Even if you don’t watch porn—even if you think porn should be illegal—you still get the benefits of the porn industry’s fight to safeguard your freedoms as an American. And this goes way beyond your right to watch porn, to areas of privacy, capricious taxation, and elsewhere.
Here’s the latest.
Say you produce adult porn films for a living (go with me on this). You, the government, and society all agree that only adults should act in such films. And in fact, the adult film industry has an amazing record of accidentally employing almost no underage actors/actresses girls in the last 30 years—a far better record than the number of oil spills, crashes, or explosions in any other industry.
So it’s illegal for underage people to act in adult films. No problem. The government goes a step further, and requires age documentation of every participant in adult films. You must prove you’re an adult. No problem.
One day you decide to make a film featuring only 50-year-olds. All participants must prove they’re adults, and they do. But the government has this law (called “2257”) about record-keeping, unique to the adult film industry. They can come into your office unannounced, with no warrant or even probable cause, asking for the IDs of the 50-year-olds in the film; if you don’t have them handy right there, you can be prosecuted and sent to jail. You can go to jail not because you have underage actors in your film, but because you can’t prove that three 50-year-olds are over 18.
This law isn’t keeping underage talent out of films—because they haven’t been in commercial films to begin with. It’s simple harassment of a legal industry, which no other industry has to suffer. It’s an unconstitutional invasion of privacy—government agents coming into your premises unannounced not because they have a reasonable cause, but because the law allows them.
So here’s the big news—the porn industry has challenged this law, the government asked the case to be dismissed, and a federal judge refused.
In this case, the porn industry is protecting all Americans’ rights—to be, as the Fourth Amendment says, “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Here are just three other ways (there are many others) the porn industry protects your rights, whether you watch porn or not:
* Fighting arbitrary zoning: Cities and counties around the country try to prevent adult bookstores from opening by inventing discriminatory zoning rules—which are also used to prevent swing clubs, education centers, and religious centers from opening.
* Fighting taxes based on content: Several states now tax strip clubs more than other forms of live entertainment. If they can do this, they can levy extra taxes on any form of communication they want to discourage (such as violent video games or religious newspapers).
* Fighting government agencies advancing a moral agenda: Even though there is no HIV problem in the adult film industry (you’re safer sleeping with a porn actress/actor than a stranger you meet in a bar), Los Angeles County plans to require condoms and dental dams on all porn shoots. If they can do this, they can supervise any legal activity of which they disapprove, such as fashion shows, church bake sales, and campus protests.
So whether you watch porn or not, whether you think porn is evil or not—this holiday season, give thanks that, in addition to making films, porn producers are protecting your rights.
Dr. Marty Klein is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Sex Therapist, and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and over 100 articles about sexuality. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.
Marty sees men, women, and couples in his Palo Alto office for psychotherapy, couples counseling, and sex therapy. For an appointment, write Klein AT SexEd.org or call 650/773-2425.
Each month Marty publishes the electronic newsletter Sexual Intelligence,TMwhich examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.
For an archive of his original articles, lots of Q/A about sexuality, and other material, see www.SexEd.org.
Marty’s current award-winning book is America’s War On Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, & Liberty.
A common stereotype of a female porn star is an insecure, sexually abused, mentally ill and/or drug-addled woman. It’s one supported by anecdotes (most memorably by Linda Lovelace’s harrowing autobiography) and rhetoric (the feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon went so far as to claim that all porn actresses were sexually abused as children). But as for actual research? Eh, not so much.
Now, a new study claims to have debunked this truism, which is known as the “damaged goods hypothesis.”
Some performers were amused by the news. “As a happy, healthy female porn performer, my reaction is: thanks, science, thanks so much for proving I am real,” says writer and porn performer Lorelei Lee in an email.
On a similar note, porn actress Dylan Ryan tells me, “It’s about time that research catches up to the realities for a great many women who perform in porn,” she says in an email. “It’s important to me as a performer that the conversation evolve and develop to make space for the (as in any community and population) diversity of experiences, personalities and lifestyles of porn performers.”
Adult actress and director Kimberly Kane took a different tack. “I’ve found that everyone is damaged no matter what line of work they’re in,” she says.
Researchers compared self-reports from a group of nearly 200 porn actresses to those of women outside the industry who were similar in age, ethnicity and marital status. Not only did the report show no higher incidence of child sexual abuse or psychological problems among female performers, but it actually found that pornsters had higher levels of self-esteem and sexual satisfaction.
