Interview with a porn star

The Thinker by Rodin

I am a sinner, apparently. I am making money from porn.

Granted I am not producing porn. Viewing the stuff is not that interesting either, mostly because so little of it is actually worth viewing. You might say I am tangentially facilitating porn. For extra income and to keep one toe out of IT management and actually in IT programming, I have a very small business on the side wherein I help users install, modify and upgrade forums on their websites. Occasionally one of these sites happens to be a porn site. In the eyes of some I am contributing to the moral degradation not just of the United States, but the entire world since about half of my clients are from outside the United States.

Facilitating porn raises an interesting ethical dilemma: should I care? Porn supposedly degrades both women and men. That is in the eye of the beholder, I believe. There are probably some women who get into porn unwillingly, courtesy of a domineering significant other and who are probably quite damaged from the experience, mentally if not physically. I doubt this is true of most women in porn, although I can’t claim to have read studies on the subject. As for men, supposedly it teaches us that women are objects, although I have seen plenty of porn and I still think of women as complex and multifaceted human beings. I am quite certain though that my not working on porn sites will not reduce the volume of porn streaming across our steamy Internet. So for me the only real question is whether I want to make some money from facilitating porn. And that depends.

When I get these porn requests, I always take a look at the site. It would take a lot to shock me but frankly the majority of porn sites aren’t that shocking anymore. They basically consist of a lot of mostly naked people putting body parts in or near other people, and often acting rather dreadfully. Us old married folk have seen plenty of nudity and the naked human body isn’t anything special, although attractive naked human bodies tend to be more interesting. Curiously, on many of these sites the porn actors practice safe, well at least safer sex. It’s almost as frequent to see guys with condoms on than without. And while there are plenty of amateur sites out there, any site that is even tangentially “professional” is hiring “talent” that has been cleared by a local testing facility before they allow actors put their body part near any other actor’s body parts.

So I find most porn sites I do work for not objectionable at all. In fact, usually their stuff is pretty standard in our hardcore world. I will happily pass on helping any site with a theme that I find personally objectionable, such as a site that emphasizes underage people who actually are not, or where the sadomasochism moves beyond leather and riding crops what appears to be actual injury to someone, even when they consent to it. I haven’t been asked to work on a gay site yet, but that is probably coming (no pun intended). I also won’t do any work that could potentially get me in legal trouble in the United States, and I tend to err on the side of caution. If I don’t feel comfortable, I simply won’t do it. But if I do feel comfortable, I am happy enough to take someone’s money. Someone else would anyhow.

Most of my very limited work with porn sites has involved working with guys managing these sites, who are often acting as content webmasters for dozens of adult sites. It’s just business for both of us. I do a few hours of work and they drop a hundred dollars or so in my PayPal account. So when someone called Gen contacted me to install a forum on their site, I assumed it was some guy about half my age, probably with a beer belly, too busy mastering airbrush techniques in Photoshop and editing explicit videos than to hassle with my technical domain. I asked the usual questions, checked out the site and got assurances there was nothing that could be construed as child porn.

Proof of my ignorance of porn stars emerged when she said, well, she was a she. That’s interesting, I said in an otherwise business-like email. To my knowledge you are the first woman I’ve encountered running a porn site. Oh, she said, I don’t just run the site; I am also the porn “star”. Now that was truly interesting. It was my first encounter with stardom, or at least porn stardom.

“Gen” happens to be this lady. It feels indelicate to broadcast too much more about her website, but Wikipedia has the link to her site where I did my work if you are curious. There you can see plenty of pictures of her in her birthday suit and where members can see plenty more behind a pay wall. And that was the basic issue: how to put a forum behind her pay wall. I hadn’t done that before but I was not intimidated. It took a couple of days and required some back and forth with her web host, but I figured it out. Now she and her paid members can discuss whatever it is that paying customers do behind pay walls in forums. Maybe they discuss which one of her numerous porn films they like the best.

Gen is 32 and curiously looks more than a little bit like my lust object, who is one year younger. That began a curious email exchange wherein she said I was not the first person to make the comparison, but not until recently. I expected that a porn star would not be very eloquent via email, at least not with non-paying members like me, but Gen turned out to be quite expressive and volunteered information I had not solicited. Her husband supports the way she supports herself, but he is never in front of the camera. Yeah, she likes making porn, but mostly got out of the business because even with all the STD testing it was too dangerous. But it sounds like she still makes new porn from time to time, but presumably only with people she feels safe with. And she doesn’t mind managing the web site. She has it pretty much figured out but needs a consultant from time to time. And yes, making porn is something she enjoys. So at least in her case, being in porn is not degrading.

And Gen tips well. In fact, the tip was more than what I billed her for my services. Moreover, she needs an IT guy like me from time to time, so I suspect I’ll be hearing from her again. Given the way she tips, I’m more than inclined to do more work for her.

Now here’s the curious thing about my business. I use the income basically for little indulgences. It bought my wife and I a nice weekend at a resort a few years back. It will pay for most if not all of the shore excursions on our cruise of the southern Caribbean in January. A fair amount of this income is actually given away, often to Democrats running for office, and often to charities. And one of my favorite charities is House of Ruth, a shelter for abused women and children based locally in Washington, D.C. I’ve been giving to the shelter for nearly three decades. I became sensitive to the problem of spousal abuse when I helped make a documentary on the subject in college. In part due to Gen’s money and her healthy tip, House of Ruth got a healthy donation from me.

So in a way I’ve proven that porn can be good. Gen seems like a normal, healthy, sexually active woman who figured out a way to make money from porn because she was blessed with an attractive body. (According to Wikipedia, she also teaches Pilates, yoga and is a licensed massage therapist.) Gen makes a living doing something she enjoys, horny men (and maybe some women) get off, I make some income doing work I usually like to do, and this money goes to help abused women and children.

I figure I’m doing good facilitating porn. And now I have something of a new email friend and client: Gen the porn star.

Real Life 101, Lesson 13: Great sex is not pornography come to life

The Thinker by Rodin

This is the thirteenth in an indeterminate series of entries that provides my “real world” lessons to young adults. It is my conviction that these lessons are rarely taught either at home or in the schools. For those who did not get them growing up you can get them from me for free. This is part of my way of giving back to the universe on the occasion of my 50th birthday.

Surfing YouTube last night, I spent most of my time enjoying the excellent TED channel. There I stumbled across this video by Cindy Gallop, a “lady of a certain age” as they like to be called who is fortunate enough to bed many men half her age or more. One thing she has noted is that young adults today confuse pornographic sex with real sex. The sad truth that many young adults cannot discern is that pornographic sex has about as much in common with real sex as a Formula One racer has in common with the Honda Civic that you drive. To help you out, Gallop created this site. Gallop, however, just scratches the surface of this topic.

The confusion is understandable. Like it or not young adults have probably been exposed to hundreds of hours of pornography on the Internet, often before they have sex with someone other than their own right hand. Lord knows that in most cases their parents cannot be bothered to clue them in on how real adults have sex. They are more likely to completely hide their sexuality from their children and make sure they are asleep or being very quiet while having sex.

