FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Rare Defeat for Corporate Lobbyists

by GAIL DINES and DAVID LEVY

Corporate lobbyists suffered a major defeat recently when Philadelphia-based US District Court Judge Michael Baylson upheld federal regulation 2257, which requires pornography producers to maintain documentation that performers are at least 18 years old. The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the porn industry lobbying group, had challenged 2257 on First Amendment grounds claiming that the law is overly burdensome and chills free speech.

This case highlights how porn has become big business, flexing its political muscles to fight regulation it sees as costly with wanton disregard for the consequences. At the same time, like other industries confronting controversial issues, the porn industry has tried to burnish its public image by promoting itself as a good corporate citizen that can be trusted to self-regulate.

Nowhere is this cynical behavior more blatant than in the case of the porn industry-backed non-profit group Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP). ASACP was founded in 1996 by the porn industry and claims that it “battles child pornography through its CP Reporting Hotline” and is “dedicated to online child protection.” Yet the same industry has spent many years trying to undo the very regulations that attempt to shield children from being exploited.

The FSC, a non-profit that is “the trade association for the adult entertainment industry,” is actually in bed with the ASACP. Both organizations have similar membership and funding from porn industry players across the value chain from producers to online distributors and webmasters. For example,
Manwin, the largest multinational porn conglomerate in the world, was the FSC Benefactor of the Year in 2012 and the only diamond donor to ASACP. XBIZ, a major porn industry association, held a joint fundraiser for FSC and ASACP at its awards ceremony in January 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. FSC itself is a member of ASACP.

Why is the overturning of 2257 such a priority for the porn industry? To answer this, we need to go back to 2002 when the Free Speech Coalition had its first major victory, in the Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition decision. Arguing that the 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act –  which prohibited any image that “is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct” – limited the pornography industry’s free speech, the FSC succeeded in narrowing the law to cover only images of actual minors. The path was cleared for the porn industry to use legal-age performers but make them look much younger.

Following the Ashcroft decision, Internet porn sites featuring young (and very young-looking females) exploded, and the industry realized that it had hit upon a very lucrative market segment. Our research demonstrates that “teen porn” has grown rapidly and is now the largest single genre, whether measured in terms of search term frequency or proportion of web sites. A Google Trends analysis indicates that searches for “Teen Porn” have more than tripled between 2005-2013, and teen porn was the fastest-growing genre over this period. Total searches for teen-related porn reached an estimated 500,000 daily in March 2013, far larger than other genres, representing approximately one-third of total daily searches for pornographic web sites. We also analyzed the content of the three most popular “porntubes,” the portals that serve as gateways to online porn, and found that they contained about 18 million teen-related pages – again, the largest single genre and about one-third of the total content.

The pornographers use a variety of methods to make female performers look much younger than 18. In place of the usually large-breasted, heavily made-up women that populate much of Internet porn, teen porn sites are filled with young-looking females with petite bodies, small breasts, makeup-free faces with hair in braids or pony tails, surrounded by such childhood props as stuffed animals, bed sheets with flowers, and backpacks with cartoon-character motifs. It is not uncommon for the females to wear school uniforms, have braces on their teeth, and knee-high socks as they engage in hardcore sex.

The age documentation requirements of 2257 represent a key component of a legal struggle to prevent child pornography, especially in an age of fragmented and globalized production. Even though enforcement has been lax and software packages to manage 2257 compliance are available, the industry claims that it’s all too expensive and burdensome. Like the garment industry facing outrage over sweatshops, the porn industry wants to self-police. This “just trust us” approach helps resolve the paradox of the good cop–bad cop strategy of the industry’s twin non-profits, ASACP and FSC. If the industry wants to self-police, it needs to win the public’s trust that it can act with social responsibility AND challenge governmental regulation. But as Judge Baylson ruled, when a powerful industry is willing to do whatever it takes to maximize profits, self policing is not enough.

Gail Dines, a Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality , was an expert witness in the Free Speech v Eric Holder Case.

David Levy, Professor and Chair of the Department of Management and Marketing at U/Mass-Boston and Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness, was an expert consultant.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail