Let’s address the issues…

Posted: October 18, 2009 in Pornography, Sex Work

Ozymandias:  It doesn’t take a genius to see the world has problems.

 The Comedian:  No, but it takes a room full of morons to think they’re small enough for you to handle.

 Fitting, I think, in oh so many ways.

 It’s late, or rather early, for those of you who sleep like normal human beings.  For me, it is late.  And as of late, as I have been sitting back, watching, reading, seeing how things are progressing in the world part of me wants to stand up and scream “No, can’t you idiots see what you’re doing?”  The other part, well, the other part of me wants to sit back, light a cigarette, smile that smug, grim smile of mine and say “Well, look, you got what you wanted, your biggest wishes and dreams came true! Now there is blood running in the gutters and you are standing knee deep in it so how does it feel to try that on for size?  How does it feel to know you had a hand in that?”

 At this point, you might be asking what my grim, insomnia rattled self is talking about.  Well, I’ll give you a hint:  what I always talk about.  The Sex Industry and people who think they know what is best.  They do that a lot, you know…people.  They, oh, envision utopias and get into causes and picture a nice pretty clean world and think they can actually pull that shit off?  Clue here, people.  It ain’t happenin’.  Not in this lifetime or any other.

 But yeah, some people are on the verge of victory, you know, getting the things they’ve always wanted?  Reaching their big time goals?  Anti-sex industry people should be patting themselves on the back right now.  I suspect they are, actually.  Countries all over the world are looking into the Nordic Plans for prostitution. Even here in the good old US of A states where prostitution was not illegal (all two of them) are moving towards laws more like those in the rest of the country.  Porn?  The porn industry is in serious trouble.  Obscenity laws, the AIM/Cal-OSHA wars, all kinds of shit.  Look, anti-industry people?  You are getting just what you wanted.  A crack down on selling/buying sex.  Porn companies folding or in serious financial straits.  You’re winning!

 But, she says, lighting that cigarette and smiling that grim smile, at what price?  The people you worry about the most?  Claim to care about the most?  The poor women, the trafficked women, the drug addicted, un-educated women?  The young women, the children?  Well, Ozymandias, whom do you think all of this is going to hurt the worst?  Need I remind anyone that we are in a world wide mass recession?  Jobs are scarce.  People who were formerly middle class are now fighting to keep their jobs, their homes, and their lights on?  The exact sort of conditions- poverty and desperation- that lead or force the unwilling into the sex industry in the first place?  The types of things that prompt a family to sell a child into sexual slavery?  The types of things that make it easy for traffickers to trick women into forced prostitution after promising them better lives in far away lands? And it is not as if our world governments have swept in to pick up the slack here, dear readers.  There are no government funded, state supported, fully functional programs for former forced sexual laborers.  No medical care.  No educational or job training.  No day-care.  No living quarters.  No roof over the head, three squares a day promise of a better life.  The closest thing we have is…prison. So where are these most unfortunate of people to go?  Just back to what they were doing, in more dangerous conditions.  If you think in your pretty new world there will not be forced, coerced sexual labor then you are a fool.  Ruthless people bent on profit do not let things like nice sounding laws get in the way of their businesses.  The willing and the unwilling will still be fucking for money no matter what the law says.  It may not be on your corners anymore, but it will still be happening, and the worst of it will be happening to the most vulnerable people of all.  Your vaunted models will not end supply or demand, it will just make things uglier and worse.  And if you think it will actually cut down on trafficking?  Ha.  I will call you either a stupid or naïve fool.  And I will be right.  Selling sex is illegal here in most of the USA, but it still happens every day, and in every way, 24/7-365…even on Christmas.

 As for porn, do you honestly think hamstringing the legal porn industry in California will stop porn from being made?  Fact here, aside from in Ca, it is illegal to make porn anywhere else in the US.  Guess what?  It still gets made.  Tons of it.  Some of it is made with Ca standards in place: legal age, testing, contracts, release forms, payment, so on, so forth.  Some of it is most certainly not.  And why yes, so long as there is a demand for porn (which there has been, for a long, long time) it will get made.  Would you prefer the porn that is made to be made by people who abide by the Ca standard, or not?  Because sure enough, so long as someone is willing to spend money to watch people fuck, someone will profit from it.  It will get made, and lawlessness and disorder in porn is not a good idea at all.  Proof of age, testing, contracts, release forms, payment, or…. any asshole with a drunk, drugged out person and an I-Phone?  You pick.  Choice two is what you are actually asking for by calling for the proverbial head of the Ca industry on a pike.  You think women in porn- you know, those helpless hapless ones- are abused now?  Just you wait.  Only a great many of them won’t be in porn anymore then.  They will find other jobs, better or worse, and no one will have any idea if the people in porn are there by choice or not…because it will be illegally made and considering that, no reason for proof of age or consent.  Yet it will still be watched.  There will still be a demand, and a supply to fill it. 

 You think these laws, these victories, will put a single dent in trafficking, or sexual labor brought on by poverty, unemployment, lack of education, or force?  These huge, global problems?

 Well, to you and the rest of the morons in the room…those are things you cannot fix.

  1. Ernest Greene says:

    Nice. Made my … early morning.

    Making a thing illegal does not make it stop. Do I mean by this that nothing should be illegal or that law has no force? Harrdly. Actions have consequences and any society that does not recognize this principle as foundational has no future.

    But there is a good reason why enforceability is a constitutioinal criterion for laws in this particular society. If you outlaw conduct that is certain to continue on a large scale anyway, you will undermine respect for those laws that can and must be enforced.

    That is the grim lesson of Prohibition. The fact is that most people like a drink now and then. Not in the same way that some people like to rob banks, against which we can legislate with some confidence, but as a part of their otherwise law-abiding lives. By attempting to prevent a vast component of a society from doing a thing it doesn’t generally regard as evil and otherwise considers routine, the result was an era of lawlessness unparalled in this country’s history. Prohibition of recreational drugs has had similar results: the world’s largest prison population, the waste of billions of dollars and a level of criminality bordering on insurrection.

    Is sex commerce of the same scale? No. But it is far too big and far too intrinsic to the way most modern societies function to be made to go away by any means. The more extreme the means attempted, the more horrific the blow-back will be. And the victims of that blow-back will be both vulnerable individuals and the society as a whole.

    In California, the making of pornography by consenting adults has been entirely lawful for 25 years. During that time, there have been no murders of porn performers. There has been, contrary to the shrill insistence of some highly motivated liars, no acceptance of coercion or use of trafficked women or men in the making of pornography.

    There have been abuses, and they have been recognized as such. Because the porn industry is legal, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary about what cops will and won’t do in a given situation, there is legal recourse when abuses are exposed. There is regular testing for STDs. There is no – absolutely no – use of minors in the making of commercial porn, because doing so would make an otherwise legal activity illegal. Use of force, trafficking, all the things those who want to make porn illegal insist are worse because it’s legal now, are non-existent precisely because porn is legal. Make it illegal and only criminals will engage in it, using the means that criminals use.

    What really drives sex work haters nuts about the legal pornography industry is that it unmasked every lie they tell to justify their mad desire to see sex commerce banned. In every way, porn performers enjoy protections that are denied to sex workers in every other segment of the sex commerce market. Because it is legal, it is safer and less arduous for those who engage in it than any other form of sex work. California’s experience with legal pornography proves one thing: that legal status makes life better most dramatically for those who would otherwise be at the greatest risk. Those who disagree have theories. We have proof. No wonder they hate us as they do.

    The destruction of the lawful porn industry in California by any means is a top priority of sex worker haters, among the most evil of all misogynists whatever their gender may be, and that priority must be thwarted. Before pornography was legal here, every harm wrongly attributed to it now was common. Use of minors, use of force, use of drugs, spread of disease – all these things were S.O.P. during the blue movie era prior to legalization. On a small scale, it was a constant train-wreck not unlike that produced by The Volstead Act. All it did was enable a huge, new criminal class while subjecting countless unwilling participants to being coerced into whatever that lawless class cared to do.

    That is the very real prospect we face here once again, 30 years after Miller v. California, if those now seeking by various devious means to drive porn back underground get their way.

    That rumble is already on, and anyone who hopes we lose it should be ashamed to claim the slightest concern for the fate of sex workers.

    Alas, they don’t know the meaning of the word shame. If they did, they’d be unable to show their sorry faces in public.

    Right now, in a down economy and a panic-prone political climate, some very twisted people see a moment of opportunity. They’re doing their best to seize that moment and I can’t say for sure they’ll fail.

