Gazette: “New voice joins ‘adult’ debate”

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.”

12 thoughts on “Gazette: “New voice joins ‘adult’ debate”

  1. Ex-post facto zoning is unfair. You’re putting restrictions in place that weren’t there when the business owner originally purchased his property.

    This should be a good lesson to other people in the neighborhood– you should make sure the zoning regulations are to your liking before moving in someplace. Don’t want a porn shop next door? Then move into a neighborhood where it’s prohibited (if you’re REALLY concerned about pornography, you might want to look into moving to “Ave Maria” in Florida, the Catholic city being built by Mr. Dominos).

    Imposing new zoning regulations on unwilling neighbors is just “tyranny of the majority,” and is unfair.

  2. Yes, changing property rules in the middle of the game is unfortunate, but it’s more unfair to impose a large porn shop on nearby homes, schools and churches. The city appears to be moving quickly before Capital Video invests a lot of money or effort in 135 King Street, so the harm to them and the property owner will be minimized.

    The evidence of bad secondary impacts of adult businesses is strong. That’s why the state of Massachusetts allows towns to zone them in this way, without grandfathering. The balance of interests justifies it.

    As for your argument that citizens should shroud the town in laws to anticipate every bad thing that might ever happen to them, we have thoroughly addressed this in our FAQ and in other posts. Obviously the people trusted the good judgment of the property owners involved. Their trust was misplaced, so now regulation is needed.

    There’s no tyranny here, only democracy, facts and experience.

  3. Can you point me towards the study that outlines the bad secondary impacts of adult businesses without peep shows? You keep referring to that Minnesota study, but that was a study of adult businesses with peep shows. Of course, that doesn’t seem to stop you from saying that adult businesses have been proven to harm neighborhoods.

  4. Why sure, Jeff. This law review article cites numerous studies, many of which attribute harmful secondary effects to sexually oriented businesses in general. Same with this report from Minnesota, which also discusses sexually oriented businesses in general. This kind of evidence has been good enough for US courts, which have upheld regulations governing a wide range of sexually oriented businesses, from live nude shows all the way down to adult bookstores.

    Is it really possible to imagine that property values on Summer Street, much of which overlooks 135 King Street, will not suffer from the presence of a large porn shop there? Is this not a sign that homebuyers would instinctively find the area less desireable?

  5. Thanks, but the articles you cited are focused on adult businesses with viewing booths–the Capital Video site won’t have those. So, I’m wondering why you keep saying that this business will, without any doubt, increase crime in the area.

    As for property values, can you cite any statistics on houses near adult businesses that have seen a drop in their actual value? The opinion of real estate professionals is one thing; real facts are another.

    And isn’t it just as easy to imagine that property values on Summer Street won’t suffer from the presence of a large porn shop there? Why is your conjecture more accurate or valuable than anyone else’s?

  6. I don’t know why you think the articles I mentioned are confined to porn shops with viewing booths. I invite people to read the articles for themselves and make that call.

    As for property values, it seems far more plausible to me that they will fall from the presence of a large neighboring porn shop than rise or stay the same. I trust the judgment of the real estate professionals cited in the law review article.

    My conjectures are more valuable than yours because they are more logical and conform to the available facts. But fear not, more facts are on the way. We have a large new shipment of anti-porn books to digest.

  7. Your comparison of regulating pornography through ex-post facto zoning ordinances to the government´s regulation of gasoline and toxic waste is completely absurd. Consumption of gasoline or neglegent disposal of pollutants are ECONOMIC rights that the government regulates whereas the right to sell material depicting sex is a SOCIAL right as it is a form of free expression. Last time I checked American Liberalism was about the regulation of economic rights (as the free exercise of most economic rights undoubtedly lead to harm to the consumer, the employee, the environment, etc.) as well as the protection of social rights (as free exercise of most social rights does not violate the rights of others). Your organization has seemingly forgotten these ideas, central to liberalism and a progressive tolerant community in favor of social conservatism. If some of your main concerns about the porn industry have to do with health problems for women or inadequate compensation, then I suggest you focus your attention on getting our governement to directly regulate these issues. Write a representative about regulation of these problems in the industry (I believe there is a good chance that legislation on these issues would enjoy bi-partisan support).

