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Brea Bennett at Twistys

January 25, 2003 03:47am
Belladonna Means Poison - A Call To Action for the Adult Film Community
Source: Letters to the Editor
by: Alpha, Passion Fruit Video

As an adult film producer I watched the recent Nightline starring Belladonna and Diane Sawyer and cringed. We are living in precarious times, where a highly conservative and judgmental few in government are eager to inspect us, judge us and close us down, and we are asking for it.

Diane Sawyer's yellow journalism was certainly an eye-catcher. Now everyone who watched the show can believe that they "know" what our industry is like. The fact that the Primetime show was carefully edited to achieve a goal, ignored competing points of view and presented only the most sensationalized things that could be found will be lost on the average person who watches. I have real trouble with the hypocrisy of mainstream TV, where they use sensationalized stories about the adult industry to get better ratings, but watching the show made me uneasy about a lot of things.

As a woman, a feminist and an adult producer, I tend to grind my teeth when women demand equality and then refuse to accept responsibility for their own choices. If we truly want to be equal and run with the big dogs, we had better be ready to accept that we are making our own choices and if those choices are bad, then we have the power to choose differently. It's no fair asking for equality and then hiding behind that old "protect me from myself, I'm just a helpless woman" routine. It's no fair hiding behind childhood trauma (as horrific as that is), your parent's divorce (ditto) or PMS. It's no fair wanting to be an equal person but getting special treatment because you're too helpless and female to be competent. A man or woman who does some things in an adult film, having been fully advised and giving complete, informed consent has no one but themselves to blame if they later feel shame or discomfort with what they did. The brave thing to do is to say, "I made this choice and it was wrong for me. I won't choose that again" instead of blaming others for what you decided to do.

We, as an industry, make a great target. We suspect who the bottom-feeders are in our industry, who truly do exploit in their film-making, and yet we do nothing to stop them. We have no code of ethics to which adult filmmakers can subscribe and no means to insure that any sort of industry standard is enforced. It is true that dogs, cats and rabbits have more legal protections on the set than do women and men. To call for a change within ourselves is not capitulating to the right-wing - it is common sense. If the concept of ethical porn offends you or makes you scoff - wait till you see what the right wing politicians have in mind. If we can't find a way to make our industry safer and more ethical to the players, there are plenty of senators who would be thrilled to shut us down.

Finding a code to which all can subscribe will be tricky. But it can be done. Treating everyone in your business (from the clerks in the office to the adult stars) with humanity and respect is good business. You can turn a profit and find ways to ensure that no one feels victimized. Here are a few suggestions that might might a good place to start this conversation:

1.All adult performers should be compensated fairly for their work. The industry should come up with minimum standards for this.

2.All adult performers should be tested immediately prior to shoots for STDs (including HIV) and should not knowingly be exposed to any contagious sexually transmitted disease. Safer sex guidelines should be followed. The excuse that players are responsible for their own health (the "buyer beware" excuse) doesn't hold water. Who do you think pays for the healthcare of many HIV+ people? We, the taxpayers, do. Not to mention the agony of sick people, the grief of their families, the loss to all of us when people die for no good reason.

3.No adult actor or actress should be coerced, bribed or begged into anything they don't feel comfortable with. Period. If more dangerous or extreme is your thing, then find actors who are comfortable with your brand of kink. Performers should be fully advised before being hired as to what they will be expected to do.

4. We all should be policing ourselves in regard to the age of performers. Personally, I think raising the bar to age 21 would be a great idea - I can just hear the "barely legal" folks howl right now. If that bothers you, think how you would feel if you couldn't make movies anymore. Believe me, there are politicians who would like to see that happen.

5. No performers should be allowed to use drugs or alcohol on the set. Period. There are so many problems with allowing actors to come to the set high that the risk is not worth it. If people can't do what they do sober, then we can expect that when they sober up, some folks will have regrets and shame for what they did the day before. And those regrets can be big trouble. I have had directors tell me they can't get the girls to give good performances unless they are allowed to use something beforehand. The answer to this is - actually direct the actors, don't rely on substances to do it for you.

6. Actors and actresses should have maximum work hour times and standardized breaks. I know we're all under the pressure to get shoots done, but working people too long has serious hazards to their mental health and physical health.

7. We can all avoid using language that heaps scorn on us all as an industry. You may personally not respect the women who work in the industry (we have no thought police), but choosing better language publicly will only help us as an industry. Calling all women bitches, whores and filthy c***s may be your thing, but it only convinces John Q and Sally Public that there's some abuse going on. This is 2003 and wise people have chosen to change their misogyny or not advertise it publicly.

These basic things are already being done by ethical studios (my own company included) who are making adult films. These suggestions are meant as a starting point for dialogue, not the final word. If we don't start talking and changing, we can expect that other's will change things for us.

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