Although approximately 50 spectators crowded into Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building for the "Victims of Pornography Summit," there were surprisingly few "victims" in evidence. No one in the audience on May 19 identified him or herself as one, and only three speakers claimed to be, including the summit's moderator, Penny Nance, of the Kids First Coalition.
"I am a victim of pornography," said Nance in her opening remarks. "When I was early in my pregnancy with my first child, I had the unfortunate incident of being attacked by someone who, I later discovered, when talking with the police, was very heavily involved in pornography. It was a very saddening thing to learn."
Nance's statement contained what turned out to be a common theme of speakers throughout the approximately two-hour session: Sexual predators are discovered to have possessed sexually explicit materials; therefore, the use of such materials unquestionably caused some subsequent example of abuse or assault or rape or pedophilia. A scientist, however, would simply note, "Correlation is not causation."
The first speaker, Rep. Katharine Harris (R-Fla.), put forth a variation of that theme. Harris, it will be remembered, was Florida's Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential election, and it was she who ordered ballot recounting to stop, thereby assuring Bush's ascension to the Oval Office. Her own ascension, less than two years later, to represent what one commentator termed a "safe district" on Florida's southwest coast, with the help of a $3 million war chest and plenty of support from Republicans at the state and federal level, is undoubtedly what the Miami Herald referred to as "Harris' lucky streak."
"It's hard to imagine what actually sponsors such unspeakable evil," Harris said, referring to the widely-reported attacks on three Florida children. "There are many contributing factors, but often, we hear about the consumption of pornography and how slowly but surely it's that kind of malignant desensitizer that changes a person's entire perception and becomes often the horrific denominator of crimes against children and women. But many studies have shown that these links between pornography and sexual abuse or violence are – they relate back to pornography, and I think lawmakers can no longer step back and not become more sensitive about that. It obliterates the wall between the individuals' sick fantasies and the compulsion to act upon them, and this is what Ted Kennedy said a day before he went to his execution. Dr. James Dobson interviewed him and it was written about in President Peter – Robert Peters' article for the Morality In Media. It was entitled, 'The Link Between Violent Pornography and Violent Sex Crimes,' and Ted Kennedy said, 'It happened in stages, gradually. My experience with pornography that deals on a violent level with sexuality is one that you become addicted to.' He said, 'I would keep looking for a more and more potent, explicit graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something that's harder and harder, something which gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where pornography only goes so far.'"
For those who don't remember Ted Kennedy – and though there are many Americans with that name, the most famous is the Senator from Massachusetts – being executed in Florida as a serial killer, Harris eventually managed to use the actual name of the person to whom she was referring, Ted Bundy. ("Oh, Dr. Freud, your slip is showing...") What she failed to mention was that Bundy's confession to Dobson, after Dobson agreed to fund Bundy's final legal appeal, was actually his third. In his first two, he blamed, in one, his use of alcohol, and in the other, the effect of seeing high school cheerleaders practicing their cheers as the motivators for his multi-state killing spree.
Harris then touched on a theme that first came to prominence during the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) on March 16: Human trafficking in sex slaves for porn performances.
"If you start doing a Google search on 'human trafficking' or 'sex slaves'," she claimed, "[you can find] literally hundreds of thumbnail images of women of every type of ethnicity and every type of pose. They were bound, they were gagged, they were clearly in distress, they were contorted, and ... these cyberauctions were reaching up to $300,000 in some cases for these women. So this potential marriage of pornography and the Internet and sex slavery is really horrifying, and so we're hoping to really address that."
Harris plans to propose legislation that she refers to as "Carlie's Law," after Carlie Brucia, a 13-year-old girl kidnapped and killed in Florida in 2002. Among other things, Harris' proposed law "would apply the RICO statutes on those sexual predators so that, should they be caught and convicted, there would be the asset forfeiture that we could attack those assets, and that funding would be used for these victims as well as for education in the future," Harris explained, adding, "I think we need to make these links so much more clear in terms of pornography and the extension of the violence and sexual abuse that will follow when it pertains to women and children."