It may surprise you to learn that your parents probably are still having sex. They are probably not coupling every night anymore as middle age takes a toll on many things, including their sex drives. There is no one size fits all when it comes to sexuality. There are couples in their middle years still going at it like bunnies. Others can go months without having sex and it is fine with both of them. Most likely, when they do get around to making love it bears no resemblance to a pornographic movie. Most likely, neither will your sex life.

This is because pornography is about fantasy, not real life. Moreover, the vast majority of videotaped pornography is for the male, not the female. Since women these days watch a lot of pornography too, you may be under the impression that they are being trained to enjoy the male-oriented version of pornography. Perhaps some of it is rubbing off (no pun intended) but likely not very much. However, pornography might carry with it the implication that modern women should enjoy or at least accommodate men by engaging in sexual acts rife in modern pornography.

Ask any porn actress how much they enjoy being in porn. A certain amount will lie for the trade presses, but when interviewed most will candidly admit (gasp!) they are in it for the money and get little or no pleasure from participating in sexual acts in front of the camera. Any great sex they have likely happens off camera. For one thing, they are being tightly directed. Second, they are expected to act so of course for the most part they will be faking lust they do not genuinely feel. They are following a script for a few quick bucks so you (generally a guy) can get off. Their directors know what you want because they analyze their sales and follow trends. So if you see a lot of videos about something like anal sex, they are there to meet your market demand. Satisfying your lust is simply a business. Pornography attempts to render idealized sexual fantasy, nothing more. It is particularly unhelpful in educating you on how ordinary people make love.

So while you may think a sex act like anal sex might be very arousing, chances are any female you have a real life sexual encounter will not. Now, as in most things in life, there are some women who are into anal sex, and if that is also your passion, you two will have a lot of fun in bed together. Most likely though she will be into anal sex about as much as you would be if she were doing it to you. Most men don’t want to go down that road because it kills the fantasy and has homosexual implications. In any event, rest assured that those couples that do have anal sex are doing it slowly with lots of artificial lubrication and probably using a condom, something you are unlikely to see in a pornographic video.

The same can be said about almost any sexual act portrayed in pornography. If you are a male and can find a woman who is genuinely into your kinks, you are likely going to be a happy man in the bedroom. Most but certainly not all women may be into a couple of your kinks. Oral sex, for example, is now fairly out of the closet mainly because the tongue is much more expressive than a penis or a vagina. It is not too hard to find a woman who is willing to satisfy you orally, particularly if you are willing to return the favor. However, most women see oral sex as foreplay (although for many it is the only way they can get off with a man, providing he knows how to do it to them right). Relatively few women see mutual oral sex as the primary way to have orgasms. Do not expect your partner to be Linda Lovelace for she is no more likely to have mastered the gag reflex than you.

The majority of women cannot have an orgasm from intercourse alone. In fact, you may not be able to even give them an orgasm. Some women never achieve orgasm, but those that do often need a lot of foreplay and need you to exercise a lot of patience. You may need to slow down when nature says go faster because they may need to also use their fingers or a vibrator to get off.

The truth is that having a great sex life with your partner takes a lot of time and energy. Your first experience with someone new is likely to be memorable, but only so-so as far as actual sex is concerned. That is because we are all different and no matter how much experience you have between the sheets, the first time two people couple they are really just getting to know each other sexually. If you are a guy and your pattern is to move from woman to woman, aside from the dangerous aspects unless you practice very safe sex, you are likely to be disappointed.

In most cases, the best sex between two people happens months or years later after they really know each other, both as sexual creatures and as people. In short, sex becomes better the more trust and understanding there is between two people. Most likely, you will find that sex is best not when you are engaging in the latest bizarre position you saw in some pornographic Internet video but when in the sex act you become one passionate creature with your partner, each feeding off the signals from each other. When you do X to your lover in a certain way that creates a passionate response tailored to their sexual buttons and she responds similarly, that’s when sex really becomes great and transcendent. You feed off her signals and she feeds off yours and, if you are both lucky, for a few special moments you will experience transcendent pleasure, although the time before and afterward will be great fun too. You should feel connected sexually, emotionally and spiritually to your partner when this happens. Your orgasm, when it happens, will be so much more than an orgasm. Rather than be kinky as you see in pornography, it should feel wholesome, god-like and spiritually uplifting. What positions you are in do not really matter, nor does it matter how kinky or pedestrian the act is when it happens. What is important is the overwhelming sense of pleasure and intimacy between two people.

Trust me, it is way better than anything you are going to see in a pornographic video. No video can capture these feelings that happen inside you during these short but exquisite moments. The high comes from the feeling of mutual connection, not because you also had an orgasm. The orgasm is the frosting on the cake. The mutual connection is the cake itself. This is the difference between making love and having sex.

My suggestion is to go into sex in a spirit of mutual playfulness. Sex can have many meanings, both for good and ill. At its best, it is warm and playful intimate adventure between two people who are just really into each other, not just as sexual creatures, but also as people and with all the dimensions that this encompasses. That is way better than anything you are going to find in some pornographic video.

Sampling the Pod Porn Universe

The Thinker by Rodin

The public has been sending me a consistent message: we want more porn posts! Looking through my SiteMeter statistics today, the message is clear. Today 45 of my last 100 page views have been for posts I made about porn, even though porn represents only one percent of my post subjects.

I should be grateful for the porn enthusiasts out there. Perhaps some of them will bookmark my site to read posts about all the other topics on which I write. It used to be I averaged 150 page views a day. Thanks to a few popular posts on porn and to moving my blog to WordPress, I have been averaging 450 page views per day. Typically twenty to thirty percent of my page views are on porn related topics. What is curious is that while a couple posts get the majority of the hits, the one entry I wrote about porn that I like the best hardly gets any hits at all. Go figure.

While I made a promise to myself not be become an adult oriented blog, I am vain enough to want my page view counts to keep rising. Consequently, I wondered if I had one yet more post in me on pornography. I finally found one: Pod Porn.

I was late coming to the podcast craze but I eventually did pick up the habit. I find that when I exercise at my local Gold’s Gym, an MP3 player full of podcasts is an easy way to engage the mind while going through the drudgery of aerobics and lifting weights. Mostly I fill my MP3 player with shows from national public radio, C-SPAN or technical podcasts from Infoworld. For the last month or so, though I have been supplementing my regular podcasts with pod porn.

Yes, of course there is podcast porn out there. A simple Google search took me to this directory where I found podcasts not just on pornography, but on sex, sexuality, relationships and all sorts of adult content you will not hear on the radio. I had two basic questions. First, are any of these podcasts any good? Second, are any of them even arousing? Bravely I loaded my MP3 player and headed to the gym, hoping that not embarrass myself while exercising. (Frankly, the many attractive women in spandex exercise my imagination far more than any pod porn.)

