Tribe and 2257

Tribe.net started implementing their version of adhering to 2257 laws, and the Smart Girls’ Porn Club, among other tribes, is affected. My permanent link to the discussion group of over 450 women about porn, may not be a valid link for much longer. Women in the club lamented Tribe having the “2257 brick thrown at them”, but I have a different story to tell. My Smart Girls’ Porn Club post is below:

This might get me kicked off Tribe, so I’ll reproduce the text on my blog 🙂

Tribe has not been hit with the 2257 brick. Tribe is *voluntarily* applying the 2257 laws to itself — its members, the tribes and the very architecture of Tribe itself.

Two weeks ago Tribe asked me for a phone meeting; I didn’t know what it was about but I figured it had something to do with Tribe’s mature content. They explained to me in a half-hour conference call that they were gearing up to change Tribe’s architecture (entry pages, etc) to conform to updated 2257 laws, which are record keeping requirements. The federal law now requires website owners to keep *physical* records documenting, among other things, that “a book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, digitally- or computer-manipulated image, digital image, picture, or other matter that contains a visual depiction of an actual human being engaged in actual sexually explicit conduct” is over the age of 18. Visual depictions *after* 1990, mind you.

Link to text of law.

“Sexually explicit conduct” and “obscene” are the key words bandied about by means of definition of what falls into the law. Keeping records, according to this law, means that for each image the webmaster must have copies of the person in the images’ Social Security info and legal photo ID, and all names they have ever used in a physical location somewhere; a business that is open at least 20 hours a week.

When the Tribe guys told me what they were doing, I first lamented that I’d just finished wirting a great book about our porn club due out next year (full of awesome quotes from y’all). Then I asked just how they were going to try and define images depicting “sexually explicit conduct” and “obscenity”. I explained to them that the definitions in the law are shadowy and subjective at best, and here’s why:

Over at adult site Eros Zine, my friend (the editor) had to go through all of their images and try to define the difference between a photo that was sexually explicit vs. not. It made him insane; “Is her butt red from a sunburn or a spanking?! Is she holding her breasts in a sexually explicit way, or just posing!?” Then there’s the matter of images that fall into the freedom of speech category — 2257 would prohibit *everyone* in the US from seeing images such as the prison photos from Abu Ghraib. The law is so broad, it can include bloggers, publishers, television and Hollywood. A political or human rights tribe would be wiped off the Tribe map for failing to conform to the laws, by including an Abu prison photo in their photo album.

I then explained that they were putting themselves in the tricky position of defining obscenity — that by considering Tribe a porn producer and conforming it to 2257, the law would put them in that position. I explained to them how obscenity is defined in the American court system.

I told them that the state of the law in the United States about sexually explicit material revolves around keeping pornographers and adult retailers on their toes, never knowing for what, or when, they might be prosecuted for offending “community standards.” The law in the U.S. states that something is considered “obscene,” and therefore illegal to create or distribute, if a court *somewhere* says it is. You might hear people in and out of the adult industry say things like, “Showing urination is illegal,” or “Showing S/M with sex is illegal,” or “Portraying Bill O’Reilly as a journalist is illegal” (and if isn’t, it should be) — and all these cautious statements are incorrect. In fact, there’s only a single test, which is when a court in any of the 50 states decides that a particular thing (DVD, book, picture, fake journalist, whatever) is, by the “standards of the community,” obscene.

No one making porn knows if what they are doing is illegal or not. This situation, I explained, is reminiscent of organized crime tactics, and is not an oversight; the U.S. Supreme Court is quite aware that the only way that retailers and pornographers can really be sure they won’t be prosecuted for “obscene” material is for them to avoid portraying activities that might possibly be interpreted as obscene (and now, sexually explicit) — anywhere. In a court case for obscenity, the accused is held to whatever the local community’s standards are for obscenity, as determined by a jury.

Okay, I probably left out the part about Bill O’Reilly, but I was on my toes enough to rake them across the coals a bit to try and let them know what they were about to step into. They told me flat out that they felt that the definitions in 2257 in regards to sexually explicit conduct were absolutely clear — I even asked them to repeat the statement. I asked them to think about the fact that they were going to enter an arena of applying community standards to tribes all over the United States, and what is not obscene here in SF, like a picture of a leatherman in assless chaps, would most certainly be considered obscene to someone in a Kansas tribe.