The next "victim of pornography" to speak was Phil Burress, founder of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values. Burress led off a panel titled "Victimization of Women and Children by Pornography," which also included Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Daniel Weiss of Focus on the Family (FotF); and Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a former psychiatrist.
"I was raised in a Christian home, and I went to church as much as three times a week, so I certainly knew the difference between right and wrong," Burress began. "But at 14 years old, I was on my way to school one morning and I found a pornographic magazine – and it wasn't pornographic in the sense that's out there today; it was more what they call softcore pornography – and what happened was, I really liked it. I mean, what 14-year-old boy wouldn't like pornography? I didn't even know that this existed. And I pursued it, and I hid the magazine and I kept it, and by the time I was 16 years old and got my driver's license, I was visiting downtown Cincinnati where they had plenty of bookstores on just about every corner; they had bookstores, massage parlors, peep booths and strip bars, it was the home of Larry Flynt – downtown Cincinnati was plagued; it was a red light district. And so I was going to these stores, and they didn't care about my age, and frankly, if I didn't have the money to buy pornography, I was hooked on it so bad, I stole it."
While Burress's story, at least to this point, is probably fairly typical of how middle-American youth gets exposed to sexual material for the first time, what leaps out is Burress's apparent inability to communicate his new-found obsession to his parents – but since he (and, likely, his parents) went to church three times a week, there's every reason to believe that his parents would not have responded positively even if he had.
Burress went on to claim that his "25-year addiction" to porn led to his divorce from his first wife – no mention what caused the divorce from his second wife – and fantasies about abusing women, but that his "strong upbringing and being in church that built that roadblock that stopped me." Burress's logic seemed to be that since he personally was unable to deal with his obsession about porn, the fault lay not with himself, but with the material, and that's why it should be suppressed.
Imagine if he were obsessed with chocolate; he might now be pushing to drive candy manufacturers out of business and to rename Hershey, Pennsylvania!
"We've done polling in Cincinnati," Burress said, "where now we have no strip bars, we have no massage parlors, we have no – Larry Flynt has a store there, but he agreed in 1998 by court order, by pleading his store guilty of pandering obscenity, he could never again sell X-rated tapes, so Cincinnati is free."
Jimmy Flynt, owner of the Hustler Hollywood store in downtown Cincinnati, took issue with Burress's remark.
"That's bullshit," Flynt countered. "I'm selling a full line of X-rated videos and DVDs in downtown Cincinnati. We've got a very beautiful store. The city of Cincinnati seems to like the fact that we're low-key, we don't create any problems, we're in a good part of town. It's a very attractive store. We get a lot of favorable write-ups in local news. "
But facts have never slowed anti-porn zealots.
"The surveys that we did in the schools, we found that nine years old is the average age of exposure now, and 95 percent of our kids have seen it," Burress claimed. "So the question is, what in the world is happening to our children? What's happening to our young men? And all you have to do is turn on the TV at night and you hear about the sexual crimes; you hear about seven and 11-year-olds raping 4-year-old girls, and the abductions, and I've never met a police officer yet who investigated a pedophile that did not find pornography. Every one of them say that pornography's always on the scene."
Jimmy Flynt, on the other hand, noted that he'd recently read in the newspaper that across the country, rape is down 80 percent and violence against women is down 40 percent, with adult material more available than ever before. A scientist, however, would simply note, "Correlation is not causation."
Marsha Gilmer-Tullis talked about her work combating child exploitation – interesting, but she drew no connections between the availability of sexual materials for adults and, for example children pressed into prostitution by adults. The audience, however, seemed to be able to fill in that gap all on its own.
Focus on the Family's Daniel Weiss described himself as a "Media and Sexuality Analyst," and his bio on FotF's Website notes that his "knowledge spans pornography and obscenity law to media messages and imagery. In addition to covering legislative and enforcement aspects, Daniel tracks the cultural developments, business trends, and media messages that contribute to the mainstreaming of pornography. Daniel's writings on sexuality, media, and life have appeared in The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, Citizen magazine, Boundless webzine, and BreakPoint Online, among others."