Fortunately getting aroused from pod porn was not a problem. At age eighteen, any woman under age 40 walking by not in a burka had a 50% chance of raising an erection. The real problem with Pod Porn (and I only include the auditory kind in my sampling) is that porn is more enjoyable if you are viewing it or reading it. In real life, men frequently hit the fast forward button when watching porn. I was even more inclined to hit the next selection button with pod porn than I ever was with ordinary pornography.

So here are quick reviews of some of the sexually oriented podcasts I have listened to over the last month or so. This is about a third of the total, and represent some of my more recent samplings, as I forgot to archive the earlier podcasts.

  • Adult DVD Empire does podcasts! In this interview, porn star Annette Schwarz (and truly, I have no idea who she is) is interviewed shortly after a big porn shoot here in the states and before returning toGermany. I have no idea who she is but I did learn that her friends back inGermany would be cooking her potato pancakes to celebrate her return. Moreover, I was surprised and a little nauseous to learn she enjoys more than Visine in her eyes.
  • In another Adult DVD Empire podcast, porn star Claudia Downs tells us she was raised in Hazard,Kentucky. In a breath of honesty from a porn star, we learn she is doing porn for the money. Apparently, opportunity and high paying jobs do not abound in Hazard,Kentucky so like Jed Clampett she moved toCalifornia. However, she still claims she is kinky in real life too. Apparently, porn will not be her last career. In fact, she wants to earn enough money to go back toKentucky to study to be a physical therapist. Oh, and she is interviewed just off the set of having extreme multiple partner sex. I hope she showered first.
  • In Fetish Flame 29, a woman named Flash “the Kinky Mom” is interviewed in “The Red Room”. Flash is a divorced mother with two teenage children who are aware that their mother is into strange things but (she says) don’t really know just how strange. Her favorite publication is Penthouse Forum Variations. Flash likes to hang out in adult novelty stores and do things like try on their latex body suits. We learn vital things like to use the lube they provide when you try on body suits. (TMI!)
  • In Fetish Flame 36, Natasha explains how hypnosis can allow people to become more submissive with their partners. Frankly, all that discussion about hypnosis just made me want to go to sleep.
  • In (where else) San Francisco106.9 FM has a late night Sex with Emily Show. In this podcast we learn about how a 36 year old woman had sex with a 22 year old and how good it was for her. We also learn how men in their mid to late 20s have a natural talent for giving women oral sex.
  • Pod Wanker apparently thinks its podcasts are good enough to get your plumbing moving. I beg to disagree. I listened to this podcast and it sounds like bad phone sex, not that I would know phone sex because I have never tried it. If I were getting charged $3.99 a minute for this incestuous fantasy, I would be demanding a refund.
  • In this podcast, a guy who sounds a lot like Forest Gump, only stupider, describes a presumably fictitious group sex party. I confess I did not make it past the one-minute mark. His voice grated me. Frankly, I cannot imagine that this podcast would arouse anyone, including its author. It was simply dreadful.
  • Violet Blue hosts Open Source Sex. She is enthusiastic about porn and Web 2.0 communities. She also writes a column for the San Francisco Gate. In this podcast, we get to hear her brief talk at an O’Reilly forum (yes, the same people who publish those technical books). She talks about how difficult it is to police adult content on social networking sites. Aside from her natural enthusiasm, there is nothing the least bit arousing about this podcast.
  • Finally, although I am not gay, I did try this podcast from The Gay Trucker. I loved the naughty song at the beginning of the podcast. The Gay Trucker took a call from the Bill, the Gay Construction Worker. I learned a few things I did not particularly want to know, such as gay truckers are checking my package when they cruise by me on the highway in their elevated cabs. I also learned that if you are a gay trucker there are protocols for using the CB channels to find other gay truckers. Apparently, it involves triple clicks with your microphone. Also, Flying J truck stops have the best place to pick up other gay truckers. It may help to grab your crotch, but be discreet because most truckers are rednecks. I also learned about the strategic value of off ramps to chat with fellow gay truckers. This podcast was actually the most educational of the bunch as well as occasionally humorous. I learned a heap of things I never knew about truckers and gays. Moreover, it was well produced and insightful.

So will I be listening to more pod porn? Probably not. Frankly, I find podcasts on politics and information technology far more interesting. Nonetheless, my casual introduction to this world suggests that there is plenty of mediocrity in pod porn, not to mention advertising, and little of it is titillating. In the pod-casting universe, I suspect it represents a significant minority. If you have a particular kink, you may find porn podcasts to your liking. For us ordinary libidinous folks, I suggest Howard Stern.

You Porn: A Traveler’s New Best Friend?

The Thinker by Rodin

A couple weeks back I read somewhere, probably on Craiglist, about a web site called youporn.com. Hmm, YouTube, YouPorn. I think I had a good idea what sort of content would be found on this site. Being of prurient mind, well over 18 as well as a blogger who is always looking for something novel to write about, I checked out the site.

As I expected, it was a site modeled somewhat after YouTube.com. Here you can upload your personal pornographic videos to share with others not offended by sexually explicit content. Moreover, just like on YouTube, you can rate the various videos. This may give you an idea of what’s hot and what’s not. Naturally, before you can get into this digital red light zone you first have to assert that you are at least 18 years old. This takes only a single mouse click.

The folks at YouTube go out of their way to ensure there is no sexually explicit content on its web site. However, on YouPorn, you expect the graphic and the lurid. Instead of YouTube’s white backgrounds, you get a dark black background. You feel like donning a raincoat when you enter the site. On its main screen, you can see what was recently uploaded, with the highest rated videos of the day appearing first. By placing your mouse over one of the preview images, you can see a number of snapshots from the video. You have to click on the image to bring up a page with the video on it. Once there you then click on the larger embedded image to start the movie. As best I can tell, there are no gay movies to be found on youporn.com. However, lesbian flicks, at least those where buffed up women pretend to be turned on by other women, are plentiful.

The video quality is often not that great. Like YouTube, it appears that uploaded videos are in a Flash video format. If you go to YouTube regularly, you know what that means: the videos load relatively quickly, but lack a little something in resolution. Some of the videos are so fuzzy and grainy that you will need to substitute imagination for explicitness. However, at least they load quickly and stream. (Stream means you do not have to wait for the whole thing to download before you can start watching it.)

Nor as best I can tell, are most of these videos actually amateur videos. Most of them appear to be blatant rip-offs of vignettes from “professional” or semiprofessional pornographic web sites. The videos appear primarily oriented toward horny men, although I imagine there are many women who also like their video sex raw. In short, expect more of what you would see elsewhere on the web or on Usenet in the alt.binaries.erotica newsgroups, just with less resolution.

There is another and perhaps crucial difference between YouPorn and most other adult oriented web sites. On YouPorn, you do not have to buy a pass in order to view its content. You do not even get annoying pop up ads. You do get advertising, of course, but the ads appear to the right of the embedded videos. The ads are what you would expect: generally adult sex personals and girls with web cams, all of whom presumably will want to start their meter running when you pay them a visit.

