First Amendment work you fight, because you believe in the slippery slope argument as well as a total conviction that consenting adults making movies for other consenting adults can never be called a crime no matter what is depicted, ever! I am sure this attitude is influenced by living in an adult playground where I see middle America’s new community standard on the Strip daily. And, pornographic films are no longer obscene in our culture. Obscenity should no longer be judged in anyway that involves the government examining the specific behavior of consenting adults in a video. But these days our community standard is that an obscene film is one that depicts actual victims or children. Look around Vegas and you see porn stars are performers who Vegas nightclubs routinely hire to draw a mainstream audiences inside. Vegas does not cater to the fringes. The world has changed.
But my mind was on adults being allowed to choose entertainment. I never really considered a more direct relationship between porn and freedom until I was reading the Virginia Quarterly Review on the plane home from the trial in Washington DC. There is a special supplement on Iran in the Summer VQR and this amazing article was part of it.
According to the article: The Iranian youth learned to post anonymously and work the web outside government censorship to get porn. An entire generation then turned the skills thus acquired to their rebellion last year which was organized and disseminated from the web. For these Iranian college students porn wasn’t protected because we believe in freedom, but their interest in porn gave them the tools to fight for freedom and attempt to transform their society.
The article reminded me why the trial I was covering in Washington DC was not just about government waste. More important is that allowing the government to use the criminal code to play movie critic is a society wide threat to freedom. I never expected I would learn this lesson from Iranian society. Please, read the entire VQR story here. But this is the passage that blew my mind:
“That was the beginning of another revolution that has changed so much in Iran; the ever-watched youth of Iran—a colossus in number—suddenly found in the internet two things they did not have in their everyday lives: an instant connection with the outside world, and anonymity. In a society in which most are forced to dissemble to some degree, to wear some sort of a mask in order to survive, a way to express oneself unhindered and without possible repercussion was intoxicating, and soon became addictive. In separate groups boys and girls were squeezed into the booths, giggling while tapping away. And pornography, of course, was the most popular search, any kind the limited bandwidth and censors would allow. This was before cell phones and before people had internet at home, before pornographic material started being passed around over Bluetooth and on CDs, and perhaps something about looking at this illicit material in a public space, its heady thrill, made what came after easier, made the chat rooms and the virtual dates inevitable. And the influence of pornography on the sexual imagination of the nation started right there in those internet café booths.
Then there were the chat rooms, virtual spaces in which to meet with other young people, to forge new friendships and even find sexual partners. What was impossible only five years ago, anonymity of any kind, was possible now for the price of a few tomans per hour, far from the peering glances of parents and the state. Eventually these chat room relationships spilled over into real life, thanks to the presence of that other technological tool, the cell phone. The cell phone gave the people of Iran another little chink of space in which they could have some privacy. Of course, now that Iranians are once again marching on the streets in a gruesome déjà vu of thirty-one years ago, the same technologies—the internet and cell phone—that have been used for privacy and dating are now crucial in organizing gatherings and spreading the news and images of protest to the world.”
(Porn star Sasha Grey posing with then indicted John Stagliano at AVN Awards 2010 at Palms, photo, Lanie Crossman)