In other words, like many of the "experts" trotted out by the pro-censorship forces, Weiss has no credentials whatsoever for the work that he does.
Weiss was the first to mention Judge Gary Lancaster's ruling dismissing all charges against Extreme Associates and its owners, which Weiss opined "underscores a growing lack of recognition in the cultural and legal realms of the harm and the threats posed by pornography to individuals, families and society."
"Ultimately, for obscenity law to be effectively and consistently enforced, our culture must understand the facts on pornography," Weiss continued. However, Weiss's "facts" consisted of references to Dr. Victor Cline, a long-time anti-porn advocate, and Dr. Patrick Carnes, who apparently runs SexHelp.com, a "sexual addiction" recovery site, neither of whom, according to a Web search, has done peer-reviewed research; also a claim that "two-thirds of divorce attorneys attending a 2002 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said that excessive interest in online pornography contributed to more than half the divorces they dealt with that year," and the results of an online poll conducted by FotF which, since they're well-known as a fundamentalist religious ministry, just might possibly have failed to reach a representative sample of the U.S. population.
Other "facts" mentioned by Weiss were that "a 2001 report found that over half of all sex offenders in Utah were adolescents, and that children as young as eight years old were committing felony sexual assaults on their classmates," and that "the porn industry fights laws such as the Child Online Protection Act [COPA], which requires pornographers to use age verification systems, because they know this flood of pornographic imagery is creating a whole new generation of consumers." [Emphasis added] (The adult industry's take on COPA is too involved to recount here – see back issues of AVN – but the industry has consistently supported parental oversight of children's Internet usage, and the creation of filtering programs that distinguish between sexually explicit material, and legitimate sexual education sites that would be beneficial to adolescents.)
Eventually, Weiss got to the pro-censorship crowd's latest theme: "Although the Supreme Court was clear in Miller v. California that hardcore pornography enjoys no First Amendment protection, lax federal and state law enforcement has essentially given obscenity the protection denied to it in the Constitution. This lack of enforcement has allowed a back-alley enterprise to grow into an unprecedented global trade in human persons. Pornography turns people into commodities; men and women are seen as sexual objects to be bought, sold, used and then discarded. The last time the United States recognized human beings as consumer goods, it took a civil war to end it." [Emphasis added.]
"We should not be shocked with sky-rocketing STD rates or marital or family breakdown, nor when men rape women and children, or even when children rape one another," he continued. "These developments are entirely consistent with the explosive growth of pornography." What? Nothing about global warming? The tech stock collapse? The Iraq war? The two-headed baby shown on 'Oprah!'? Surely they also are "entirely consistent with the explosive growth of pornography." What isn't?
A scientist, however, would simply note, "Correlation is not causation."
"This is not harmless adult entertainment as some would like us to believe, but a real, measurable and undeniable threat to individuals, families and society." It would probably have been helpful, then, if Weiss had presented some "real, measurable" scientific evidence of his claim. He, and everyone else at the summit, failed to do so.
If there was a star at the summit, though, it was probably Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, an M.D. (1982, U. of Tex.), Board-certified in psychiatry in 1988, who for the past four years has been pursuing a Ph.D. in physics, most recently at the University of Nice, France. Satinover was one of the invited witnesses to Sen. Sam Brownback's November, 2004 hearing on "The Science Behind Pornography Addiction"; however, a Google search of Satinover's Website for "pornography" reveals no result. There is no indication that he has ever researched the subject for publication.
Apparently a devout Catholic, Satinover is past president of the C.G. Jung Foundation (suggesting that he follows that psychiatric discipline) and has written several books, most notable of which are 'Feathers of the Skylark: Sin, Compulsion and our Need for a Messiah'; 'Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth' (in which he wrote that homosexuality, for which Satinover claims no genetic basis, "is but one of the many forms of 'soul sickness' that are innate to our fallen nature."); 'Cracking the Bible Code' (Satinover seems to think there actually is one); and 'The Quantum Brain', which one critic described as "a fusion of neuroscience and quantum physics for the audience of soap-operas and talk shows."
