By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Taking a Spanking for the First Amendment
“Embrace the rights we have as Americans that people don’t have in other countries.” It’s a sentiment anyone could get behind, even — or perhaps especially — coming from a tall, blond woman in a skimpy zebra-striped bikini. The speaker, adult performer Kyra, is urging her audience to place a bid on her outfit, and the chance to pull it off of her with their teeth while she spanks them with a little, rather non-threatening paddle.
This is Spanking Censorship 3, a benefit for what may be the nation’s only First Amendment–rights group organized by and for members of the porn industry. The Free Speech Coalition made the news last year when it won its Supreme Court case against John Ashcroft over a law banning “virtual child pornography” in which no actual children are involved. It also defends adult video stores against restrictive zoning laws, brings porn actors to Sacramento for lobby days, and gets fans of pornography involved in defending their right to watch it.
The crowd defending free speech at the Westchester Sports Grill tonight is fairly young, racially mixed and composed mostly of adult performers, their friends and boyfriends, and people connected to the opening band, Living Strange. There are also some serious porn fans. Larry, who came into the bar tonight bearing roses for all the performers, says he comes to all the Free Speech events. “It’s a matter of supporting the industry and the people in the industry,” he says. “At least I can talk to them — other people in mainstream entertainment you can’t.” Larry later pays $30 to go onstage and expertly strip one of the performers with his teeth. As he walks back past my table, he says, “That was very enjoyable.”
The driving force behind tonight’s event is William Margold, former adult-film star, agent for many other stars, and a key player in the industry organizations Fans of X-rated Entertainment (FOXE) and Protecting Adult Welfare, a group that helps porn actors deal with job-induced stress on their physical and/or mental well-being. As the women are stripped, Margold encourages the rather subdued crowd to whoop and yell. His patter includes lines like, “If society refuses to admit it’s jacking off, it shouldn’t complain when Congress cuts its dick off.”
That sort of sentiment is what brought Erika Kole out to donate her time tonight. She’s a pretty, blond woman with credits including Gag Factor #9 and 1,001 Ways To Eat My Jizz, as well as a well-honed anger at the policies of Bush and Ashcroft. Onstage, she wriggles against the mic and breathes out lines like, “This outfit is oh, so hot.” Outside the bar, she gives me a firm handshake and answers my questions about women’s exploitation in porn with a classic sex-positive feminist response: “People don’t believe women [in the industry] have control over their own lives. I’ve done porn for two years, and I’ve never done a scene I didn’t want to do.”
“We’re all adults in the industry,” says Leo, who has been in porn for the past five years. “You can die for your country at 18. This work is no more exploitative than other jobs. On the minimum wage, a family of four — it takes almost three people to work to support them. If that’s not exploitative I don’t know what is.”
Throughout the evening, Margold makes occasional comments with questionable racial content — referring to Shocking Lee, a light-skinned African-American woman and the only nonwhite performer, as a “Halle Barry clone,” for instance, and adding that he imagines she would prefer that a white man wins the bid to strip her, or commenting as one member of the audience is spanked, “The black men in the room are hoping the white man gets beaten.” Some of the comments seem to be inside jokes directed toward Margold’s friend Rick Stone, an African-American adult-industry Webmaster who runs Margold’s Web site and is at the event promoting a new site scheduled to be up next year, www.succulent.com.
“I never take offense to what he says,” Stone says. “Talking about race, whether it’s negative or positive, it makes you think. The way he does it is good.” He adds that racism is a problem “in porn and beyond porn. I’m an African-American man in the industry; I see it every day in front and behind the scenes. But it’s like that in every business.”
Veteran porn star and Free Speech Coalition board member Selena Steele gets the biggest response when she takes the mic from Margold, gives him a spanking with one of the paddles, and performs a very-close-to-real simulated sex scene with fellow performer Janey. As the two women grind, Selena speaks porn dialogue into the mic: “I love the way your cum tastes.” She walks away, and then returns a moment later to tell the audience, “Don’t ever believe that.”
In porn or in Washington, even free speech defenders don’t always tell the truth.