It is amazing how much demand there is for niche pornography, featuring adult performers whose looks or tastes may not be suited for the mainstream, but who definitely have their own following.
The Internet has helped hundreds of underground communities develop around a shared fetish. In many cases, as with gay people growing up in a conservative culture, these people didn't even know others like them existed before.
Don't begrudge your fellow fetishists the benefit of your eroticism!
To those who may not yet be familiar with the concept, there is a bill of rights attached to the United States Constitition. Among the rights protected is the freedom of expression, and in particular, the freedom to express unpopular ideas. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, the freedom to express popular ideas hardly needs protecting.
There is also a division between states' rights and federal jurisdiction. This permits states and comminities to define local standards for what is and is not considered protected expression. As I understand it, the theory is that the federal government allows complete freedom of expression, and that sets the default standard for the country. But to maintain local cultural variations, all communities are permitted to say that specific types of expression, which may be fine in some parts of the country, are not acceptable here.
Those of us who work in the adult entertainment industry know community standards as a set of unwritten rules which circumscribe the way we work. For us, the possibility that something we create might be deemed unacceptable in a specific community will prevent any but the most adventurous and financially independent of us from taking risks with topics successfully prosecuted against other producers, no matter how long ago. The de facto laws we abide by aren't the laws of our own community, but the laws of any community where the work we produce may be sold, bought, or even seen.
The federal government, in which we all have a say, is not the problem for once. Although it may be argued that local governments get their cues from the feds, the fact is that people who live in these communities have the privilege to prohibit pretty much any form of expression which they all agree is inappropriate. Anyone in that community who disagrees has the right to vote against the regulation, or move to another part of the United States.
But fear of local prosecution in some parts of the country effectively prevents producers of adult entertainment operating in any community in the country from exploring the evolving landscape of acceptable erotic play. It boils down to economics and inconvenience. Nobody wants to risk being thrown in jail for six months because a video produced in California was seen by a consenting adult in Utah.
The distribution channels for adult products also play a critical role in the issue. A distributor is just as liable as a producer for products which go beyond community standards. Unlike the protections offered to internet service providers, telephone companies, and delivery services, adult video distributors are forced to police the producers who work with them, or suffer the consequences.
It is relevant to point out that there are some economies of scale associated with creating a product on DVD, which do not apply to publishing information electronically. The cost of creating the first 1,000 copies of a title have to be covered by the sales of that title. Selling is a difficult and complex business in and of itself, far beyond the means of most producers. For ongoing production to be possible, most video companies rely on distributors, who focus on the sales so the producers can focus on the development of new products.
In our litigious society, it is the one with the money who is most at risk of prosecution, and that is usually the distributor rather than the producer. If a distributor has reason to be concerned about whether a title may or may not meet community standards anywhere within its entire territory, that distributor has a simple economic incentive not to carry that title. A producer, who relies on distributors for income, has a similar incentive not to produce titles which may violate community standards anywhere in the territory their distributor services.
On the other hand, producers who creates exclusively for online distribution can fall back on local community standards wherever they live as a shield against inappropriate prosecution. With nobody else at risk, producers who do not use formal distribution channels are free to explore locally acceptable, federally protected forms of expression, regardless of how they may be received in other less tolerant communityies.
Producers who work in other countries have a different range of acceptable content. For example, some countries prohibit the showing of male genitalia even in drawings, but do not limit the depiction of extreme non-consensual violence in a sexual context. Much of this work is illegal to distribute anywhere in the United States, because our national community standards have never stretched to encompass these forms of expression. But adult entertainment produced in other countries is easy to access online.
The result of all this is that porn on the internet, which relies on no formal distribution channel to define the community where it is accessed, can be as depraved as federal law will tolerate. Meanwhile, porn sold through legitimate retail outlets is subject to economic sanctions if it violates the standards of the most modest community where the product might appear.
The fact is that different communities have different standards for acceptable expression. If my artistic vision, based on my community's standards, is reasonably described as obscenity in your community, then it probably shouldn't be sold in your community. That doesn't mean that I should be thrown in jail if someone in your community does get hold of a copy, or that my distributor should be thrown in jail for making that acquisition possible.
If these laws were applied only to the people who chose to live within the community where they existed, I would not have an objection. In fact, I could see that sort of application resulting in a much more aggressive reistance to limitations of freedom of expression. Community standards are not just another way of saying, "the first amendment doesn't really protect anything." It is economic reality, not the rule of law, which keeps producers of adult entertainment from expressing themselves more freely.
There needs to be a way to keep the protections afforded to communities by this loophole in the bill of rights, known as community standards, from fossilizing the evolution of society.
