Day 1: Stagliano Debates McDonald in L.A. Times

Joanne Cachapero
LOS ANGELES — Embattled adult producer John Stagliano has been asked to debate the question of obscenity with Pepperdine University law professor Barry McDonald in a series of articles that appear in the Los Angeles Times’ “Dust-Up” column in the Opinion section of the newspaper.

The series began today, with the focus on what is protected by obscenity laws.

Stagliano, founder of production company Evil Angel, was charged with seven counts of obscenity in April, for videos distributed by the company.

McDonald, who was on “point” today, explained his view that the scope of current obscenity laws is “narrow,” as defined by the Miller vs. California decision handed down in 1973, and outlaws only the most extreme content involving bestiality, sex acts involving excretion, sex with corpses, incest and forced sex.

However, he argued that though such extreme content might be created by consenting adults in a safe environment and then viewed by consenting adults, that there still might be harmful affects in the production and consumption of extreme pornography, and for that reason, concerns over the affects of pornographic content legitimized the government’s regulation of pornography.

McDonald also asserted that obscenity laws had been put in place to protect minors and unwilling adults from exposure to such materials. He also questioned whether adult producers did not bear responsibility to “adhere to some minimal standards of public decency to avoid the proliferation of cable channels, movie houses, adult bookstores or websites hawking this stuff and its inevitable tainting (some may say further deterioration) of the public square and consciousness?”

Stagliano took a more personal perspective, in light of his current legal issues, as well as his own view of sexuality as an individual.

“I do not think like you, Barry,” Stagliano wrote. “I believe that my sexuality should not be defined and judged by the words of the Miller decision.”

The director went on to point out that the government’s attempts to police the thoughts and expressions of individuals by applying community standards was an example of the Supreme Court caving in to societal pressures to protect the community and not the individual.

Stagliano also asked if it was “right or ethical” for the will of the people to be imposed on an individual, simply because the person might have a different definition of obscenity. In summation, Stagliano pointed out that he was up against a potential sentence of 39 years in jail, based on the difference between what he finds sexually acceptable and what might be defined as obscene or immoral.

“To a community, something may be ‘morbid,’ but to me, an individual in that community, it is not,” Stagliano countered. “To me, the pleasure I get from viewing such material is simply a wonderful expression of my biological nature.”

The debate between Stagliano and McDonald will continue through Friday. To view the complete column, click here.