Their reply to all this was that they were going to rely on users to “flag” images and tribes as obscene. And that they were going to rely on the architecture of Tribe to force people to join in order to even look at a URL. Of course, I was instantly upset about what this means — the links I have put on Fleshbot, and on my site to the Smart Girls’ Porn Club are essentially dead links that lead through a multiple page signup process requiring personal informaiton. No one, I told them, would click through that. Linking to Tribe would be pointless. We’d lose the women who are just curious and maybe a little nervous about porn and exploring their own sexuality — many of which are in this 450+ member tribe.

I thanked them for the courtesy call; it was clear that they had already decided all of this and the call to me was just to make nice. I told them to please call and talk to Jason Schultz over at the Electronic Freedom Foundation before making a move. I don’t know if they did; I have yet to talk to Jason. I got notices in my tribe mail about removing images as the moderator of mature tribes, the penalties and the changes to Tribe’s Terms of Use. I have done nothing. I am waiting to be penalized.

I think they are making a huge mistake, based on a law that is unenforcable. The law violates privacy — I was sent the 2257 information for the porn performers I featured in my last podcast. I now have enough information to steal the actual identity, and stalk, every performer in that film. They performers don’t even know I have that information, or who else might have it as a legal requirement, and nothing makes me more uncomfortable than having that information in my posession.

The law is meant for primary and secondary producers of porn, not online communities. The law violates our federal right to freedom of speech. The law is obstensibly created “to protect children from being exploited as [porn] performers”, not healthy adult enjoyment of human sexuality. In truth, 2257 laws are less about protecting children from porn exploitation, but instead about regulating porn businesses, free speech and healthy adult sexual expression into unfesability.

My boyfriend sent me a link this morning, “check out this dude’s Tribe profile!” I clicked the link and went to a signup page, with no login. I signed in, and tried to go to the URL, and went to the same signup page. I can’t get to the link. And what will happen to our RSS feeds!? This tribe is now frozen in Tribe time.

Update: video interview on Geek Entertainment Television: Violet Blue tells us what 2257 means to Tribe.net (post + link to video)

Update: a dear friend (who has a big famous site and wants to remain anonymous) writes me:

“Very powerful post you put up this morning (yesterday?) about Tribe eating itself. I’ve never been to their sites except once following your links to the porn club; now I clearly never will. They have just commited suicide in response to vague-but-real dangers, like a man jumping off an urban bridge because he hears approaching sirens.

A suggestion, though, if I might — please don’t confuse obscenity with “sexually explicit behavior.” I doubt you have, but your post could lead to confusion on that point — whether something is obscene has zero impact on whether 2257 applies to it, nor is 2257 content rescued by redeeming social value or a context of supportive community standards. That’s exactly why the Abu Graib torture photos are in no danger of being deemed obscene, but could still be prosecuted under 2257.”

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Practical Bestiality

I’m still catching up. Last Sunday I had the sheer pleasure of speaking at San Francisco Sex Information, the local (though national) sex hotline. They are one of the most needed and fantastic resources in the world — you can call or email them with literally *any* question about sex imaginable, and they have a staff of thoroughly trained sex educators to answer your queries. It’s totally anonymous and if they can’t answer you (which is rare, I assure you) they refer you to where you can find your answer. They should be a national treasure, and I think they are truly on the front lines of sex ed. So I got to talk to their students and feel like a sex ed badass. Or maybe that’s just "ass."

The interesting part was the panel of speakers I was on and the topic at hand: fetishes. I talked about fetish dressing (no, it doesn’t go on your salad), and the other panelists spoke about extreme pony fetish, furry (plushy) fetish, bodily fluids and sex (piss, shit, blood, and yes, vomit and a sentence or two on snot), bestiality, infantilism and necrophilia. Unlike any other forum, book or video, the discussion was about the attraction to these forms of sex, the practicalities involved and things to keep in mind when talking to callers about the subjects — no judgments involved, no psychoanalyzing, no ghettoizing.

It was fascinating to learn the practicalities of necrophilia, for instance; one should avoid cadavers deemed for medical use because of the high amounts of formaldehyde — ouchy on the genitals. And male cadavers do not get boners after death unless they died having sex, though formaldehyde can make penis skin firm feeling. Also, you cannot catch feline HIV from having sex with a cat (!). In fact, there are few things you can catch from sex with animals, save a jail sentence.

