Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Michael Weinstein Is Now Officially Off His Rocker

It seems that getting his ass handed to him by the California authorities regarding his crusade to force mandatory condom usage onto the LA porn industry is not making AIDS Heath Care Foundation chief spokesman Michael Weinstein a happy camper these days.  Now, he wants a higher authority to swoop in and give him what he has been denied in, the federal US Department of Health and Human Services.

Today, a cover letter using AHCF stationary was released to the public; the letter was sent simultaneously to the offices of the HHS, the California state Health Office, and the California state Health Inspector. (Strangely enough, it wasn't sent to Cal-OSHA.) The full letter was posted to the blog; but here's a partial screen grab of its main contents (blown up for clarity).

Oh, really, Mr. Weinstein???  Do you really think that we don't read through this bullshit??

Ernest can take apart this nonsense far more ablely than I ever could..but even I can smell the crap coming from where I am.

That "AIM releases confidential medical information to anyone without their consent" meme?? Yeah, right. First of all, AIM is required BY LAW to reveal positive tests for HIV/AIDS to the effective political and health care jurisdictions...there is no option for refusing to violate the law.

What AIM is NOT required to do is to reveal ALL medical information about the contacts of a person found to have been tested positive in their testing regimen, unless the courts demand such an action.  Gee..wasn't that exactly what Weinstein actually wanted Cal-OSHA and the LA Health Care authorities to do regarding "Patient Zero" and her contacts?? Unfortunately for Weinstein, that was shut down by the local courts.

It's breathtakinly funny -- actually, not really -- that Weinstein tries to place himself as a protector of the "rights of the performers", when his main mission is to deny them their freedom of choice regarding whether or not they want to perform with condoms or not.

And, oh, goodness...a company requires mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite of employment, and uses the results to determine employment. WOW, as if only porn companies were doing that in the name of discriminating against drug users. I figure that Weinstein would be equally opposed to megacorporations like Walmart drug-testing their associates-to-be and not employing those testing positive?? Or, does he think that mandating condoms would preclude that, too???

Madness.  Just plain sheer madness.

UPDATE: now has a story up at their website on the Weinstein letter.

"Price of Pleasure" Update: The Dines-Jensen Freak Show Hits Boston University

Just a reminder that the enemies of free adult sexual expression aren't taking any time off.

This from the Boston University school indie paper The Daily Free Press, via Porn Newz:

Boston University students piled into the Photonics Center on Monday to view a documentary about sexual activity and aggression seen in pornography.

Students watched the documentary “The Price of Pleasure,” directed by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun, and discussed women’s rights in today’s society.

The Women’s Resource Center organized the screening in an effort to help educate students about how women’s rights are violated by some mainstream adult film industries. 

The documentary delves deeper into the media’s supposed justification of pornography.

According to the film, the media feels it is appropriate to film and distribute porn because the girls are paid to be objectified. In reality, the film argues the girls are not the ones profiting from being filmed – the producers and major corporations receive the majority of the profit.  The film says the adult film industry makes from $10 to 14 billion per year in gross sales.

The documentary argues that as the industry expands, so does its social acceptance.

Whether it is right or wrong for individuals to create porn, both men and women are starting to feel the pressure of the porn industry in their everyday lives, the film says.

The film also highlights negative aspects of the porn industry, such as allegedly blatant racism and abuse of ethnic groups seen in certain films.

Out of a list of randomly selected popularly rented porn titles, 82.2 percent of them were found to contain physical aggression, according to the documentary.  

Following the film screening, former adult film star and current dominatrix Princess Kali came to the stage to answer questions about her career in the porn industry.

Kali shared her views on how women in the porn industry are no different from many other careers in today’s society.

“People say women treat their body as a commodity,” she said. “How is that any much different than a football player?”

Event attendee and College of General Studies sophomore Ariana Katz said she thought the documentary was informative but not surprising.

“I’m not really shocked,” she said. “The themes from porn come from people’s interactions with each other.”

College of Arts and Sciences senior and discussion panelist Emily Partridge said the adult film dilemma is key to women’s rights.

“There does need to be a line drawn so that men don’t think it’s normal,” she said.
I guess that we should be grateful that the sponsors of this "debate" actually allowed an former adult star to give the contrarian view that adult performers actually might be fully formed human beings capable of their own free will...but that doesn't excuse the fact that the sponsors get free reign to continuously malign and distort actual performers.

Memo to the Women's Resource Center at BU: how about inviting some actual porn performers there to defend their own experiences??  Or, actual male consumers who don't fall into the predetermined trap of Bob the Guilttripper's memes of compulsive masturbators who only want to rape women??