Satinover also displays a couple of interesting fetishes on his site. For instance, he refers to his Bachelor of Science degree from M.I.T. as a "S.B." rather than the more common "B.S." – and clicking on a menu button labeled "Dan Rather" takes one to a blurry "reproduction" of a (typewritten) letter from George Washington predicting that a "Dan Rather" who will one day work for CBS News is a "forgery."
Hence, Satinover's preconceived biases and his qualifications to make statements like, "in fact, international trafficking in human beings, and in particular sexual slavery, has become now the third largest international organized crime source of money after drug trafficking and arms trafficking, and experts in the field, including Ambassador Miller of the State Department here, recognize, along with ... radical feminists, that the driving source for the rise in international sex slavery is pornography" and that "the driving source for sexual slavery around the world is the intense, basically addictive nature of pornography" are open to question.
"Unfortunately," Satinover charged, "what has happened is that you will hear ... critics of pornography addressed in a kind of sneering tone by people who think they're enlightened, that this is just some innocent entertainment, and that anybody who criticizes it is either some kind of ignoramus, an evangelical ignoramus, or a hyper-intellectual on the left, and without a brain in their heads. I happen to have degrees from MIT, Harvard, Yale, I teach at Princeton – as I said, I do research in theoretical physics. I think I have a fair enough background in the intellectual arts to claim that I know what I'm talking about."
Well, no. It would be stupid to consult a theoretical physicist such as Dr. Albert Einstein (even if he weren't dead) on the best way to remove an appendix, and an equally bad idea to rely on baseball legend Tommy Lasorda to solve America's balance-of-trade deficit. Expertise in one field doesn't necessarily translate into expertise in another.
So when Satinover makes statements about porn such as, "Its purpose is not in any way whatsoever to entertain. Its purpose is to generate very intense states of arousal and stimulate the viewer to masturbate and to achieve orgasm as rapidly as possible," one is led to the conclusions A) that Satinover is deficient in his understanding of the functions, historically, of art and free speech, and B) that he doesn't find masturbation or orgasms entertaining.
Satinover also mentioned a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study done in Europe that indicated physiological responses within the brain to viewing sexually explicit images, but since he gave no details of the study nor the researchers who performed it, it's impossible at this point to know if the study has been peer-reviewed or subjected to proper controls. For instance, it is well-known that the human brain responds with a release of endorphins to any number of pleasurable stimuli, including religious ecstasy and eating a favorite food. In fact, Satinover almost concedes this later in his statement.
"I have here in my testimony before the Senate hearing on pornography that was sponsored by Sam Brownback, a whole set of research studies, essentially pointing toward the fact that the craving state – this is not just the arousal state, but even the craving state in somebody who has experienced a lengthy process of pornographic viewing, arousal and orgasm – in other words, an addictive cycle – the changes in the brain are essentially identical to that which you find in any other behavioral or even chemical addiction," Satinover said. But he'd better be careful; if brain changes due to "behavioral ... addiction" are grounds for criminalization, he may go to his church some morning and find a padlock on the door because it's been found that too many parishioners are getting off on the Sunday sermon.
Very troubling, also, was Satinover's statement that, "I'm presently involved in helping the city of Los Angeles develop what I hope will turn out to be a model for a very aggressive anti-sexual-slavery trade project for the city of L.A.... I hope it will become a pilot project for other projects across the country, which specifically attempt to suppress the sexual slavery trade, and at the same time, go after the pornography industry primarily because of the role that it plays in creating sex slaves as has been described by other people here on this panel. I'm pleased to hear that that intersection was described, how pornographic tapes of women being raped and tortured are in fact an integral part of the international pornography industry, not to mention children as well."
AVN.com approached one well-known manager in the adult industry who frequently represents women from Europe, to ask if he is aware of any talent in the industry whom he would describe as a "sex slave."
