CYBERSPACE—AlterNet, the progressive website which daily publishes articles dealing with the social issues important to all Americans, sometimes posts an article that, had anyone at the company actually vetted its content with knowledgeable adult industry members, would have been shitcanned pretty quickly.
The latest offering to fit that definition is Erika Christakis' piece, "Is It Time for Fair Trade Porn?" For those who aren't aware, "fair trade" is defined by Wikipedia as, "an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social and environmental standards."
How does that relate to porn?, you might ask. The simple answer is, it doesn't.
"We hear rumblings here and there about the sexual trafficking of women and children, and it's always a relief when a criminal ring is busted for what's euphemistically called 'abuse,' " Christakis writes, clearly implying that such activities are common if not rampant in the adult movie industry. "It's reassuring to know that whatever was going on in the far reaches of a few sick minds has little to do with our own primitive—but relatively harmless—impulses."
"But do porn consumers ever think about where their porn is sourced?" she continues. "What a downer! No one wants to hear about drug-addicted runaways or Albanian teenage sex slaves. Nobody wants to imagine STD infections on movie sets or the life circumstances that would impel a woman to engage in physically punishing sexual acts on camera."
Indeed; no one does want to hear about all that because, quite simply, it doesn't happen. Are some adult performers drug users? Sure. Some of them smoke pot, which is legal in California, where most porn is made; a significantly lesser number use speed or coke—but if drug tests were administered to a random number of porn stars and an equal number of Wall Street traders, guess which group would show the greater percentage of positives? And as for "Albanian teenage sex slaves" ... what the fuck? Is this woman simply delusional, or does she have some data to back that up? She certain gives no clue as to her source(s) in the article, and producers in the U.S. can't import porn that doesn't include 2257-required government IDs.
Beyond that, she's obviously been reading the screeds put out by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the L.A. County Department of Public Health regarding STD infections among performers, but had she done even a little research, she would have found that not only are the claims of those entities unfounded, but the organization most closely in touch with performers' health, the much-missed AIM, found that during a "bad month," at most 2.4 percent of (straight) performers had an STD, even less during a "normal month," and none of them had HIV—haven't had since the last mini-outbreak in 2004.
And as for the "physically punishing sex acts on camera," Christakis, ensconced as she is in her Harvard dorm—she's the "House Master"—has apparently never heard of bondage, domination or sadism and masochism ... unless that's what a House Master practices on her students. But if it isn't, then somebody ought to clue her into the fact that there are likely several BDSM clubs in the Boston area which she could visit and see for herself how consensual those activities are—and why plenty of people, men and women, would have no problem demonstrating those moves on camera.
In fact, Christakis seems to recognize that fact: "One person's degradation may be another person's kink, and we don't need more Rick Santorums policing our fantasies," she admits. "Moreover, sanitized desire, like a lot of so-called 'feminist porn,' can be a buzz-kill." (Quick, Dan O'Connell; rush this woman a care package!)
But the real problem, of course, is that porn doesn't come with labels like they have on Starkist cans.
"Shampoo bottles and Tuna cans assure us that animals were unharmed," she notes. "Shouldn't we know if porn actors are subject to out-of-control STD rates, or are forced to do things against their will? At a minimum, a Porn housekeeping seal of approval would tell us by, and for whom, the porn was made. It might make you think twice before downloading that random YouPorn video or chatting with a 'horny Russian slut' at LiveJasmin."
Let me put Christakis' mind at ease: NO porn actors are "subject to out-of-control STD rates," no matter what AIDS Healthcare or the Department of Public Health are claiming this week, and none of them are "forced to do things against their will"; it just doesn't happen, and if any producer tried it, that person would have a full-scale talent revolt on his/her hands, and nobody would work for him/her again. Attempts at coercion get reported pretty quickly around the industry.
Beyond that, has this woman never looked at the packaging of a XXX movie? Who's in it and who made it are right on the package insert, usually in big, bold letters—and I don't know of any producer who'd be so stupid as to limit his/her market by trying to tell the public "for whom the porn was made." It's made for anybody who finds it enjoyable, natch!
And finally, sites like Portugal-based LiveJasmin.com and to a lesser extent YouPorn.com are not part of what most people think of as the "adult video industry," since much of the material on such sites doesn't originate with established adult producers and performers.
But then we get to the meat of Christakis' problem with porn: It's icky and no normal person would want to do it.
"There probably are attractive, uninhibited people who are excited by the rewards of porn careers—people who are untroubled by the ethics or lifestyle limitations of making a living as sex workers, or who at the least may consider it the best of their uninspiring options," she speculates. "But there are probably relatively few of these people, and consumers should know who they are so they can make informed choices."
The only "ethical" problem with making adult movies is in the minds of the conservative religious nutbars that populate the internet, some churches and the Republican presidential debates—and if Christakis wants to know who all those "attractive, uninhibited people" are, all she has to do is look at the packaging the DVD comes in. There really is NOTHING mysterious about it. And if she wants to know more, just pick a name and Google it!
And yes, for some, porn IS "the best of their uninspiring options." For others, it's a way to work out their sexual fantasies, or put themselves through college, or support their single-motherhood. In any case, it's likely better than flipping burgers or sweeping floors, or being at some executive's beck and call. That's life; ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
But for Christakis, who's completely ignorant about the porn industry, knowing everything about performers' psyches and blasting that knowledge all over the internet—remember PornWikiLeaks?—translates to fewer of them being in the business.
"If we knew for sure that porn production was free of coercion and desperation, for example, we might find there are fewer women willing to be gagged, choked, and 'triple penetrated' on camera," she writes.
Well, few jobs are "free of ... desperation" and all in mainstream porn are free of coercion, and yet, plenty of women are still lining up to be "gagged, choked, and 'triple penetrated' on camera" because guess what? They like it! Guess that concept hasn't yet penetrated this Harvard college administrator's brain.
But building on her delusions, Christakis extols the benefits of "fair trade porn."
"Fair Trade porn might also finally allow us to call a moratorium on assertions that women aren't aroused by visual imagery or don't sometimes fantasize about anonymous, unemotional sex," she claims. "And market forces could eventually affect the aesthetic standard of pornography, which might, in turn, shift the skewed gender balance of viewership."
Well, it's true that it's mostly men buying porn, but the last time AVN did a survey, it turned out that roughly 22 percent of the customers of adult brick-and-mortar stores were women, and it's not too far out of the realm of possibility that many of the men buying/renting porn are doing it for both themselves and their significant other(s)—and with the internet, it's tough to tell which gender is buying, renting, downloading and VODing all that porn. So "fair trade" has nothing to do with it, and since just about every characteristic of "fair trade" already seems to have been incorporated into the porn-making experience, it's not likely to have much of an effect even if more disclosures are made.
"Pornography is a fact of life, and parental controls and moralizing spoilsports won't make a dent in its exponential growth," she concludes. "But the bar needs raising. ... Maybe Fair Trade porn could reconnect us to a better relationship with the human body."
Our suggestion: Buy a vibrator and quit grousing about subjects—like porn—of which you're completely ignorant.
Pictured: Sinn Sage's "orgasm face."