The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Porn industry needs regulation

On Feb. 14, a Duke University freshman under the pseudonym “Lauren” came forward to the Duke Chronicle, the student newspaper, as a porn star who works in adult film to make money to pay for the $45,000 tuition of her school.

One week later, she released an article on xojane.com, a collaborative online media source organized by Jane Pratt and SAY media, under her performer name, Belle Knox, elaborating on her experience as a sex worker. She talked about her involvement in hardcore porn, sometimes accused of being “rape porn.”

“Everything I did was consensual. I also stand by and defend the right of adult performers to engage in rough sex porn. Everyone has their kinks and we should not shame anyone for enjoying something that is perfectly legal and consensual for all parties involved,” she wrote in her article.

She went on to write, “Of course, I do fully acknowledge that some women don’t have such a positive experience in the industry. We need to listen to these women. And to do that we need to remove the stigma attached to their profession and treat it as a legitimate career that needs regulation and oversight. We need to give a voice to the women that are exploited and abused in the industry. Shaming and hurling names at them, the usual treatment we give sex workers, is not the way to achieve this.”

Knox has most recently been set to host a web-based reality show that pits 16 male and female first-time porn stars against each other to win a $1 million prize, called “The Sex Factor,” according to TIME.com.

The facts are that the adult film industry is an estimated $9 to $13 billion industry in the United States, and it is a protected form of industry under the First Amendment, as proclaimed by the Supreme Court case Miller v. California in 1973.

On her website shelleylubben.com, Shelley Lubben, ex-porn star and executive director of the faith-based anti-pornography group Pink Cross Foundation, features pages upon pages of stories shared by ex-porn stars. These stories talk about the horrors and abuse in the industry, often times discussing graphic physical violence, threats, drug abuse and sexual assault (e.g., being forced to do acts that were not agreed upon in contract: rape, anal rape, etc.) both on and off screen. There have been some stories of porn stars not being paid after refusing to do scenes without a condom. This includes both male and female sex workers.

In March 2012, the Daily Mail did a piece on Linda Boreman, better known as Linda Lovelace, the lead porn actress of the 1972 film “Deep Throat,” a hardcore porno. In that article they wrote about how Boreman got into the porn industry, getting involved with Chuck Traynor, a man who would eventually become her husband and simultaneously her controlling and violent pimp. Traynor forced Boreman to commit sexual acts in porn by threatening her with a gun and using a drug addiction against her. Boreman even wrote in her autobiography, “Ordeal,” about how Traynor had her gang-raped by five men at gunpoint.

Boreman went on to suffer through drug abuse in the late ‘70s until she remarried and settled down to have children. It was in the ‘80s that she began to give college lectures against pornography under the guidance of well-known feminists at the time, such as Gloria Steinem and Andrew Dworkin, who Boreman would later claim disowned her after they had used her for their anti-porn propaganda. Boreman died at a hospital in 2001 after a car crash.

After her original movie, the Nixon presidency began investigating the obscenity of hardcore pornos, trying to censor it. Investigations like these would continue to follow her. In 1986, Boreman told an official inquiry that when people watch the porno “Deep Throat,” “you are watching me being raped.”

“It is a crime that movie is still showing. There was a gun to my head the entire time,” Boreman said.

The largest legislations regarding the regulation of porn have been the several regarding child pornography (the most recent being the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act) and the standards kept by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose biggest steps toward protecting sex workers were requiring condoms in pornos made in California, decades after the exposition of Boreman’s abuse in the porn industry.

For the most part, legislation and enforcement of adult films is simply around censorship. People seem to be more concerned about blocking porn websites than the actual physical and emotional safety of sex workers.

Most importantly, the most searched term for porn in the United States is “teen,” according to a post on FlowingData.com, a website created by Nathan Yau, who has a doctorate in statistics. Teens like Belle Knox go into the porn industry to help pay for college or to try adventurous things. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, these teens aren’t all as lucky to have the “empowering” experience that Knox claims to have, and these teens will go into these dangerous situations of porn that have rampant abuse and risky behaviors — without any regulation. One of the biggest problems, other than the physical abuse, is the large amount of drug abuse in the porn industry, further destroying the lives of young teens that get mixed up in the business.

There are very few, if any, organizations that are dedicated to creating ethical conditions for sex workers in the porn industry. So far, I’ve only heard of two: the Ethical Porn Partnership and the Licensed Adult Talent Agency Trade Association.