In short, YouPorn is free porn for the masses. The video quality may lack something. Given the hordes of horny Internet users out there, its servers may sometimes slow down. But it appears that YouPorn will always be there for you. It is your new trusty if somewhat dirty digital friend, always ready to transport you into a much hotter and more perverse world than you likely encounter in real life. But then, when has pornography ever modeled real life?

I am currently in a hotel in Tallahassee, Florida. It, like most hotels these days, comes complete with high-speed Internet service. I take this for granted now but until I learned about YouPorn, I had no idea exactly what this meant for the frequent traveler. It is now possible to have safe sex on the road, as long as you lug your laptop and do not mind having sex with yourself or your trusty battery powered device. I hope that though you will try to muffle your orgasmic screams rather than rouse the curiosity of your hotel neighbors.

It used to be that Leisure Suit Larrys would congregate in front of the hotel bar hoping to score there, but usually without much success. Those with deeper pockets could call an on-call massage service and hope they provided more than a massage. Given how hard it is for travelers to find sex on the road, and how dangerous it would be if it were found, YouPorn is providing a valuable service to the traveling public. You get much better, or at least much more explicit porn on YouPorn than you can get from the soft-core stuff on your hotel’s private TV channel. Nor will you acquire a social disease. Except for any friction generated by your fingers, hand or vibrator, your sex will be virtual rather than real. Perhaps you will have a new sin to whisper to your priest at your next confession, but otherwise there seems to be no downside.

Therefore, I predict a decline in hotel bars. Massage parlors and escort services may also be taking a financial hit. For better or worse, YouPorn will be changing the dynamics of both online pornography and local sex businesses. It is far from pornographic perfection. Yet it is the 80% pornographic solution that travelers can turn to in need. It is also a possible solution for the many millions of sexually frustrated people out there who would like to have sex but for whatever reason cannot acquire it.

I once wrote a very popular entry wherein I compared ex porn star Sharon Mitchell with sainthood, because of her tireless work within the adult industry to ensure that porn stars do not transmit STDs. YouPorn is also providing a public health service, by giving those who need it a safe outlet for their sexual urges. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Continue reading “You Porn: A Traveler’s New Best Friend?”

More bad XX chromosome advice from Amy Dickerson

The Thinker by Rodin

Uh oh. Amy Dickerson, the advice columnist is at it again on the issue of men and pornography. And I thought I had said all I had to say on the matter in this entry.

Dear Amy: I’ve been happily married for 13 years. My husband and I have a beautiful daughter.

One thing that bothers me in our marriage is my husband’s need for pornography.

He watches porn on TV and on the Internet.

I’ve confronted him about it a few times.

He pretty much tells me that it has nothing to do with me.

But I’m hurt that he does this, and it makes me feel self-conscious.

I don’t like to be compared to the silicone-enhanced liposuction-ed bimbos.

It makes me wonder about what else he might be doing behind my back.

I think that I’m a smart, strong, beautiful woman.

Am I not good enough?

I try to understand that men are visual beings, and I think that most men think that looking at pornography is normal.

Is viewing pornography cheating?

— Wondering

Dear Wondering: Whether or not pornography is actually “cheating” is beside the point.

What matters is that your husband is choosing to do something that according to you is hurtful. I would also think that as the father of a young daughter, your husband wouldn’t want to engage in activities that are demeaning to women and girls. If he can’t make the connection between his own daughter’s life and how pornography depicts and exploits females, then he’s either not trying very hard, not very bright or hooked on something that has become more important than the people in his life.

A thoughtful husband and father should not be engaging in this sort of exploitation. I hope that the two of you can work this out. If you need to sort through your feelings about this, talking to a professional counselor will help.

The good news is that this column gave my wife and me something to discuss. Not that we necessarily disagree on pornography. Depending on how you define pornography, she likely enjoys a lot more of it than I do. As a fan of homoerotic fan fiction, a.k.a. slash, she both reads and writes the stuff. It can consume hours out of her day.

Since I am a male, I am more likely to be turned on by the visual pornography than the written kind. So maybe because her pornography is written, it is not really pornography. Maybe it is “erotica”. I strongly get the feeling though that Amy Dickerson, unless the portrayal is of an airbrushed Vargas Girl, would call any other photographic depiction of women in an undressed state, particularly who are engaged in sexual acts “pornography”.

So if it is written down and marketed for women then it must be erotica. However, if women choose to undress themselves and let themselves be photographed in sexual acts with other people, not only is it pornography but according to Amy, these women are also exploited. By this husband viewing pornography, even if it is only done privately when his daughter is out of the house, he is engaging in activities demeaning to women and girls and exploiting women. Gosh! What a guilt trip! And why? Because, according to Amy, he is dismissive of his wife’s feelings and/or is addicted to pornography.

It’s a good think Amy Dickerson doesn’t come strolling down my street. I would have to throw a big, wet raspberry at her. She can do much better than falling into stereotypes.

Let me try to give “Wondering” some useful advice, instead of rushing to embrace stereotypes.

“Cheating” is whatever you and your husband defined it to be before your marriage. If you agreed before marriage that viewing pornography was the same as cheating then you were cheated on. If you discussed it and it was not an issue with either of you, it is not cheating. If you never got around to discussing it at all before marriage but you assumed your husband felt as you did, this was your mistake. You have the right to bring up your concern to your husband and tell him how you feel, but unless you both agree that he will refrain from it because you feel it is cheating, it isn’t. Instead, your feelings being hurt and you are just upset that you cannot coax or guilt trip your husband into changing his behavior and pretending to agree to your values.

Sorry, you do not have the right to unilaterally add an additional previously undisclosed constraint on your marriage. A marriage contract may not be written down, but it is still a contract. It is exactly what you jointly agreed to at the start of the marriage plus any subsequent amendments to which you both agreed. If you did not discuss it before marriage that was your mistake because it is clearly important to you. Your husband certainly should listen carefully to your feelings and you should listen to his, but neither of you has the right to impose a new unilateral demand or to frame the relationship in a new way. If it is a source of great friction between the two of you, you should both be willing to work through the issue with a therapist. If your husband’s looking at airbrushed pictures of “bimbos” is that dang important to you but does not affect your husband’s feelings for you, there is an alternative. It is called divorce. Your husband has already told you that looking at naked pictures of other women does not affect his feelings for you. What does it say about you that you cannot take him at his word?

As for your daughter, I certainly agree your husband should not be watching pornography in front of your daughter. And if it bothers you, even though it appears that he is being open with you about his interest in pornography, he shouldn’t do it in front of you either. If he has a pornographic stash, and many men do, you should agree that he will keep it in a locked box that is out of the way. If he gets all his pornography online now, which seems to be the modern way of doing these things, he should ensure that his daughter does not have access to his computer or, if she does, that the files are kept in encrypted electronic vaults where only he has the password.

As for pornography “exploiting women”, doubtless some women who get into the business are underage runaways or are vulnerable because of bad or dysfunctional relationships. However, Amy is painting with a very broad brush. Women, like men, are sexual creatures. Pornographers scrupulously avoid hiring underage women. Those women who go into pornography may be desperate for money, or are supporting a drug habit or could be making a very bad choice, but they are still of legal age and get to sort out these issues for themselves. It is also possible, indeed even likely that they get some enjoyment beyond the monetary aspects of being sexual on camera.