    But if they succeed at anything, it will surely come at a high cost paid almost entirely by women.

    While I can’t promise success against these vicious individuals, I can and do promise them the fight of their lives. They won’t believe how fierce the resistance can be from people who have tasted real freedom and real safety when others knowing nothing try to take these things from them.

    Obviously, much is going unsaid here in the way of details, but those will be forthcoming soon. And they won’t be pretty.

  2. It’s like these people are just willfully putting their hands over their ears and screaming LALALALALALALALA!! when anyone tries to explain the law of unintended consequences.

  3. Dw3t-Hthr says:

    I just smacked down some idiot kid on a forum who was going on about how porn is bad because all those actors are ACTING and the porn producers care about how many people WATCH IT because that’s how they get their money. I was all wait, what, do you not watch movies either? OMG ACTING! OMG BOXOFFICE!

    Kid was all, “No, but all that forced sex stuff! They don’t want it! And child porn!”

    I said, “2257! Contracts! Consent!”

    Kid said, “… I should say straight up that I don’t know anything. But PORN WILL RUIN YOU. Also CHILD PORNOGRAPHY!”

    I just want to reach through and throttle people on the internet. I’m waiting for iSmack to come out, y’know?

    And I don’t even have any investment in porn.

  4. Ernest Greene says:

    One more time – child pornography is not legal and has no – none, zero, zip, zilch, nada -overlpa with lthe lawful pornography industry, which despises it just as much as anybody else.

    And unlike so many who endlessly try to conflate the two in order to serve their own poltical agenda of making them seem one and the same, we actually do something about it.

    The Free Speech Coaltion has a standing $10K reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any child pornographer. Because there are idiots out there who actually believe the propaganda about how we’re all really just fronting for kiddie porn, every so often, one of said idiots comes out of the woodwork and tries to sell some of their slime to one us. The result without fail is a quick call to the FBI, a brief sting operation in which the criminal is invited to bring over a few samples and a subssequent arrest.

    I know several producers who have framed certificates of appreciation from The Department of Justice for helping to convict child pornograhers.

    But does anybody ever hear about that? Nope. All they here is that even if we don’t use underage performers and help prosecute those who exploit children, we’re still feeding he demand because some of us slap some reference to “teens” or whatever on the box. Yes, some of our performers are young and for some of our audience that’s an appeal, but they are of age and right under whatever else it says on the box there is a big, fat notice makeing that clear, and instructions regarding who holds the proof of performers’ age and consent and where exactly that proof can be found.

    There is a huge diffrerence between porn audiences that favor young players and pedophiles, who aren’t interested in young women but rather in pre-pubescent children. Porn is not a progressive addiction – that’s just junk sciience conjured up by moon-bats like Judith Reisman, and those who like the Barely Legal type aren’t going to morph into the twisted individuals whose fantasies sexualize chilrdren.

    I dare say child beauty pageants are of more interest to them than any form of lawful porn.

  5. Ernest Greene says:

    Oh, and once more, nobody in legal porn is forced to do anything. That’s another big lie. Performers negotiate what they will and won’t do before they get to the set, and if they find that someone expects them to do anything else, they leave, periodl. There aer always other gigs to be had. Performers have “yes” and “no” lists clearly stated on talent agency sites.

    The whole – they hate it and are forced to do it” thing ? Just another big lie from the usual sources. Unlike sex workers in illegal forms of trade, porn performers can just get up and go any time they feel they’re being mistreated, and if anyone tries to stop them, they can call the cops BECAUSE WHAT THEY DO IS LEGAL.

  6. Dw3t-Hthr says:

    Yeah, I said all that to the guy. (Well, barring the bit about the reward, which I didn’t know about before now, so thanks for that.) He was still all, “Well, it’s just … bad! Also, children!” which is … so fucking typical, and so frustrating.

  7. Ernest Greene says:

    Jeez, sorry for all the typos in that post. This white-on-black thing is hard to get used to.

    And I tend to type ahead of myself when I’m pissed off.

    But I really am semi-literate, honest. … for a scumbag pornographer.

    • Ren says:

      Ernest, If I have to start decapitating people for typos, I gotta cut off my own head first. No worries on that issue from me at all. LOL.

  8. “Fact here, aside from in Ca, it is illegal to make porn anywhere else in the US.”

    Illegal? I can think of a lot of people (like Audacia Ray and Joanna Angel, for starters), making porn in states like New York, Florida, and Washington, openly, and with business addresses in those states. If there are any laws against making porn in those states, they aren’t enforced.

    • Ren says:

      That does not make it LEGAL, Iacb. Tons of porn in made in washington state, FL, NY, NV, so on….but it is not LEGAL. The laws may not be enforced (and true, all over the place they are not because there has not been much in the way of contraversy), but that does not change the fact that it is not exactly legal.

  9. Ernest Greene says:

    Yeah, well, so far maybe. Biut the fact remains that only one state has ever had a court case testing the contention that porn differs materially from prostitution and is therefore exempt from laws against prostitution. That would be The Freeman Case and this would be where it was decided.

    People do illegal things more or less in the open all over the country and get away with it, for as long as local officials tolerate it. But if for some reason they get motivated not to tolerate it and the laws to prosecute that conduct are on the books, prosecutions will happen.

    If the major part of the industry leaves California and becomes sufficiently concentrated to be noticed anywhere else, you can bet some D.A. is going to grab a few pre-election headlines by making some busts. The people you name above are individuals who shoot occasionally and on a small scale. They can’t legally pull permits and thus they don’t show on the radar. If they did, they’d find out pretty quick what the locat tolerance level was for what they’ve been doing.

    It’s one thing to have your company HQ, or even your keeper of records, in another state. All that’s perfectly legit. But actually shooting porn potentially involves multiple acts of prostitution anywhere but here.

    Eventually, we may find ourselves looking at a whole bunch of Freeman cases in different jurisdictions all over the country, and those cases could go either way. If they end up in the federal system, they could conceivably result in a decision that strips porn production of its legality everywhere while leaving the Miller standard theoretically untouched, as the charges would be based on prostitution laws, upheld against many challenges over the years, as opposed to obscenity laws, which have been much more difficult to enforce.

    I know you’ve got some issue with the porn industry in California and you can ride that hobby horse all you want for what I care, but the legal fact remains that this is the only state where no one can arrest you for shooting sexually explicit material in and of itself. That possibility remanis distinctly viable everywhere else unless and until some new case law is created to the contrary.

    This is not an “if” kinda deal. Sex for money in any form is illegal everyplace except for the small enclaves and specific circumstances where it isn’t. Giving up the one terrritory we hold by established right on the dubious assumpton someplace else will choose to look the other way is a very bad idea.

  10. “Biut the fact remains that only one state has ever had a court case testing the contention that porn differs materially from prostitution and is therefore exempt from laws against prostitution. That would be The Freeman Case and this would be where it was decided.”

    Actually, two as of last year’s New Hampshire v. Theriault decision. Of course, there’s hardly any porn actually made in that state.

    “I know you’ve got some issue with the porn industry in California “

    No, I just have some of the same issues that Sharon Mitchell has with the way a few directors feel they’re entitled to treat performers, the way the industry more generally often turns a blind eye to such practices, and the way that a “quantity over quality” mentality on the part of many companies doesn’t exactly encourage best practices. Which is unfortunate, both for intrinsic reasons of the rights of those who do the sexual labor in porn and extrinsic reasons of giving people like Shelley Lubben, Michael Weinstein, and other highly dubious moral entrepreneurs a toehold that they really shouldn’t be getting. Those are issues quite apart from whether the industry is centered in California or not.

    • Ren says:

      FL is just like CA in this regard. TONS of porn is made there, and it is much in line with the porn made in CA.

      I don’t know, I am sort of with Ernest on this one. People scream and bitch about CA porn. but as someone who makes porn outside of CA…well, sometimes I want to tell them to STFU because they have no idea what people THINK they can get away with because they are not in CA and no one is watching. There are asshole producer/directors everywhere.

      And you have expressed your preference for non-standard CA porn before, prefering alt type forn I think (?), which is fine, but you know, I’ve heard a ton of complaints about that genre as well and the people in it (Suicide Girls comes to mind).

      • The fact that SuicideGirls has problems isn’t exactly news. They always had a reputation even within alt porn as being very pushy and aggressive in the way they behaved as a business, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise in 2005 when it was revealed that a lot of their models were pretty unhappy.