And this "need to be a line drawn so that men don't think it's normal" meme....I suppose that Ms. Partridge would allow antigay fundamentalist activists to say the same thing about lesbianism amongst girls??  Or....homosexuality?? Or, even, reproductive rights??

I wonder....does BU have a civil libertarians office there??

Monday, February 22, 2010

RIP: Jamie Gillis

It seems like there's been far too much news of this kind over the recently, but yet another porn legend passed in the last few days.

Jamie Gillis was one of the great male talents of porn from its earliest days of 8mm loops in the early 70s through the "Golden Age", and continued working up through the 1990s. Like Ron Jeremy, Paul Thomas, and Harry Reems, his was a classic story from the porn's early days of an Off-Broadway actor who drifted into porn and made a career of it. He was also a innovator behind the camera, and can claim credit (or blame) for launching the "gonzo" and "pro-am" genres with On the Prowl (parodied ruthlessly in Boogie Nights) and, along with Ed Powers, the earliest Dirty Debutantes videos.

Susie Bright did a wonderful interview with him a couple years back and reposts parts of it in the Gillis memorial she posted today. The man was a engaging raconteur and the interview is well worth a listen. Also worth checking out are the memorials by Gram Ponante, the cinema blogger The Blood Splattered Scribe, SerpentLibertine, and a retrospective from a couple years back on another blog, Penetrating Insights.

Another one gone before his time.

Addendum: Not everybody has such a rosy assessment of Jamie Gillis, as Ernest Green points out in the comments following. Gillis' all-around sexual omnivory/perversity reputedly did cross the line into limit-pushing and outright cruelty toward some of the women he worked with, especially newcomers. I can confirm that I've seen scenes in the early Dirty Debutantes videos with him that seemed very rough, and doubly inappropriate given that many of the DD performers were "fresh off the bus" and not experienced in asserting themselves on a porn set. I largely wrote this off as an outlier, but unfortunately, this did not seem to be the case. This is in great contrast to his assessment from those with overwhelmingly positive memories of Gillis, and with the well-mannered and magnanaimous impression he gives in his Susie Bright interview. As with more than a few people, he is somebody who leaves behind a conflicting legacy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Affirmative Response To HIV-AIDS Scares: Talent-Led 7-Day Testing??

It seems that some performers within the porn industry are taking their own offensive on protecting themselves against future STD infections on their own, with no prodding from the government or from the industry establishment.

One such performer, Avy Scott, revealed her strategy to her fans via her Yahoo! fan group.

This was in response to rumors floating that Scott had essentially retired from doing boy/girl scenes, having signed with a talent agency to handle all her solo and girl/girl scenes, and planning to kick off her updated personal paysite. Some of her fans were openly freaking out that she was abandoning boy/girl scenes altogether, which even prompted some hidden rumors that she had been infected with STD's or even HIV herself.

Yesterday, in a post at her group, Avy put all that to rest.

Don't freak out lol!
I'm shooting for other companies until mid March. Then, I'll be shooting B/G for my site. A List will be handling some of my solo and g/g bookings.
It's been a hassle getting b/g bookings w companies since I request a 7 day I'll do it myself for a bit. This doesn't mean I won't ever shoot b/g for another company...just for now. We'll see how it goes :-)
Hope this puts everyone @ ease.
The main point of all this is that Avy Scott is now insisting that her partners have a clean test for 7 days, rather than the 30-day standard that has been the default value for producers and testers alike...and even more stiff than the twice-monthly/15-day standard that has been proposed by some industry analysts.

Could it be finally that performers are taking charge of their own health and insisting on stricter health testing for themselves?? If Avy's principles are taken up by more performers, then just maybe, there might not be as much a hue and cry for mandatory condom usage.

The main deterrent to having a shorter testing period has been costs for testing, which have been mostly
borne by the performer rather than the company. But, rather than insist on this idea of imposing condoms by force, what about having the health officials cover the costs of extended testing through either a more comprehensive health care program or through the industry funding a program...or a combination of both? It certainly would defuse the notion that the industry doesn't care much about its talent being exposed to the threat of STD's and HIV.  And, anything that shuts Micheal Weinstein and Shelley Lubben up can't be all that bad, either.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Perspectives on Porn: or, why it helps to know what the hell you're talking about

This week, Huffington Post featured an interview with Nona Willis-Aronowitz on her recent book Girldrive. For those not familiar with her, she is none other than the scion of the Aronowitz and Willis who's now making a splash in her own right as a writer and journalist. She has also apparently written a senior thesis on the social history of 70's porn, something I hope she sees fit to publish someday. Her book Girldrive includes a short interview with Rebecca Rosenfelt, proprietor of the one of my favorite blogs, Porn Perspectives.