Getting back to Wondering’s daughter, parents are doing a disservice to their children if they are pretending they are asexual creatures. I am not suggesting that parents should engage in heavy petting in front of their children, even if they are all grown up. However, children do need to understand that both Mommy and Daddy have a sexual side to them. Is it not it dishonest to pretend otherwise? The parents should express a hopefully real warm and intimate relationship between each other that shows that not only do they love each other, but also that they are passionately physically, emotionally and sexually connected with each other. The son or daughter who does not occasionally hear Mom and Dad squealing behind locked doors is getting an artificial view of life. Parents can help their children through the treacherous waters of human sexuality by showing that they are sexual creatures too and comfortable with their sexual nature. They should communicate the truth: that sexuality in its many variations, including enjoying pornography, is part of the broad spectrum of being a sexual being. To pretend otherwise is hypocrisy.

Since this issue is so important to this wife, it should be discussed. I hope they will get joint counseling on the issue. However, I do think there should be some respect for both the inherent sexual natures of the wife and the husband. There should be some middle ground here. A reasonable middle ground would be some of the steps I outlined. Neither total capitulation to the wife’s demands nor dismissing the husband dismissing the wife’s concerns is appropriate for a healthy marriage. Honest dialog and open communications is the glue that truly binds a marriage together.

Women seem to have a near monopoly in the advice columnist business. They should not. We need more advice columnists like Salon’s Cary Tennis, who can give the male perspective. In any case, Amy Dickerson should be clear that her opinions are just that, opinions, and they align well with the XX chromosome perspective of the world. Nevertheless, they do not necessarily align with those of us in the XY chromosome set. In short, like all people including myself she brings a bias. She should be very mindful not to paint such a broad brush with hurtful advice like, “If he can’t make the connection between his own daughter’s life and how pornography depicts and exploits females, then he’s either not trying very hard, not very bright or hooked on something that has become more important than the people in his life.”

.xxx marks the spot

The Thinker by Rodin

Ever hear of ICANN? Unless you are an Internet geek, you probably have not. ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is not a great acronym, but its obscurity may be something of a blessing, because ICANN’s work can sometimes be controversial.

Its more prosaic work involves establishing and overseeing rules to ensure that two people cannot offer the same domain on the Internet. They also authorize new “top-level domains”. These are the .com, .net and .org domains on the Internet that we have all come to love.

Most of these top-level domains are actually country codes, like .uk for United Kingdom. The bulk of web traffic though goes to those three letter top-level domains, .com and the like. Occasionally ICANN will approve a new top-level domain. I am glad they did. Some years back they approved the .info top-level domain, which I grabbed for my domain.

ICANN has proven to be miserly in approving new top-level domains. Maybe the paperwork is too much of a hassle. Some new generic top-level domains have been squeezed out over the last few years. In addition to .info, these include some you may not have heard about including .travel and .mobi (for mobile products and services). Many others have gone down ICANN’s bit bucket.

For example, there is the .xxx domain, first proposed back in 2000. As the name implies, it is to be used as a logical domain for sexually explicit content. If news reports are to be believed, my government twisted arms at ICANN to ensure this latest proposal got canned too. Last Friday the proposal was rejected by ICANN for the third time. Once more ICANN found dubious reasons for rejecting the .xxx top-level domain. You can read the surprisingly dry details here.

One of the more curious arguments ICANN gave in rejecting the application by ICM Registry, which wants to become the registrar of all things smutty, is that it avoided their “concern for the protection of vulnerable members of the community.” I am speculating here, but I think ICANN was expecting that any .xxx server should have a way to detect whether someone connecting to it was doing so legally. If that was its concern, it is an unreasonably high bar to meet. The Internet is inherently an open medium and authentication over the internet is costly, intrusive and technically challenging. This is no way to stimulate Internet commerce, which is what .xxx domains are about more than sex. Besides, if we wanted a proprietary and managed network, we would all be subscribing to AOL.

However, any site with a .xxx top-level domain should tell the average user plenty. It should tell parents of small children, for example, that they could easily block a lot of smut on the internet with a simple software configuration.

Had the .xxx domain gone through, those adult web site owners who chose not to get a .xxx domain would have been under no compulsion to get one. On the other hand, many adult web site owners would prefer to host under a .xxx domain. Their rationale is not hard to figure out. Using a .xxx domain would shield them from a lot of potential liability. If some child is surfing a .xxx domain, it’s quite clear that they are not their by mistake and Mom and Dad were asleep at the switch. In addition, it gives a clear message to potential customers what kind of business they are in. Not many people would accidentally surf to a .xxx domain.

Furthermore, what is wrong with consenting adults having their own zone on the internet for sexually explicit content? That such content is all mixed up now simply adds to the likelihood that someone will inadvertently see pornography on the Internet. There is no way to reliably determine whether a site is an adult web site without viewing it. There is no way for a computer to make an accurate judgment on whether an image contains sexual content.

A .xxx top-level domain should be a no-brainer. I suspect the real reason why the .xxx domain was rejected for the third time had more to do with certain people’s discomfort with human sexuality in general than anything else. I see parallels with our War on Drugs. Just as it seems politically impossible to declare the interdiction strategy in War on Drugs a lost cause, it seems politically impossible to agree that the Internet needs a .xxx domain. Because to admit that we need a .xxx domain implies that smut cannot be controlled on the Internet and that most humans enjoy pornography.

The reality of course is that smut cannot be controlled on the Internet, except through monitoring by local web hosts. With millions of domains, it is impractical to monitor every domain out there. A .xxx domain though would likely put a lot of peer pressure on the adult industry. In addition to likely giving them additional legal cover it would be seen as the responsible thing for purveyors of adult materials to do. “I’m a good Netizen. My sex site is on a .xxx domain. This means everyone knows what kind of content I offer. If they don’t want to see my stuff, I am easily avoided. I am protecting kids too.” I suspect over time, providing the top-level domain was administered impartially, most adult sites would migrate to a .xxx domain.

Admittedly, if it hit critical mass there would be the temptation to close the top-level domain down and thereby relieve the Internet of pornography. Would the smut problem on the Internet then be solved? This would be unlikely. It would be a simple matter to move smut back into .com domains again. Just because you can zone a red light district in your town, does not mean you can enforce it on the Internet. It is like passing a law that no one may send spam. We have these already and you can see how effective those laws have been.

Generally, if you take three strikes then you are out. ICM has not quite thrown in the towel. They are planning to sue the United States government, whom they alleged illegally pressured ICANN on the issue. None other than ICANN board member Susan Crawford suggested the same thing in her blog.