        The feminist blogosphere really ran with this as poster child for why alt porn is new face of porn evil. The problem with this line of criticism, as with so many other criticisms of the industry, is that it was generalizing from the worst example. One could say the same about the mainstream California industry. Still, when somebody like Sharon Mitchell, who’s performed in over 500 titles, says something to the effect that she wouldn’t want to perform in today’s industry, I take that pretty seriously.

        • Ren says:

          well then, IACB, I guess it is a good think no one is asking you to perform in today’s industry, eh?

        • Ren says:

          I think you are also missing the point both myself and Ernest are trying to make here.

          If the legal CA industry is hamstrung, things -no matter how they might be now- will get worse. Now, you can disagree with me on that as much as you like and discuss SOME non Ca porn like Dacia (who I know is awesome) and J. Angel, but fact is, I’ve seen the way things can be out in the non-Ca wild west of porn and a lot if it is very sketchy. Very sketchy indeed.

          • I never said the CA industry should be hamstrung, and, yeah, I get that the fact that so much of the industry and its infrastructure are based there (including really important institutions like AIM Healthcare) that moving against the CA industry will have very wide-reaching bad effects.

            I do question the idea that porn can only be made legally in California, though, it is correct that the only established court cases actually protecting it, at least in an American context, are only in California and (frosty, backwater) New Hampshire. Also, not entirely convinced that porn made outside of Porn Valley is inherently more or less sketchy than porn made in that system.

        • And to Ernest, of course, I wouldn’t presume to lecture you on “what Sharon Mitchell said”, since from what I gather, you speak to her on a fairly regular basis. That said, I’m sure you’re aware of the criticisms she’s made of some of the current practices in the industry (bait-and-switch performance agreements, directors pushing hard limits, etc), which I’m critical of as well. I don’t mean to imply that the Porn Valley industry has any monopoly on this, of course.

  11. hexy says:

    Sex workers from all over the world, and from all kinds of socioeconomic brackets, have been screaming at the top of our lungs for YEARS that criminalising our work (ANY part of our work) does not help us, but harms us. They don’t listen, because they don’t CARE.

    If they can ignore the tens of thousands of women brave enough to march behind banners calling for decriminalisation of the sex industry in non-Western countries, they can ignore everything any of us say. Sex workers currently in the industry and actually dealing with the ramifications of these laws just don’t matter to anti-sex work people as much as poorly defined “human trafficking” statistics and “how the sex industry hurts all women” (read: the ones they care about).

  12. Ernest Greene says:

    “And to Ernest, of course, I wouldn’t presume to lecture you on “what Sharon Mitchell said”, since from what I gather, you speak to her on a fairly regular basis. That said, I’m sure you’re aware of the criticisms she’s made of some of the current practices in the industry (bait-and-switch performance agreements, directors pushing hard limits, etc), which I’m critical of as well. I don’t mean to imply that the Porn Valley industry has any monopoly on this, of course.”

    Well that’s a relief. I live in terror of being lectured, since it happens so rarely. I am indeed in regular contact with Sharon Mitchell, as I have been from the days before AIM was founded right up to this afternoon re the current situation. I think I have a pretty good idea how she sees things, and though I wouldn’t attempt to speak for her, as you have on this thread, I will address, one more time, the vague charges against the way things are done out here that you fire off at us from the comfort and safety of the sidelines, as the last I heard you’d never made any actual porn of your own.

    You have impled over and over that there is some consistent pattern of abuse in the making of X-rated video on the part of some nameless directors and producers to whose misdeeds the industry “turns a blind eye.” You’ve offered a couple of anecdotal accounts from ex-performers in the past, but the suggestion that these experiences are representative of a much larger problem remains unsupported by fact.

    The truth, for whatever that’s worth, is that we operate in a fishbowl out here, observed by outside authorties, hostile political interests, know-it-all fans and, most importantly, by one another. That some abuses continue anyway I do not dispute. That they are anything other than isolated and involve anyone other than marginal producers and directors shooting at the fringes of what has become, thankfully, an increasingly professionalized trade over the past decade or so is simply not the case. That these situations when they arise endanger the rest of us is not lost on the larger entities in this business and you’d be quite surprised at how seriously reports of abusive behavior are taken and what measures are deployed in response.

    I can certainly tell you, for example, that the producer/director who allowed Patient Zero in the current controversy to work while her test results were still pending is now out of business. He’s been told by the heads of the major talent agencies that they will not book for him and his finacial backers have cut him off without a dime.

    In another instance where the shooting of a bondage video was involved a couple of years ago, a director decided that a male performer wasn’t whipping his female partner hard enough, so said director stepped in, ordering his camera op to shoot his arm from the elbow down only while he acted as a “stunt double.” He proceeded to mark up the female performer, who had already told him that she had other work booked and couldn’t have marks, costing her about $2,000 in bookings. When her marks were noticed as she was leaving the set, a more experienced performer took her aside, photographed the marks with a camera phone and emailed them to the producer. The director in question was fired on the spot and, given the size and influence of the company that fired him, has found no work in video sense. I’d hardly call that turning a blind eye. The performer, on the other hand, was voluntarily compenated by the producer for the lost work.

    The bad practices you describe – bait-and-switch casting and scenarios, pushing of limits, etc., were much more common before the industry became centralized as it now is and the current casting system of booking through agencies, which are legally licensed here for adult video unlike anywhere else, has largely discouaraged such behavior. Competition for top players is fierce among the agencies and if agencies don’t step up when talent calls from the set to complain, said talent switches agents. Agents therefore, whatever their character (and I don’t think all porn talent agents are alike, BTW, or that all are either heartless pimps or mother hens) tend to get on the phone with directors and read them the riot act. I can list off several instances of agents with the most sought after talent threatening to cut off casting from producers and directors over such incidents, and the directors and/or producers backing down quickly.

    While some sketchy production activity does still hapen out here and I won’t deny it, the claim that it’s no less likely to occur in an atmosphere where people have reason to watch each other’s backs, friendly contacts at industry trade publications and web sites that can demolish the reputation of a company or an individual in one day, ready access to experienced legal counsel and, if necessary, law enforcement agencies, is risible.

    The essential reality growing out of porn’s leagal status here as opposed to elsewhere is that it doesn’t have to be kept invidisble and those engaged in making it, including performers, are committing no crime that would make them hesitate to disclose any abuses to which they were subjected while engaged in a legal occupation. That all tends to make things inherently less sketchy out here than anyplace else. We have mechanisms in place, through AIM, through the agencies, through adult industry media, to hold abusers accountable, and that helps keep predators away from us, while they find more obscure corners of the country where performers are more likely to be naive and pliable and less likely to act in their own defense or seek support from others than would be the case here.

    As for the preposterous notion that any failure on our part to “clean up our act” in some way because failing to do so gives ammunition to the Shelley Lubbens and Michael Weinsteins of this world, I find it hard to believe that a man of your intelligence would even entertain such an idea. Those people are professional liars who make shit up every day about us. No matter what we do, they’ll continue to invent atrocity stories and bring forth non-credible witnesses to support them. The last opinions that concern me are those of individuals who make their livings stirring up public resentment against what I do and fabricating horror stories intended to mobilize support for outlawing my profession. Fuck those assholes. We’re not answerable to them and no action on our part will inhibit their activities in any way, or enable them for that matter. If they cared for the truth, they’d be telliing it instead of doing the opposite.

    Regarding Sharon Mitchell’s statement that she would not want to work in the busines as it is today, she was referring to the atmosphere of ferocious competition and the loss of the easy rapport the first generation of performers enjoyed by comparison to the factory-floor environment of the present day. This speaks to your one valid point, which is that mass production has led to both a generalized deterioration in the quality of the products, and with it the pleasure of making them, and the exhuasting pace at which these low-end products are churned out. Because, at least until the recession hit, there was so much over-production, the temptation to bank five paychecks a week took a toll of wear and tear on everyone, from producers down to production assistants. Nina and I warned newcomers again and again to preserve their private llives, take time off, save their money and not burn through their entire careers in two years. We were rarely heard.

    Sadly, durable careers of the type Nina and Mitch enjoyed over a couple of decades are all but impossible now, not because producers insist on having it that way but rather because performers, most of them too inexperienced to realize that once a compnay has shot them ten times it probably won’t shoot them again and that there are, for all the potential hires out here, a limited number of production companies, just can’t say no ot a quick buck.

    Jenna Jameson sagely reminds those considering careers in porn to remember that she built hers on the basis of 50 scenes. She conserved her availability, kept herself under contract to only the highest-quality producers and passed up chances to compromise her name value by overusing it.

