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Commentary: Squelching Adult Speech and Wasting Taxpayer Dollars
By: By Robert D. Richards & Clay Calvert
Posted: 7/21/2006

Los Angeles – The red carpet is rolled out, as the celebrities arrive and the cameras flash, with klieg lights shooting high up into the air on a warm July Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles.

But the stars strolling into the L.A. Center Studios for the award show are a far cry from the likes of Kate Bosworth and Meryl Streep. 

Instead, they are Casey Parker, the new contract girl for an adult entertainment company called Shane’s World, and Stormy Daniels, the writer-actor-director of adult movies for Wicked Pictures who had a recent cross-over appearance in the mainstream comedy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

It’s the nineteenth annual “Night of the Stars,” an award show and fundraiser for the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry’s primary trade association.

Most of the American public has no clue the event is taking place and probably hasn’t heard of Parker’s upcoming movie, Surfer Girls 2, but the stark reality is that Americans spend billions of dollars each year on adult content that facilitates this gala extravaganza.  Law enforcement officials, in turn, squander hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in politically motivated and fruitless efforts to squelch it in the face of First Amendment free speech challenges.

No matter how hard many people try to disavow it and no matter how hard the federal government tries to stop it with ongoing obscenity prosecutions in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Phoenix, Ariz., the adult entertainment industry is thriving as it strives for legitimacy in the mainstream business and political worlds. 

Witness the recent hiring by the Free Speech Coalition of Robert Raben, a high-powered lobbyist and former Clinton Justice Department official and counsel to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D. Mass.). 

The Washington, D.C.-based Raben Group works the halls of Capitol Hill hoping to keep lawmakers from levying an onerous sin tax on adult DVDs and magazines and fending off a new bill that would strip federal courts of their jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of local pornography ordinances.

If the adult industry has its way, you’re going to be hearing more about such efforts in the near future.

“We can take your message to the policy makers, the media and the general, everyday American who does not know who you are,” Michelle Freridge, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, told the audience of more than 200 gathered that night from all facets of the industry.

But the adult world recognizes that it faces an uphill battle.  One of its leading attorneys, Jeffrey Douglas, cautioned the crowd that when it comes to fighting the government, “wars are never won – only battles.”

It’s a war being fought by an industry with annual revenue estimated at more than $12 billion by the Adult Video News and one that employs thousands of people, pays taxes and recently proposed an industry ethics code and set of best practices.  Those practices include an admonition to empower parents to prevent access by minors to adult content, without censoring the free speech rights of consenting adults, and to use “good judgment in planning advertising, signage and window displays.”

The Free Speech Coalition hopes to have a final version of that code in place by the end of this year.
It also works hand-in-hand with the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting online child pornography – a type of content the industry today shuns and abhors.

Instead of fighting the adult business in Congress and in court at a time when far more pressing issues like the war in Iraq, upheaval in the Middle East and spiraling gas prices face the nation, it’s time that the government and the adult industry work together to both protect minors from explicit sexual content while affording willing adults the right to view it.

Robert D. Richards and Clay Calvert are professors of communications and law at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., and are living in Los Angeles this summer researching a book on the adult entertainment industry.

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