By popular request, we provide here a summary of the present situation and suggest what people can do to preserve the health of the area around 135 King Street.
In late June, Capital Video Corporation, a major pornographic video retailer and producer, signaled that it wanted to open a “big-box” adult video store at 135 King Street in Northampton. The current plan calls for 6,222 square feet of retail space.
The King Street location is within walking distance of Northampton’s historic downtown, next door to a mental health counseling center and a school of dance, and surrounded by churches and homes with young children. Railroad tracks with heavy vegetation run right behind 135 King Street, a potential harbor for prostitutes, drug dealers and sexual predators. Exit 20 on I-91 is less than a mile and half away, raising the prospect that porn customers will converge on this store from around the region.
Within two days of hearing about Capital Video’s plans, local citizens formed NoPornNorthampton to study the issue and suggest ways for the city to mitigate the potential impacts of an adult business on the area.
Mindful of First Amendment concerns, NoPornNorthampton supports reasonable regulation to keep large adult businesses a safe distance away from homes, schools, houses of worship, and certain other areas where children are likely to be found. We also seek to educate people about how porn hurts neighborhoods, damages intimate relationships, and contributes to the mistreatment of women. We hope that people will voluntarily reduce their consumption of porn, and businesspeople will decline to make money from suffering.
Progress As of September 27
- On hearing the concerns of Northampton residents, the mayor and city council are considering an adult-use zoning ordinance that would apply to stores that devote more than 1,000 square feet of retail space to adult material. Such stores would be restricted to Northampton’s Highway Business Zone, and could not open within 500 feet of homes, schools, houses of worship, recreation centers, or other adult businesses. If passed, this will make Capital Video unable to open a 6,222 square foot adult business at 135 King Street. We support this ordinance as a reasonable balance between First Amendment rights and preventing the harmful secondary effects of porn shops, which include crime, economic blight, reduced pedestrian traffic, used condoms and similar hazardous trash on the streets, and harassment of passersby.
- Capital Video has (for now) dropped their initial plan to include 20 enclosed viewing booths in their store. Viewing booths are well-known as meetingplaces for anonymous sex. The city denied Capital Video’s initial building permit because they did not have enough parking spaces for an “entertainment” use. To prevent problems in the future, we urge the city to pass health regulations that would take the doors off the booths (among other measures) to discourage unsafe sexual encounters, in case the store finds a way to expand its parking lot.
What You Can Do
- Contact the mayor and your city council member to support stronger adult-use zoning. See the left-hand column of NoPornNorthampton.org for addresses and phone numbers.
- Contact the landlords of 135 King Street, Barry and Annette Goldberg of Longmeadow, and encourage them to have the same care for Northampton as they do for their own neighborhood. The Goldbergs provided this contact address on their building permit application: 320 Green Hill Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106.
- Express your opinion in letters to local newspapers, on the radio, or in online forums.
- Monitor NoPornNorthampton.org for announcements of vigils and protests you can join, or organize your own.
- If you belong to a local congregation, encourage your clergy to speak out against the porn shop and promote healthier, life-affirming expressions of sexuality.
- Make ethical economic choices as consumers and vendors, and refuse to shop at or take money from a business that oppresses women.
- Contribute to NoPornNorthampton.org through the green Click & Pledge button on our website (near top of left-hand column). All staff are volunteers. Your contributions are used for legal research, publicity and informational mailings.
Porn Hurts Porn Workers
- Porn is not pure “speech”. Real women had to suffer to produce these images. If prostitution is people having sex for money, porn is prostitution that happens to have been caught on film.
- Like prostitutes, porn actresses are often lured into the industry as underage runaways, vulnerable drug addicts, and victims of international sex trafficking.
- Physical and emotional abuse of women is the norm in today’s porn films. Common scenarios include gang rape, torture, humiliation, gagging on genitalia and semen, and physically damaging acts like multiple anal penetration.
- Being a porn actress is not an easy route to fame and fortune, as many believe. Stars like Jenna Jameson and Nina Hartley are the exception, not the rule. U.S. News says, “The vast majority of porn actresses…earn about $300 a scene. They typically try to do two scenes a day, four or five times a week… some newcomers will work for $150 a scene.” Most actresses only last a year or two, while the fallout from their experience (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder) can last a lifetime. Performers commonly turn to drugs to cope with the psychological trauma of their work.
