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Porn's Compassionate Conservatism | The Nation

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Porn's Compassionate Conservatism

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The new rules do allow a male model to ejaculate on a female model, with the caveat that the "shot is not nasty." Lawyers will now be able to jack up billable hours to determine if the semen on a left breast is "nasty" but the semen on a right elbow is to be approved. Douglas is equally derisive in his assessment of the new guidelines: "That list is complete horseshit," he says. "It's probably a third generation of someone's interpretation of what a lawyer suggested."

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Mark Cromer
Mark Cromer, a journalist living in Los Angeles, has written for Details, HotWired.com, the Los Angeles Times, LA...

For all of Margold's humorous dismissal and Douglas's disdain, the new guidelines are no laughing matter for the major porn companies. For these firms and those who run them, the adult-entertainment business is no longer about making an artistic statement for sexual freedom. It is about making money. Getting busted is not in the business plan. While there is a consensus that trouble is brewing, there is disagreement about just how effective renewed prosecutions will be and even whether attempts at self-censorship will do anything to stop them.

Roger Jon Diamond, a Santa Monica- based lawyer who has been defending adult material since the late 1960s, and whose cases have gone to the Supreme Court, feels some of the worry may be overblown. "I don't think Bush or Ashcroft can successfully bring us 'Meese II,'" he says. "Too much material is already out there in too many places. How are they going to prove community standards [a central requirement of the 'Miller standard' the Supreme Court set in determining obscenity] now? You can't unring the bell."

While Douglas notes that the chances of the Bush Administration killing off an industry that has survived every President (and Attorney General) since Nixon are slim, he warns that the government would be just as happy to inflict some serious pain on it. And here, Diamond notes that the industry's will to draw a line in the sand and fight prosecutions may well determine how much damage is inflicted. "It's like soldiers landing on the beaches. You know you are going to take the beach, but some guys up front are going to have to take some bullets for everyone else. So the question becomes, who is willing to take some bullets?"

"Irrespective of Ashcroft, the Bush Administration brings very dangerous forces into play," Douglas says. "Unable to influence Congress, to satisfy the religious right they are going to have to take action outside the legislature, and the area they have the broadest discretion in is the prosecution of crime. And Congress will not be outraged. Bottom line: There will be aggressive obscenity prosecutions." If the previous two Republican administrations are any indication, Douglas says, the industry can expect at least thirty or more companies to be targeted by the Justice Department. That's about how many were put in the crosshairs under both Reagan and Bush Senior.

Douglas maintains that the real question confronting the adult industry is how the expected prosecutions will take shape. "It will depend on whether [prosecutors] want to grab headlines and simply appease the religious right," Douglas says. "Or do they really want to change content?"

If they seek a purely political nod to the hard right in the GOP, prosecutors are likely to seek prison sentences and wage a no-quarter battle to that end. Douglas says that tack was taken by prosecutors under the Reagan Administration--an era that he darkly notes was marked by Justice Department attorneys who signed their official correspondence "Yours in Jesus Christ."

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