"Do you think the production and/or distribution of pornography, for personal and/or commercial use, should be illegal?"
RussellsParadox, a visitor to my anti-pornography YouTube channel, (over 100 videos and counting! ;-)), asked me the above question. The space to reply at YouTube was limited, so I am posting my full response here. The simple version of it is as follows:
1) If you are referring to the United States, regardless of what I think, most pornography is actually technically already illegal. It just isn't prosecuted.
2) I believe that there are legal measures that can and should be put into place that can significantly reduce the harm done to individuals during the production of pornography. (And as a result of what happened during that production.) These measures can also reduce the harm done to women, children, and society in general from the existence of, consumption of, and influence of violent, degrading, and sexist pornography. Such measures would include: restricting access of Internet pornography and other types of pornography to those who are 18 and over, raising the age of participation in pornography to 21 years old, and improving the health and safety standards of pornography production in a variety of ways, including implementing mandatory condom use.
So that's the short answer. For a longer and more detailed response with references included, please click on "Read More!" below. (But be forewarned: there is graphic, disturbing, and likely triggering content ahead.) Thanks.
To begin with, if a person is going to discuss whether or not they think the production and/or distribution of pornography, for personal and/or commercial use, should be illegal, one should define the term "pornography". As stated in the sidebar of my YouTube channel and at my blog post defining pornography here, the current definition I'm using is as follows:
PORNOGRAPHY: Material that combines sex and/or the exposure of genitals with abuse or degradation in a manner that appears to endorse, condone, or encourage such behavior.
Another useful definition is from the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance:
"Pornography" means the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words that also includes one or more of the following:
a. women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things or commodities; or
b. women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy humiliation or pain; or
c. women are presented as sexual objects experiencing sexual pleasure in rape, incest, or other sexual assault; or
d. women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or
e. women are presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility, or display; or
f. women's body parts-including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks-are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or
g. women are presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or
h. women are presented in scenarios of degradation, humiliation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual.
2. The use of men, children, or transsexuals in the place of women in (a)-(h) of this definition is also pornography for purposes of this law.
(See full information on this ordinance at this Wikipedia entry here.)
Interestingly, the above two definitions fit very closely with how the "Adult Industry" categorizes their own products. Useful examples of such products can be found at the Adult Video News charts of the best-selling “adult” videos and DVDs. (At AVN.com here. Note: Graphic content at link.) Some titles from the top 100 of the top 250 most popular rentals as of August 7, 2007, are “Teen F#%k Holes 8”, “A Cum Sucking Whore Named Katsumi”, "Teen Cum Dumpster 4”, and “Throat F#%k Gang Bang 7”. (The back cover description for the last one reads: “These filthy little sluts thought they can handle multiple dicks hammering down on their throats like a plunger does a toilet. They couldn't be more wrong! Watch as these gagging whores choke, spit, and slobber all over our cocks while we mercilessly jam our dicks down their windpipes. Don't worry, all these girls get their just rewards in the end... LOADS of semen and SPIT plastered all over their pretty little faces." This description can be found online through searching for the DVD title name, finding it at an online DVD store, and then viewing the back cover.)
Please note that in discussing "pornography" and what I believe should be done about it legally, that I am referring to the above sorts of materials. I am not in any way referring to nudity, sex, age-appropriate sex education materials, or "erotica". (Or including any of these in the category of "pornography".) The following definition of erotica might be helpful to distinguish between "pornography" and non-degrading sexually explicit materials.
EROTICA: Sexually suggestive or arousing material that is free of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and respectful of all human beings and animals portrayed.
Now that it is clear what I'm referring to when I use the term "pornography", I should mention that "pornography" is not currently a legal term. For information on what terms are used, and what the current laws are that address pornographic materials, please see ObscenityCrimes.org. (Please note that acknowledging that Obscenity Law exists does not constitute endorsement or support of the principles behind Obscenity Law. See note at bottom of "101 Things You Can Do To Combat the Harms of Pornography" for more information regarding this point, which includes references to critiques of Obscenity Law. Also please note that I am against censorship, in favor of free speech, and also in favor of some sort of Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Law.)
In any case, the minimum legal measures I would like to see taken in order to reduce the harm created by pornography production and consumption are as follows:
1) Restrict access of Internet pornography and other types of pornography to those who are 18 and over.
Why this is needed:
"There is a real danger in watching this type of rough sex and thinking that it’s normal sex. Some of this stuff is so shocking and it’s done simply for shock value, that it’s not necessarily titillating but it’s almost like you can’t take your eyes off it, because it’s so unbelievable.”
“This is severe trauma on the body. And for a young person to witness that, they can very easily think, "Is this what all sex is like?""