    While not every performer has the appeal that Jenna had, they all have the option of turning down work they don’t need in favor of a weekend off they do need just because they have their hearts set on a new designer handbag.

    Oh, and a word about Alt-Porn. You may love it but you don’t have much company among consumers. Vivid invested a fortune in its Alt division, hiring Joanna Angel among others from that genre, and finallyy gave up after several years of weak sales, closing that division down earlier this year, despite the excellent work of directors like Dave Naz and Eon McKai. Only Tristan Taormino survives there because she understands that the money is in the middle and Alt is too Alt for most viewers.

    The real success story here is Sasha Grey, who conforms neither to the cliche image of the traditional porn star nor to the cliche image of the tattooed and pierced goth chick. Instead, like Jenna, she’s not a generic anything. She’s Sasha Grey and she knows what she has to offer and how to market herself effectively. This industry, for all it’s supposed slavish submission to prevailing conventions, is always on the lookout for someone or something genuinely fresh and original, and out here, where the resources are, the opportunities for the genuine article to break through are far greater than in any other palce and entail far fewer risks, whether you’re a bohemian hipster like Sasha or a bubbly party gal lke Sunny Lane. If you’re good and you connect with an audience, this is the place where you can make it.

    Now, I hope we’re clear on the reality check. No outsider, no matter how well-informed, is in a position to tell those of us who have made our livings here for decades what’s really going on in our world and what we ought to be doing about it.

    That presumptoin is more characteristic of our enemies than of our friiends.

    More than enough said.

    • You know, when I originally posted about the legality of porn outside of California, I didn’t mean that as a dig at the California industry. But since you asked what my objections to industry practices are, I answered frankly. (And I’ll amend, based on what you and Ren have said, that the Porn Valley industry shouldn’t be singled out in this regard – if anything, they’re often more responsible and pay better.)

      On the other hand, regarding what Sharon Mitchell said, the change in the industry to a more industrial, production-based environment from the smaller, more familial industry of the sexual revolution era is a big part of why she wouldn’t want to perform now. But she also amends that statement with the following (and I’m quoting exactly):

      “You can’t pick your partner. You oftentimes can’t use a condom – they talk you out of it. People don’t take “no” for an answer, you really have to repeat yourself. They don’t pay remotely anything near to what they used to pay. And, the amount of exploitation is incredible with the internet and everything. So you’re doing one sex act, one time, and getting paid once for that act, and its going to be duplicated everywhere, and then some.”

      It seems pretty clear to me that she’s referring to practices she sees as current in both the mainstream and small-time industry. Now this is taken from an interview from “Hardcore Profits”, and knowing the editorial slant of that program, I’m sure if she had anything more positive to say about the current industry, it ended up on the cutting room floor. But still, its a long and clear enough statement that I don’t think she’s speaking entirely out of context here. If the above was coming from Shelley Lubben, Michael Weinstein, or part of that crowd, I’d be inclined to dismiss it as spun out of whole cloth. Sharon Mitchell, obviously, I can’t be so dismissive of.

      Also, I also follow a number of porn journalists (people I wouldn’t be terribly quick to dismiss as “enemies”) – Sam Sugar, Gram Po­nante, and Susannah Breslin, among others – and I’ve never seen so much pessimism about the current state of the industry or of its capacity to transform into something better. In particular, Sam Sugar seems to have stopped writing altogether, and his final blog post about the state of the industry was really bleak. More generally, at this point, I think “pro-porn”, and sex-positive ideas more generally, are losing the battle of ideas in the public square, and that’s unfortunate. Its not being lost because the ideas about sexuality held by the religious right or radical feminism are terribly sound, but because of a general distaste for what a lot of people, rightly or wrongly, perceive as massive exploitation and excuses for such.

      And this to me all adds up to a very bad thing. As with the backlash against celebrity support of Polanski, I think such missteps help fuel the rise of sexual conservatism and paternalism more generally, both in their more traditional forms and under the guise of “feminism”. And that, to me, is the real tragedy, because I think the latter forces are ultimately set do a hell of a lot more damage than a few sexually exploitative directors could ever do.

  13. Ernest Greene says:


    I love it that you start your rebuttal with an out-of-context quote from a BBC2 anti-porn documentary that even you admit to being editorially slanted. If your primary source here is a hack “documentarian” like Tim Samuels, who is involved in spreading the astounding, racist slander propagated by Gail Dines and the SPC gang to the effect that the war-related rape epidemic in DR Congo is the result of showing Western porn to armed gangs of thugs, you’re off to a bad start. You acknowledge that your citation from Sharon Mitchell’s interview with Samuels was certainly edited to pull its most negative content, and yet you cling to it, as a drunk clings to a lamppost, not for illumination but rather for support. As a video editor myself, I can tell you that strategic cutting can change the meaning of nearly anything. Watch Fox News much?

    Now, keeping that in mind, let’s have a look at what Mitch said that you seem to find such a damning indictment of commercial porn:

    ““You can’t pick your partner. You oftentimes can’t use a condom – they talk you out of it. People don’t take “no” for an answer, you really have to repeat yourself. They don’t pay remotely anything near to what they used to pay. And, the amount of exploitation is incredible with the internet and everything. So you’re doing one sex act, one time, and getting paid once for that act, and its going to be duplicated everywhere, and then some.”

    Mitch would be the first to admit that she tends to ramble in interviews and that it would be easy to grab a line here and there to undermine the sense of what she actually says, which is one reason why she’s largely stopped giving interviews to MSM. I can’t wait to see her reaction when I show her this wowzer, but I can promise you I’ll be standing back when I do.

    Performers CAN and DO pick their partners, and not just a “privileged” few. That is the routine way in which casting is done here, though I certainly can’t speak for anyplace else. Directors can suggest this or that pairing, but a performer’s refusal to work with another performer is the end of the conversation. Now, what Mitch may have said, and surely intended to mean, was that directors may have plans to use a particular performer in a particular scene and if another performer doesn’t want to work with that person, the director may keep shopping. That’s called casting. It happens in mainstream film as much as in porn, if not more, and it’s hardly an abuse of any kind. It would be if the director somehow attempted to compel someone to work with someone else, but that would be a major felony and I don’t think any of us cares enough about getting a particular scene to risk going to jail over who appears in it.

    It does happen by chance that a scheduled performer may flake or otherwise be replaced and that said performer’s slated partner comes to the set and finds someone other than the expected co-player waiting, but if the substitution isn’t acceptable, either performer can always walk. Only stupid directors not long for this business take the chance of making a new hire without consulting the original casting pick remaining first, as those walk-offs slow things down and hardly enhance the director’s reputation, which is the very thing off which directors live. Incompetence is not abusive in itself.

    On the condom issue, Mitch is partially right, and it’s the important part. Yes, this industry, not just in California but everywhere, is resistant to condom use because neither performers nor audiences like condoms. I repeat, NEITHER performers nor audiences like them. Sharon Mitchell, speaking for AIM, opposes attempts to make condom use mandatory as she has consistently since AIM began. Care to read AIM’s latest position statement on this subject?

    testing regulations are put in place as a matter of law, voluntary participation would be crushed. Talent would not come in to comply or test and disease would run rampant, thus spiking the HIV and STD statistics in the general population. A certain consequence of mandatory condom use would be a tremendous rise in underground, off-the-books production, with an accompanying secrecy that would make partner tracing for detected cases virtually impossible.

    Such regulations could also engender a legal conflict between statutes forbidding the requirement of HIV testing as a precondition for compensated engagement, statutes that have been upheld against strong challenges by other industries seeking exemption due to working conditions specific to their operation, and any new law that seeks to make an exception for sexually explicit entertainment production. The likely outcome would be the loss of universal testing as a whole, leaving barrier protection as the only defense to which performers would be entitled. Indeed, under existing law, performers known to be HIV positive could conceivably insist on being allowed to work and performers refusing to work with them discharged, even though barrier protections have a high failure rate under the rigors of sexually explicit video production.

    The gay pornography industry does not test for HIV and relies exclusively on barriers. During the time since AIM began testing on the heterosexual side of the industry, there has not been a single AID-related death in the population we test and monitor. During that same period, the gay side of the industry has counted 166 such deaths. While we recognize that the comparison is inexact and other co-risk factors are present in the gay talent pool, these numbers hardly argue for an all-barriers-no-testing standard. At best, it would constitute human experimentation at its most gruesome to attempt such a change when we have a standard that clearly functions with a high degree of effectiveness already in place.