"I've never heard of it," he responded. "When you say 'sex trafficking,' that's like what they have in Europe, where they basically kidnap girls from eastern Europe and bring them into western Europe and have them work as hookers. Nothing like that happens here. Any girl that comes in, does so voluntarily. I never recruit girls, so it's all by word of mouth; they call me, and I turn most of them down. I turn down two or three girls a day."
"I've had people approach me before, like in Hollywood," he continued. "I guess there's a lot of Russian hookers or eastern Europeans that they bring over and have them hooking. I've had people say to me, 'Yeah, we could hook you up with these [girls],' but besides the fact I don't want them doing it for moral reasons if they don't want to be doing it, also, you know, they wouldn't be doing a good job if they don't want to be doing it. I don't want to deal with somebody who's scared all the time that somebody's gonna kill them."
During the question-and-answer period that followed the panel, Burress made one good point about the content of adult video: "In Cincinnati, if you want to deal with X-rated tapes, come to Cincinnati and open up a store like Larry Flynt did and start pandering, guess what? You're gonna end up in court and the jury's gonna be looking at the material and determining whether they want this material in their community."
What is true in America 2005 is that video producers each decide what message they want to communicate through their products, and then must decide what communities will accept that message – or be prepared for a court battle.
But as Burress later noted, "We have lost as many cases as we have won in Cincinnati, but the way the system is set up, what most people do not understand is that this is the only law that I know of on the books where we go to trial to see if a crime has been committed" – a rare admission from a member of a subculture that assumes that all sexually explicit material is outside constitutional protections.
The next speaker was John C. Richter, acting head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, who assured the attendees that Attorney General Gonzales is serious about prosecuting obscenity – and that there's too much hardcore material around, particularly on the Internet.
"The pornography industry have made great use of the Internet for their own insidious purposes," he claimed. "As a result, for the first time in human history, hardcore pornography was made available to everyone, at home and away. Adults and children could find it when they looked for it and pornography found them even when they weren’t looking for it. Today, you don’t have to drive down the dark back alleys of a big city to find hardcore pornography. Instead, the Internet brings pornography right into our homes. That means our kids see it, our spouses see it – frankly, too many people see it."
"That also means that a lot of people are enticed by it," Richter continued. "It also creates an even greater danger, however, that because obscene material is so accessible, many may fail to realize that availability does not equate to legality."
That statement seemed potentially at odds with the Miller requirement that in order to be found obscene, a work would have to offend contemporary adult community standards – and if sexually-explicit material is sold in many places in the community, that would militate for its tacit acceptance by the community.
Richter also mentioned the recent indictments of John Kenneth Coil and Edward Wedelstedt, noting that Coil "recently pled guilty to racketeering offenses, to tax offense, to obscenity offense, and as part of his plea, he had to give up his essential criminal enterprise, 40 pieces of real estate and more than 20 stores. We've taken it down. The judge, of course, has sentenced him to more than five years in federal prison." What Richter didn't mention – and possibly doesn't know – is that Coil's sentence exceeds the plea agreement he made with federal prosecutors, and even the no-longer-mandatory federal sentencing guidelines, and Coil is therefore contemplating an appeal.
"I hope that you realize that we aren't backing down on the purveyors of obscenity," Richter summarized. "Our response to their increased sophistication is to increase our technical expertise. Our response to their increased brazenness is to redouble the efforts of our best prosecutors, our professionals in the law enforcement realm, to fight them. We are fortunate, I hope, that we have allies such as persons here in this room and elsewhere who are supportive of us, and I would ask those of you here in attendance today for your support of the Department as we continue to move forward on this front."
Sen. Sam Brownback also put in an appearance at the summit, and quickly placed the whole "freedom of speech" issue into perspective – religious perspective, that is.
"I hope you recognize the greatness of the moral cause you're involved in," he began. "It's kind of easy to quickly get drug into the reeds on this and think, 'Okay, this is just something I've gotta fight for,' but lift yourself up and look at the cause. This is about allowing people to be souls and to be honored rather than to be treated as material objects just for somebody else's pleasure."