"For a young adult and their perception of what type of sex they see, if they log onto the Internet or they’re getting some DVD things that are downloaded from some of the companies, they can really be mistaken. So you’re now looking at people with multiple partners, choking, spitting, things that are very degrading toward women, calling this woman a whore, rape scenes."
"And, yes, these are depictions in pornography, they’re fantasies, but how is a young person supposed to tell the difference if they’re logging on? They can say, "Is this normal sex?" And that to me is the concern, because where else do you have to compare it to? It’s just not the great place to get good sexual advice, while watching pornography.”
The above quotes are from a CNN interview here.
Information and solutions:
Currently young people under the age of 18 cannot legally go into a neighborhood "Adult" video store and look at or purchase materials there. Those wanting to enter such an establishment must show a legal form of ID proving that they are over the age of 18, as pornography is legally deemed to be “harmful to minors”. However, despite the fact that this is the case, such material is freely available to children at any age on the Internet, including at most public libraries. (Note that the largest group of people viewing Internet porn is children aged 12-17.) Having to verify one's age online before one accesses an Internet porn site has in the past been ruled as too great a burden on an adult's right to freely access that sort of material, and it has been legally concluded that filtering is a solution that is more in keeping with the United States Constitution. However personally I don't see why some sort of legal measure requiring age verification could not be passed and implemented on the Internet, so that it would match how the law works in real life, i.e. at a physical "Adult" Video store.
In any case, since that sort of regulation is unlikely to be put into effect, other methods should be considered that would allow parents to restrict access of Internet pornography from their children. A good example and realistic solution that would affect no one's free speech rights or freedom of access would be the Channel Port 80 Internet Channel Initiative. Please see full information at CP80.org, and also at my previous posts Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Legislation, Obscenity Law, & CP80 Internet Regulation and More Information about the CP80 Internet Porn Solution (& 4 Videos).
I am interested in learning about any other legal measure that would restrict minors' access to "pornography" in the form of "Adult Product", (as described above), on the Internet and elsewhere. Visitors are more than welcome to share any ideas they have on this subject. (For one idea of a tagging system that would help with filtering, see the YouTube video, "Lawrence Lessig on Internet Pornography Censorship (part 1)”)
For a history of what it has been tried so far in regards to restricting Internet pornography access from those under the age of 18, please see Wikipedia articles "Child Online Protection Act" and "Internet Pornography". Please note that many in the "Adult Industry" itself say that they are in favor of legal enforcement of age restrictions in regards to accessing their products. See the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, (ASACP), as an example.
2) Raise the age of participation in pornography to 21 years old.
Why this is needed:
Entering into a career in the porn industry is a very serious decision. Most pornography performers are in their teens, as there is a very high demand for teenage porn. When a young woman is still in her teens she is often not fully able to comprehend the lifelong consequences of a decision to participate in pornography, and frequently doesn't really know what she's getting into. As porn industry insider Luke Ford puts it, " “Most girls who enter this industry do one video and quit. The experience is so painful, horrifying, embarrassing, humiliating for them that they never do it again.” ("Porn in the USA", CBS, 60 minutes. 2004.) Clearly this is not the sort of experience that a young woman was expecting, or she would never have done it in the first place.
Those who support raising the age of participation in pornography to twenty-one include porn industry veterans such as the following:
The world's most successful porn star, Jenna Jameson:
"It's really important [to know] that once you do a movie, you are labeled a porn star for the rest of your life. That has impact not only on you, but on your family, on your kids, on your friends. You have to be willing to work with that and understand the repercussions".
"I have major misgivings about talking to girls who are eighteen or nineteen years old about signing a contract. At eighteen years old it's hard to make a life choice. I truly believe there should be an age verification at twenty-one years old for this industry. Being a porn star, I don't think people understand that it filters into absolutely every aspect of my life".
(From "Jenna Jameson - Portrait of a Mainstream Sex Icon", May 2007.)
Porn actor, director, and activist Bill Margold, former director of the "Adult" Industry’s "Free Speech Coalition", and currently a trustee of the PAW Foundation: ("Protecting Adult Welfare" at http://www.pawfoundation.org/.)
"Of course I abhor anything remotely associated with child pornography, that’s of course another reason why I want to raise the age from eighteen to twenty-one because I think a lot of these people who come in at eighteen are still children. They’re not ready to accept the sociological damnation of being an adult performer. It could haunt you the rest of you life in ways you can never dream of. This is an indelible business, and the immortality is the only reason to do it."