Smut is not going away. Now that we have the Internet, smut simply found a modern means of delivery. Smut predated the written word. We will carry it with us until the moment our species becomes extinct. Just as we cannot win the War on Drugs through interdiction, neither can we eradicate internet pornography through force of law and the power of public opinion. All we can do is acknowledge what we cannot change and change what we can. A .xxx top-level domain is one of the few tools in our Internet toolbox that can actually scope down the problem.

The only way to truly fix Internet pornography is to get rid of the Internet, which is not possible anyhow. Therefore, we must live with it. If we cannot stop people from using narcotics illegally, doesn’t it make sense to decriminalize its possession and tax it instead? Then why not use the same strategy with adult web site operators? Let adult domains hang out in their own .xxx top-level domain. Let the registrar collect a modest fee above other domains, and use it to fund more enlightening activities.

Perhaps some of the money could be used to bring the Internet to developing countries. If so then perhaps there would be some good come from smut after all.

The Futility of Porn Enforcement

The Thinker by Rodin

Oh geez, the buffoons are at it again. I thought we were done with this foolish business of trying to stamp out pornography. As if we needed more ways to squander the taxpayer’s money. We build bridges to nowhere. We waste hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq for a war based on lies. We give subsidies to oil companies, already enjoying record profits, so they maybe might find some new energy sources. We waste billions of dollars in largely futile attempts to interdict illegal drugs crossing our borders. The list is seemingly endless. Now we can add another item to this long list. Yes, the porn squad is back and it is going to (cough cough) keep us safe from pornography.

Okay, perhaps it is just a token effort meant to appease the tiny percentage of Americans affiliated with the so-called American “Family” Association. The Justice Department, as part of a top initiative by our new attorney general Alberto Gonzales, is hiring ten FBI agents to protect us consenting adults from the “evils” of pornography. That is perhaps a couple million or so dollars a year, just a tiny fraction of the money (a billion dollars, folks) that we, oops, let an Iraqi official steal from us. Therefore, perhaps in this case, money is not the issue. (I am old fashioned enough to think that a million dollars is still a heap of money.) The issue is more than the money; it is the futility of the endeavor and the rank hypocrisy of the whole thing that bugs me more.

If you think our guns are precious to Americans, try taking away our pornography. We are addicted to pornography, as we always have been. However, unlike alcoholism, drug addiction or some of society’s other addictions, this one is not one that cannot nor should be “cured”. We love pornography because it is natural for us to enjoy it. After all, pornography predates prostitution. Cavemen found ways to put pornographic images on cave walls. You can go back to the dawn of civilization and you will find pornography. Not convinced? Spend some time in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and you will find numerous examples, including ancient dildos. Or if you prefer, spend some time in New York’s Museum of Sex at Fifth Avenue and 27th Street. ($5 off admission if you visit their web site!)

Earth to the Justice Department: humans are sexual creatures. We have always been that way and we always will be that way. Sex creates new life and feels incredibly wonderful, so of course we are intensely interested in anything related to it, particularly words or images that enhance these feelings. Some of the pious among us might like to pretend otherwise, but we can no more stop being sexual creatures than we can give up breathing. Even children are sexual creatures. Many babies discover masturbation about the same time they learn to use their fingers. And why not? It feels good and they are too innocent to think anything that feels good must be bad. This is one of many behaviors that parents feel their children must unlearn. It just would not be right sending junior to day care and to have him seen playing with his penis.

Yet it is not just infants. It is all of us. Heck, it is even old folks. What are many people in the last stages of life doing in nursing homes? As long as they have fingers that work, many of them are masturbating. It brings pleasure and it brings relief in a place where it is in scant supply. I am a sexual creature. If, when I die, they find me dead with an erection, at least I was being true to my species. Heck, I hope if I make it to a nursing home and cannot care for my sexual needs, some nurse’s aide will remedy the situation. For me sexuality is like food and I am not quite a full human being when I am deprived of either.

When real life cannot or will not provide us with the sexual stimulation we need, pornography offers a convenient and safe means to help us scratch our natural itch. For some, fantasy alone is sufficient. However, most of us need something more concrete to latch onto. Pornography is preferred because it is more vivid than something we can make up ourselves. Typically, women prefer the written kind of pornography. It is unlikely though that this new porn squad will be going after erotic literature. So women like my wife, who writes slash, are likely safe. (She is hoping she will be arrested by the porn squad. So here’s your invitation, Alberto Gonzales. Just be careful. The female slash community is huge. Take it from me, you don’t want to mess with these women.)

Nope, the porn squad is likelier to go after the visual kind. Because apparently visually capturing explicit human sexuality must somehow be destroying America’s moral foundations. Put junior in front of the computer for five minutes and oh lordy, he might see a naked woman. Naturally, let us not think through the issue of why the picture of a naked woman is somehow unhealthy. If a parent is concerned, there are solutions, like supervision. We have laws that prosecute those who market pornography to children. However, pornographers are not marketing to children. If children are seeing pornography, it is because their parents are deliberately, tacitly or are inadvertently allowing them to. So okay FBI, go after any pornographers who are targeting children. Good luck in finding them though.

Clearly protecting families is not the FBI’s major focus. Rather, it is initially targeting “manufacturers and purveyors” of pornography, i.e. those who provide a product and market it for adults. They may find prosecuting such “crimes” difficult, given that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that consenting adults have the right to possess pornography. They will have to convince jurors in backwater states that the material meets standards nearly over thirty years old. They will have to go back to 1973 when in Miller vs. California the Supreme Court last set obscenity standards:

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Of course, pornography has now become mostly electronic. Choosy consumers now prefer to consume pornography downloaded from the Internet. They have the perfectly reasonable expectation that in the privacy of their own homes, even in conservative communities, they can view all forms of pornography except the few that are specifically excluded by law, such as child pornography. The Internet has demonstrated, if nothing else, its resilience to regulation. Trying to regulate content on it is futile, and we are too dependent upon it now to do without it. (You would think though that we would at least be promoting the .xxx domain to help isolate pornography on the web, but we cannot seem to even do that. Perhaps this is because if we do, we are admitting that it is a problem that will never go away.)

Which means this effort is one that will simply spin its wheels until in 2008 when the next administration dumps it. It will have no effect on our consumption of pornography. It may put a few pornographers or distributors out of business, but the profits of pornography are even more alluring than its content. Others will doubtless pick up the slack. The good news for the FBI is that more and more Americans are becoming overweight. There are few things more effective at suppressing our sexual desires than adult diabetes. Because that is what this is really about. It is not about pornography, it is about being a small minority that is currently in power being uptight that they are intensely sexual and sensual creatures too. It is about trying to make everyone conform to their misguided ideas of how human beings should behave. It is so pointless. We will never, ever be that way. It is counterproductive and harmful to even try.

No wonder FBI agents are not rushing to join the porn squad. No wonder they think it is a waste of their time and resources, particularly when we are supposed to be fighting a war on terrorism. I am not surprised then that an administration that has repeatedly proven itself wholly detached from reality will also waste our tax dollars on this pointless and quixotic exercise.