    At best, if such a mandatory condom use regime were put in place and testing allowed to continue, the test used most commonly, rather than the more expensive and sophisticated PCR-DNA method, would most probably be the ELISA antibody test used at county-run clinics. This test has a three to six month window period for detection. It is grim indeed to contemplate how many people could be infected by a single HIV-positive performer during such a long interval. AIM was founded in 1998 when a male performer infected four female co-workers by successfully forging County Health test results.

    If we’re unwilling to risk the health of our entire talent pool on a never-before-attempted program using antiquated methods and administered by bureaucrats with no direct experience of the unique challenges inherent in safeguarding the health of Adult Industry performers, the facts revealed thus far more than justify our wariness. How those demanding that such a risk be assumed justify their actions is much more difficult to comprehend.”

    What we do favor is a condom-optional policy that really means it. What I believe Sharon is saying in the quote is that some producers or directors, determined to hire a particular performer, will contact that performer and, upon discovering that said performer will either only work with condoms in all scenes, or wants to work with a condom in the particular scene with the particular partner(s) the company wants, try to talk the performer off condom use. Failing that, the producer or director may choose to hire someone else instead. AIM, Sharon and I all favor an industry-wide policy that would forbid denying casting to any performer over that performer’s individual preference regarding condom use, one way or the other. Performers who want to use condoms should be able to without economic consequences, and those who don’t should have the same choice. If a certain match can’t be made because one performer wants condoms and the other doesn’t, the non-condom player should be the one replaced. That’s where we stand. Sharon doubtless singled out those few directors who “won’t take no for an answer” on condom use because those directors are assholes, few in number and more of an annoyance than a problem. The problem is the companies that tell the directors not to use condom players, so those players never even get called. That’s what needs to change. This will require different thinking from companies, directors and performers if condom use is to become more common. There are sound medical reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, as has Nina, who is a non-condom performer, why many players, especially female players who are prone to condom-abrasion, don’t want to use them and they shouldn’t have to. That, BTW, puts her off-list with companies that do want condoms used, such as Wicked Pictures (not that she would be a likely hire there), but the fact remains beyond dispute.

    Either way, condom use should be a meaningful option for all performers who want it, no excuses. This issue has nothing to do with California, or with industry porn v. indie porn. Condom use, rare as it is here, is even more rare in Internet shoots done elsewhere. AIM keeps track of that too. And even those companies here that have had condom-friendly policies in the past, including the greatly over-praised kink.com, have largely abandoned those policies. Christian Mann, who is as fine a person as ever produced porn literally put himself out of business by trying to stay with a condom-only policy despite four years of sales in free-fall. Consumer pressure is a real issue in some markets, though not in all.

    Adam&Eve produces a mix of condom and non-condom scenes, to which I can attest from having shot plenty of both kinds for them, and sales seem largely unaffected, but their audience may not be typical.

    Now, as to Sharon’s claim that “they don’t pay remotely near to what they used to pay,” I’d love to hear the unedited version of that statement to know what “they” she’s talking about. For the past decade, talent rates have risen steadily in all genres for all types of scenes without exception, typically by about 30% and in the case of male players, who were always paid less than female players, by as much as 100%. Top guys now get a thousand bucks a scene. Sasha Grey commands $3,000 per scene. Generally, the current rates start at $750.00 per female player for a straight BG scene, rising to $1,000 for someone with a fan base, upcharged another five at least for anal, DPs now at $1,500-$2,000 per scene and additional players upcharged at a couple of hundred bucks each. Of course, these are L.A. rates. Everywhere else in the country, where opportunities are rarer and players less well known, less experienced, unrepresented by agents and lacking in established fan bases, rates are roughly half as much. Gee, it’s just terrible how little they get paid here compared to other places.

    Again, I would love to know what Sharon really said about talent rates, because back when she and Nina started, female talent routinely got a day rate of about five hundred bucks, and that was for however many scenes were shot in a day.

    Now, one sad truth of the current economic situation in this industry as in so many, is that with production at a virtual standstill, rates for what scenes are still being shot have begun to sink. No doubt about it. I hear said stories every day about the backsliding that’s happened since the economy went off a cliff. It’s not just performers who are suffering. I recently rejected an attempt to get me to direct at the day rate I charged when I first started back in 1993. I know that things are tough all over and sales are down, but just like other bosses who don’t necessarily have to in order to stay in business, some producers are taking advantage of the weak economy to grind down compensation on the basis of hardship claims. My answer to them is that if you can’t afford to shoot, don’t shoot. It’s not my job to subsidize failing companies. I agree with Larry Flynt that the cure for flat sales is called bankruptcy. I’m prepared to leave video production rather than be ripped off for my labor, and I hope others do the same. This business, like many others, is contracting, and that may not be a bad thing. Over-production has been a huge problem in itself that has contributed to many other problems, including personal problems for performers who have shortened their careers through overexposure. Perhaps the survivors of the recession at all levels in porn will be better off after the painful period of adjustment finally passes.

    Now, about that remark Sharon made regarding exploitation, you will note that she referred specifically to Internet production. That’s the kind that mainly happens elsewhere and is least directly affiliated with the larger players in the industry. Internet porn, as Ren points out, is inherently sketchier because so much of it goes on in secret and in isolation, far removed from the more protective industrial culture of commercial porn out here. The ugliest tales that ever come back to me are from out-of-town gigs where someone hired from here goes to someplace else and suddenly discovers that the producer is also the guy she’s expected to work with. As I’ve said, that kind of behavior gets you a bus ticket in this town.

    The Internet, which has overall been a catastrophe for porn at every level, is where the abuses are most common, and it’s only becoming a significant part of the industry in this state because of the vacuum created by the decline in DVD sales, itself largely a product of Internet piracy. Sharon and I have discussed this many times, and we agree that Internet shooters working “off the books” are consistently the source of the worst horror stories.

    The final point in Sharon’s quote, regarding the lack of residuals in porn, is beyond dispute. Only a tiny handful of top players and directors can command royalties of any kind, and even they face resistance over it. That’s always the first thing producers try to talk me off of, and that’s when I stand up to leave. Often, I do end up leaving. But that’s the name of the game everywhere. If you’re a money-maker, you can write yourself a better deal.

    One reason why I would like to see a guild or union of some kind for all creative contributors to the production process would be the collective bargaining power that might remedy this situation, but I don’t expect it because those who work paycheck-to-paycheck for a different company each day, and don’t plan on long careers here, are notoriously hard to organize. Attempts going back 20 years have ended in failure, not due to union busting by producers but rather apathy among performers. Get them to a meeting where there’s not immediate pay involved and no free drinks? Good luck with that.

    No excuses, however. There should be a fair residual system, whether or not I have a method for getting us from here to there.

    Okay, now that we’ve finished slicing and dicing Tim Samuels’ version of what Sharon Mitchell said, let’s move on to the rest of your list of crimes and misdemeanors.

    As for the complaints of porn journalists, I think those bleak assessments are more closely related to the dire economic straits of the industry, brought on by declining sales, piracy and the production glut than by sorrow over the fate of abused performers. I daresay much of their gloom has to do with their own fates. As the industry shrinks, so does the business of covering it, which wasn’t terribly lucrative to begin with. Sam Sugar seems more concerned with what he views as the deterioration of Fleshbot under its new, bottom-line-oriented owners than over the porn industry. That is his parochial concern and says not much about anything but Fleshbot and his relationship with D.Cypher. It’s evidentiary of nothing under discussion here.

    Based on nothing much but your own opinion, you give us this:

    “More generally, at this point, I think “pro-porn”, and sex-positive ideas more generally, are losing the battle of ideas in the public square, and that’s unfortunate. Its not being lost because the ideas about sexuality held by the religious right or radical feminism are terribly sound, but because of a general distaste for what a lot of people, rightly or wrongly, perceive as massive exploitation and excuses for such.”

    I agree that we’re losing the battle of ideas, but not for the reasons you state. In fact, I think we’re losing that battle for the very reasons you reject. That lot of people you’re talking about? Most of them couldn’t care less about porn. Contrary to the importance afforded it by those who love it or hate it, most people have little direct contact with it and are largely indifferent to the whole subject. They certainly don’t take an active interest in whether or not there is massive exploitation going on, nor do you make the case that there is, or that this is or should be a significant public concern.

    In fact, when it comes to porn overall, you seem to be engaged in en masse victim blaming. It’s all porn’s fault for not being run by a bunch of boy scouts. Newsflash. The guys who run it now ARE boy scouts compared to those who ran it for most of the first half of its existence since legalization, and it was during that time that porn enjoyed its widest acceptance, playing in mainstream theaters and being reviewed by serious film critics.

