Editorial: You Go, Mrs. Stagliano!

PORN VALLEY—We first became aware of culture writer Susannah Breslin from links to her former blog, The Reverse Cowgirl (now sadly defunct), and she's written often on the adult industry, even coming to the Valley a year or so ago to interview adult personalities and visit sets ... and AVN's offices as well.

But despite her fairly frequent posts about all things adult, her feelings about the industry seem conflicted at best, and occasionally hostile. Her posting last week about (though not primarily focused on) Paul "Max Hardcore" Little on trueslant.com falls into that latter category—and Mrs. Stagliano, wife of indicted producer John Stagliano, noticed.

Ostensibly a piece about the new movie from Debi Diamond Films, This Ain't Max Hardcore: A XXX Parody, Breslin uses the opportunity to wail on the titular imprisoned director, repeating charges most other commentators have made long before her, though perhaps not quite as eloquently. But still ...

"Max’s movies aren’t shocking—not most significantly," Breslin wrote. "They are sad. Everyone suffers. No one is happy. If joy is located at one end of the spectrum, this is where its opposite resides. This is the monstrous mating of unfulfilled longing and untenable hate. Their progeny: an abomination."

Breslin also attempts to take liberal Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald to task for his questioning the hypocrisy of a Justice Department that gives torture enabler John Yoo (and those who implemented his policies) a pass while targeting Hardcore's consensually made BDSM fare, which resulted in a 46-month sentence for the moviemaker.

"Reading Greenwald's post, I wondered if he had ever watched a Max Hardcore movie," she wrote shortly after Hardcore was convicted. "I sent him an email, asking if he had. A few minutes later, I received a reply. 'No, I haven't. But I read about its content. Why?' I replied: 'You should.' He replied: 'I really don't care what consenting adults do with one another in order to entertain themselves or please themselves sexually—I'm not a busy body trying to sit in judgment of what other adults choose to do with themselves, especially in their sex lives. Not even the Government claimed that these films involved minors or non-consent, so as far as I'm concerned, it's nobody's business what they do, and whatever they do isn't going to change my mind in the slightest.' In 1964, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart opined famously of pornography: 'I know it when I see it.' In Greenwald's case, one would imagine it would be hard to know what one has seen if one has not, in fact, seen it. If one hasn't seen 'it,' how can one know what one has seen?"

Clearly, the implication is that if Greenwald had seen a Max Hardcore movie, he'd change his mind about defending the actor/director's free speech rights; as if viewing women being urinated upon or slapped across the face would change the wording of the First Amendment.

But as John Stossel pointed out on his Fox Business Channel show last week, in his "Bill of Rights" episode, during which John Stagliano was a guest, the First Amendment doesn't exempt obscenity from the laws about freedom of speech that Congress is forbidden to make. And while Stossel contradicted himself later in the show, apparently accepting the Supreme Court's power to exempt other speech like "fighting words" and false advertising from the constitutional language, he appeared to agree with Judge Andrew Napolitano, another guest, that after the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Stevens, even snuff movies (which Stossel was quick to point out—erroneously—don't really exist) should be protected under the First, even if the actions that underlie the movie's depictions (murder) aren't.

Frankly, that's not necessarily a point one would want made on a show where one is discussing the illegality of federal obscenity laws.

(While any non-deprecating appearance on a national cable TV show must be counted as a coup for an adult director, Stagliano barely got a chance to state his case—and couldn't even [or was advised not to] say that one of the movies charged in his indictment, Milk Nymphos, involved milk enemas; apparently the word "enema" is verboten, even on this non-FCC-censorable cable show.)

In any case, Mrs. Stagliano was moved to respond to Breslin's anti-Max piece, and her entire email can be found here. However, some of her statements are well worth repeating.

"With regards to Max Hardcore's trial, I understand completely that you're disgusted by Max Hardcore's movies," Stagliano wrote. "There's not much, if anything, to like about them. However, I was surprised by Debi Diamond's comment regarding Max of 'you commit the crime, you do the time'. What crime did Max commit that he was actually convicted of? He's in jail for making movies where the performers say they were willing participants, and people willingly bought those movies. It was never suggested during the trial that anything nonconsensual ever happened during the making of those movies, no matter how disgusted the viewer may have been by the movies.

“If a person is disgusted by horror movies, I would think they should choose to not watch them,” Mrs. Stagliano argued. “I choose to not watch South Park, because even though I agree with the basic overall opinions of the vast majority of the episodes and topics, the way the show is presented is so callous, mean-spirited and often-times offensive, that I, more often than not, would not actually enjoy it. So after several episodes of feeling offended (even though I didn't disagree with the underlying thought), I chose to stop watching South Park. I didn't protest the show. I tell people I think it's mean-spirited, but I support the right of the makers to make the show, of their right of speech to say the things they do, and the right of Americans to watch the show if they choose."

"If Max was in jail for beating a woman against her will, or for coercing someone, I would think that would be completely justified," she continued. "When I was a porn performer many years ago, Max tried to hire me. I was well aware of him and his movies and I knew it was not something I wanted to be a part of, so I said no. I did not need the government to step in and protect me from Max, I was more than capable of making logical decisions for myself."

"When people say that Max deserves to be in jail under pretenses of an obscenity law, it creates a slippery slope of allowing people to put anyone in jail just because they made something that they simply don't like. Not everyone has to like pornography. Violent crimes should be prosecuted under every letter of the law, but if a porn movie is indeed made consensually, then even if there are people in this country who disagree with it, shouldn't we simply be able to tell those people to simply not watch it?"

John Stagliano's trial is just less than six weeks away, and if one can infer anything from recently rulings by presiding Judge Richard J. Leon, it's going to be an uphill battle ... and it's not going to be made any easier by pundits who can't understand the simple, clear wording of the First Amendment's "freedom of speech" clause.