Brownback also let the summit attendees in on some of his plans.
"We're going to try to host a hearing just with the Attorney General to talk about, 'Here's what we're doing on pornography prosecution'," he said. "I chair the Constitution subcommittee. We've held one hearing on this already; we hope to have a couple of others, one with just the Attorney General; a second one with people that have been trafficked into the United States for purposes of pornography, and tying the two topics of trafficking, human trafficking in with pornography, because we're now finding – we just had Dr. Jeffrey Satinover in to testify. He has been building this linkage in the primary areas in southern California where the pornography industry is located, of people, women primarily, actually trafficked in there for pornography purposes, and we're trying to put together that hearing of the two being tied in together."
AVN would also be interested in meeting "women ... actually trafficked in[to the Los Angeles area] for pornography purposes." Hopefully, Brownback will announce the date of that proposed hearing well in advance, unlike all the other hearings that he's held regarding the adult industry.
During a break following Brownback's talk, moderator Penny Nance expressed her appreciation for AVN's attendance at the conference, but when it was pointed out that a more comprehensive sex education curriculum in the public schools might reduce the need for another such gathering, she expressed confusion as to the connection.
Moreover, Ricci Levy of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation reports that when she (Levy) suggested that for a more rounded picture of the issue, future conferences might want to include attorneys or spokespersons from the adult industry, Nance told her that no industry guests would be invited to participate. In fact, attorney Paul Cambria, founder of the Adult Freedom Foundation, offered to Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Penna.), one of the summit's sponsors, to provide "a pool of attorneys, researchers and industry executives who are experts on the adult entertainment industry" who would be willing to address the summit, but the offer was rejected.
Pitts himself did address the attendees, interrupting the event's second panel, "Experts on Pornography and the Law," but not before the first panelist, attorney Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America (CWfA), got to tell of her own victimhood.
"The reason I do this," she said, "is several reasons, one of which is, I too was victimized by pornography as a young child and also as an older minor. I was involved in looking at pornography with several businessmen, some of whom I worked for, and once a month, it became part of my job description to go out and buy the latest issue of Playboy magazine, go back, lock up the office, turn off the phones, mix the martinis – I was a minor – and look at the magazine with my bosses, and some of their business friends that they would invite over at the time. These were all executives; these were lawyers, CPAs, executives in the insurance industry, and one was a Superior Court judge. They all knew my age. I had no idea the impact it was having on my life by both looking at pornography and consuming alcoholic beverages at the same time. But one day, these men, after I had too many martinis, convinced me that I was prettier than the women in the magazine, and wouldn't I like to pose for them, and one of them just happened to have a camera with him."
LaRue went no further with the tale, leaving it unclear whether she actually posed for the pictures – does simply being asked to pose for photos, presumably in some state of undress, qualify as victimization? – but the experience apparently formed the basis for LaRue's current view that, "I'm not saying that everybody that looks at pornography becomes a child molester or a rapist or an addict, but a significant of them do, and the crimes are so horrific that one victim is one too many."
LaRue then delved into a short history of obscenity law, quoting Justice William Brennan's statement in Roth v. United States that "Implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance. This rejection for that reason is mirrored in the universal judgment that obscenity should be restrained, reflected in the international agreement of over 50 nations, in the obscenity laws of all the 48 states, and in the 20 obscenity laws enacted by the Congress from 1842 to 1956. We hold that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press,' but failing to note Brennan's repudiation of that position in his dissent in Miller v. California, the foundation of modern obscenity law.
LaRue quoted several paragraphs from Chief Justice Warren Burger's majority opinion in Miller, including the three-prong test as well as some examples that Burger termed "plain examples" of material that could be suppressed. She noted that, "The court went on to say, 'Sex and nudity may not be exploited without limit by films or pictures exhibited or sold in places of public accommodation any more than live sex and nudity can be exhibited or sold without limit in such public places. At a minimum, prurient, patently offensive depiction or description of sexual cond