Unfortunately, the interviewer, Chauncey Zalkin, basically takes this background as a starting point for an anti-porn diatribe and condescending dismissal of sex-positive feminism. She singles out as "ludicrous" Rosenfelt's statements comparing Jenna Jameson's position in the porn industry to Oprah Winfrey's in television. Aronowitz manages gets a few good points in, but its quite clear Zalkin is pretty much dominating the discussion, never a good thing if you're supposedly carrying out an interview. Its also pretty clear that when somebody writes stuff like "Porn is a mammoth industry and most of it is comprised of drug addicted young women without much if any support system," they're not exactly writing about the subject from the most informed point of view.

Not to be outdone, Rebecca has put together a response over on Porn Perspectives:
I really don't mean to pick on Chauncey. She doesn't position herself as an expert on porn, so I don't want to overanalyze her every word. She has not thoroughly researched porn or the porn industry, and is basing her ideas on second-hand information and stereotypes. That is totally normal. In fact, I'll make the rest of this post about "Porn Skeptic", which is a stand-in for people like Chauncey who mean well, but don't have the full facts about today's porn industry. I've heard her arguments a million times, and I'd really like to do what I can to take the stale half-truths out of circulation.

Rebecca's response is a nice takedown of some of the more common anti-porn arguments one sees trotted out these days.

As an aside, I was kind of wondering just who the heck Chauncey Zalkin is and where she was coming from with her charge that porn is this monster industry who's media product was messing up women's body image and everybody's sexuality. A quick look at her prospectus reveals her to be a highly successful member of the advertising industry. Its only the first week of February, and I think I may already have a winner for my 2010 "Pot Calling the Kettle Black" Award.

County Health Throws in The Towel

Now here's a moment to be savored. After several years of ceaseless bloviation about the need to impose condom use in the creation of all sexually explicit media, L.A. County Health Department head Dr. John Fielding has finally called it quits on behalf of the agency he administers. Fielding, whose department has been sued by the grandstanding fund-raisers at Aids Healthcare Foundation for not enforcing an all-condom policy on productions throughout the county, basically told the gang at AHF to take a hike last Tuesday, according to The L.A. Times ( AHF's suit had already been dismissed categorically by the L.A. Superior Court back in December, and Fielding at last admitted what he clearly knew all along about the kind of futile campaign his department was being pressured to undertake:

""It is very, very difficult to implement. There are roughly 200 production companies with about...1,200 actors,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health chief. “All you need is a room and a camera and a bed, basically, to do this kind of shoot, and we have no ability to police this,” according to The LAT's account.

Fielding goes on to point out the obvious: "... that it would be difficult for public health officials to prove if the movies were produced in L.A. County or elsewhere, as producers often do not apply for filming licenses. In a memo to supervisors on Sept. 17, health officials warned such an effort would be costly, as the public health department would need to identify filming sites and monitor compliance, which would require significant staff time."

For a county that's buried in debt, cutting back on basic services and has had to close its largest public hospital under federal court order for providing sub-standard care resulting in needless patient deaths, clearly such an attempt would be a whole case of AHF-funder Lifestyle Condoms stretched end-to-end too far.

Not surprisingly Fielding, who has long advocated action by the state legislature to enforce his vision of an all-condoms-all-the-time porn industry, continues to try and kick the responsibility upstairs. Like County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose turf includes Porn Valley, Fielding favors a statewide statute mandating universal condom use in porn, though he's been repeatedly made aware of the very real risks such a law would create if enacted. Fortunately, that doesn't appear too likely. Yaroslavsky concedes that, thus far, "not a single California lawmaker has been willing to sponsor such legislation."

Upstate, where cooler heads seem to be prevailing for the moment, there is little enthusiasm for spending millions of dollars in borrowed money to send state inspectors into the field in search of bare-back video production. The Free Speech Coalition has been dutifully making the industry's case in Sacramento on behalf of our highly effective existing system of voluntary safeguards built around regular STD testing, and warning of the possible jeopardy to which conflicting legislation might expose that system. So far, the message seems to be prevailing.

However, it's a bit early to break out the champagne and call this whole ridiculous campaign history. Cal-OSHA, even after a stinging rebuff from Alameda Superior Court Judge Judge Winifred Smith for seeking to compel The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) to surrender confidential client records in order to facilitate its witch-hunt against porn producers, continues to insist it has jurisdiction to apply standards created for medical facilities to porn shoots. Cal-OSHA officials claim they can still stage surprise inspections on sets, issue citations and levy large fines despite the inconvenient lack of any enabling legislation extending their authority to this particular industry, as state law requires.

