Latin America and Adult

Alex Henderson
When it comes to adult entertainment, Latin America is a highly diverse part of the world that can, depending on the country or the municipality, be either very tolerant or very restrictive. On the one hand Brazil boasts one of the largest, most successful adult entertainment industries in the world; on the other hand adult filmmaker Fred Salaff, a.k.a. Clayton Blacquemoor, found out how problematic Panama can be after he was arrested in January and sent to a Panamanian prison on morals charges that veteran adult film director Bill Margold and others believe are bogus.

Javier Santibáñez, an adult webmaster who is based in Colombia and asked that his real name not be used in this article, stressed that from a legal standpoint, adult oriented entrepreneurs need to examine Latin America on both a country-by-country and a municipality-by-municipality basis. But overall, Santibáñez has found Colombia to be very receptive to erotic entertainment.

"The market for adult material in Latin America is staggering, although there are many obstacles to overcome from the sales and distribution point of view," Santibáñez noted. "Traditional methods of billing are not as prominent as in other areas of the world, so one has to find ways to work around that."

Colombia, according to Santibáñez, offers adult webmasters a low overhead and is very tolerant of erotica. "I only work in Colombia, so I cannot really speak for other Latin American countries," Santibáñez noted. "But here in Colombia, they are very open-minded where civil liberties are concerned. Basically, as long as it does not involve minors, it is OK."

Adult-friendly Brazil
Brazil, meanwhile, has a reputation for being so adult industry-friendly that many American entrepreneurs have made adult films there using Brazilian actors. In addition to providing an abundance of adult websites, Brazil has numerous adult film companies for filmmakers, São Paulo has become the San Fernando Valley of South America. And Brazil even has what could be considered the South American equivalent of the Free Speech Coalition: the Brazilian Erotic Industry Association or, as it is known in Portuguese, Associação Brasileira das Empresas do Mercado Erótico e Sensual (ABEME). That trade organization is headed by Evaldo Shiroma, who — like FSC Executive Director Michelle L. Freridge in the United States — is often called upon to address matters pertaining to adult entertainment.

One of the issues Shiroma has been quite vocal about is the use of condoms in adult films. Most Brazilian companies consider AIDS testing unreliable and require condom use in adult films — a policy that Shiroma and the Brazilian Erotic Industry Association are very much in support of. However, condom use is not mandated by law in Brazilian adult films. Rather it is considered a gentlemen's agreement that Brazilian companies generally abide by. Some American adult film companies have made condomless films in Brazil, which is not violating any Brazilian laws but is something that Shiroma opposes. When American adult film star Darren James tested positive for HIV in April 2004 after working in Brazil (where he is believed to have contracted the virus during condomless scenes), Shiroma was widely quoted as saying that he "took a risk that many Brazilian actors won't."

Lana Starck, a Brazilian adult film star, also has been critical of the lack of condoms in American adult movies and has stressed that she refuses to have sex with any adult actor who isn't wearing one. The number of Brazilian adult films that require condom use is said to be around 80 percent.

One reason why some adult filmmakers work in Brazil is because of the lower production costs; Brazilian adult actors, for the most part, earn lower wages than their U.S. counterparts.

Trouble In Panama
But while Brazil is an adult industry hotbed, sexual freedom activist/educator/ webmaster Lisa S. Lawless, who heads the National Association for Sexual Awareness and Empowerment (NASAE) — asserted that Panama is a place that adult-oriented entrepreneurs should stay away from.

Lawless, Margold and other outspoken defenders of Salaff have said that when the American director moved to Panama, he was very up front with Panamanian authorities about his desire to make adult films in that country, and they gave Salaff the go-ahead, assuring him that he would not be in violation of any Panamanian obscenity laws.

But Salaff no doubt regretted his move to Panama when, in early 2005, he and several associates were arrested while making an adult film for Devil's Films. The most serious charge is corrupting minors — a charge Lawless says is ludicrous because there were no minors present on his set. The charge was made because some kids were climbing trees outside his property and spying. They were "visually trespassing," Lawless said.

"What is happening to Fred Salaff in Panama is an atrocity," Lawless asserted. "The charge that they have accused him of — corruption of minors — is so ridiculous because he was making a film on his private property with a very high wall. The kids were climbing trees in order to look over the sides of the wall. His intention was not for minors to be viewing his activities — that's why he had such a high wall. Fred Salaff did take precautions. He went out of his way to make sure that what he was doing would be OK with the Panamanian government."

At first, Salaff was held in Panama's infamous La Joyita Prison, which human rights organizations have often criticized for its terrible conditions. Subsequently, he was transferred to Renacer Prison, a less severe facility by Panamanian standards near the Panama Canal. However, Salaff's associates remained imprisoned in La Joyita in late May. Margold, who knows Salaff personally and has raised money for him, fears that he is receiving inadequate medical care behind bars and that his incarceration may prove fatal; Salaff, who was once operated on for a brain tumor, suffers from a variety of chronic health problems.

"Fred is a nice man who has a good reputation in this business, and the nightmare he is facing in Panama is a matter of life or death," Margold emphasized. "If this industry turns its back on Fred Salaff, they're going to be writing his obituary."

Adult webmaster Rick Latona once worked in Panama, although he didn't have any legal problems in that country and ended up leaving for business reasons. "We went to Panama not to target Panamanians or other Latinos but rather, to cut our expenses with less expensive labor," Latona said. "We did find it difficult to do business there. People just didn't work that hard, and the savings weren't enough. In the end, we decided to shut down our operations in Panama and move everything to the Philippines."

Changing Policies
The FSC's Freridge asserted that if an adult-oriented entrepreneur is planning to move to Latin America, he/she needs to choose a country with a long history of constitutional law and democratic traditions. Freridge said that if a country has a history of political instability, that could be a potentially dangerous environment for adult-oriented businesses.

Latin American countries that have had a great deal of political instability in the last 30 or 40 years include, among others, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Chile. Reflecting on the broader implications of Salaff's incarceration, Freridge said, "If a country doesn't have a history of case law, there aren't really any written rules about what is OK and what is not OK. Everything might seem OK until somebody is arrested and is in jail. In a country like Panama, there is a lot of discretion at the local level for law enforcement and politicians. One part of a country may be run a certain way, and another part may be run another way depending on the values and the ideology of the people who are in power locally."