Dear Amy: Here’s a Lesson in Men

The Thinker by Rodin

In my last entry I suggested that there was nothing else I could contribute to the topic of pornography. But I was wrong. Well, actually I’m right. Advice columnists though have it all wrong. They just don’t get pornography and men and never will. Perhaps it’s because most of them are women. Anyhow, today’s Ask Amy shows once again that if this attitude represents typical American women-think, American women are seriously out of touch:

Dear Amy:

You ran a letter recently from “Broken Wife,” who found porn sites on her husband’s computer’s tool bar.

Before this woman and her husband head off to marriage counseling for his supposed actions, might I suggest that they have their computer scanned for spyware and viruses? Awhile back my husband, bless his heart, came to me because he was getting strange e-mail and his Yahoo Messenger had weird names on it. We found out that our computer had been hijacked and that all sorts of porn and other rather obnoxious stuff was being saved to our hard drive. His e-mail was flooded with messages, and his messenger had “buddies” he never approved.

I’m not saying that this man is or is not having a virtual affair, but given the propensity of Internet hackers, I’d say give this man the benefit of the doubt before condemning him.

Virtually Been There

I appreciate the possibility that a hacker might have infiltrated a computer’s hard drive, but there is a world of difference between a husband who comes to his wife with evidence of hacking and a wife catching her husband with evidence of porn.

Sometimes the computer needs a virus scan.

Sometimes the computer’s owner needs a virus scan.

Attention women: men are hardwired to enjoy pornography. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are rushing down to the 7-Eleven to buy the latest Hustler on the first of the month. That doesn’t mean they prefer the airbrushed women in magazines and dirty DVDs to you. It just means the same way cats instinctively love catnip, men enjoy pornography.

Yes, a husband in a committed relationship who spends his time trying to pick up women on Craigslist instead of working through his bedroom issues with his wife has big problems. He and his wife should probably be seeing a marriage counselor to work through some issues. But a guy who occasionally watches pornographic videos, spends some time in the bathroom in private with a Maxim, or who download pornographic pictures or movie clips off the Internet is a normal man with a normal sex drive.

Here’s the thing, ladies: men are not women. No doubt you have heard it before but clueless women dispensing dubious advice like Amy Dickenson need a reality check. With men our libido is always on. Sometimes it’s like a Christmas light and hardly there at all. At other times it’s a 500-megawatt behemoth. But anyhow, it’s always on. We’re not like women who often need thirty minutes of foreplay to get in the mood. Stop projecting your values on men! When you do so you just make yourself look stupid and foolish.

Women, if your husbands are looking at smut on the Internet, maybe it’s time to have a civilized discussion with your husband on the topic. It’s okay to tell your husband that you don’t like pornography and you don’t want to see it but it’s not okay to demand that he get rid of it unilaterally just to spare your feelings. Most of us men pick up your attitude from the ether. That’s why we don’t usually download it when you are around. When we do this it is not because we are ashamed of seeing Internet porn, it is because we respect you as a human being and are sensitive to your feelings. If it strikes you as “sneaking around” that’s your problem. Don’t give your husband an unnecessary guilt trip. Just relax. Most likely if you extend trust to your husband then he is not out trolling for whores and bimbos. He may be getting off on occasion when his testosterone levels are high but yours aren’t. But if his worst sin is he is he is using his right hand — well, you can’t get safer sex than that.

Yep, I’ve got porn on my computer. It’s there if I want it. I don’t save it on my desktop. It’s not conspicuous and I have it reasonably secure in the unlikely event that minors want to troll my PC looking for stuff. I realize it may not be your cup of tea, but it is mine, at least on those times when I want to look at the stuff. It’s not an obsession. I wouldn’t even characterize it as a hobby. It comes way behind lots of other stuff including chores, blogging here and my responsibilities as a parent and a spouse. It’s there if that’s how I choose to spend my leisure.

Ladies, when you take out that little silver beeper and press it to that delicate spot, dream of that delicious ex-lover you had or that hunky lover you wistfully might want to have, do you feel guilty that you are denying your husband something? If you do perhaps you need some counseling, but there is nothing inherently wrong with you self-pleasuring yourself from time to time. And since most men (I suspect) have a higher sex drive than their wives, stop the worrying if your man gets off by himself now and then without you. He doesn’t need the guilt and you don’t need it either. When a man is making love to you that’s all the proof you need that you are still sexy. Erections don’t happen unless a man is turned on. Every erection is obvious proof that you are desirable to him.

Now it just so happens that my wife is into homoerotic fan fiction, or Slash. Slash is full of sex. Take away the sex and I suspect it just becomes trashy romance. Here’s the thing: I don’t get Slash at all. I often wish I did because perhaps it would ripple over to our sex life. But I don’t. I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But I’ll never get it, just like women don’t get men’s interest in pornography, I don’t get Slash. And if you are the type that reads romance novels, your husband probably doesn’t get your interest in them either. For a while I was concerned. But now I’m okay with it. My wife can read and write as much of this Slash stuff as she has the leisure to enjoy. And I happen to know she collects not just written homoerotic fan fiction but has some explicit videos (likely with Slash related themes) somewhere on her hard drive. I am sure she watches it on occasion. But since she knows it doesn’t trip my trigger she watches it when she has time and privacy. And that’s cool! It means she’s a sexual human being instead of a Stepford wife. It also means she respects my feelings and isn’t trampling on them. I could I suppose snoop around her hard drive and find the stuff. I could even give her a hard time about it and suggest that Slash is destroying our marriage. But I don’t. I keep things in perspective. And it doesn’t offend me. I don’t understand it, but it doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t give me any anxiety. It doesn’t mean I am worried that our marriage is in jeopardy and she’s about to run off with a lesbian girlfriend. It means I am okay with her having personal sexual space and she is okay with me having personal sexual space. It’s all okay! Marriage does not mean tearing down every wall of intimacy. It means leaving a few to ourselves so we can remain unique people.

Of course you are unlikely to measure up to the lurid pictures of airbrushed women in Penthouse. And likely your breasts will never be as perfect as a porno star’s. (After all you had the good sense not to get implants.) Pornography is about fantasy. Men understand that. Those of us who have been around the block understand that women are not sex objects, but complex people. Relax. Take a Valium if you need to. Find more important things to fret over. As long as your husband isn’t spending hours every night downloading porn instead of spending time with you there is nothing to worry about. Respect him by giving him a little space. Make sure you get a little space too. Most likely you will both be happier.

Goodbye Russ Meyer

The Thinker by Rodin

I am eighteen years old and finally old enough to legally see an R rated movie. I am living on campus. My roommate (who like me isn’t having much luck seducing women at that moment) and I decide to substitute the celluloid kind of woman for the campus coed. That was my situation circa 1975. So off I went with my roommate Rick down to a dollar theater outside Orlando to catch the latest Russ Meyer’s skin flick Supervixens.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had only seen one other R-rated movie before, and I snuck into that one. (It was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Jeff Bridges and Clint Eastwood and featured one long shot of a naked woman – pretty racy stuff for 1974.) I hadn’t seen an officially naughty film before. But this one, which featured women with large breasts, maximum cleavage and an air of impishness seemed a cheap way to get a few quick thrills.