    However, it has been since both the religious right and the rad-fem left have begun their relentless, overlapping campaigns against it, based on some of the same flimsy “evidence” you offer up here, that First Amendment liberals, who may have no interest in porn of their own but defend it on constitutional grounds, have been shamed into backing away from supporting its right to exist. The real problem here is not in porn, but on the op-ed page of The NYT, where liberal pundits like Bob Herbert and Nicholas Kristof have fallen under the spell of Melissa Farley, and at places like AlterNet, where Don Hazen was so mesmerized by Bob Jensen’s bullshit he pronounced himself willing to throw freedom of speech protections under the bus to end the scourge of “pornstitution.”

    It is among intellectuals and academics more than with the general public that this battle has begun to tip against us, and that has more to do with the tepid, half-hearted defenses our side has mounted in the face of our opponents’ unremitting ferocity than it has to do with porn itself, or public perceptions thereof, as the latter are shaped as much by media as by reality. Those who know nothing at all about porn are being hammered night and day by lies that have been sold to those who enjoy influential positions in MSM, and for that, I blame the industry itself for failing to recognize and mobilize against this threat, and I blame the wavering support of those who endorse the general idea of some kind of legitimacy for porn, if it will clean up its act to their standards, whatever those might be. Not excluded from the onus of this situation are Alt types and Third-Wavers who feel some need to bow to their critics by declaring that they too find fault with the porn industry. No shit. So do I. But I address my criticisms directly to that industry and those in it, rather than waving my banner as an independent thinker and not a tool of the patriarchy over at Feministing, or here for that matter.

    Porn does not need major reforms. It is progressing in a healthy direction overall. That is the reality-based message that needs to get out, not to the public, which I repeat has not much more than a passing interest in the subject, but to those who have previously acted in its defense and are now being bullied into abandoning their principles because of unsubstantiated horror stories spread by those who, sensing a moment of opportunity, are seizing the initiative.

    The porn industry can do little to defend itself in this regard. It’s always subject to attack for speaking from self-interest and its most ardent constituency, its customers, are unlikely to come forward and defend it. Performers try to when given the opportunity, but the sustained attack on MSM outlets waged mostly from the left over the past few years has made major news organizations and talk-show bookers alike reluctant to allow people like Nina or Candida the chance to speak for themselves. Having been bumped from talk shows repeatedly in the past year, both agree that a certain level of media middle-managers have either been intimidated into denying them platforms or have fallen under the sway of arguments against porn made by liberal commentators under the influence of radical feminists, who they don’t recognize as the cross-dressed neo-cons they really are.

    This battle isn’t being lost in porn studios. It’s being lost in executive offices in publishing and broadcast media. It’s become impossible to say anything constructive about porn in the public sphere without getting a predictable hammering from Dines, Jensen, Farley and their gang, along with the usual Dobson-affiliated religious cranks with whom they are closely allied, despite hollow denials easily exposed by a quick check of the links between Web sites operated by both camps. No vigorous defense is being mounted over here, and it’s less than helpful to say the least when those who claim to be pro porn, but feel the need to put scare quotes around the very phrase, join the dog-pile. Do you, or anyone else reading this, really believe that the climate of opinion is going to change because of anything the porn industry itself does or does not do?

    The fact that it has become steadily more professional, more responsible and safer for everyone for the past fifteen years hasn’t produced a positive change in the public’s view or pushed back effectively against the campaigning of the antis. It’s that kind of push-back that’s needed, and if nobody in the industry and none of its few self-selected defenders can manage that kind of push-back against the lies and smears and government-orchestrated end-arounds of The Constitution we’ve been up against during this whole period, I’d say this is pretty much of a lost cause.

    Not being one to silence anybody, I would never attempt to discourage anyone from raising legitimate questions about specific matters that could be addressed with practical safeguards of one sort or another that didn’t involve dictating content of creative products or placing onerous restrictions on the choices of performers. But this constant scolding from the bleachers about every detail of how those of us who actually do this work are doing it wrong is … to be very charitable … 100% unconstructive. Nothing will change as a result, but when it comes to giving ammunition to the enemy, left over rounds from this kind of engagement are heaven-sent for them.

    Dragging in the support of misguided Hollywood types for Roman Polanski as some example of the backlash that can occur when otherwise-righteous people fail to disavow one of their own for heinous misdeeds is completely inappropriate. The misdeeds here do not rise to that level and the individuals involved are obscure, marginal personalities about whom no one not already head-down in the muck of porn-hate gives a rat’s ass. The ass of a skinny rat at that.

    Defending the right to make porn means defending the porn industry because that’s who makes it. Must you defend everyone in it? No. Can you allow yourself to be dragged into the petty arguments over who has misbehaved and in what way when the misbehaviors are rare and trivial? That is exactly the thing that must not happen if we are to preserve the principle of being pro porn – without the scare quotes.

    • hexy says:

      The gay pornography industry does not test for HIV and relies exclusively on barriers. During the time since AIM began testing on the heterosexual side of the industry, there has not been a single AID-related death in the population we test and monitor. During that same period, the gay side of the industry has counted 166 such deaths. While we recognize that the comparison is inexact and other co-risk factors are present in the gay talent pool, these numbers hardly argue for an all-barriers-no-testing standard. At best, it would constitute human experimentation at its most gruesome to attempt such a change when we have a standard that clearly functions with a high degree of effectiveness already in place.

      I’d say the comparison is so inexact, not to mention so misleading and inappropriate, as to make your use of it downright offensive. No-one ever makes themselves look good by using the “Well, we die of AIDS less than Teh Gays!” argument.

      • I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this particular debate, but its already one in which the gay porn industry and the straight porn industry are regularly placed under comparison, with the practices of the straight industry held up as unfavorable by comparison. So given that context, I really don’t think its fair to hold those defending the straight industry to charges of gay-bashing. I put the ball solidly back in Michael Weinstein’s court for this, since he was the one who started this stupid pitting of gay versus straight porn.

        You are right about one part – the comparison is inexact. The very real differences between the sexual communities that gay versus straight performers are drawn from are the reason that two different strategies of HIV prevention have sprung up.

        • hexy says:

          So given that context, I really don’t think its fair to hold those defending the straight industry to charges of gay-bashing.

          Read what I said, not what you think I said.

          And yes, I’m familiar with the use of the argument. I find it objectionable.

          • Do you find the pitting of the two porn industries against each other that you find objectionable, or the fact that somebody from the straight side is defending against unfavorable comparison to the gay industry?

              • Ernest Greene says:

                Good, because I’m doing neither. There are problems with both systems, as those of us who deal with both systems agree.

                The hard facts of this matter don’t fit anyone’s ideas of how things outght to be. They’re just facts. If is, for innstance, a fact that gay performers are drawn from a talent pool in a community with a higher incidence of HIV to begin with.

                It’s also a fact that many people in the gay porn industry regard the informal practice of sero-sorting instead of testing to be irresponsible, and there’s a recent instance in which a story addressing these very concerns was killed by The Advocate L.A., which takes a lot of advertising from gay porn companies that’s just a bit suspect, in view of the author (http://www.mediaite.com/online/did-advocate-com-kill-an-article-to-please-its-porn-industry-bigwigs/). There are gay porn producers who want to indroduce testing on the gay side and AIM has, of course, offered to provide the same services we do to the het side, but for various complex reasons the most important gay producers refuse to sign on with this idea.

                My point, and I stand by it, is that condoms without testing has been conclusively demonstrated in the only porn performer community whre it’s been tried to be unsafe. The existence of social co-risk factors, while not irrelevant, doesn’t change the facts.

                Do you or anyone else here doubt that there would have been fewer deaths in the gay porn community if that community had been testing for the past 12 years as our side has?

                I’m also curious to know if you find this argument offensive only from the het side, or is it equally offensive when Weinstien, very much in possession of the same data, insists that we should risk the loss of testing in favor of condoms?

                • hexy says:

                  Considering that, these days, HIV infection rarely leads to death within the same decade, I’m gonna say that yes, the death rate of previous performers who were HIV positive and died of AIDS related complications would have been about the same. The variable is whether they’d have kept working… and, of course, how many seroconversions actually occured on the set. That’s kind of an important detail.

                  I don’t think its data people on either “side” should be using in that context. It’s just plain dodgy use of statistics.

      • Ernest Greene says:

        I’m not interested in who I offend, though i do object to having what I say, and I did write that release, oversimplified. Setting aside the incidental question of people’s political sensibilities, in what particular do you find this statement other than factual?

