Modern Comstockery

With a few minor alterations, here is my column that ran in Adult Industry News a few days ago (March 22). It addresses the potential California condom law that targets the adult film industry.

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Source: Adult Industry News
by: Rich Moreland, March 2015


Michael Weinstein The recent shooting moratorium over a suspect HIV test undoubtedly has Michael Weinstein chortling. His vision of a new age of anti-porn vigilance with himself as California’s morality czar must seem at hand.

But Weinstein’s crusade is not a surprise, it’s just the latest round of American prudery that insists one standard of conformity fits all.

Weinstein’s fervor recalls a similar high-minded moralist of the Victorian Age who likely serves as his model. In 1873, Anthony Comstock became the US Postal Inspector by an act of Congress, beginning a tenure that lasted until 1915. Comstock took it upon himself to label birth control and abortion as obscene while pornography, also defined by Comstock, was rooted out unendingly.

A New Englander of evangelical protestant stock, Comstock had two methods of operation. First, his mission—the suppression of vice—was self-defined and individually carried out. He did not leave enforcement to underlings. Comstock took private satisfaction in book burnings (especially marriage manuals), arrests he encouraged, and even a handful of suicides of people he hounded.

Second, Comstock personally lobbied Congress to pass his bill halting the flow of obscene materials through American society. The platform of delivery in those days was the mailbox. As postal inspector, Comstock became a mini-dictator in a country governed by a constitution. And, of course, his job was funded by the taxpayers.

Sound familiar? Look closely at the newest effort by the AIDS Health Foundation. By working with California legislators one-on-one and pushing his referendum effort, Michael Weinstein sees himself as a new Anthony Comstock.

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) is on record with the pointed statement that Weinstein has “a personal obsession with the adult film industry.” In his latest revision of his 2016 ballot proposal, Weinstein has inserted the word “proponent” (singular) in describing who would control the workings of the adult industry. In other words, he’ll call the shots and only the legislature can defrock him.

According to the FSC, the “initiative grants Weinstein the power of the California Attorney General.” He will become “an unimpeachable state-subsidized porn czar.” Like Comstock, the authority is Weinstein’s alone, no minions involved.

Now that we’ve learned the HIV test was a “false positive,” the industry has dodged another bullet. But this is not the time to go about business as usual and ignore AHF until tomorrow. Action plans are due because preparation to fight back takes time.

The good news is mechanisms are in place and if anything Weinstein is galvanizing an industry that for too long has maintained a renegade attitude of doing what it wants, everyone else be damned.

As 2016 approaches, the industry has the tools it needs. There is, of course, FSC and the Performer Availability Screening Service (PASS) to impress upon the public that performers safety is not lost in the pursuit of profit. Additionally, the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC) represents a part of the industry the guy on the street little understands: the wants, needs, and responsibilities of the people in front of the camera. Both groups have a central political ingredient—organization—something that should spur industry people to lobby and educate legislators. It worked recently in stopping Isadore Hall’s broader bill from getting to a floor vote and it can again.

The California taxpayer must be informed. Michael Weinstein is set to go on the state payroll, subjecting our modern age to the old-time moralistic zealotery of Comstockery.

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