Sunday, November 1, 2009

Andy Vidal Mcnair and Angela Plassmann's campaigns are funded by NoPornNorthampton's Adam Cohen

And so, what does that say about them? NoPornNorthampton stands for sex negativity, intolerance, and flouting of free speech principles.

They claim that free speech should be balanced in the case of porn b/c of the heightened crime that porn vendors bring to an area, and to prove this, cite three cases of high crime areas in which porn stores are located, with no proof that there is a direct causal connection. As for the porn store that was set up in Northampton, even those who opposed it at the time, such as mayoral candidate Bardsley, now say they hardly notice it. In contrast to the apocalyptic predictions of Cohen and his cronies, crime has not risen in the area. NoPorn attempts to pin this fact on the restrictions the council placed on the porn store at the time--smaller area, and muted advertisement--but again, there is no causal proof for this assertion. There is no inherent danger the can be conclusively proven in porn vending that can preempt the principle of free speech. The moral and aesthetic objections of Cohen and his ilk are not enough to cancel out the First Amendment in this city.

Adam Cohen is one of those men that has the temerity to define feminism for us women. Despite third wave feminism's embrace of sex workers and its insistence that women have the right to do as they wish with their body and their sex, his NoPornNorthampton is based on an idea of sex workers--female sex workers are the only ones spoken of--as universally brainwashed, exploited beings with no agency, implying that all of them are trafficked and virtually incarcerated in the industry. Trafficking is certainly a problem, a true atrocity that should be dealt with, but research has shown that those who are trafficked make up a tiny minority compared to sex workers who voluntarily enter the industry (in fact, a recent Guardian article showed that not one person who had been forcibly trafficked into the industry could be found in one large scale investigation, and that incredibly inflated numbers had been used knowingly by sex industry opponents for quite some time.) To conflate the two groups does huge disservice to both--insulting the dignity and agency of the latter and taking the focus away from the crimes perpetrated against the former. Finally, the prurient focus on sex takes attention away from the much larger group of migrants that are forcibly trafficked into unpaid domestic labor or farm work.

And the legal porn industry, with all the regulation imposed upon it, is *certainly* not made up of cowering sex slaves.

The issue is more complicated than the old trope of women's bodies being comodified by men. Women now make up half the pay per view porn market, and a sizable proportion of other porn markets. Women are not just workers in the sex industry, but consumers of it. In fact, the other porn store in this area, Oh My!, is a feminist sex store, and the proliferation of similar businesses throughout the country exemplifies women's demannd for porn, erotica, and sex toys. Furthermore, workers in the porn industry are not just women, but also men and trans people. (In fact, porn is one of the few industries in which unskilled women make considerably more money than men in the same field do.)

Cohen claims his movement is pro-marriage, as if there was only one model of marriage, as if there wasn't a booming sector of erotica created for couples to enjoy together, as if a marriage in which a couple explore their sexuality together is not a valid one. He claims his movement is against STIs--as if the small market catering to the "bareback" fetish was the be all and end all of porn, as if the free discussion of sex did not create a space for the free discussion of safer sex, as if the entire gay porn industry did not show condom use as an industry standard, as if instruction in safer sex and erotica weren't combined in many products made by more progressive pornographers. He quotes the worst figures from Dr. Sharon Mitchell's Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation (AIM) without stopping to compare these figures of STIs with the general population or noting the fact that in contrast to the general population, adult industry workers are all tested regularly for HIV and other STIs. In the recent porn industry HIV scandal, which included a small handful of cases, it was determined that in fact, the infection came from OUTSIDE the adult industry. And in fact, since 2004, AIM has tested 1,200 actors, and only 15 tested positive for syphillis while only 22 tested positive for HIV.

Cohen also characterizes his movement as "pro kindnesss" and "pro equality", as if sexuality is somehow antithetical to these things.

Adam Cohen is championing and funding Andy Vidal Mcnair because the incumbent he is challenging, Maureen Carney, voted against the restrictions on the porn store. Given the considerable funding Cohen has put behind Plassmann and Mcnair's campaigns, what will he expect in return if they are voted into city council seats? Votes for censorship. Votes for a sanitized, sex-neutered Northampton, a city which was originally a haven for alternative sexuality but may become a place where those of us who are kinky, those of us who enjoy erotica, those of us who work in or support the adult industry in all its guises may become distinctly unwelcome.