        We’re not trying to make ourselves look good when we face our enemies. We’re busy trying to save lives by telling the truth. Any untruth up there, I’d like to hear about it.

        • hexy says:

          Referring to the statistics on deaths from AIDS related complications of HIV positive performers would be factual. Using the data in this context, where you make an invalid apples-to-aardvarks comparison minus a bunch of relevant information, is not “factual” and not “truth”. It’s misleading, and somewhat vile considering the affected community having their data tossed around.

          • Ernest Greene says:

            Both straight and gay performers are involved here, and the statistics for both communities are public knnowledge in both, so nothing is being “tossed around.”

            Nor is this an issue of comparison between communities, but rather bettween methodolgies and their relative effectiveness. The comparison is nowhere near as far afield as you suggest.

            If you have some “relevant information” to the contrary, I would think you’d care to share it, given the gravity of the situation, rather than making vague references to it. Whatever it is we’re missing here, perhaps you’d care to fill us in.

            Many of the deaths in the gay porn industry were reported before effective treatment became available (though some are as recent as this year), true, but also after the gay porn industry adopted an all-condom, no testing standard, which is the real isue here: does that standard work as a protective model?

            Kyle Majors, owner of gay pay site CockyBoys.com, recently spoke out, courageously, about gay porn’s reliiance on condoms over testing, and why his company and a few other gay producers require both.

            “Testing is NOT prohibitively expensive, except maybe for studios that pay models crap to begin with. It’s especially a meaningless cost if you are shooting the model in more than one scene and amortize the cost across those scenes. The AIM folks will work with you to find local testing centers near the models so out-of-state models don’t have to come to California to be tested. The problem is that there is a general sense that profits come before models. My God we have an obligation to models – to protect them – not expose them to unnecessary risks. If a studio really can’t afford testing, they probably shouldn’t be in the business.

            Further, many “condom only” studios like to pretend that they have no responsibility because condoms are used. A lot of condom studios give models a false sense of security spreading myths about the level of safety on their sets. Condoms break and have a statistical percentage of failure.”

            Majors also speaks openly of a whispered truth about resistance to testing in gay porn, which is that about 30% of active gay talent is HIV+ and that the lack of a testing requirement allows them to work through that informal sero-sorting process I mentioned earler.

            So if you really hold the view that the AIDS-related deaths in gay porn are completely unrelated to the lack of testing, you and Mr. Majors clearly disagree. PCR-DNA testing has been available to the entire porn performer community for 12 years, which is a long enough time to make the M&M statistics concerning those who take advantage of that testing v those who do not relevant.

            This is not apples and Aardvarks. We all do the same work, and while that work is riskier in some places than others, the issue of what protections are most effective concerns everybody who works in porn.

            And everybody who works in porn is thinking about that issue right now, in practical terms, whcih is the only way to do so.

            This is not, as you seem to want to cast it, a straight v. gay issue (loved that little touch of mockery you used to misrepresent what AIM says, BTW. Entirely worthy of Michael Weinstein’s crowd, who are the ones trying to cast this problem in exactly those terms). It is an issue common to both components of the industry and outcomes of the strategies used by both demand consideration as both look to the future.

            If you actually worked in this field and realized that there is no hard, bright line that separates gay ans straight porn and that, despite some dubious denials, there are performers who work in both, the need for testing in both is as urgent and obvious as Majors states.

            Right now, there is one industry with two different standards, both of which are imperfect, as all admit, but one of which seems a more effective harm-reduction strategy than the other.

            That open debate over this question should somehow be considered “inappropriate” by outsiders when those whose lives are directly affected consider it in-bounds is yet another example of how politics colors what ought to be a purely pragmatiic approach to an extremely serious problem, to the detriment of understanding what’s most useful in arriving at the correct solution.

            This is not about people’s personal sex lives. It’s about what performers, gay or straight, are entitled to know about the immune status of their partners and what the costs can be if that information is not available.

            I’m pretty much done with this whole thing here, but when words like “offensive” and “vile” are tossed around because someone thinks a statistical comparison of methodlolgy outcomes is “misleading,” when those directly involved don’t see it that way at all, I’m reluctantly compelled to clarify a thing that should be obvious.

            As I’ve already said, statistics from performer communities using both of the currently favored approaches suggest that, while both need improvement, barriers without testing clearly do not work.

            An addendum to this is that, owing to universal testing in het porn here, there is no steady 30% infection rate in the het talent pool because initial testing weeds out infected individuals before they can work. I hardly see how anyone could challenge the proposition that this model is the safer of the two.

            As Majors unequivocally states, testing is needed by all. And testing is what’s at risk in the current debate over who should regulate safety in the porn industry. In Judge Smith’s ruling, she reminds the community that mandatory testing violates state law, leaving voluntary but universal testing of the sort only community-based NGOs can offer as the single alternative to government regulation that cannot, by law, require such testing.

            As the one whose phone lights up late at night when positive results come in at AIM, where I’ve invested a dozen years of my live in protecting performers of all gender orientations, don’t be surprised to get some push-back from me when I’m accused of manipulating statistics or using “offensive” tactics to make some abstract point.

            Both Nina and I work in an environment that is not without risk. To be risk-aware is to be fully informed. That’s the point AIM makes when it calls attention to the potential consequences of making porn in an atmosphere of secrecy surrounding perforrmers’ HIV status.

      • Ren says:

        Hexy- I think it can be relevant though. Often times anti porn people use the agrument that because gay porn uses condoms and het porn does not het porn is less safe and gay porn has more stringent and superior modes in place for production. But the hard fact is there have been more cases of HIV transmission in gay porn than in het porn, so obviously condoms only (sans testing, so on) is not the better mode and is not as safe for the performers (which is the concern imho anyway, the safety of performes, gay or het). But when anti porn people over inflate the “unsafe” factors of het porn and minimize the “unsafe” factors in gay porn to make their points against het porn, that helps no one, is a flat out lie, and can actually be dangerous. I don’t think it is offensive to point out the truth of the matter, I think it is necesary in order to determine better modes of keeping performers in both the gay and het industry safe.

    • BTW, here’s the entire Sharon Mitchell interview part of “Hardcore Profits”:


      (47 MB avi file – click on “Requst download ticket”, then “Download”)

    • A few points of reply in order. Yeah, I do put “pro-porn” in quotation marks, because its kind of shorthand for a much broader set of ideas. I’ve read antis characterize me as simply a “wanker” allied with “pimps” who defends porn merely because I happen to like it. And sorry antis, but my defense of porn is based on some very deep-seated beliefs in freedom of expression (including sexual expression), in sexual freedom and autonomy for all (sexual minorities, women, and, yes, straight men alike), and support for sex workers rights (including the right to choose work that others might happen to find “obscene” or distasteful). Those are principles I’d have if I didn’t care for porn at all, but on the other hand, I also don’t shy away from the fact that I like at least some subsets of porn. So, in other words, “pro-porn” is shorthand for a lot of things, not merely “I like it, therefore it should be made”, which is what it gets reduced to by the willfully thick.

      I also don’t mean it as a blanket defense of “the industry”, since I’m generally left-leaning, what I support or oppose in any industry is whether or not it does right to their workers, consumers, and the larger society. (And I’ll note to the antis here that I don’t think producing “offensive” images counts as “bad for society”. Sometimes quite the opposite, actually.) I don’t agree with the “What’s good for General Motors…” ethos at all. I also think that political efforts that are merely aimed at protecting the product of a large industry are ultimately doomed to failure, “smoker’s rights” being a prime example.

      And finally, I’m not convinced that protecting free sexual expression is best served by simply retrenching harder into many of the same arguments that have been made in the past. I look at examples from the other side – ultra-fundamentalist radfems like Witchy and Delphyne, who’s solution to complicated arguments is to entrench ever-deeper into Sheila Jeffreys-type radical feminist dogma, hoping that if they shout it at people long and hard enough they’ll actually listen. What they achieve is quite the opposite – they’re largely considered daft, even in the context of the feminist blogosphere, and a walking confirmation of the worst feminist stereotypes for the rest of the world. For my own part, I’m much more impressed with arguments that take the complexity of a controversial issue into account while still sticking to firm principles, even if such defenses might superficially come across as admitting to too much. (Then again, maybe that’s just my academic background talking.)

    • “AIM, Sharon and I all favor an industry-wide policy that would forbid denying casting to any performer over that performer’s individual preference regarding condom use, one way or the other. Performers who want to use condoms should be able to without economic consequences, and those who don’t should have the same choice. If a certain match can’t be made because one performer wants condoms and the other doesn’t, the non-condom player should be the one replaced.”

