as it turned out. (Okay, now this is the story.) Mz Berlin’s ex-husband in Louisiana, she says, used the SF Weekly story to make the case — successfully — for erasing her right to visit their 8-year-old son.

Before now, she had unlimited access — and a much more amicable relationship with her ex. His stated concern: her safety, and their son’s. Sure enough, Mz Berlin was in London when the story with her name ran. “I’m in a foreign country, and all of a sudden people are calling me telling me they’re in my yard,” she told Broadsheet. (Fortunately, she had just moved; the yard callers were actually at her old address.) He also says that he thinks what she does is immoral, and that he plans to use that in court if necessary. (She was not doing this work when they were married. He since learned of it but, she speculates, hadn’t realized the scope or extent until now.)

“This is not a pity party. I realize that I put myself out there. I chose to do the interview. I choose to do porn,” Mz Berlin told Broadsheet. ”But I meet people a lot who have seen my asshole before looking in my eyes, and the exposure of my name truly made me feel scared. It’s the most violated I’ve ever felt.” She adds: ”The whole custody thing just makes me so angry. It should never have been questioned.” In that regard, she feels her ex is overreacting.

Her ex says the only way he’ll allow custody rights again is if she moves back to where he lives in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Mz Berlin intends to change her legal name in order to re-protect her identity.
Just another case of how sex performers are treated as third-class citizens, I'd say.

Mz Berlin is fighting the charges, but faces the usual mountain of legal fees; so she has set up a fund for her supporters to donate....you can find it here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monica Foster Breaks Down The 411 On Getting Into Porn With GettingIntoPorn.com

There are many ways and many approaches into getting into the adult entertainment media....some good and some not so good. For many women (and not a few men) who are thinking about getting in porn, the experience is usually through the seat of their pants...quite literally. Although there have been attempts in the past to provide guidance to women entering the industry -- such as the original Pink Ladies Social Club of the 1980's formed by activist porn women (including Nina Hartley, Angel Kelly, Jeanna Fine, and others); as well as the "Porn 101" video that was originally offered during the 90's by Sharon Mitchell and AIM (and which also happened to feature Nina as well) -- for the most part the most that many women have in preparation for adult has been on-the-job training, which might not be the best way to learn about the pitfalls and benefits of being an adult performer.

Fortunately, more and more active performers are beginning to speak out and mentor to wannabe starlets and performers alike about the risks and benefits.

Monica Foster happens to be one of them...and she has parlayed her own experiences in transitioning from an erotic dancer to a full-time adult XXX performer into a website (GettingIntoPorn.com) geared towards educating women and men interested in getting into the industry.

Ms. Foster's site is very much comprehensive, and pulls no punches on what she thinks about the state of the industry and the expectations and benefits for newcummers. From the enclosed Flash video where she explains why she decided to launch this site and examines her own experiences -- good and bad -- in porn, to the enhanced breakdown of everything from establishing your "pre-porn" mindset and foundation to finding an agency to promote your talents to dealing with issues in shooting a scene; Monica really does an excellent job of providing the tools needed for interested persons to make informed decisions about doing XXX videos and other explicit sexual media.

And she manages to do this without the usual preaching and moralizing about how porn should only be this way or that way; she simply states the facts as they exist, and leaves it up to the viewer to consider her own destiny. She does allow for her own personal beliefs and perspective as a Black female porn performer, which is very much refreshing considering the usual lack of visibility amongst Black women in porn.

Monica's site is backed up by an associated blog, a MySpace page, and a series of videos available on YouTube.

Anyone who wants an honest, yet positive and accurate guide into getting into "the industry" should go immediately to Monica's site....it is more than worth the time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Odds and Ends

Generation Sex

An article on "Teens and Porn" was just published in my local alt-weekly. I was expecting the worst based on the often-panicky subject matter, but the article was surprisingly fair, and features interviews with Marty Klein and Neil Malmuth. (No doubt the antis will consider the article biased for not interviewing "experts" like Ann Simonton, Diana Russell, and Judith Reisman.) Even more surprisingly, Malmuth is actually quoted accurately for once, as opposed to the usual BS that his research "proves" porn leads to aggression.

Check it out.

Rob Black and Lizzie Borden Sentenced

The Extreme Associates case (which I covered in more depth here) draws to a close with the sentencing of owners Rob Zicari and Janet Romano to a year in the Federal pen on obscenity charges. It was a relatively light sentence compared to what they could have gotten, but it still represents the jailing (and financial ruin) of two people for mere expression of offensive imagery.

In an added development, the prosecution decided to make the last day something of a show trial, packing the courtroom and declaring the sentencing a victory for women's rights. [sound of head hitting desk]

As much as antis try to put forth the idea that porn represents a dominant "status quo" porn culture, actions like the above reveal otherwise. As blogger Orlando C recently wrote concerning BDSM:
This is not how the state treats a group it approves of; nor a group they want to crush. It is how the state treats suspect but plausibly harmless minorities. And it is important to note that a large number of BDSM practices are, in fact, illegal in most states. Generally no effort is made to enforce, let's say, assault charges for a consensual flogging, but it is still illegal. Its legal status, therefore, resembles homosexuality in the twilight of the sodomy laws.

FBI vs Deep Throat

In a peripherally-related story, the Associated Press has used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover documents related to the FBI's attempt to stop the distribution of Deep Throat in the early 70s. Apparently, this 498-page document represents only 10% of a larger FBI file on Gerard Damiano, most of which is still classified. The case actually reached the highest levels of the FBI (including, ironically, Mark "Deep Throat" Felt) and reveal something about the still-misplaced priorities of the FBI immediately following the Hoover and COINTELPRO era.

It would be nice if we could finally relegate these kind of government actions to the "bad old days" file.