I could tell you more, but PayPal yanked my account today, so I’m feeling sheepish (no pun!). Apparently I’m in violation of their "Mature Use" guidelines, though I think they’re the ones acting immaturely. They’re retarded if they can’t tell a sex ed site from a hardcore porn site. I just hope they’re not closing my personal account for eBay use, because that wouldn’t be fair.

I was the most boring one on the panel, I think. I was there to speak as a fetish dress practitioner, a fetish model and someone who gets turned on by dressing in fetish clothes. I described my first experience trying on a corset. I bought it in a used clothing store in Upper Haight ten years ago — that I put it on when my boyfriend wasn’t around (he thought fetish stuff was for posers). And when I put it on I had a direct, immediate physiological reaction; I became aroused like a light switch had been flipped. And no, I had no experiences with corsets or binding as a kid, grandma never made me wear a corset while she spanked me, or any of that cliché BS. I have no explanation for it; it just is. It just worked for me. Now, it turns me on to wear rubber dresses and high heels — the outfit becomes a hyperextension of my feminized sexuality, sending a direct message to viewers, making my curves more obvious and jiggly, and the heels make my legs long, butt curvy, and the height gives me a feeling of erotic power.

That’s what I talked about, and it felt unusual because it was so personal. Anyway, it was a great class, I learned a lot, and afterward I got to entertain everyone with my LA trip descriptions, flapping my arms for emphasis and making faces of disbelief. I bet it would’ve been funny to watch me tell my story with no sound. It was nice to relate my experience to other sex educators, it felt good to hear their comments like, "was there, perhaps, a guy riding though the house on a unicycle, juggling?" The episode airs in September on Playboy TV, and it’s going to be awesome.

I really do have some awesome pictures from Wired’s Nextfest to post, but I’m too swamped to wrangle the 100 or so photos I shot — I will. I’ve been finishing the final edits on my next book The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasies (due in a few days, release end of July), which has the world’s best cover. Okay, I got to pick the cover photo, so I really like it — but it rules over the covers of my other sex guides, whose covers I don’t really like. But they weren’t up to me, so what can you do? I am thrilled with the new book — it’s everything I want in a how-to book on sexual fantasy. I’m not going to go into the details yet, but it’s really a practical guide to making sexual fantasies come true, every fantasy you can imagine, all the ones in Sweet Life, etc., and I’m pretty proud. After having writer’s block for two days I finally wrote the introduction last night, and now can move on to the other books on my plate… The wonderful hour-long conversation I had yesterday with Tony Comstock surely helped, as did his offer to send me a nice bottle of Scotch — now *that’s* the light at the end of the tunnel.

In fact, it’ll be the perfect reward; I don’t drink or party when I’m on deadline, and I’m especially not drinking because I’m doing some fetish modeling this weekend. I’ve been dying to do some modeling, and my pal Thomas Roche has entered into a new phase as an erotic pin-up photographer. And his photos are stunning — check them out. It’s not a paying gig, but will get my ya-ya’s out, and I’ll be styled by a really cute and sassy gal-pal of mine who teaches at SFSI.

I can’t wait for this week to be over. My problems never went away at work, they got worse, and now I’m being CC’d on emails as a way of communicating with me — it’s an awful feeling. Maybe it’s time to find another sex ed magazine to edit — or here’s a new concept; maybe I could work less? I don’t know if it’s physically possible, my brain might explode. I might miss something fun, or have to stop writing and reading and thinking about sex. Gasp!

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Manginas and Shenises

Whew. I have barely had a moment to sleep, let alone write entries, and that’s tough when I have entries piling up in my brain like the piles of my panties next to my closet that need to be washed.

The art show last Tuesday was great, though I worked a 13-hour day to make it happen. The Valencia store was packed until 10:30 pm, and many beer-drinking revelers listened to Extra Action music, watched their videos, and had dueling matches with sex toys. The band’s favorite sex toy by far was the Audi-Oh, the sound-controlled vibe, and they wanted to be official promoters of the toy, or maybe sponsored by the makers or something. That’s kind of perfect — skaters are sponsored by skate companies, snowboarders by snowboard companies, the Extra Action Marching Band sponsored by a sex toy company. Oh wait, that’s what my company is doing.

