Diane Duke, Free Speech Coalition

As the executive director of the adult-industry trade group Free Speech Coalition, Diane Duke travels the world in leaps and bounds, protecting the industry...

As the executive director of the adult-industry trade group Free Speech Coalition, Diane Duke travels the world in leaps and bounds, protecting the industry from governmental intrusion. She advises the industry about what she says are daily civil liberties violations. As a firm advocate of sex-positive feminism, she encourages women to exercise their right to make their own choices regarding their bodies. Intelligent and passionate, Duke has dedicated herself to tackling injustice in many forms, working previously for groups like the Oregon Social Learning Center; the United Way Women in Philanthropy; the Human Rights Commission of Eugene, Ore.; the YMCA; the American Heart Association and Planned Parenthood.

Inside this small package is one tough cookie.


From where does this uncommon spunk of yours arise?

I come from a long line of strong, proud Southern women. My mother, who was an incredibly loving and generous woman, taught me always to be a lady, and my father taught me I can do anything I want and never to let the bastards walk all over me.


Do you remember a defining moment in your life when you knew you were meant to help people?

In third grade, I started a petition drive for my teacher, who had to retire because of her age. In seventh grade, I launched another petition drive to fire a librarian who locked students in the library for talking. I’ve never been one to whine about social injustice; I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to participate in solutions.


Was there a moment that continues to inspire you today?

Early in my career at Planned Parenthood, an arsonist tried to burn down one of our clinics. Damage was minimal, but clinic staff members were given the option not to come to work the next morning. As the only senior manager not on vacation at that time, I drove to the clinic to comfort and support the staff. Not only did every staff member show up, but also — although understandably shaken — they spoke with a commitment and determination that still brings tears to my eyes. I have witnessed firsthand the courage and dedication of simple but true heroes.


Tell us about your volunteer position with the Human Rights Commission.

I was appointed by the Human Rights Commission to fill a volunteer civic-service position. It was interesting and challenging working with the police. More often than not, the issues we dealt with were complaints against the police, everything from the anarchist riot in which my son — a fellow human-rights commissioner — was arrested to abuse-of-power issues. I tried to view each case with an open mind and listen to all sides of the story. It was difficult to communicate with many police officers that their position of authority carried with it an added responsibility not to misuse or abuse that authority.


Tell us about your work on the 2004 steering committee opposing Oregon’s Ballot Measure 36, which would have rewritten the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Ballot measures are expensive and drain critical resources. Many of the socially repressive ballot measures are supported by right-wing religious extremists who campaign from the pulpit every Sunday. The biggest threat to beating these kinds of ballot measures is complacency. People often assume that repressive legislation never will pass; that someone else will take care of it. That is how socially repressive, anti-adult-entertainment-industry laws make it to the books in states all over our country.


What do you consider the biggest stumbling blocks non-profit organizations have to overcome?

Often, people associated with nonprofits don’t comprehend the business side of the organization. “Nonprofit” is a tax status, not a business plan. Nonprofits are just like any other business; there are employee costs, lease payments, electric bills, [information-technology] expenses, et cetera. A nonprofit’s mission cannot be supported without a profitable financial margin. The difference is what the organization does with the profit: It invests back into the operations and programs of the organization.


Since you have started working for the Free Speech Coalition, what key issues have taken the forefront?

Government intrusion via sex-toy bans, 2257, obscenity prosecutions, and zoning and tax laws, piracy, dot-xxx and attempted ghettoization of the Internet and technology.


How can individuals in the adult industry take a stand to protect their rights?

Stop staying under the radar. While everyone is staying under the radar, the government is walking all over us. We have a vital industry with a broad consumer base. If we can come out of the closet and start organizing, we will be a force to be reckoned with.


What is occurring now with 2257? How can the industry take a stand to protect its rights?

The Department of Justice’s public-comment period ended in mid-September. We have worked to get adult-industry professionals to comment. We have hired professionals to conduct an economic study of the financial impact of 2257 on the industry. Our next step will be to request an injunction if the final rules and regulations are not drastically revised to address the issues posed. We suspect they will not change substantially. Therefore, the public comments submitted, coupled with our economic study, will prove instrumental in providing a firm base to file for an injunction, as well as a lawsuit to follow. We have strategically prepared for the next phase of this fight, and because of the work we have done and changes made to the original law, we feel that we have a favorably solid case with which to move forward. Industry businesses and professionals who want to be covered by the injunction will want to make sure they are members of the FSC and their membership is current.


What issues should webmasters be concerned with now, other than 2257?

Piracy, for it hurts us all. FSC has created a task force to work on the issue. Moreover, there are additional proactive efforts happening through producers. Learn about how to identify pirated materials. Only work with reputable distributors of content. Get involved in being part of the solution to the theft that is happening to the industry and within the industry.


What other anti-industry state legislation is top priority for you right now?

The work that is happening to challenge the anti-industry law passed in Ohio: SB 16 was signed into law earlier this year and puts severely restrictive regulations on dancers in clubs and closes all — that’s right, all — adult businesses at midnight. Citizens for Community Values is responsible for introducing the bill into the Ohio legislature and bullying legislators and the governor into supporting this destructive bill, and it plans to spread the success it has had in Ohio to other states. CCV, whose strategic plan aims to dismantle the adult industry by dividing and conquering, is counting on our industry’s lack of organizing ability, greed and pettiness to flame its success. If this law is not struck down in Ohio’s November election, we will see it introduced and passed again and again in states all over the country.


What states are under fire the most from anti-adult forces?

In addition to Ohio, there are sex-toy bans in the Bible Belt. Sherrie Williams has fought the [sex-toy] laws of Alabama all the way to the Supreme Court. FSC drafted an amicus brief to support her case, and we are waiting to see if the Supreme Court will hear that case. These cases prove expensive and cumbersome. When industry members fight back, they do so for all of us, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.


The FSC also is lobbying at the federal level, right?

Our federal lobbyists introduce us to partners in the mainstream business world who are aligned with us on different issues. They develop meetings and open discussions with federal legislators, providing us with the opportunity to communicate about personal freedom, right to privacy and the reality of the adult-entertainment industry as a vital, responsible component of our nation’s economy.


What other programs or projects do you want to mention?

As the trade association for the adult industry, FSC is focusing on providing benefits to our members that will enhance their bottom line. I am excited about a number of benefits our membership director has been working on, from software discounts to health-care benefits.


You recently asked the rhetorical question, “Why are our government and anti-adult-entertainment zealots afraid of women as sexual beings?” Have you discovered an answer to that question?

In a college feminist-theory class, I wrote a term paper on lesbian pornography. In that paper, I made an observation that women are expected to be chased and chaste. That is, women are expected to be chased by men and virginal. Women as sexual beings, sexual aggressors, break our patriarchal social norms. We are not under control of men; we own our sexuality.


Which of your accomplishments do you hold most dear?

Professionally, the work our Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas and I did to communicate the dangers of dot-xxx to [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] board members and [its Government Advisory Council] in Portugal was extraordinary. To be able participate in shaping world policy is truly a humbling experience. Personally, I am a person of faith who works in the adult-entertainment industry and an adult-entertainment professional involved in a faith community. The two worlds often work against one another. My commitment to myself is to maintain the integrity of who I am, hopefully breaking stereotypes in both communities.


What is your ultimate goal for the FSC?

Our biggest strength and our biggest challenge are one and the same. We are an industry of strong individuals. My goal is to organize these individuals into a strong team of advocates for the industry. We have a vital industry with a broad consumer base. If we can come out of the closet and start organizing, we will be a force to be reckoned with.


This story originally appeared in AVN Online. To subscribe, visit


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