It's a little different, though, when you start to deal with the issue of interacting with the talent. Whether you are behind the camera or in front of it, ideally, you should work with people who stir the fires of your passion. If not, again, you might want to consider why you are in this industry to begin with. After all, you cannot make exceptional porn if you yourself find the acts and actors less than appealing.
But therein lies one of the most daunting problems for the aspiring pornographer. The people you need to approach about working with you to make your dreams come true may also be the people you want to approach to make your personal fantasies come true. And they know it.
You would not want to photograph them doing things to each other if you didn't also find the thought of doing those things with them arousing. But being aroused is not the best state of mind in which to begin negotiations for a business relationship--especially if you are not entirely certain that that is all you wish to negotiate.
I have said it before, and I will say it again. Do not get into the adult entertainment industry in search of sex. Not that you won't find it, but there are better, more honorable, and cheaper ways to get sex if that is what you are looking for. Getting it as a side benefit to a business is bad for business, bad for your social life, and bad for the people who want to either work or play with you.
At this point, you may be dismissing my comments as platitutes or generalities which do not apply to someone as emotionally mature and personally experienced as you are. Please, take my warnings seriously, because it is you I am addressing. The less vulnerable you think you may be to this issue, the more likely it is that it will sneak up on you and eat away at your success, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life which may have drawn you to this line of work in the first place.
This warning is even more relevant to those of you who have a mate or special life partner. While I would hope you chose to discuss this with him or her first, you cannot expect that anyone can reasonably predict the way they will react when seeing you surrounded day after day with what can only be perceived as sexual competition.
Your mate may be in the industry as well, or may profess to have extremely evolved ideas about sexual freedom and personal expression. It may even be true, but don't count on it! I say this not to discourage you, or offend anyone you may love, but rather to keep your attention on this issue as your professional life progresses.
It is also possible to find yourself less interested in your own sexuality as you submerge yourself daily in the erotic fantasies and activities of others. After a day at the factory turning out shoelaces, there's nothing you want to see less than a pair of shoes which need to be tied. This phenomenon of overload is just as prevalent when you work in adult entertainment.
But if you have a mate, or are pursuing a potential mate, your sex life is not something that you can turn off at the end of the work day, no matter how much it reminds you of the "office" and the busy days ahead. It is your responsibility to find ways to distinguish your personal sexual adventures from the ones you work on for your business, and make them just as exciting for you as you want them to be for your partner.
It is vital to show outwardly and consistently just how strong your feeling are for your mate, both emotionally and physically. The intimidating realities about the people a partner works with become even more overwhelming when that work deals directly with sexuality. You need to bring your sexual appetite home with you, and share it with your mate, without letting the fact that you work in adult entertainment dampen your enthusiasm for private adult pleasures.
There is a third person involved in this issue as well, and that is the one who embodies your sexual ideals, and also works with you on the set capturing those ideals for the sake of a hungry audience. A performer in adult entertainment is a person, just like yourself, with all the insecurities and issues you have. It only confuses the nature of your professional relationship when you introduce your sexuality into it.
While many adult performers have a long history of dealing with unwanted advances, they should not have to deal with this issue when they are working. Coming from a director, producer, or other hiring authority, it can be actionable. Coming from another performer, it can interfere with professionalism on the set, and lead to less than stellar work. Coming from a stage hand or assistant, it can distract a performer to the point of not being able to produce a convincing scene. And coming from an administrative professional, it can lead to fears about the implications of having personal information in the hands of someone whose feeling are less than professional.
The best policy is to keep your business relationships business only, and not cross that fine line between engaging a performer's sexual services on the set, and seeking to satisfy your own sexuality.
For your sake, and the sake of your personal and professional relationships, present and future, it is vital to separate your sexual play from your sexual work.
Many of you might not be aware of it, but one of the changes to the rules governing the record keeping requirements for adult studios has a direct correlation to the issue of immigrant registration. Until the middle of 2005, it was legal for a producer to accept a government-issued photo id from a performer as proof of age regardless of the government which issued the document. Under the most accepted reading of the current regulations, it is now legal to accept only documents issued by the government of the country where the production is being filmed.
What this means is that Mexican and Canadian performers may no longer appear together in an adult feature if that feature is being produced and sold in the United States. In fact, unless the filming is being done in Canada, no Canadian performers may be involved. Similarly, unless the filming is being done in Mexico, no Mexican performers may be involved. And there is no situation in which a U.S. producer can now legitimately create an adult production which includes scenes containing performers from two different countries working together, unless one of them has legitimately issued ID from the government of the other, and the filming is taking place in the same country where the ID's were issued.