I went to a terrific party last weekend where I had an actual drunken exercise in anger management. Every year we have an unofficial SRL party in Oakland at the warehouse/shop belonging to two of our members, a female and male blacksmithing duo (who are not a couple). It’s not really an "SRL party," but lots of us attend and do what we do at parties, which is drink a lot and play with fire. Fireworks that is. This year there was a theme, a high school theme, which was really a transparent excuse for us all to dress like schoolgirls, teachers, school nurses, principals, janitors, cheerleaders, jocks and nerds. We all had to get "shots" (jello) and build homemade rockets, which were lit off and went in every imaginable direction. My thumb is still numb from getting it too close to a fuse. I dressed as a cheerleader with a really rotten attitude. I got to pester the very sexy nurse with questions like, "Can you get pregnant if you blow the football team?" I faked SARS to get more shots.

My attitude came to the fore when I went to pee in the unisex bathroom (for the second time that day). I was in there alone, did my business and was standing at the mirror fixing my lipstick when these two older guys walked in. They saw me and shouted, "whoah," and went out, slamming the door shut. They started talking about me outside the door and I could hear every word they were saying. They remarked about me being there, how they just can’t "do it" with a girl right there, because "it’s not like they’re handing out Viagra at the door or anything." I felt my anger rising — what the fuck does that mean, anyway? I mean, duh, what fucking dinosaurs with 1950’s mentalities still only see women as nonhuman sex objects? Who invited them? Clearly all the irony of the party was lost on them. So I slowed down my lipstick fixing and pretty soon they started pounding on the door. I told them to come in, that they were waiting for nothing, there was no line. That they could pee with me in there unless they had some kind of a problem. They came in and one rushed into a stall while the other stood in front of the urinal staring at the wall. I said, "I heard what you guys were saying out there, heard what you said about needing Viagra." Urinal guy said, "What!?" "I said, I heard you talking out there about needing Viagra. It’s not like when you come in to pee in here anyone’s going to be looking at your dick or anything." He said what again, so I repeated myself and left. Then I realized I had just berated a scared man with his dick in his hand while I was wearing a cheerleader outfit, pom-poms, pigtails and all. Next time I hope those guys barge in while I’m in a cheerleader outfit standing peeing at the urinal with my pee shooter. Then I can punch them both in the eye and run around them in tight little circles with my pom-poms shrieking "someone get the Viagra, these guys have to pee!"

I took my pee shooter to work at the Good Vibes store so that all could marvel at the wonders of urinary technology. It was clean and in plastic so no one would get hyper about germs. There was much excitement and exchanging of knowing looks, and someone asked me if I had bought a "shenis." What a gross name, I thought, then I said, "What a gross name. What’s a shenis?" Mother Mary in a sparkly rubber thong — they showed me. Then they made me look at a mangina. Then I found out that all the floor staff surveys had been turned in (see entry from 5/22), and I did not win the stupid prize for the stupid survey, and that someone else did, and I wanted to find the goody-two-shoes who won the prize and give them a wedgie while they wore latex panties.

There is a very underground group of boys and girls my age here in SF that have a very underground sex club. They have a secret mailing list that is absolutely hard as hell to get on, and their sex parties happen sporadically every few months at undisclosed locations and you can never find out where they are until you actually end up there (nor are they free). It’s pretty cool when you think about it, and it’s a nice way of keeping out gawkers and guys who are freaked out about peeing in front of women, and also creating a safe atmosphere. I called in a favor about a year ago to get on the list, and I’ve been on the list for some time but have never gone to a party, sort of being a virtual email list voyeur. From reading posts on the list I know that they’ve been making porn for a while at their parties, then showing the footage at the next party as loops. This is all done in the spirit of sexual adventure, affectionate pleasure seeking, equality and respect. I know this from reading everyone’s intelligent, mature, thoughtful and heartfelt posts on the list. It has made me feel really good about people seeking higher, smarter and more fun ways to express themselves sexually, which I really needed to be reminded of while I was researching my next book about the porn industry. Because sometimes during my research over the past year I saw things that made me upset, made me question my ability to honestly tell people that porn was a place where people with a brain and integrity could explore their sexuality, or at least feel good about jacking off to it. I got in a discussion that went sour with a close colleague in which I realized that she still sees women (especially women in porn) as sexual victims, not as wholly sexually autonomous people, and I realized that the minute everyone stops seeing women that way (and treating them that way), women will stop believing it. I went to porn conventions where I saw that the "mainstream" porn industry was suffocatingly conservative and homophobic, racist and sexist. I saw men and women at their worst, at the heart of which they all relied on the notion that sex is bad and shameful. That men are sexually simplistic. That women are sexual marionettes. C’mon people, what are we, ten years old? I had the hard hard job of seeing all this, clashing with my peers, and still telling people from my heart that porn is a fucking fantastic sex toy, which I actually believe because I still love to use it, and enjoy watching it. When it’s good, that is.