  8. Laws change all the time in response to changing conditions and new information. We have information that adult businesses reduce the safety of neighborhoods and cause economic harm, so cities have responded with appropriate regulation and the courts support them.

    Beyond matters of law, we feel it’s our right and duty to give porn consumers full information about the dangers of their habit, so they can voluntarily change their behaviors. Democracy without knowledge is a travesty.

    After a certain point, tolerance of suffering becomes callousness. Compassion for women and the weak is a hallmark of Northampton as much as tolerance is.

  9. The support other cities and courts have shown for restrictive laws regarding adult businesses does not validate your new ordinance. A widely accepted restriction of free speech is still a restriction of free speech.
    Of course you have every right to express your opinion about pornography and to inform others. However, you aren’t simply trying to inform others. Your organization is attempting to change ordinance laws in the middle of the game based upon the assumption that pornography causes corruption of the viewer. Since we have had adult businesses in Northampton for years which have yet to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to be corruptive I have to come to the conclusion that this organization was simply formed based on your own personal prejudices. The idea that the store must be located away from churches and homes further proves that this is a battle of ideologies, a battle against material you personally find offensive.
    You continually press for compassion toward women without regard to gay and transgender porn which could easily be as objectifying or degradative as heterosexual pornography. Feminism should be about freeing people (especially women) from the de facto roles of society; it should be about providing free choice, not about restrictive measures such as this which favor breaches of other’s rights in the name of egalitarianism. You can show compassion for women by allowing them to make their own choices. Your only duties should be to try and make these choices informed ones (which I strongly support you doing) or to directly get your government to regulate adult industries from the ground up (and only in the name of the health and compensation of the women). What this organization is doing is attempting to legislate censorship and intolerance for other lifestyles. Your use of the phrase “porn is hate speech” just shows that you are desperately trying to justify your censorship.

  10. The phrase “porn is hate speech” is used by some of our allies. We share many of the same goals, but our approach and reasoning are not always the same. Similarly, our positions overlap with those of some conservative religious organizations, but we are not identical with those, either. For example, we favor gay rights and gay marriage. Porn attracts criticism from across the political spectrum and that’s because it’s broadly harmful.

    NoPornNorthampton cares deeply about the freedom of speech and values education over censorship.

    We oppose abusive relationships and exploitation regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

    As for courts upholding regulation of adult businesses, it shows that our arguments have been tested by America’s court system, and found to be well-supported and constitutional.

    Our blog shows the effects of porn and adult businesses spread beyond the immediate consumer or porn worker. This takes them from the realm of private choice and makes them a public matter.

  11. I have a problem with the last line of your response.What about all the men that live in Northampton? Are you saying that Northampton has no compassion for the men of this city?All that I see here is what YOU want.YOU want people to consume less adult material.What if people don’t WANT to view and consume less? What you are trying to do is force people to side with YOUR beliefs.Not all people are the same in their beliefs.I have spoken to businesses located near adult businesses and not one has had any complaints about it at all.That las line of your response pretty much sums it up.All you care about is the women of Northampton and the so called”weak”.Does that imply that the men of this city are the”weak”? People have the right to chose for themselves without being FORCE FED others beliefs.Shame on you for trying to brainwash people into YOUR way of thinking.

  12. Not forcing, paco. Persuading. The answer is to reply to us with facts, if you have them, not hysteria.

    While women appear get the worst of it in the films Capital Video sells, their all-male films also have themes of domination, deception and heedless sex (“Man Whores #3”, “Desperate Househusbands”, “Leather Weapon”, “Bedroom Lies”). If it will make money, Capital Video is an equal-opportunity exploiter.

    We have compassion for porn workers and consumers of both genders. It should be noted, however, that the majority of porn consumers are men, so if any gender bears greater responsibility in this area, it would indeed be men.

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