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The UK Porn Industry Gets Nasty

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Anti-pornography feminists from five nations will gather in the UK on 15 March to strategise about how to build an international movement that raises awareness about the harms of the sex industry.

The gathering will be convened by Stop Porn Culture (SPC), a US-based feminist non-governmental organization dedicated to challenging the porn industry and the harmful culture it perpetuates. Across the pond that very same weekend, in Virginia, pro-porners will be holding a conference, Catalystcon, that will feature well-known pornographers such as Tristan Taormino, and is sponsoring a range of workshops that willfully ignore the damage porn does to both performers and the culture at large. Anti-porn feminists have not been invited to Catalystcon, and we didn't expect to be. As much as we disagree with their views, it is their conference, and they are welcome to it.

But what is good for the goose, is not in this case, good for the gander. A UK group called Sex and Censorship has set up a Facebook page to organize a protest of our conference, boasting that "Pornstars, others in the sex industries, and their supporters, will come together in London to protest against the Stop Porn Culture event that aims to censor sexual expression in the UK."

Wow! Who knew that our underfunded, overworked group of activists had such power, or that censorship was our goal? Certainly as feminists, we put up a good fight, create cutting-edge educational materials, give great presentations, and get lots of publicity, but gosh, how are we going to censor sexual expression in the entire United Kingdom on such a limited budget?

For all their arguments about being anti-censorship, it is actually Sex and Censorship who want to silence us. The goal of this "protest" is to scare away potential participants, force the owners of the venue sponsoring our conference to spend more money on security, and to whip up a frenzy of hate against us. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Twitter, which is alive with tweets from porn industry shills making ridiculous statements about the goals of SPC. Chief shill is the Free Speech Coalition (the lobbying arm of the porn industry) telling performers that SPC is "trying to take away your right to work in the adult industry." No wonder, with lies like this, the hate intensifies to the point that porn performer Arabelle Raphael tweeted on Sunday, February 23, "I wish Gail Dines would Just Kill Herself."

The FSC makes out that we are the enemies of women in the porn industry. This is the same FSC that fought tooth and nail against a Los Angeles city council ordinance that required the use of condoms to protect performers from sexually transmitted diseases. This is an industry that shows nothing but contempt for the health and safety of its employees, yet FSC Executive Director Diane Duke told MSNBC that "clearly our industry's priority is the health and well-being of our performers."

In writing my book Pornland, I watched hundreds of scenes from the most popular porn movies, and I regularly saw a mixture of saliva, semen, feces, and vomit on the set. No surprise that in a study published in the December 2012 issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases that examined 168 sex industry performers (67% were female; 33% male), 47 (28%) were diagnosed with a total of 96 infections. Even more troubling, according to the authors, was that the porn industry's "protocols" significantly under-diagnose infections; 95% of oropharyngeal and 91% of rectal infections were asymptomatic, which, the authors argue, make them more likely to be passed on to partners both in and outside of the sex industry.

And should the performers contract HIV and go public, then the porn industry comes after them with a vengeance. Take, for example, porn performer Cameron Bay, who in September of last year at a press conference organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, described how, in her last shoot before testing positive for HIV, her partner's penis was bleeding, and even though he wasn't wearing a condom, the filming continued. She described another shoot in which one of the actors she was working suffered a cut. Rather than stop shooting, the director went on to film an explicit scene.

Instead of standing by this woman and offering her free health care and emotional and financial support in dealing with a potentially life-threatening disease, the Real Porn Wikileaks posted Cameron Bay's juvenile arrest record on the website above the question: "Is Cameron the kind of person who would lie to evade responsibility for her actions? Let's see what Maricopa County and the State of Arizona have to say about that..." And to top this, Diana Duke, had the gall to blame the victim by suggesting she got HIV off the set when she claimed that "while producers and directors can control the film set environment, we can't control what performers do in private."

So here is what Stop Porn Culture has to say to porn performers: Don't come to our conference to protest, come to organize with us against an industry that treats you as a commodity, when they can make a profit off of you, and then as a liability if you speak out about the harms done to you physically and emotionally. Your health is worth more than this, and feminists are your allies, not your enemies. The goal of the porn industry is to divide women because they understand only too well that a united international feminist movement will be their death knell.

Gail Dines is a professor of sociology and women's studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press). She a founding member of Stop Porn Culture (stoppornculture.org)