And though I don’t remember too much about the movie I do remember it was lowbrow yet still a whole lot of fun. It is every horny 18-year-old male’s ultimate fantasy to be sought after by an endless number of cute women with no inhibitions. Director Russ Meyer delivered it in this campy little film full of such fantasies that was surprisingly funny. I expected to be more aroused than amused. It turned out to be more amusing than arousing. But it was still arousing enough to have me leaving the theater with a little buzz.

Russ Meyer — who passed away last Saturday at the age of 82 — gave the world Supervixens as well as 25 other largely unmemorable films. I gather they mostly had the same theme: beautiful women with few inhibitions who liked to undress for the camera and pretended to be insatiable. His women were women who needed big, strong virile men with lots of stamina. They invariably featured big breasts that Meyer considered great natural wonders sent to us by God for our viewing enjoyment. He took pleasure in making sure we could see them clearly in their best-buffed forms on large theater screens. It didn’t make him rich but he must have done okay. Sex sold. He knew his market because he knew what turned him on and he figured that must be true of most guys. And Russ liked big-breasted women with large curves. He had no pretensions of greatness nor deluded himself that he was producing art. He just knew how to make sexy, mildly provocative films for young male adults with high hormones levels (that is to say all of us guys of a certain young age.) But he didn’t mind adding humor and camp. Something had to be shown between the numerous scenes of large breasted women undressing themselves and throwing their naked bodies so shamelessly on us men. He could make me laugh although his humor was often as embarrassingly juvenile as the antics of his fantasy women.

Russ was arguably the pioneer of the skin flick trade. He spawned many imitators but none could quite capture his style. His films were what they were. They had no pretensions of quality. His actors were largely no-names and were perhaps more accurately described as models. His films were cheap and showed in run down theaters or in red light districts when they were more amber than red. His women were not Playboy centerfolds made into movies. His movies did not have Hugh Hefner’s pretension with class. But neither were they tawdry nor were they really even obscene. They were more farcical than anything else and consequently they weren’t really objectionable.

Now his films seem incredibly tame. Today most of them would probably rate a PG-13. It would be a misnomer to call them adult films because there was not much adult about it. They frankly were juvenile films. They tweaked our male prurient interests, made us feel a tad naughty but frankly were wholly harmless. They fizzed like soda pop but went flat and largely forgotten five minutes after we left the theater.

His was a genre of film that seems today to have nearly disappeared. There is no lack of the hardcore stuff available today but virtually none of it goes on a screen anymore. You have to look really hard to find a true campy sex film these days. Those few that come out seem manufactured to appeal equally to women as to men. Russ Meyer’s films were for young, hormone-laden men like me. In the 1970s men had to work a lot harder to get into a woman’s pants. So in frustration we sometimes found ourselves in theaters laughing at Russ’s somewhat lurid and silly films. Today women are often much more sexually accommodating. As a consequence we don’t seem to need films like his anymore.

In a way it’s a shame. His work is but a small footnote in cinematic history. It should be footnoted but not forgotten. In his way Russ was a pioneer. And he made me a content customer until my hormone levels receded. Some part of me has to admire a man so completely in touch with his true nature and so willing to show it to the world. While I didn’t quite understand his fascination with large breasts I still must say, “Russ, thanks for the mammeries.”

Sharon Mitchell: Porn Saint

The Thinker by Rodin

Discussing pornography like I did recently is probably not a popular subject. It won’t win me any Pulitzers for blogging. But after hearing this story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” I realized that ex-porn actress Sharon Mitchell is as close as one can get to being the Mother Teresa of the pornography business.

Born in 1952, Ms. Mitchell joined “the biz” in its infancy: 1974. She appeared in two thousand or so adult films before retiring in 1996. In a business where the average starlet has a career of months, not years, Ms. Mitchell somehow survived. She was cited numerous times for her acting ability in an industry where it was not valued. But Sharon Mitchell is atypical in many other ways. The caricature of a porn worker is someone with low self-esteem, possibly drug addicted who expresses her hostility at the world by letting it all hang out on film. Not Ms. Mitchell, or should I say Dr. Mitchell. Because this legacy of the adult film industry is no high school dropout. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality.

There is no denying being in porn could be very risky business for a porn actor or actress. This world in particular is rife with the potential for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. Some like AIDS can kill. Add in the frequent numbers of sexual partners porn actors are exposed to and the risk of contracting disease can be very high. Porn consumers further stacked the odds against performers. Films where condoms are used routinely bomb in the adult box office.

The adult film industry could be awash in STDs but it isn’t thanks primarily to Dr. Sharon Mitchell. In 1998 a large HIV outbreak among porn actors and actresses called for some real leadership. The business was not going to dry up. It was too profitable. It was Dr. Mitchell that stepped up to the plate. She founded the nonprofit Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. Pretty much all porn producers in California require a current clean “bill of health” from the AIM Foundation before an actor or actress can be cast in a film. Dr. Mitchell’s foundation facilitates the tests and provides the certificates. The tests cost over $100 a month. While that seems expensive it includes a battery of the most sophisticated tests available. The certificate gives actors a very high assurance that they will not contract a STD on the job.

It is not a perfect system. Perhaps you’ve read of the recent case of porn actor Darren James, who tested positive for HIV. But because a rigorous system is in place the possibility of widespread infection was quickly contained. And this was because producers are voluntarily keeping detailed lists of who was filmed having sexual relations on the set, and when. As a result of this outbreak porn producers are voluntarily limiting new productions until they are sure this outbreak is contained.

It’s hard though for many of us to think charitably of anyone in the pornography business. And that’s why I consider Dr. Mitchell something of a modern day saint. Mother Teresa cared for the most destitute, sick, impoverished and forgotten people in the slums of Calcutta. Dr. Mitchell is candid that many of those in the porn industry have major mental and psychological problems. Nonetheless she cares enough about these people to do what she can, perhaps because she was one of them. While they choose to have an adult film career she can lay excellent odds that they will not end up dead from their choice. And because they can get tested at her central facility they don’t have to suffer any embarrassment or feelings of shame.

Some would probably fault her for not doing more to reduce risks. Arguably she could be crusading for all producers to require use of condoms on the set. But at some level it’s unrealistic to be too hard on porn producers. They are after all in business and are trying to meet demand. And the movies where the actors use condoms aren’t selling.

Clearly Dr. Mitchell is not living in poverty. But she is ministering and protecting a class of people who are often scorned, marginalized and abused. You can bet you won’t see any religious organizations funneling their charitable contributions to these people.

In the final analysis one can only affect change in the realm of the possible. Dr. Mitchell chose her own peculiar ministry to protect arguably one of the most scorned classes in our society. She may have been a porn actress, but she is very much a humanitarian. No one else will say it but I will: thank you Sharon for caring where no one else would give a damn. I strongly suspect somewhere up in heaven Mother Teresa is looking down on you and smiling.

Continue reading “Sharon Mitchell: Porn Saint”