      And on this point, kudos to you and Mitch for that. This is exactly the kind of initiative that needs to happen in the industry regarding safer sex. Now hopefully the producers, directors, and agents who are in a position to make that a reality are actually listening.

      • Ernest Greene says:

        They may be listening, and some may even give it a shot, although in such difficult economic circumstances it’s a harder sell than ever. Remember that there will always be plenty of non-condom porn, both domestic and imported, and Christian Mann’s experience even at a time when it was almost impossible to go broke selling porn is cautionary to any producer.

        But the reason to do this is because it’s the right thing to do, not because it will make us any more acceptable to those who despise us. They won’t believe it any more than they believe that we really do test performers for STIs and we really don’t use minors in our pictures. I’ve seen both ND and Shelley Lubben insist that our claims to the contrary are just lies, that we don’t test and we “routinely” recruit underage players. I continue to see the bald-faced lie that AIM covered up 12 … no, wait, make that 15 … or was it 20 as I read on Lubben’s site just today, cases of porn-transmitted HIV since 2004. A large segment of the public, reacting out of its own inner conflicts about sexuality and those who depict it, are always ready to believe the worst about us, regardless of the facts.

        There’s an old saying among lawyers to the effect that the weak link in any civil liberties case is usually the defendant. That’s why sticking to the primacy of free speech protections and hammering hard on liberals who allow themselves to be shamed and guilt-tripped into abandoning them is still the only strategy that’s likely to preserve the existence of the right to make sexually explicit material for commercial purposes, even if that means sticking up for people who don’t rise to your lofty standards of conduct.

        Nuanced arguments are great when dealing with open-minded, thoughtful people. But a simple, solid position based on readily understood foundational principles is far more easily defended. One of the reaons we’ve been losing the ideological battle here is that we’ve ceded too much territory to too many critics for one reason or another.

        Instead of always being on the back foot while they slander us at no cost to themselves (indeed, for their own gain), we need to be leaning forward and making more of the case about them, their retrogressive ideas, their flagrant lies and their unsavory alliances.

        Reasoned discourse is lovely, but it will never take the place of a good right hook. That’s a lesson the current presidential administration is learning the hard way. There is no such thing as a fair fight. There are only the fights you win and the fights you lose.

        The best strateguy for keeping liberals on board, which is the key constituency that we must not lose if we are to retain the ability to lawfully make any kind of porn, is to remind them, based on ample historical precedent, that if they throw us under the bus, they’ll be next.

        Trying to convince them that we’re actually nice people who deserve to have rights has never been effective. Reminding them that protecting our freedoms also protects theirs is.

  14. “Sam Sugar seems more concerned with what he views as the deterioration of Fleshbot under its new, bottom-line-oriented owners than over the porn industry. That is his parochial concern and says not much about anything but Fleshbot and his relationship with D.Cypher. It’s evidentiary of nothing under discussion here.

    No, wrong link, as I mentioned above. I was talking about this post.

    • Ernest Greene says:

      This post is certainly more relevant to the discussion, though it does cast Sam’s surly and sullen take on things in an interesting light. I guess he went away mad at everybody, but some people more than others.

      The problem is that he’s conflating things that have nothing to do with one another to paint a portrait of the situation overall that reflects his desires rather than the realities on the ground.

      Porn is a great disappointer. It leaves almost everyone who ever thought it could be better wanting more, including me. However, the fact that it isn’t what anyone might hope it was doesn’t make it abusive of dangerous. In fact, it is neither by comparison to a wide range of paid enterprises in which people of the same age engage without much objection from anyone.

      It’s no more satisfying creatively and most assuredly far more perilous to work on a fishing boat. But there is wider social concern about the fate of the fish than there is about those who work on the boats. No offense to defenders of fish intended.

      Here’s another fact that Sam and others who hold his views won’t like. There will be future cases of HIV in porn no matter what. Condoms or no. Testing or no. Both or neither. It’s going to happen. That’s Public Health 101. The problem is, how do we best keep them to a minimum?

      For reasons I’ve gone into many times before, and that are supported solidly by the numbers, I think the current system is about as good as it gets.

      This is really turning into a derail of a discussion about something much less frequently debated. I’d rather it got back on track, so I’ll finish here by saying I think Sam’s bitter fairwell says as much about Sam as it says about those he leaves behind and is a pretty good bad example of the kind of sidelines trashing we don’t need from people who claim to be allies. He once made his living here too, and Fleshbot wasn’t exactly a model of candor back in those days.

      You know it’s not as if people in porn haven’t also done some “examining.” It would seem that even a certain percentage of civilians who claim to be braodly supportive of porn’s right to exist have still bought into the “pimps and victims” stereotypes more than they might suppose. We don’t need them to do our thinking for us.

      No one here for more than a month is unaware of the shortcomings of this way of making a living, and many bail right around then. But many others choose to stay on for years, and are able to make livings doing so, despite the things nobody likes about the work. It is a jog, the definition of which is broadly something you wouldn’t do if you weren’t paid, but which some tend to be better at than others.

      I find that success in any field is the most reliable predictor of happiness in it. That’s why I balance the views of those who think this businsess is the worst thing that ever happened to them against the opinions of those who never want to do anything else. There are more of the latter than is generally supposed, which is one of my main points in devoting so much time and energy to this discussion. There are also mor of the former than there should be. No one is drafted to do do this and no one is missed much when they leave. It’s not a refuge for the desparate and it’s not the best place to make art either.

      Not one thing in the paragraph above couldn’t be said just as accurately of any other form of commercial entertainment.

      That’s my point.

  15. As for Sharon Mitchell’s statement, it sounded like an entire statement to me, not something spliced to pieces. I would imagine, of course, that the original interview was much longer than the three minutes or so shown on Hardcore Profits and that they pared it down to the part of the interview containing the most damning statements. Still, it certainly sounded to me like something she damn well meant, but would be nice to read an unexpurgated interview with her about the same subject.

    • Ernest Greene says:

      Listen to anyone who knows anything about porn talk about it long enough and you’ll hear bad things. You’ll also hear good things. Listen to Sharon Mitchell, as I always enjoy doing, and you’ll get both at the same time. Bless her for her ability to defy any attempt at a particular soundbite. It must have taken many hourse of careful cutting to elminate the bracketing statements that assuredly accompanied these few words, probably in the same breath.

      I’m sorry you didn’t get to hear the whole thing either, because the experience of actually hearing the real Mitch instead of each interviewer’s sliced and diced version is simply unforgettable. If anyone ever cares to write a real history of this industry from the beginning, with the bark off, that writer needs to spend a good, long time listening to Sharon Mitchell. The clip above isn’t even a representative clip of her nuanced, often scathingly, blackly funny observations of the world she knows better than anyone.

  16. Also, no need to explain the virtues of AIM to me. Even if the worst accusations against the industry were true, its quite clear that bringing down AIM would only make those problems worse. The fact that those campaigning for “public health” are trying to bring down AIM in particular is testament to their bad faith. Its along the lines of trying to block HPV vaccinations for teenagers as a way of discouraging teenage sex by deliberately making it more dangerous.

  17. Had some thoughts on this, but I’m too tired to do it now…

    On a somewhat related note though, I’m not sure if you keep up with ND’s now, but I’d love to hear what you have to say about some of this

  18. Ernest Greene says:

    Loathe as I am to respond to anything form anyone over at ND’s open-air bullshit market, I feel I must make it plain and clear that porn scenes are renegotiated continuously throughout. They are a cooperative venture among players and in concert with the director, who functioins primarily as choreographer.

    Porn scenes are not shot through start to finish. They are created in segments, often quite apart from the final order in which they appear, and consultations among all involved occur throughout the process.

    The claim that porn scenes somehow devolve into rape after whatever is agreed at the beginning is yet another slanderous lie from those who have never been on a porn set, spoken with a porn performer or know their asses from The Grande Canyon when it comes to porn, not that they care. That porn is a form of rape is sacrosanct to their crypto-religious fervor to destroy it and no random encounter with the truth is likely to change one element of that belief.

    And yes, it would be theoretically possible for a male performer’s consent to be invalidated as well, but since men don’t count as human, who really gives a fuck about their consent anyway?

    Likewise the notion that porn inspires viewers to commit rape. No scientific evidence supports this view, as even its adherents admit, which in no way tempers it. We are not dealing with fact or reason here, but rather with fanatical zealotry devoid of intellectual integrity in all respects and reliably contemptuous of factual information.

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