Fitzroyalty

Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

the politics of porn – comment from inside the Melbourne adult content industry

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Update 30 December 2009: for more on this story read my December 2009 post.

Fitzroyalty received an unexpected traffic spike when news broke on Tuesday 16 June 2009 that Fitzroy based G Media was raided by the police, property was seized and the director of the company was arrested. Read my 2007 story on previous controversy about Abby Winters. You can read more about the company in a 2008 Village voice article, visit its official site or its Wikipedia entry.

Three main allegations are made in the article:

  1. in Victoria it is illegal to produce the type of content depicted in the physical and electronic media seized.
  2. a 17 year old girl modelled for the company.
  3. the company provides cash payments to models to incite them to perform more explicit acts for more money although they initially only agreed to perform less explicit acts.

I’ll address each. The last one may be true; I do not know. It could be unethical even if it is not illegal.

The second one is of genuine concern if confirmed. There is no excuse for a failure to properly check identification apart from deception, such as if the girl had legitimate looking false identification indicating that she was over 18.

I emailed an adult content industry contact familiar with G Media yesterday asking for a comment, and they believe that the company would not have knowingly employed an underaged model. Legal porn profits best by strict legal compliance; legal conflicts are expensive and not profitable. It is not in the commercial interests of adult content publishers to break the law by employing underaged models, but it could happen. We can only wait for the police to investigate the facts.

The production of the content itself is the complicated issue. According to this 2007 Age article:

While the sale of X-rated films is banned in the states and the Northern Territory, the finer points of the ACT Classification Act mean that the production, distribution and sale of X-rated films is possible in the ACT.

I can’t find anything else that explains why making porn should be tied to consuming porn in the ACT, or anywhere else.

The recent Australian book The Porn Report has little to say about commercial porn production in Australia – it focuses more on subcultures and their amateur production of content in zines.

In an article that predates the G Media raid by only two weeks, Drew Turney explains that:

Making porn films is restricted or illegal in most states and territories, but the laws are enforceable under different legal acts and the penalties different from one to the next.

Does the law recognise paid sex (making porn) from paid sex (prostitution)? Is making porn legally like procuring, soliciting and profiting from prostitution? How do various state laws differ?

What we are legally allowed to view is also ridiculously illogical. As far as I can determine, depending on the sex act being depicted, it can be lawful to buy still images depicting a particular act but illegal to buy moving images depicting the same act (literally the same scene, as a porn shoot often combines still and moving image capture).

The depiction of some fetishes, for example, can be sold in magazines but not in VCR or DVD videos. How this applies to the internet is confusing as internet content is not routinely classified the way physical media is. Some content, again depending on the format, could be R18+, X18+ or RC (refused classification). Read more about the mess of censorship laws in Australia.

Fiona Patten, CEO of the adult industry group the Eros Association and head of the Australian Sex Party, explained this on SBS’s Insight in March 2009:

while fetish might be prohibited in a film, it’s not prohibited in publication. And we’re talking offline. Secondly, how on earth is the Classification Board – which I’ve dealt with for many years – how on earth are they going to classify the content on the internet. What’s legal in a magazine or book is not legal in a film, what’s legal in a film is not legal in a computer game. How do you then transfer that onto the internet?

You can watch a video of this segment:

That all makes a lot of sense. Not. And it gets worse when you realise that it is legal to buy and view still or moving images in Australia even though it may be illegal to make those same images in Australia. That makes no sense at all.

The role of the Herald Sun also needs to be questioned. Pursuing the alleged exploitation of underaged models is a legitimate story; manipulating moral hysteria about sex and porn is merely fodder for regular readers of the bogan press.

My industry contact, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes:

Papers are supposed to report the news, not make the news. It seems here that the complainant is a Herald Sun writer, not the sources quoted in the article. This writer has been haunting G Media for over 2 years to try and squeeze a story. I know Liandra Dahl [the woman referred to in the 2007 article] personally and she has been appalled and embarrassed by the Herald Sun’s treatment of her and the way in which they’ve taken quotes from her blog and used them out of context. So much so, that she removed her blog. At the time they published a full page, provocative image of her taken from a website she’d modeled for, without her permission or the permission of the website. This undoubtedly sold issues for the HS, but they paid her nothing. It’s obvious where the real exploitation is taking place.

My experiences at G Media were great. They have a very thorough system for age verification and their policies are very well documented and all the staff know they can’t even have discussions with anyone unless they’re proven over 18. I have to say also they take great care of their models and they pay well. They have strict sexual health policies and even have a nurse to monitor that. To have that kind of company to work for in this industry is fabulous.

I think it would be a great shame if they were shut down. The Melbourne porn industry has developed a reputation as being one of the best in the world, for the quality of what it produces and the high ethical standards. I have met so many girls who love to do this kind of work and we believe that if the industry is driven underground, it will just fall into the hands of unscrupulous operators and safety standards will erode. I’m not a lawyer but there seems to be so much inconsistency and hypocrisy surrounding these laws. The laws need to recognise the values that are being expressed and they should encourage companies like G Media and focus on eliminating misogyny and violence, not just in porn but all through the media. And people need to be aware and pick up on where exploitation is really happening – it’s mostly the media that are guilty of that, selling copies without paying anything for the stories and pictures. Just ask any celebrity.

