opinion

The Politics of Porn

Bob Johnson

Sex and parties often go together. But sex and a political party?

Strange bedfellows for some, but in the land down under the Australian Sex Party has proven that the combination works, especially when the Party’s platform advocates personal liberties, sexual reform and separation from religious influence.

For nearly 20 years we have been lobbying governments for sensible law reform on a range of adult industry and civil liberty issues with mixed success.

Born out two years of the Australian adult industry group, the Eros Association, to fend off restrictive adult regulations and influence from the religious right, the Australian Sex Party has caused quite a stir by influencing elections and endorsing candidates to challenge antiadult zealots.

Led by Party president Fiona Patten, the group officially debuted in 2010 and recently gained stature as the seventh political party officially registered in Queensland — Australia’s most conservative state — and narrowly missed winning a Senate seat.

It’s also recently put pressure on the government to lift the ban on porn in the Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, calling it racist and ineffective.

Although in its infancy as far as political movements are concerned, the Party has already advocated the revocation of Queensland’s conservative abortion laws, relaxation of censorship laws, the acceptance of euthanasia and the regulation rather than banning of drugs.

But what lit the Party’s fire was the 2009 proposal of a compulsory, ISP based Internet filter to knock out adult material, a move that Patten says was “the final straw.”

“For nearly 20 years we have been lobbying governments for sensible law reform on a range of adult industry and civil liberty issues with mixed success. In many ways we had managed to keep the status quo but the Internet filter was going to change all of that. It must be remembered that Australia does not have a First Amendment or a Bill of Rights for that matter, so we cannot argue these matters in the courts like U.S. traders can.

“We decided that if we could not win these arguments through logical argument and invoking basic personal freedoms, then we’d take them on at their own game. The goal was to get at least one person elected. That is still our goal and we came pretty close last year,” Patten says.

No small feat considering that the political and electoral systems in Australia are different from the U.S. The country has a number of small political parties that are represented in state and federal parliaments, most of which are “Christian political parties” that represent a number of religious styles and philosophies.

Add to that the balancing act between Australia’s Victorian state, New South Wales and federal policy considerations — all with their own unique nuances when it comes to personal liberties and adult issues that includes things like lobbying for “R” and Xrated computer games to funding for disabled artists — and the Sex Party has its work cut out for it.

Patten says the socalled Christian faithful’s voting block influence often pushes certain parties to victory in an effort to gain their morality agendas. "This means that they have considerable bargaining power at election time on morality issues. So we decided to put an alternative on the ballot paper. As they say, ‘If I knew then what I know now,’ I’m not sure I would have put my hand up to take this challenge on.”

But Patten and the Party did, and it’s more determined than ever to stand strong. Albeit small with only 4,000 members and an even smaller operating budget, the group says its name alone gives it more “bang for our buck” than other parties.

“Initially, we considered a number of names. ‘The Liberal Party’ probably would have been the most appropriate but the Australian conservative party was already called the Liberal Party of Australia. In the end we knew we would be running on a budget of less than 1 percent of what the major parties ran on and about 5 percent of what the Christian parties ran on. We have compulsory voting in Australia so a lot of disaffected young voters chose us initially as a kind of protest vote but now we are seeing more and more voters support us because of our policies and what we call the everincreasing ‘nanny state,’” Patten says.

The group’s website asks potential members to join the fight and asks, “If you like our platform and think it accords with the way you think, why not come on board for the political ride of your life?”

To date, the Party has contested five elections and has gained more votes each time. Out of the 30-plus political parties in Australia contesting a Senate election, the Party averages fourth place behind the three major parties, Labor, Liberal and the Greens. “We now call ourselves the ‘Major Minor Party.’ In the last election that we contested we received over 5 percent of the vote and this was in an area with large Muslim and Catholic communities,” Patten notes.

The president herself contested the state election in Victoria for a seat in the upper house (the State ‘Senate’) late last year. Despite having a fraction of the budget that the other parties had to play with, she was nearly elected, falling short by only 2,000–3,000 votes.

Five elections in two years has kept the Sex Party working overtime, but it’s now settling down and concentrating on formalizing and broadening its policies along with a serious mandate to raise funds.

And Patten is calling on the U.S. for support. She says that at a time when the globe is getting smaller and smaller, it is important that the U.S. adult industry supports political initiatives from those countries who sell their products.

“Australia does not produce adult films because it is illegal to make them here. It’s only legal to sell them at a federal level as well and all adult retailers in the Australian states risk jail terms to sell U.S. adult films. The Australian Sex Party has made a big splash in just two years, but the Eros Association which launched the party, is now in desperate need of funds to continue the work and to show the adult industry in the rest of the world just how the adult industry can enter mainstream politics,” Patten says.

The Party chief is reaching out to U.S. companies to join the Eros Association in Australia “to show support for a concrete measure that can hurt the industry’s biggest critics where it really hurts them — at the ballot box.”

Admitting it’s a shameless plea for financial support, Patten nevertheless feels it’s not only necessary, but crucial to stemming the war on porn.

“For less than $1,000, supporters can help grow the Sex Party into the U.S. and other countries and show religious bigots that porn and democracy really do go hand in hand,” Patten says.

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