Started in the United Kingdom, the EPP is a coalition of pornography producers, consumers and supporters. “The EPP wants to challenge the notion [that] all porn is exploitative. Instead, we want to collectively establish ‘best practice’ for the industry, while proving that it’s possible to advocate the health, welfare and working rights of those involved in its production, and offer consumers high-quality, original content made to certain ethical standards,” it reads on the EPP’s description page. Despite some talks they have given on their Facebook page, there is very little content on what they actually do.

The LATATA is a trade association that promotes the use of licensed agents and has a list of them on their website, as well as their list of known unlicensed agents. However, they also have opposed OSHA initiatives such as the condom law in California.

It wasn’t only the EPP that came up with the idea of creating a self-regulating body for the porn industry. In 2010, Jenna Jameson, one of the biggest porn stars today, told RadarOnline that a union for porn stars is a must after outbreaks of HIV infections in the industry. She discussed the problems with trying to enforce the law because very few performers will complain to OSHA about unsanitary conditions, for fear that they will be blacklisted and unable to find more work.

No matter how you feel about the ethical implications of porn, hardcore porn and its relation to the empowerment of women, it is a legal form of business. However, its legality is nowhere near as important as ensuring the physical safety of sex workers from dangerous and abusive sex practices.

Although most porn stars say that many porn agencies engage in ethical practices, there needs to be more of a discussion and legislation around protecting them. Ideally, there should be a self-regulating organizational body made up of members of the porn industry showing a universal set of guidelines and rules that the porn industry should follow and a way to enforce unethical practices, including a system of healthcare providers for injuries sustained during scenes in hardcore porn.

Until the porn industry makes a stand against these abusive practices in a much more vocal and active manner than they have done in the past, making sure that teens and other groups of sex workers don’t fall victim to abuse, and that things like hardcore porn are simply theatrics and not harmful to performers, the legitimacy of porn and it’s so-called “empowerment” of women will always be in question.

And for those of us who watch porn regularly, keep in mind that more than 88 percent of 304 scenes analyzed by a study in 2010 published in “Violence Against Women” showed physical aggression. It makes you wonder how much of aggressive porn is “theatrics” and how much is abuse.

Azwad Rahman is the assistant news editor at The Triangle. He can be contacted at azwad.rahman@thetriangle.org.

  • FSCArmy

    You are correct – there are few organizations standing for the rights of adult businesses and professionals. The trade association for the adult business is called the Free Speech Coalition, located in the San Fernando Valley but with members internationally. The organization has existed since 1991. The current CEO is Diane Duke. FreeSpeechCoalition.com., @FSCArmy.

    As for your use of Linda Lovelace’s story as an example of how women are coerced in the industry, you should know that Linda Lovelace also recanted several times, so that it is unclear what the truth was. The husband that “held a gun to her head” was also married to adult performer Marilyn Chambers (“Behind the Green Door”), as far as I know, without any claims of abuse from her. I have also asked people that knew Chuck Traynor personally and some have said that they felt the domestic violence claims had been exaggerated.

    Equating violence against women with the watching of adult movies is arguably far-fetched, and has proven to be false. It’s much more likely one would be affected by the extreme amounts of violence seen in movies and even on network TV, where you would never see adult content. In fact there are studies that say that in areas where adult material is readily available online, rates of rape have actually declined.

    Shelly Lubben has been proven to be someone that takes donations from the public, with apparently very little to show in terms of actually helping any former performers. As many stories as Lubben has of performing miracles with fallen performers, there also are performers that claim to have been used by her, coerced and pressured into putting on a performance for the public in order to drum up support.

    We agree that there does need to be regulation in the industry and to some great extent, the industry already successfully self-regulates; with FSCPASS.com, which is the performer’s testing program, with The Health & Safety Code for Adult Businesses (published by FSC), and with compliance to Cal-OSHA regulations as much as any mainstream businesses.

    In fact, Cal-OSHA blood-bourne pathogen regulations have been in place for the adult industry since at least the late ’90s. Our organization and Cal-OSHA had started the work to needed to make those regulations more practical and achievable for adult producers, when AIDS Healthcare Foundation (proponent of the condom law) stepped in, in 2009.

    So, please don’t stereotype adult producers and performers as scummy people that coerce and subject women into non-consensual behavior. That is not the case. Like in any industry there are people that are unhappy with their work and not well-suited to be in the industry. Belle Knox has some very high-minded ideas, but she hasn’t been in the industry very long and may want to gain some experience before she forms an opinion. There are plenty of longtime performers that also have opinions. If we can answer any question for you regarding the adult industry, please reach us at the number listed on our website.