NEW YORK—One might assume that if you pair a prosecutor with a porn star in a debate on a serious legal, constitutional and sociological issue, the prosecutor would at least have the rhetorical upper hand. But if you tuned in to the John Stossel show last night, you would have seen a cage match in which the prosecutor looked like the ill-informed hysteric and the porn star looked like the knowledgeable and poised professional.
The adult performer was Digital Playground’s Kayden Kross, a true beauty who entered the industry in 2007 and has at least 62 titles under her belt. She had been invited on the staunch libertarian’s show to discuss a mandatory condom law that has been advocated ad nauseam by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and was voted into law in January by the Los Angeles City council. Needless to say, both the host and the audience were impulsively inclined to oppose the government mandate.
The [former] prosecutor was Wendy Murphy, who, according to her profile on The Daily Beast, “is a former child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor who teaches at New England Law/Boston. Wendy specializes in the representation of crime victims, women and children. She also writes and lectures widely on victims' rights and criminal justice policy. Her expose of the American legal system, And Justice For Some, came out in 2007. A former NFL cheerleader and visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, Wendy lives outside Boston with her husband and five children.”
Murphy was also a frequent (and controversial) commenter on the Duke Lacrosse rape case, and seems to have earned a reputation over the years as a strange apologist for Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and someone who is herself prone to hyperbole and fabrication. She was consistent in that regard last night. Watching her, one is reminded of another former prosecutor prone to histrionics—Nancy Grace—but also another individual who has become synonymous with incredible claims about the adult industry, Shelly Lubben, whose role as a supporter of AHF’s campaign to put rubbers on every porn dick has included regular forays into fantasyland, including wild accusations about activity on porn sets that she hasn’t been on in years.
Murphy has probably never been on a porn set, but that did not stop her from acting as if she knows more about health practices in the industry than Kross does, or treating the performer, who is somewhere in her mid-twenties, with utter condescension, even going so far as to ask her at one point, “Where are your parents?”
Kross simply smiled and kept her composure, meeting every escalating depredation from Murphy with a calm reply based on her first-hand understanding of the industry.
While the six-and-a-half minute segment was not jam-packed with factual information about rates of infection in the industry, Kross did provide enough specific information about the industry’s self-imposed testing regime and on-set safety practices to provide a good idea of the threats that face most adult performers on set. She also spoke convincingly about the repercussions the law may have on the industry, as well as the reasons why many performers do not want to use condoms in the first place, explaining, “Condoms for the sort of shooting we do are just plain painful.”
It was Murphy who spoke with absolute conviction about an industry of which she appears to have no direct knowledge, saying at one point, “The research tells us the guys who are alone not only want to watch porn where there’s no condom, they want to watch gonzo porn. We’re talking about the most violent of stuff that if you saw it, you would be disgusted and you would be afraid, and you would … in my opinion, feel differently.”
Lord knows what research she is referring to, but it is probably something whipped up by Morality in Media, the American Family Association, or Gail Dines. The entire anti-porn cast of characters has been targeting “gonzo” porn in particular over the last year or so, characterizing it as defined by violence.
Gonzo, of course, has nothing inherently to do with violence, but refers solely to non-story-based productions. Kayden tried to make that very point during the discussion but was more or less talked over. She knows what she’s talking about, however, having appeared in several gonzo movies over the years, including Bad Girls 8 (Digital Playground), Jack’s POV 18 (Digital Playground) and Kayden Unbound (Adam & Eve). For those who feel inclined to do their own research instead of taking Murphy’s word for what constitutes gonzo, each of these titles and many others can be found here.
Murphy also spoke repeatedly about people from the industry dying from AIDS and finally had to be called on it, resulting in the following exchange:
Murphy: You should not be okay with four dead people.
Kayden: They’re not dead. I know them. They’re happily married.
Murphy: They’re happily married with AIDS! They’re happy with AIDS. Happy with AIDS! Did you hear that? They’re happy.
Kayden: You can be happy and have a disease.
Murphy: That is the dumbest argument I have ever heard.
Murphy may want to revisit that assessment after watching the segment, the transcript of which is reprinted below.
* * * * * * * * *
Stossel: We invited the Los Angeles politicians who supported the law to join us today to defend it; all nine declined. So, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy stepped forward to explain why the law is needed. Porn actress is here to say the law is a waste of money and violates her freedom. (Applause) Obviously, the audience has a point of view, but let’s all be fair here. So, the politicians—Kayden, you first—they are just trying to protect you.
Kross: That’s what they say. We don’t feel we need the protection. We don’t feel there was a problem. A third party stepped in and created what was essentially a crisis that wasn’t there.
S: But we do have a sexually transmitted disease problem. I would assume porn stars would be more likely to have some disease.
K: Porn stars test every 28-30 days. We’re the most-tested sexually active population in the world.
