opinion

Law Beat: December, 2005: 1

Gregory A. Piccionelli
It's the holiday season once again, and all over the country members of the adult entertainment industry are gathering with non-industry family and friends at parties. While there is nothing special about adult industry entrepreneurs attending such get-togethers, what is unusual, and unfortunate, is the fact that many will not be talking about their — often phenomenally successful — careers and businesses with family and friends.

Many will try to re-characterize their occupation in an attempt to "sanitize" what they do. Some, for example, will characterize their online adult business as a nondescript "Internet company." Others will describe their adult video production business as "a post production company." Perhaps most tragically, many adult performers will even be compelled to completely fabricate their careers.

It is not difficult to understand why this happens. The adult entertainment business is unfairly and brutally stigmatized. Our industry is often characterized as "dirty," "mob controlled" and, most insidiously, a purveyor of child pornography. While we all know that none of this is true, most participants in the business simply do not want to deal with the uninformed comments, hypocritical moralizing and mutual discomfort often associated with candid discussion of their business. So the stigma continues.

It is important to note, however, that this situation is not unlike the one the gay community faced only a few years ago. In fact, the industry can learn an important lesson from the gay community's courage to directly confront ignorance, negative stereotypes and harmful bias. For it is only after gays began to "come out of the closet" en masse that they became a potent political force to be reckoned with.

As the adult entertainment business comes under increasing attack by the government and its right-wing religious sponsors, and even liberal democrats seem willing to jump on the anti-porn "family values" bandwagon, it may be time that the members of the industry seriously consider the merits of following the gay community's example of substituting apathy, fear and shame with activism, courage and pride.

So, in that spirit, here is a reminder of some of the reasons why we all should be proud to be in, or associated with, "The Business." Also, for those who like a good verbal joust with judgmental family members, friends or others critical of what you do, feel free to use the points below as a handy clip of debating ammo.

A Few Facts
The adult entertainment business supplies a legal product that is in very high demand. Our industry is big business by anyone's standards. By some estimates the adult entertainment industry is a $15 billion-a-year business in the U.S alone. That's bigger than the music, football, baseball and basketball industries combined.

Worldwide, the industry is estimated to be a $50 billion behemoth that is growing at a double-digit yearly pace. Adult pay-per-view purchases dwarf the combined total of all other offerings on hotel in-room entertainment systems. Billions of DVDs are purchased or rented each year. Millions of Americans patronize gentlemen's clubs. Tens of millions of people consume adult content online.

The adult entertainment business is a major taxpayer and a major employer and generates huge tax revenues for Uncle Sam (estimated at more than $5 billion a year). Many of the groups that would like to destroy the industry, such as Evangelical Christian churches and nonprofit anti-porn family values organizations, are tax exempt.

Adult entertainment businesses directly employ more than 200,000 taxpaying citizens in the U.S. alone. Thousands more are employed by non-adult entertainment companies indirectly involved in the production and distribution of adult content, such as hotels offering adult pay-per-view programming, payment processing companies, DVD duplicators, attorneys, accountants, etc.

The adult entertainment industry plays a significant role in launching new entertainment platforms and has traditionally been an early adopter of new technology and a successful developer of innovative new business models. From the VCR to the DVD player, from telephonic audio-text services to the Internet, early demand for adult content in each of these media was a significant, if not critical, factor contributing to their success. Moreover, online adult entertainment entrepreneurs originated nearly every successful e-business model in use today.

Looking forward, it appears that the adult entertainment industry will again be instrumental in accelerating the adoption of new entertainment technologies such as high-definition DVD players, sexually explicit computer games and tactile sensing and reproducing devices.

Consumption of non-violent adult entertainment does not lead to violent sexual activity. For decades, some conservative politicians and religious extremists have attempted to convince the public that there is an association between the consumption of mainstream adult content and violent sexual behavior. I call this "Big Lie #1." But the lie is easily refuted with the facts. Between 1968 and 1970, the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (also known as the President's Commission) concluded that:

"Empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no reliable evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal sexual behavior among youths or adults."

In part two, we'll look at the Meese Commission's take on this, and dealing with our critics.

Gregory A. Piccionelli, Esq. is one of the world's most experienced Internet and adult entertainment attorneys. He can be reached at Piccionelli & Sarno at (310) 553-3375 or www.piccionellisarno.com.

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