The Means and The End

The Federal Register published new guidelines this week concerning the record keeping requirements for producers of adult materials. The reasons for these rules were very clearly explained in the text of the requirements: to prevent children from being exploited as performers in sexually explicit productions.

That's not a bad reason to do something. Nobody who is not mature enough to consent to a sexual act should be exploited for adult entertainment. Those producers who would attempt to do so should not be excused from responsibility for their actions. But the response which has been adopted may be out of proportion to the problem.

The issue here is that the requirements create an unreasonable burden on the producers, and expose legitimate businesses and performers to undue attention and potential harrassment. This will make smaller companies less competitive, and stifle innovation in the industry. The net effect of these rules in the United States can only by the consolidation of adult production in the hands of the largest and most well-protected companies, and the offshoring of child pornography.

I can't believe that this is what was intended by the drafters of this legislation.

It seems more plausible that these rules are intended to discourage the growth of the adult entertainment industry as a whole. The very implication that the industry cannot self-police, and must therefore be subject to special regulations, is evidence of the disdain in which adult entertainment producers are being held.

There are criminals in every industry, and adult entertainment is no exception. I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of us in this field would be very willing to suffer a good deal of inconvenience to help identify and stop those who would abuse children under the guise of free speech. Clearly, we already have made great efforts in this direction, and most of us continue to exceed federal requirements when it comes to record keeping and verification.

However, this rule enforces public inspection and exposure of confidential information in a way which is burdensome and inappropriate. If I were not a legitimate producer, existing rules would be more than sufficient to expose my violation of the law, and lead to my arrest and conviction. But since I am a legitimate producer, the new rules serve only to increase my paperwork, undermine my privacy, expose my industry to public ridicule, and challenge the confidentiality of my performers and colleagues.

Leave alone for the moment the fact that the new regulations require all performers to offer documentation that they are U.S. citizens. Forget that these rules do not apply to producers of some of the most violent and explicit content, simply because it is computer-generated and does not show actual human beings (of any age) engaged in sexual intercourse. Ignore the absence of any forward-looking approaches to improving documentation technology beyond the paper files in the producer's main place of business. The new regulations are a not-so-subtle reminder that conservatives are much more aware of how things appear than how they actually work.

There is also underage drinking, without any record-keeping requirements in bars or liquor stores. Perhaps that should be stopped. Similarly, there is the sale of cigarettes to minors without documentation anywhere in the United States. There are cases of child abuse in the home, in the school, in the church, and in the workplace, none of which has resulted in draconian documentation requirements.

And there is child pornography. Not a lot, but any is too much. Although it is not as prevalent as any of these other issues, it does make for splashy headlines. It certainly must be stopped as well.

Do we really think that circumscribing our freedom to share and enjoy adult entertainment among adults will solve the problem?

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