Today’s Gazette reports on the launch of Talk Back Northampton, a site that claims that zoning adult businesses is “actual and real censorship”. Here are some of our responses to this claim:
We are not advocating censorship, but mindfulness about porn and a few modest zoning and health regulations to address local residents’ legimate, well-documented concerns. These new laws will create no board of censors. All currently legal forms of porn will remain readily available, especially to people with access to cable TV or the Internet. No one will be arrested for consuming this legal porn. Moreover, the city’s latest zoning proposal won’t even affect smaller shops like Oh My or Pride & Joy.
It is absurd to argue that the reasonable regulation of an activity is tantamount to banning it. The government regulates many activities. It regulates the gasoline you can put in your car. Does that mean it really wants to ban gasoline or the act of driving? It regulates the disposal of toxic waste. Does that mean it wants to ban toxic waste or all the activities that produce it? It regulates the time, place and manner in which businesses may serve alcohol. Does that mean it wants to ban drinking?
We feel the proposed laws–no more strict that those found elsewhere in America–are a measured response that imposes a modest inconvenience on certain adult businesses and customers in exchange for significant community benefits. Experience has shown that adult-use regulations can be enacted without excessively infringing on free speech. Have the Massachusetts towns of Fitchburg, Oxford, Dartmouth or Douglas become benighted pits of censored darkness due to their own adult-use ordinances?
If the ‘1st Amendment is Absolute”, as one person recently commented, I suppose that person would defend (currently illegal) child pornography as well. But let’s ask them. Do you?
Beyond matters of law, we believe it is entirely consistent both to support free expression and to express our opinion that porn is harmful and people should avoid it. There is a huge difference between advocating self-restraint (which trusts the judgment of the people) and state censorship (which does not). We believe that most people, in full possession of the facts, will make good decisions.
For a further exploration of free speech issues, please see our “Response to First Amendment Concerns”.
I would also like to address material at the Talk Back Northampton site that suggests that anti-porn advocates are “anti-sex”. We are not against sex. We are against mindless sex, abusive sex, sex without regard for issues like love, fidelity, commitment, pregnancy, disease and children.
Finally, Talk Back Northampton cites porn star Nina Hartley to suggest that porn workers are not really “exploited”. As we have discussed in our FAQ, Ms. Hartley’s experience is not the norm:
Assertion: Women enter the porn industry of their free will and are well-compensated. Why criticize their choice?
Our Rebuttal: We would argue that many women who enter the porn industry do so without appreciating their slim chances of a positive outcome. Others have their judgment clouded by drugs, sexual abuse and our pornified culture. STDs are endemic to the industry, and most porn actresses certainly exit the business quickly enough. As for the supposed rich pay, this is enjoyed only by a few. U.S. News reports (2/10/97):
“There is a constant demand for new talent, and few actresses last more than a year or two…. Checks sometimes bounce. The borderline legal status of the industry makes performers reluctant to seek redress in court…. The highest-paid performers, the actresses with exclusive contracts, earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year for doing about 20 sex scenes and making a dozen or so personal appearances. Only a handful of actresses–perhaps 10 to 15–are signed to such contracts. Other leading stars are paid roughly $1,000 per scene. The vast majority of porn actresses are “B girls,” who earn about $300 a scene. They typically try to do two scenes a day, four or five times a week. At the moment, there is an oversupply of women in Southern California hoping to enter the porn industry. Overtime is a thing of the past, and some newcomers will work for $150 a scene.”