S: Every thirty days, the movie companies voluntarily send you out to be tested.
K: Right. It’s self-regulation. It’s not a law. The studios say it’s mandatory; they will not shoot us without a valid test.
S: Okay, so, prosecutor Murphy, why does the government always have to do more?
Murphy: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I can’t name the guy, but an insider from the industry who was in charge of all this testing has shared with the government officials who support this idea that this stuff is rampant—Chlamydia, the risk of HIV/AIDS, this is not that complicated. Women have a right to be protected!
Whatever you think about this business, they should not be exposed to a risk of dying. Gesturing to Kayden,
You may not care, but this isn’t about you. This is about all the women in the industry.
K: “But it’s my body. I can put it in whatever situation I want to put it in.”
M: Where are your parents? Your parent should be here listening to this. The thing is, you may want to do all sorts of things to your body, and that’s fine—I wish you wouldn’t hurt yourself; if you want to, that’s your business—but just because people would like to put asbestos in their home, they can’t! Why? Because they’re going to get sick or die. And so the government, which is supposed to protect us with health standards, says you can’t do it even if you want to, because this isn’t about your freedom—it is about the wellbeing of humans, and that’s the purpose of government, to protect human beings from serious health risks and death.
Do any of you care about that?
<A smattering of applause>
S: Of course they care about that. Kayden, you have another reason why this wouldn’t be popular, that you don’t want the actors wearing condoms.
K: When I first heard about this, I went out on the record to say condoms for the sort of shooting we do are just plain painful. Condoms are more for normal sex.
S: I’d also think, the viewers … I don’t see how this works.
K: There is a small market that does like condoms, and that need is already being met by studios that shoot condom-only. We also on every single set are required by law to have condoms available; any performer can use them if she thinks that she wants to. Most performers choose not to; in fact, a lot of performers will not work for the condom-only company because it hurts; it’s not comfortable.
M: Well, dying hurts more.
S: Wendy, I assume if this is enforced—and I never trust the bureaucrats to enforce these laws—then the industry, with ninety percent of it in Los Angeles County with these laws, will just go someplace else.
M: Yeah, but that’s not a reason to let people become sick and die. I agree with you, it raises that problem. But let’s be blunt, okay? People watch porn, especially the guys who are alone … the research tells us the guys who are alone not only want to watch porn where there’s no condom, they want to watch gonzo porn. We’re talking about the most violent of stuff that if you saw it, you would be disgusted and you would be afraid, and you would … in my opinion, feel differently…
S: Well, then they wouldn’t watch it.
M: You need to know that the most common type of porn is violent; it is not sexual—it is violent. So, on top of that we are exposing women to the risk that they’re going to get very bad diseases that will last a lifetime … and die.
S: Kayden, the politicians are trying to be helpful. They want good role models. If porn stars…
K: The thing is … we’re not sex education. You don’t watch a Vin Diesel movie to learn how to drive, and you don’t watch porn to learn all about sex and health and all of that. We’re a fantasy; we’re creating a product for a market. It’s not our responsibility to say, “Oh, you need to use a condom in this circumstance.” It’s our responsibility to use performers who are of legal age and consenting and healthy. We do that. Sex education is up to the parents.
M: This is not about private activity; this is not about private behavior. This is about a business, and when a business wants to put the profits over the well-being of the performers who work in the business, no matter how you feel about porn, when you’re making profit, you can’t say, we would like to make more profit even if it means women getting sick and dying. You can’t do that in this country.
K: But who’s dying?
M: We want our government to protect people from serious injury.
S: Yeah, I haven’t heard about porn stars who die.
K: We haven’t had a transmission on set in years.
M: Oh, you didn’t have an AIDS in 2004 that had how many people infected, which is a part of why the AIDS community…
S: In ‘04, and then they started testing and nobody since.
M: This is a person who came out publicly and said … a guy, who infected at least three women with AIDS in the industry.
K: In the real world, it’s a higher statistic.
M: I don’t care! You should not be okay with four dead people.
K: They’re not dead. I know them. They’re happily married.
M: They’re happily married with AIDS! They’re happy with AIDS. Happy with AIDS! Did you hear that? They’re happy.
K: You can be happy and have a disease.
M: That is the dumbest argument I have ever heard.
S: Okay, last point. Kayden, what’s going to happen? There is this law. I assume most of your fellow actresses and actors are not going to go along with it. What’s going to happen?
K: Well, there’s the possibility that the industry is going to get pushed back underground and there’s the possibility we move out of California. Also, if this is going to chase us around the U.S, then people are going to go overseas for their porn, where it’s not regulated at all. There are not age requirements, they don’t do mandatory testing and it’s even less safe.
S: The law doesn’t just solve the problem?
K: It does not do that, no.