- Even if some women “freely choose” to be porn workers, this “choice” is only available because of our society’s insatiable demand for images of women being sexually violated, to the tune of $56 billion a year. We ask people to be mindful of the nature of the media they consume.
Porn Hurts Users
- Today’s mainstream porn trains viewers to be aroused by violence and humiliation.
- Porn misinforms viewers about human sexuality. Acts that are common in porn are actually not pleasurable to many women, and may even be painful or dangerous.
- Porn teaches men to expect that all women are willing to have sex with them all the time. It conditions us to judge sex partners on their appearance instead of relating to them as real people.
- Porn separates sex from intimacy. It presents faithful relationships as boring or impossible, and ignores the risks of unprotected casual sex with multiple partners, such as pregnancy, STDs, and emotional damage.
- Porn addiction is a well-documented phenomenon that breaks up families. At a 2003 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended said Internet porn contributed to more than half of the divorce cases they handled.
A SELECTION OF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are you advocating censorship? Why not let people choose the media they want to consume?
We are not advocating censorship. We don’t want to establish any board of censors, nor do we want to see people arrested for consuming currently legal forms of porn. What we are trying to do is to educate people, and demonstrate why they should exercise judgment and restraint on their own. We hope this will reduce the demand for porn, and induce businesspeople to think twice about making money from suffering.
We do support modest zoning and health regulations for certain adult businesses to mitigate their well-known risks to the surrounding community. These regulations are no more strict than those found elsewhere in Massachusetts. Some people argue that the reasonable regulation of an activity is tantamount to banning it. This is absurd. The government regulates the time, place and manner in which businesses may serve alcohol. Does that mean it wants to ban drinking?
Freedom of speech is a legal concept that limits the government’s ability to regulate adult entertainment. It does not prevent citizens from speaking out to discourage porn consumption. This kind of vigorous debate about culture and ideas is exactly what the authors of the First Amendment intended.
A quality democracy requires a balancing of interests. None of our freedoms are absolute, because all of our actions affect others. For instance, the unrestricted spread of porn undermines the right of women to be treated as individuals and not as sex objects, and the right of communities to protect themselves from crime and economic blight.
For this reason, the Supreme Court has approved reasonable time/place/manner restrictions on the sale of adult materials, such as adult-use zoning, to balance free speech concerns with quality of life issues.
Isn’t porn use a private matter?
No. The sale and use of have public consequences. Specifically, porn harms:
- performers who are abused and humiliated to produce your entertainment
- women who suffer sexual harassment and disrespect in a culture where their bodies and sexuality are treated as commodities
- relationships that fail because porn users can no longer become aroused by real-world intimacy
- children whose parents divorce because of a spouse’s porn addiction
Respect for sexual privacy doesn’t mean people should be shielded from information that certain habits may cause long-term damage to themselves or others. Progressives often demand more public education about the risks of certain lifestyle choices, such as how to avoid drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases. Porn is no different.
Who are you to judge that some sexual fantasies are “bad” or “unhealthy”?
There is a great deal of evidence to support our contention that porn is generally harmful. Marital counselors, divorce lawyers, police departments, serial killers, academic researchers, city planners and ordinary citizens have been reporting for years that porn and adult businesses cause serious problems. Logically, it shouldn’t be controversial to assert that:
- rape, torture and sexual slavery are bad;
- women are human beings, not disposable sex toys;
- unprotected sex with multiple strangers puts you at high risk for disease and emotional trauma
- infidelity hurts marriages and children;
- a society that values family life and committed relationships is more likely to thrive than one that only cares about short-term individual pleasure
When someone says, “My porn use is none of your business,” they are not being neutral. They are saying that their enjoyment of unrestricted sexual pleasure is more important than the women, families and communities who are hurt by the spread of porn. The evidence of this harm is substantial and growing. People have a right to ask porn merchants to compromise and porn users to give some thought to what they’re doing.