Freedom/Privacy

Porn stars must present their papers

By Martin Bosworth

Future movie auteurs in the vein of Seymore Butts, take note: In order to produce your next penetrating panoply of puerile pleasure, you need to provide a complete list of the actors involved–or else:

The Department of Justice wants to come up with an official list of every porn star in America – and slap stiff penalties on producers who don’t cooperate.

The new rules, proposed under the Adam Walsh Child Safety and Protection Act, would require blue-movie makers to keep photos, stage names, professional names, maiden names, aliases, nicknames and ages on file for the inspection of the department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

The problem with discussing issues like this is that it invariably degenerates into a lot of grade-school juvenilia (See this Reason comment thread, for example), or a lot of moralistic hand-wringing over the evils of porn. I’m not here to debate whether porn is good or bad, but instead ask this question: What on Earth could make this Justice Department think that this is 1) A useful deterrent to child pornography, and 2) A productive use of taxpayer dollars?

There’s the first question of using a law written and sponsored by an infamous pervert to overreach its mandate even further than it already does. No one argues that child pornography is terrible and needs to be stopped, but I’m wary of this continual effort to use anti-child porn efforts as excuses to infringe on legal and generally harmless modes of behavior. Pedophile witch-hunting is already the new black in America, and a lot of this vigilantism has the net effect of demonizing people who have nothing to do with child porn, but may have sex lives different from the norm, or even depictions of sex in any literary media. Put more simply, if someone wants to act in a porn movie and is of legal age, it’s their business to pursue–and ours if we want to watch it or not. There’s no evidence that the record-keeping statutes for the porn industry has any net effect on child pornography, apart from ensuring underage actors and actresses don’t get cast.

You may recall that two years ago, Republican rising star Mike Pence pushed a bill in Congress that would have required any film, TV, or video that contains a sex scene to comply with the 2257 requirements for adult film production, including keeping records of the participants’ names or ages. That clause was included in the bill at–wait for it–the behest of the Justice Department. That means that even the most tasteful, modest depiction of sex on film would require the filmmakers to keep copious records of anyone and everyone who participated, and file them with the Justice Department at a moment’s notice. Can you imagine if they made a similar request for violent acts in film? Wim Wenders would end up being the most prolific director in Hollywood in a month.

This leads to the second question–given the extreme proliferation of evangelical fundiecrats within the Justice Department, and the propensity of said fundiecrats to utilize extensive data mining and illegal surveillance to get information on Americans, can you really trust this organization with any list of any group of Americans, for any reason? I think not. And it’s not like our hardworking attorneys at the DOJ aren’t already busy protecting us from the evils of Democratic voter suppression vote fraud and unprosecuted white collar crimes Islamic terrorism.

This is just another one of those heavy-handed “protect the children” efforts that really does nothing but score points with the fundie base and push an anti-sex agenda on those who want nothing to do with it. It’s too much to expect that a Justice Department run by a criminal like Abu Gonzales actually goes after real crimes, but that doesn’t mean they should be given a pass for what amounts to the sex-industry equivalent of the CAN-SPAM act: An onerous piece of legislation that does nothing to actually achieve its goal, but makes life tougher for people who already comply with the law.

13 replies »

  1. Also, it’s another blow for the adult film industry, at a time when it’s losing viewership on the Web and loss of sales of DVDs thanks to amateur porn on free Websites.

  2. Yeah this is one of those tough ones. Government’s around the world push the most unlikely laws under the guise of “protecting underage children from sexual exploitation”.

    The South African government is still flailing around with a bill that would subject every single piece of published journalism to be vetted by a government department prior to publication to ensure “the protection of minors”. It’s a flagrant violation of free-speech.

    I’ve often said this, and I’ll say it again: if the US starts undermining their citizen’s rights to privacy and self-determination it becomes a lot easier for every tin-pot dictatorship around the world to justify their own vicious removal of fundamental rights for their citizens.

  3. Sam,

    I expect he’ll want to personally head up any investigations into the possibility of underage actresses in porn movies, including one-on-one interviews. Doesn’t it remind you of Ed Meese’s porno commission back in the ’80s? 🙂

    Russ,

    Yeah, really. Now that anyone with a camera and a bed can be porn stars, it tends to diminish the value of the for-pay product. Much like the newspaper industry, the porn biz will have to transit to a Web-based advertising model to really stay on top (so to speak).

  4. Gavin,

    Yes, absolutely. We’ve given up our moral authority in almost every respect in recent years, and this is just one more.

  5. I personally think we should push for a list of US war criminals first. I’m sure that’s quite long indeed (ex: Henry K, George B Sr, George B Jr, Dick C, Donald R, etc).

    A sex criminal list would probably include a long list of Republicans too.

  6. “transit to a Web-based advertising model to really stay on top”

    Gee, you’ve thought a lot about this, Martin.

    Just kidding. The only problem I have with the porn business, assuming it’s mob-free, is that many (most, all?) the female stars were sexually abused as children.

    That such women gravitate toward the business is the seamiest part of the business (aside from “cum” shots, which, come to think of it, should be banned).

  7. This is definitely more grist for the fundies. I read a few years ago that the JD started cracking down on interracial porn as soon as Bush was in office.
    Personally, I think the seamiest side of the porn business is most of it. Misogyny, exploitation, stupidity, immaturity, and a complete lack of lust or any other healthy human emotion marks most of the porn I’ve seen. It’s just depressing. If anything, all the people involved should be sent to therapy and 12-step programs before they do porn. That would cut down on the industry’s paperwork considerably.

  8. Thankfully, enough parents world-wide are now driving a new agenda to protect ALL children.

    ..and I applaud those policemen/women who do stirling work to bring justice to those who have been or are being abused.

  9. Russ,

    I admit to being a connoisseur of such things, most certainly. 😉 Porn is a terrible, dirty, demeaning business much of the time, but it can also be a tool to liberate sexuality and relationships when used correctly.

    For example, Nina Hartley is an extraordinary sex-positive feminist who has used her porn career to teach people that sex is not something dirty or something to be ashamed of. We could use a lot more of that in daily life, at least in my view. 😉

    But again, that’s not the issue–the issue is that the DOJ simply does not need to have all this information, and this current regime has proven utterly incapable of being trusted with it.

  10. ” issue is that the DOJ simply does not need to have all this information, and this current regime has proven utterly incapable of being trusted with it”

    Certainly. The whole thing is almost as frightening as the administration’s push to attack Iran.

  11. I think what we see here, Martin, is that tired old use of the government to enforce moral standards. Obviously these members of the DOJ, the fundie brain trusts, and the simply prudish old farts (or am I talking about the same set of people here?) behind this crap know nothing of history – and that little debacle in legislating morality we called Prohibition.

    Or maybe the righteous Righties just want to get all the contact info for the folks. Given the proclivities of too many moral arbiters, that’s an equally safe bet….

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