Run that one by me again?
The purported purpose of the new 2257 regulations was to enforce stricter record keeping requirements in order to help protect minors from being exploited as performers in adult productions. The actual effect is that the interests of U.S. citizens are being artificially raised above those of legitimate artists from other countries, and artistic expression is being limited.
It would be one thing if the new regulations simply took the xenophobic position that only US-issued identification would be considered valid. That is not the case here. Foreign-issued identification is considered legitimate as long as the production is being filmed on foreign soil with performers of the same nationality as the location. No more films made in Germany with performers from Switzerland. No more scenes between French and Italian performers. At least not if the production company is from the United States, and the producers want to stay out of jail.
I'd love to hear the logic of this requirement explained.
I am starting from the assumption that every person has a sexual identity. That identity is usually heterosexual, or some variation on that theme. In ten percent or so, the identity is skewed toward same-sex eroticism. While we all mature at different rates, it is safe to assume that by the age of eighteen, most of us are prepared to experience sexual interest, if not actual sexual activity.
Now, until we reach the age of eighteen, we are exposed constantly with a set of images, belifs, experiences, and values which support a majority of us in our development. Just as a young bird learns to fly by watching, trying, and ultimately succeeding or failing, a young human being learns what is going to be expected of him when he reaches maturity by watching the behavior of the people who surround him.
In the case of a heterosexual, the emergence of sexual identity is like the answer to a question that has been asked of him his entire life. He observes people in his family, in literature, on television, and everywhere around him engaging in the natural behavior of the heterosexual. The men pair off with the women, they engage in courtship, they form relationships, they create families with children, and they pursue the protections and opportunities afforded to heterosexuals.
In the case of a homosexual, maturity arrives as a slap in the face. All of the urges and inclinations of the heterosexual are present, but they are directed away from the presumed "correct" target, and toward members of the same gender. His upbringing has not prepared the young homosexual for desires which are at cross purposes to the direction society has laid out for him. Beyond the guilt, hopelessness, and fear this disorienting situation creates, there is also a basic confusion.
Who am I sexually if I am not straight?
Society has a bunch of ready answer for this question as well. A lot of these answers disagree with each other, and take views ranging from support to vilification for people with homosexual inclinations. Even if a homosexual person is fortunate enough to find himself in a community where he has access to positive gay role models, often the assimilationist aspects of gay society downplay their own sexuality in order to gain more acceptance from the broader community. That serves a purpose politically and economically, but it denies a basic truth about homosexuality: The only unifying factor among gay people is their sexual attraction to people of the same gender.
You can't spell homosexual without sex. The ignorance and intolerance of society as a whole may have contributed to the necessary evolution of a gay culture which extends into all areas of a gay person's life. But in the end, it is the sexuality, not the culture, which makes us gay.
Which brings me back to pornography. There is only one art form which focuses exclusively on the one identifying factor which distinguishes the homosexual, and that art form is adult entertainment, erotica, or pornography. When a confused homosexual first emerges from the bosom of his straight family, his straight church, his straight school, his straight workplace, and his straight social life, often the first signpost pointing the way to healthy self-acceptance comes in the form of a random exposure to a latent (or blatent) homoerotic image.
It is these images which provide the key, and the clue, to the existence of a completely hidden dimension of sexual reality, where the emerging homosexual's most secret and private inclinations are not only permitted, but encouraged and praised. This is a far cry from the pressure to conform and hide that aspect of his identity, and it can come as a welcome alternative to self-doubt and even self-destruction.
There have been arguments about the comparisons to be made between racial minorities and minorities of sexual orientation. One difference which must be addresses is the fact that there is very rarely any family or genetic link on which a homosexual can rely. In the vast landscape of sexual identity, the homosexual is almost always born isolated from others like him, surrounded by people who cannot recognize and may not even admit the validity of his own identity. The earlier this identity becomes apparent, the harder this can be.
The sexual dialogue in modern America is still an underground phenomenon. To a certain extent, it needs to remain that way in order to keep our children from being exposed to these issues before they are mature enough to deal with them. This is one reason why I am a staunch supporter of keeping all adult materials out of the hands of minors. These issues will come to the surface soon enough, and our children need to develop a strong sense of their own identities before being challenged to face their sexuality head-on.
That sexual dialogue needs to include gay porn. Apart from teaching the mechanics of gay sex, and the critical education needed about safer sex practices, gay porn provides a tiny sliver of evidence that we are not alone. And if it is out there, the human spirit will find it.