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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Max Hardcore and the problem of porn

    Porn star Max Hardcore, also known by his unfortunate real name Paul Little, was recently sentenced to 46 months in prison in a decision that teaches us bitter lessons about our country. Little was brought in on charges of violating several laws in mailing “”obscene”” material to an FBI agent in Tampa, as well as providing “”obscene”” material over the Internet.

    This isn’t the first time Little has had trouble with the law; he was almost sent to prison on charges of distributing child pornography until a 2002 Supreme Court decision, which ruled sensibly (for once) that a movie must actually contain children in order to be child porn.

    If there’s anything in this country that qualifies as “”obscene,”” it has to be Max Hardcore’s films. They frequently feature plenty of urine and vomit, and Little is a master at finding new ways to verbally and physically degrade his female costars. But even Americans who, like me, are thoroughly disgusted by Little’s videos should be seriously disturbed by the verdict.

    There is still no definition of “”obscenity”” at the federal level. The closest thing is the “”Miller test”” established in the 1973 Miller v. California case. According to the test, material is obscene if it has no literary, scientific or artistic value, it depicts sexual or excretory function in a “”patently offensive way,”” or if an individual applying “”contemporary community standards”” would find that it “”appeals to the prurient interest.””

    It is difficult to imagine a more ham-handed way to legislate morality than by applying “”contemporary community standards.”” Obscenity laws provide nothing more than a cheap way to pigeonhole objectionable material into non-protection by the First Amendment – Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald aptly compared this to the Bush regime redefining “”torture”” so as to escape the confines of the Fifth Amendment.

    On the other hand, Little would never have been such a successful pornographer but for the way he (mis)treats his female stars. The only defense anyone seems able to offer is that Little and his costars have entered into an agreement and, as two consenting adults, they’re free to do anything within the confines of those agreements. If the female talent feels bad afterwards, too bad! It’s her own damn fault and she knew what she was getting into.

    If you’re one of these people, I’m going to recommend that you do the unthinkable: Sit down and watch one of Max Hardcore’s videos. Your intrepid columnist tried to sit through an entire video as research for this column, but after about 90 seconds I was cringing hard enough to turn my body inside-out. It’s that bad.

    When you see the female star’s eyes, her body covered with all manner of fluids, her makeup smeared haphazardly, her orifices dilated and discomfort practically radiating from her facial expression, then you can say it was “”her own damn fault”” and assert that Hardcore’s films are merely a matter of an agreement between two consenting adults.

    Hardcore’s extreme scenes may seem atypical in this respect. But Hardcore is just one of many blemishes on the underside of the gonzo porn industry that makes a living by preying on unsuspecting girls who don’t know any better.

    The basic pattern is all too common: A young woman, down on her luck and with few alternatives available, turns to making a cheap porno, perhaps due to a momentary lapse of judgment or a failure to understand exactly what she’s getting into, and quickly finds that her life has been destroyed due to feelings of regret or ostracism from her friends and family.

    I knew a girl in high school who ended up in a cheap porno. She was a nice girl and someone who advertised herself as

    having Christian values. She went to school out of state and lost a scholarship for some reason, so she decided to shoot a shady gonzo flick. One facial and $200 later, she wasn’t any closer to staying in school, but her dignity was pretty much destroyed forever.

    There’s an obvious parallel between some forms of pornography and payday lending or crack peddling. Most people, except for the staunchest of libertarians, would agree that the latter two are not simply a matter of an agreement between two consenting adults. They represent predatory practices in which people engage against their better interest, and it’s acceptable for the government to protect people from themselves in extreme cases like this.

    Pornography is a form of speech, and government interference in the porn industry rubs people the wrong way because it often devolves into outright censorship. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is, but I know that it isn’t throwing people in jail under the pretense of ill-defined “”community standards,”” nor is it an “”anything-goes”” laissez-faire attitude.

    Intelligent lawmakers should be able to find ways to regulate the adult industry which protect innocent individuals from predatory pornographers and ensure that someone like Hardcore gets much less business – and fewer unwitting female volunteers – without clamping an ugly vise around the industry as a whole.

    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in

    ecology and evolutionary biology, math and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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