I saw some really hot porn tonight. I finally decided that I had to see why I’m still on this super-secret mailing list, so I went to a screening of scenes from several of their parties. And I have to say, I was astounded at the high quality, superior camerawork and incredible sex I saw onscreen. You could say it surpassed my expectations, which it did by far. I thought it would be spycam kind of stuff, and though one or two scenes were obviously in a room with other people around, it was excellently edited, storyboarded, had music that fit the mood perfectly and the people were laughing, playing, kissing, smiling, loving each other like nothing I’ve ever seen. It put all other amateur porn to shame, especially the porn made by my own company, which I think sucks by the way. The atmosphere of the screening was casual, lots of people, but they were all friendly and relaxed. I left early to come home and work, and when I left I noticed that I was walking through several of the people I had seen onscreen, who smiled politely at me as I thought "wow, I just saw you do that to him, and they did that to you, and…" I left with a smile on my face that brought me all the way home, one happy rotten cheerleader for porn.

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Will Someone Please Tell Paypal to Get Out of my Bedroom (Unless They are Bringing Some Good Porn)

A cute horn player from the Extra Action Marching Band wrote me recently with a letter he received from online money processing business PayPal:

Dear (tromboner),
You are receiving this email because you have asked to be notified of PayPal policy updates. Please read below to learn about PayPal’s most recent policy updates.

User Agreement Update
Notice Date: April 10, 2003
Effective Date: June 12, 2003
PayPal has updated its Acceptable Use Policy to simplify the policy on transactions of adult items. After June 12, 2003, PayPal will no longer process transactions for adult items through the Mature Audiences category on eBay.com. As a result, after June 12, PayPal will no longer process payments for adult items anywhere on the Internet.

PayPal strives to find the right balance between serving our community and minimizing our financial risk. We feel that exiting the Mature Audiences category with a clear and consistent policy for all adult items best achieves this balance.

As part of this effort, we are extending the deadline for when PayPal customers must stop sending and receiving payments for tangible adult products, including magazines, DVDs and videocassettes. Originally May 12, this deadline has now been extended to June 12 to correspond with the phase-out of PayPal service for these items on eBay. The deadline to stop sending and receiving payments for digital adult products and services, including online photos, streaming video and audio services, will remain May 12. For more information on our Mature Audience Policy, log in to your PayPal account and click on "Policy Updates" in the What’s New box. You will find a link to the Mature Audience Policy under the April 10, 2003, User Agreement Update.

I responded to (tromboner) with:

(tromboner), thank you for sending me this, it is definitely of interest. Just what exactly is the rationale behind this decision, I wonder? We can only guess. PayPal cannot legislate the morality of its customers, but it seems that surely they will try. Are they being pressured by a "family values" group? Maybe — I know that these groups have recently declared a war on porn and are attempting to amass "god’s army." Not kidding, it’s scary, and they’re doing this with grassroots-style church letter writing campaigns to cable companies like Viacom to make them stop broadcasting cable porn. Buncha sickos — they’re clearly obsessed with pornography.

But here is, I think, the rub: PayPal may cut off everything and all adult, but surely this is where a large amount of their revenue comes from, and as all in the adult biz know, sex accoutrements are an ever-growing, recession-proof source of revenue. Especially as more and more people become comfortable with enjoying their sexuality, and see the benefits of occasional experimentation. Then what for PayPal? Shot in the foot? That would be a nice irony, much like the male adult store owner who "found god," burned 10K worth of his stock (it’s bad karma to destroy sex toys, BTW), and turned "Love World" into a christian store called "Mike’s Place." Since then, he’s foundering on the brink of financial devastation, save for the donations he’s been getting from other sexually repressed god- (and orgasm-) fearing christians (which are not the only flavor of christian out there, but nobody seems to know that, either). But it was a nice way for Mr. Former Love Shack to skirt his pending obscenity charge.

So PayPal cuts off and alienates a sizeable number of their customers, while some other savvy entrepreneur cuts in and grabs the business that is "too immoral" for PayPal to soil themselves with… It’s like giving away free money to another business. These sexual moralists are so shortsighted — a consequence of not having any good sex, perhaps?

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