As a result, no producer really knows whether or not it's safe to shoot anywhere in California, and until the higher authorities of the state government rein in this wayward bureaucracy on a mission from god, the threat of heavy-handed intervention by unauthorized state employees acting out their personal agendas will remain.

But given the way Fielding, the supervisors and the legislature, all burdened with much more pressing problems, are seeking to put as much open water as possible between themselves and this issue, it would seem that yet another attempt to crush the porn business under the weight of ideologically motivated regulation appears doomed to failure.

These incomplete victories have not come without cost, literally. AIM is barely able to operate its clinic as it struggles to pay its legal fees resulting from the Cal-OSHA litigation and some large companies have already begun to look at shooting in other states to avoid those random drop-ins from the nice folks at Cal-OSHA, taking money and jobs away from the local economy and conducting their business out of the sight of the porn community at large. How this will make anyone safer or improve the lives of porn performers in any way has yet to be explained.

We can only hope that those above the agency heads creating this still-ominous atmosphere will soon send a clear message to their subordinates to operate within their legal authority or start brushing up their resumes. Clearly, Dr. Fielding has gotten that message at last.

Two New Studies Find Benefit Rather Than Harm in Porn

Porn haters love to make vague references to "proof" and "scientific evidence" educed by "numerous studies" to the effect that pornography is harmful to individuals and society at large. But when confronted about the sources of this mountain of proof that supports that opinion, they understandably rabbit at the first opportunity. As even Gail Dines admits, there is no objective, peer-reviewed scientific research that validates the harm claims of the anti-porn camp.

In fact, the most recent investigations by respectable scientists not in league with this or that ideological camp fails to find any persuasive evidence that porn exerts a damaging influence on the public at large. Check out this post on Psychology Today's blog by Dr. Gad Saad:

He cites two newly released surveys concerning the harmful effects of porn that, after much meticulous examination, find none.

The second of the two studies, published in he International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, yields a lovely quote from author Milton Diamond, who painstakingly reviewed the existing research on the topic: " "Indeed, the data reported and reviewed suggests that the thesis is myth and, if anything, there is an inverse causal relationship between an increase in pornography and sex crimes. Further, considering the findings of studies of community standards and wide spread usage of SEM [sexually explicit material], it is obvious that in local communities as nationally and internationally, porn is available, widely used and felt appropriate for voluntary adult consumption. If there is a consensus against pornography it is in regard to any SEM that involves children or minors in its production or consumption. Lastly we see that objections to erotic materials are often made on the basis of supposed actual, social or moral harm to women. No such cause and effect has been demonstrated with any negative consequence."

But the more significant results may have come from a particular survey conducted in Denmark by Gert Martin Held and Neil Malmuth of a gender-balanced sampling of 688 adults "found that respondents construed the viewing of hardcover pornography as beneficial to their sex lives, their attitudes towards sex, their perceptions and attitudes towards members of the opposite sex, toward life in general, and over all. The obtained beneficial effects were statistically significant for all but one measure across both sexes," as Saad summarizes the results, going on to add: " Now here is the kicker: A positive correlation was obtained between the amount of hardcore pornography that was viewed and the impact of the benefits reaped. This positive correlation was found for both sexes. In other words, the more that one watched porn, the stronger the benefits (for both sexes)!"

Why is this study so important? Check out the authors. Neil Malmuth, who teaches at UCLA, is frequently cited by the anti-porn camp for his earlier studies that can be interpreted as indicating that viewing "aggressive pornography" may lead to some slight bump in aggressive ideation by the viewers. As Saad notes, "Neil Malamuth is a highly regarded scholar of pornography who has often argued for its supposed ill effects. Hence, if there exists a possibility of an a priori bias here, it would be in hoping to find that pornography yields negative consequences." But Malmuth, who is nothing if not a dedicated scientist, couldn't find those negative consequences.

Having been a guest speaker for professor Malmuth's classes and come in for some sharp questioning from the teacher, I'd say he's a lovely guy but by no means porn-friendly. He's spent years trying to establish a link between pornography consumption and anti-social behavior and now concedes to having found pretty much the opposite. I don't believe for a second that porn-bashers with an academic bent will quit invoking his prior work to prop up their arguments, but Malmuth, who doesn't much care to be dragged into political debates one way or the other, has now provided an effective rejoinder for the misappropriation of his previous research.

We're grateful to Dr. Saad for bringing these studies to the attention of the general public, not only because they tend to validate our own views, but because there is, in fact, so little good science of any kind regarding porn we can only be glad to see some wherever it shows up. It's not easy to get funding for non-political work in this field of study and those who have pursued it anyway to verifiable results that contradict their own expectations are to be applauded.