It’s true, however, that porn actresses are more likely to have ever tried a range of drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to the study. But as for recent drug use, performers were more frequent users only when it came to that devastating drug known as … marijuana.
Also of note in the study’s findings: Female performers were more likely to identify as bisexual, had sex at earlier ages, had more sexual partners and were more likely to be worried about STDs (although, due to mandated industry testing, they are perhaps more likely to know their status than the general populace).
The study, authored in part by Sharon Mitchell, a former porn performer and founder of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, engages in plenty of speculation about what might account for these various differences — for example, in explaining the higher incidence of bisexuality, researchers suggest that “the adult entertainment industry acts as a facilitator of sexual fluidity by providing a supportive culture of same-gender sexual interactions and offers financial rewards for engaging in those behaviors.”
But the most fascinating hypothesis — and let’s remember, it’s just that — is that “being able to be completely naked in front of others” may be associated with higher self-esteem. (The paper cites another study finding that topless women at a beach reported higher self-esteem than those covered up.)
“I think that the misconception of porn performers as ‘damaged goods’ stems from a misconception that only women who have little respect for their body would take place in sexual acts in front of the camera,” says Madison Young, a porn actress, artist and self-described “sexual revolutionary.” “However, women who love their bodies, who are confident in themselves, many who have degrees and other careers, choose to be a part of the authentic documentation of pleasure.” They aren’t the only ones who choose to participate, of course, but that range does exists. “Pornography and the exploration of sexuality on film is a large and diverse realm and those that perform and work in the world of pornography are diverse as well,” she says.
And understanding that diversity means continuing to study it.
(Photo: Spanish News)
By Lady Cheeky
I think it’s the perceived imperfections in people that make them interesting and therefore … to me … more beautiful. If this photo were generated by a traditional adult industrial complex the blemishes on her legs, the folds and texture of her skin, the bra strap indentations, would all be airbrushed out. But, leaving her photo like this, shows us the inherent sensuality in the human body. The authenticity of this un-retouched form illuminates the natural sexuality in a vulnerable moment captured for the sake of capturing it. Certainly, beauty is subjective. I see beauty in a lot of traditionally “beautiful” images as well … but to me, this is a deeper, more satisfying beauty.
Thank goodness for people who post photos like this. They are the quiet revolutionaries that fight with generosity instead of aggression or pomposity. They are the lanterns of authenticity gently beckoning all of our collective ships to find a safe harbor within our own appreciation.
Watching pornography is not inherently harmful to men or women. But I would offer some caveats. There are people who probably shouldn’t view porn, like those with poor body image or those who have been sexually victimized. Depending on your choice in viewing, you can develop unrealistic expectations about sex or what people like or how you’ll be expected to “perform.” And watching with someone requires true consent.
When none of these red flags are up, pornography can certainly have benefits. Counselors sometimes suggest it to help people become comfortable with a particular fantasy they or their partner may have. Pornography can reboot a couple’s sex life. It can give you ideas, or help you get in touch with what turns you on.
Pornography can reboot a couple’s sex life. It can give you ideas, or help you get in touch with what turns you on.
Porn can deliver you there at best, or disgust you at worst. It all depends on what you choose to watch. With the availability of porn online, it’s possible to sample enough porn quickly that you don’t have to find yourself watching wall-to-wall hard-core sex if it’s plot driven erotica that appeals to you. You’re only a victim of bad porn if you let yourself be.
And a word about sex or porn addiction. I don’t believe in it. Unlike a chemical substance, like opiates, you can’t become “addicted” to sex or porn; you can become a compulsive viewer. In this case, it’s not the porn that’s the problem; it’s the compulsive personality. If it weren’t porn being used to act out one’s compulsive nature, it might be food or some other behavior.
As for whether it’s harmful or beneficial to the performers, let’s take women first. There are some who choose to perform because they like sex a lot and they consider it a great way to earn a living. Then there are those who are drawn to porn as a way of acting out subconscious psychological issues – looking for daddy’s love or punishment for being a bad girl. For many, it’s probably a little of each. Even women with the best mental health will face some downsides from this work. Our culture consumes porn at record numbers, but the women who perform are still judged harshly.
I’m not sure the male performers get out completely unscathed either. While they may not be judged as harshly as the women, ultimately they’re viewed as freaks who make their living with their anatomy. John Holmes’s fate is the ultimate cautionary tale.
Perhaps if we weren’t still so consumed with guilt and shame about sex, neither watching nor performing in these films would carry the weight it does. But then, perhaps we wouldn’t be so interested in them, either. If the fruit were not forbidden, would anyone care to take a bite?