Activists Urge Government Crackdown on Pornography
During a panel discussion sponsored by the Coalition for War on Illegal Pornography, a loose group of national organizations, speakers urged legislators and the Obama administration to crack down on the adult entertainment industry, which they say openly flouts existing U.S. obscenity laws.
"Obscenity is not to be confused with soft-core pornography," said Donna Rice Hughes, president of the nonprofit Enough Is Enough, pointing out that Playboy magazine is protected speech but "Debbie Does Dallas" is likely not. "Because obscenity laws have not been enforced, illegal 'adult' pornography has flooded and polluted the Internet."
Hughes, whose infamous dalliance with Sen. Gary Hart helped end his 1984 presidential campaign, has worked with the anti-pornography organization since 1994.
According to Hughes and several other speakers, the Supreme Court has ruled that most so-called hard-core pornography is illegal if it depicts sexual conduct, appeals only to the "prurient interest" and is judged to violate contemporary "community standards."
"During my years at the U.S. Department of Justice, I've read virtually everything the United States has ever said on the issue of pornography," said Patrick A. Trueman, a former Justice Department lawyer and currently a legal consultant on sexual exploitation issues. "The Supreme Court said, 'To equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press.'"
"We are now in the midst of a massive social experiment, as no other generation has been so bombarded with so much pornography," said Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College. "We have had our sexuality, and indeed our culture, hijacked."
Other speakers took a more personal tone. Former adult entertainment performer and anti-pornography activist Shelley Lubben fought back tears recounting her years in the industry.
"Seventy percent of sexually transmitted infections that occur happen in females. I am one of those females," Lubben said. "As a survivor of the porn industry, I contracted human papillomavirus and herpes -- a non-curable disease -- which later led to my battle with cervical cancer.
"I'm still battling with damages to my reproductive organs," Lubben added. "I have suffered much at the hands of the porn industry. But after eight long, hard years of recovery, I escaped that hell."
But not everyone agrees that the adult entertainment industry is flouting the law or that Congress has any power to rein it in. Today, Mark Kernes, senior editor of Adult Video News, told the Capitol News Connection, "What this is really about is, they would like more laws and ... more restrictions on the availability of adult speech.
"Congress doesn't really have a lot of power to do anything because the Internet is worldwide -- and not every country fears sexual content as much as the United States seems to," Kernes said.
The adult entertainment industry found itself in the spotlight last week after a machete-wielding porn actor killed two fellow actors and then himself in a standoff with Los Angeles police.