I enjoy watching the Abby Winters free video newsletter because the models are fabulous and I recognise many familiar streets and landmarks in the background (LOL). What is important is that all the participants are adults engaging in safe, sane and consensual behaviour. I’m a strong supporter of free speech and sexual expression.

Consequently, the laws that determine what sexual acts and behaviours can be legally engaged in, paid for, recorded, sold, distributed and finally bought in various formats are fundamentally irrelevant. These laws are unnecessarily complicated, self-contradictory, confusing and restrictive to the point of being impossible to follow and are therefore essentially meaningless.

As Stormcentre says:

My (possibly flawed) understanding is that this material is illegal to produce in Victoria, illegal to sell in Victoria, BUT legal to purchase and privately view in Victoria (which to my way of thinking means that the first two laws should, at the very least, not be enforced or be abolished).

The law converts victimless social behaviour into criminal behaviour (like criminalising recreational drug use) and endeavours to drive Australian content producers out of business and out of the country. Read Turney’s article for more on the Australian government’s history of using the law to punish and undermine Australian adult content producers based on moral propaganda.

Blog comment is running hot! Hall has issued a statement saying that no charges have been laid. Dahl disassociates herself from the rabid bogan press. For more, see Slackbastard, GrodsCorp and Anonymous Lefty, who has made a great start on dissecting the relevant laws. So has Somebody Think of the Children. Any porn savvy lawyers care to comment?

8 comments

  1. “The depiction of some fetishes, for example, can be sold in magazines but not in VCR or DVD videos. How this applies to the internet is confusing as internet content is not routinely classified the way physical media is…”

    I could be wrong, but I seem to remember reading that the ‘Abby Winters’ site was included among those in the ‘ACMA blacklist’ leaked in March.

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    • Yes, but the point is that internet content is not submitted for classification first then sold, it is published or sold without classification, then if someone complains about it, it is investigated and then put on the blacklist if it is given a refused classification rating. The process is very different.

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  2. ” 3. the company provides cash payments to models to incite them to perform more explicit acts for more money although they initially only agreed to perform less explicit acts.
    The last one may be true; I do not know. It could be unethical even if it is not illegal.”

    as a model for Gmedia i can verify that this claim is untrue.
    neither myself or any of the models i have met and/or worked with have ever been asked to do anything more than the initial shoot description. models aren’t offered the more ‘explicit’ shoots (working with other girls) until they have done a solo shoot at the least.
    we are tested by a nurse like clockwork to ensure all models working are free of STIs and blood diseases/infections, and at anytime, you can change your mind and not shoot – obviously though, shooting being your job, and not completing it means you won’t get paid. this is the same for any other job though. if you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.

    i can’t deny we get paid well, but i am in no way so desperate for money i would do anything i wasn’t comfortable with. why is it so hard to believe that women might actually WANT to take of their clothes and express and explore their sexuality in a fun and safe environment?!

    we are not gullible bimbos that don’t know what we’re doing, nor are we helpless victims of the ‘bad bad porn industry’.

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    • Thanks for your comments. It is now obvious that the bogan press is simply serving up some fluff for its readers, who most likely are fans of the site but are too scared or hypocritical to admit it. The people commenting on blogs and via twitter on the other hand are honest enough to say they enjoy porn. I think it’s important to be honest and proud about your sexual identity, politics and preferences!

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  3. 3. Is certainly not true. I have worked for AW before and was never ever pressured into performing explicit acts. They also run information nights for girls who wish to to more explicit work so they are properly informed of what it entails and to be sure girls are comfortable.

    Also during the interview process applying models are repeatedly told and made clear of how working in this industry could effect them (in career, family/friends can see it etc etc)

    AW in no way pressure, trick or use other tactics other than being open, honest, friendly and compassionate to get women to model for them.

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    • I am aware of more women saying positive things about their experiences at AW than negative things, which is fundamentally good for all concerned.

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  4. Lots of chat going on in the AW forums. Thanks to kara_d for her kind words:

    “I also just read the Fitzroyalty article..was pleasantly surprised with how nice and thorough it was, and the nice interview with an AW model… seems like it turned the stupid herald sun article on its head showing what crap it was”.

    Also the response from tom2c7777:

    “I agree, a thoughtful well written piece, reading it makes for a fine comparison between journalism and that which the HS proffers.”

    See http://forums.abbywinters.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?postid=308091#post308091

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  5. One thing that has come to mind for me in this whole drama is the companies that are specifically being targeted, whether by the media or by state authority. I have to wonder whether a company that produced porn featuring the ‘porn standard’ – which has a somewhat more haggard and trashy and socially untouchable connotation than what appears on Abby Winters and other related sites – would be dealt with in the same way. I think that the ‘think of the children’ thing may appear to be more relevant to the models on AW because they are between 18 – 25, they look wholesome, like your daughter or the girl next door. It’s not ok for them to be ‘corrupted’ as it is ok for someone who fits the standard profile of ‘sex worker’, who were beyond our help anyway. And thus the hype.

    In using models / contributors who look this particular way, AW et al are attempting to bring about some change and freshness in a stale industry. Because they are different though, because they are breaking that stereotype in some ways, they draw attention to themselves and to the cultural conditions that make it possible for an 18-year-old girl from Crodyon and a 42-year-old Byron hippie farmgirl and a 22-year-old Fitzrovian to step into that role of the sexually desired (or the self-expressed). And that’s frightening for the sort of folks who read the Herald Sun.

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