"If we continue to force degradation and perversion of any kind, beating the Hell out of fellow performers and doing things to them that the human body isn’t really able to withstand – what I refer to know as the fear factor of X, perpetrating violence and derogatory situations upon them – why do we need to do that anymore when we can simply have sex without making sex derogatory or making sex dirty in the sense of defiling and dehumanizing people and basically physically hurting them? In a recent interview I once said what’s going happen when one of these people breaks? When they take so many penii, interesting term, so many dicks are shoved into them at one time that the body gives up and capitulates. What are they going to do when someone rips apart? When so many dicks are shoved into one hole? I’m being a little graphic but so many of the people making these movies these days have no business even going anywhere near a video camera, many of them have lost site of what creativity is and because they can’t create they’re frustrated and because they’re frustrated they just do whatever they can to shock. Eventually they’re just going to deal in physical pain, and I will not tolerate that." ...
"They’re doing bad things to people, making them cry, making them feel like pieces of meat, and they’re being brutalized and mistreated. They’re brutalized to the point of a lack of common sense. What we need to practice is 'common sense-orship.' These people do not need to be put into a fear factor of X, they don’t need to be penetrated over and over and over again, or the human body and the human mind will break and when you break their spirits and their minds you have nothing left. A lot of the vacancy in this business is readily apparent now, and a lot of the drugs that are in this business now are painkillers so that the girls don’t even know what they’re being put through, they’re just vacant. That, to me, is abhorrent. I’m not censoring, it’s interesting I was accused by one filmmaker of censoring him, but I’m not censoring this business, I’m criticizing this business because I’ve earned the right to criticize it and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem, and theirs as well."
"I’m mad about that. It’s upsetting me that people will come to see me and cry and I don’t know how to strike back, and I’m suggesting to people that they get out of this business before they become eliminated from this business. A lot of these people, if they don’t want to play ball with the possible rules handed down to them, will find themselves behind bars which is maybe where they belong and there they’ll find themselves rendered into the same pieces of meat that they rendered their performers into."
"I want to raise the age to twenty one, I want to now bring drug testing into the business and eradicate the escort services, and I want to one day have a porn tax."
Pornography performer RayVeness, who has been in more than 300 porn films:
"“People should be twenty-one [before appearing in adult films],” she says today, arguing that three more years of life experience might make a difference in a young person’s decision to do this kind of work."
"If they knew the truth, she hints, they might not get into the business at all."
Information and solutions:
Currently the age required to participate in pornography films is 18 years old, and this is enforced by the "2257 Regulations". See Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2257. All the current measures that are used to enforce this could continue unchanged. The minimum age requirement would just be changed from 18 years old to 21 years old.
3) Improve the health and safety standards within pornography production in a variety of ways, including implementing mandatory condom use.
Why this is needed:
Porn star Jenna Jameson provides some insights:
“Most girls get their first experience in gonzo films - in which they’re taken to a crappy studio apartment in Mission Hills and penetrated in every hole possible by some abusive asshole who thinks her name is Bitch. And these girls, some of whom have the potential to become major stars in the industry, go home afterward and pledge never to do it again because it was such a terrible experience.” (Pg. 132)
“In a worst-case scenario, a gonzo director will take a girl to a hotel room and have their friends shoot a cheap scene in which she is humiliated in every orifice possible. She walks home with three thousand dollars, bowed legs, and a terrible impression of the industry. It’ll be her first and last movie, and she’ll regret it – to her dying day.” (Pg. 325)
“In other scenarios, she’ll work for two weeks until she’s only getting paid seven hundred dollars a scene and then, finally, no one wants to use her anymore. So she’ll agree to do double penetration or drink the sperm of twelve guys just to stay working.” (Pg. 325)
“If you take the time to read it (a sample adult-film contract) carefully, you will notice many ways in which a female performer can get shafted – both literally and metaphorically.” (Pg. 353)
Quotes from “How To Make Love Like A Porn Star, A Cautionary Tale”, by Jenna Jameson (with Neil Strauss), Hardcover edition. Copyright 2004.
Dr. Sharon Mitchell: Former pornography performer, and founder of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation: (AlM.)
"I see 17- and 18-year-old girls every day who have no idea what they're getting into.” ... "AIM has been difficult to keep going, because the filmmakers feel that they have no responsibility for the health care of the talent."... “Herpes is always about 66%. People are medicated with acyclovir for herpes, which is very effective in preventing the herpes outbreaks. Chlamydia and gonorrhea, however, along with hepatitis, seem to stick to everything from dildos to flat surfaces to hands, so, pardon my expression, but we are usually up to our asses in chlamydia”.
Online question to Sharon: "Any chance of forcing filmmakers to take responsibility for health risks through OSHA or similar government agencies?"
"I have tried until I am blue in the face. To the best of my knowledge, this will not be happening any time soon.”
A comprehensive list of what pornography performers are subjected to and at risk of can be seen in the Adult Industry Medical Foundation (AIM) publication "Types of Porn and Their Occupational Safety Risks". The list includes:
“RISKY SEX ACTS: Ass to mouth (A2M), Ass to pussy, Ass to Ass, Double penetration – one in vagina one in ass, Single penetration vaginal, Single penetration anal, Blow Job, Double Vaginal, Double Anal, Boy Boy Girl, Girl-Girl Boy, Multiple sex partners/Orgies, Felching – Ass to mouth.”
"THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES ARE AT A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT RISK THAN ABOVE:
BUKKAKE - Multiple males ejaculating on a face. At risk for chlamydia or gonorrhea of the eye, herpes of the eye or nose, or HIV - as the eye is a direct conduct into the bloodstream.
BUKKAKE - Drinking semen. At risk for chlamydia and/or gonorrhea of the throat.
CREAM PIE - Internal ejaculation either in vagina or ass. High risk for HIV. ****
SNOWBALLING - Passing sperm and spit from one person’s mouth over and over.
S&M - Depending on the type of play, Hepatitis A, B and C, if there is any needle/nail play without gloves.
TOY-PLAY - Depending on the play, when using toys, always put a condom on them or change toys when changing partners, as chlamydia or Hepatitis B, can stick to a toy and be able to transmit the infection.
EYE BALLING - Herpes of the eye, HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea of the eye.
FISTING - Anal and Vaginal. Vaginal or anal tears, no STD risk and less you're going from one partner to the next, or putting the fist in your body and into your partners' without changing gloves.
MUTUAL MASTURBATION. No risk and less you are using the same hand on you and your partner. Keep your hand to yourself and you are at no risk.
SINGLE GIRL MASTURBATION. No risk unless you have a herpes outbreak or HPV outbreak. You can transmit to another part of your body.
GAPING - This is the act of stretching the anus, vagina or mouth with a speculum or a dental instrument. Tears in the body and throat, and if sex, any kind of body fluid or sperm will cause a high risk for all aforementioned diseases."
(All of the above is quoted verbatim from the Adult Industry Medical Foundation (AIM) publication "Types of Porn and Their Occupational Safety Risks".)
More information about what pornography performers are subjected to and at risk of is in the article "The Adult Film Industry: Time to Regulate?", by Corita R. Grudzen and Peter R. Kerndt:
“Adult film performers engage in prolonged and repeated sexual acts with multiple sexual partners over short periods of time, creating ideal conditions for transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). All the more concerning, high-risk practices are on the rise . These practices include sex acts that involve simultaneous double penetration (double-anal and vaginal–anal intercourse) and repeated facial ejaculations. At the same time, condom use is reportedly low in heterosexual adult films—approximately 17% for adult performers . In 2004, only two of the 200 adult film companies required the use of condoms for all penile–anal and penile–vaginal penetration . Performers report that they are required to work without condoms to maintain employment."
"These practices lead to high transmission rates of STDs and occasionally HIV among performers."..."Adult film has allowed consistent exposure of its employees to HIV, hepatitis, human papillomavirus, herpes simplex virus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other diseases without liability or worker recourse."
"The portrayal of unsafe sex in adult films may also influence viewer behavior. In the same way that images of smoking in films romanticize tobacco use, viewers of these adult films may idealize unprotected sex . The increasingly high-risk sexual behavior viewed by large audiences on television and the Internet could decrease condom use."
Information and solutions:
Dr. Sharon Mitchell:
"What we can do is reward the producers, distributors and actors who use condoms with a ''seal of approval.'' The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, state and federal health departments, and my organization should act together to give approval to the films made by companies that use safe workplace and health care practices. Most mainstream companies don't like to discuss their lucrative dirty secret -- that they make huge profits off sex films. But if hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, and cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast, showed only those films with the seal of approval, filmmakers would have a financial incentive to follow the rules."... "If we can make it financially attractive for the people who work in the industry to use condoms, they will. And that's the only way that we will be able to further limit the risk of infection to sex-film actors and to the people they come in contact with in their private lives."
The authors of the article: "The Adult Film Industry: Time to Regulate?" recommend the following potential policy changes, all of which I support:
- National legislation that includes regulation of internet-based adult films
- Mandatory condom use with condom seal of approval
- Film rating system based on set safety criteria
- Licensure of performers
- STD testing paid for by the industry
- Vaccinations against human papillomavirus and hepatitis B and post-exposure prophylaxis paid for by the industry
- Education and training of all workers and employees
- Legal age of performers raised from 18 to 21 years old
- Drug testing of performers.
So the bottom line is that I believe it should continue to be illegal for pornography to be accessible to minors under the age of 18, (and I think that this should be enforced on the Internet), I think it should be illegal for anyone to participate in the pornography industry if they are under the age of 21, and I think it should be illegal for anyone to participate in risky sex acts in pornography production without proper protection. (In order to significantly reduce the harms described above.) Hopefully this has answered the original question. If not, please let me know. Thanks!