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Shelley Lubben's Pink Cross Aims to Rescue Sex Actresses: The Industry Wants Her to Shut Up 

Thursday, Jun 14 2012
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Haters of anti-porn activist Shelley Lubben milked the symbolism for all it was worth.

Earlier this month, she appeared at an L.A. Animal Rescue event in Hollywood, Porn Stars for Puppies. Pooches were being put up for adoption for $250 apiece. A small group of demonstrators showed up with T-shirts that read "Shelley Lubben Treats Porn Stars Like Animals."

Lubben, a onetime porn star in Los Angeles turned fundamentalist Christian who is now married and raising two girls in exurban Bakersfield, has become the U.S. adult-video industry's highest-profile critic. She says she "rescues" girls who have been used and abandoned by the business.

click to flip through (6) PHOTO BY JOHN HARTE - Shelley Lubben greets even her foes with a smile and hug from her almost mansize frame.
  • PHOTO BY JOHN HARTE
  • Shelley Lubben greets even her foes with a smile and hug from her almost mansize frame.
 

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Some of those women say it's Lubben who used them — for publicity and fundraising.

The chief porn critic has taken her cause to Dr. Drew and Howard Stern and appeared in a new documentary, After Porn Ends. At a time when the adult-entertainment business is battling efforts to force performers to use condoms, she represents bad press all the way. Even the gay-run AIDS Healthcare Foundation has enlisted the Bible-quoting mother's help in its campaign to force prophylactics on porn sets in L.A.

If you count her own experience as a porn star, she's a credible critic and a real thorn in the side of a multibillion-dollar business at a time when it's battling threats to its bottom line due to file-sharing, on top of a dire economy.

Some, however, question the veracity of nearly every claim Lubben has made about triple-X entertainment, including her recollections of her own time on the set and her contentions that young women in the industry are often troubled people who are coerced into extreme, hard-core activities and drug use they didn't sign up for.

"Pornographers are recruiters, and that's sex trafficking," Lubben said of her no-compromise philosophy, in one interview with L.A. Weekly. "The premise of this industry is all illegal."

The industry's supporters have targeted her, ambushing her at events like the puppy rescue and posting a series of videos in attempts to denounce and discredit the 44-year-old, who founded the anti-porn Pink Cross Foundation in 2008.

"The porn industry is going to aim their guns at anyone that goes against them," says Tiffany Leeper, president of Girls Against Porn and a supporter of Lubben's. "I get death threats. Shelley gets death threats."

At L.A. Animal Rescue on Fairfax Avenue, longtime Lubben critic and onetime soft-porn producer Michael Whiteacre, a supporter of the industry lobbying group known as the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), was with a gaggle of adult performers and a cameraman. Whiteacre's thin bio on IMDb shows his only two recent directing gigs were public service announcements for FSC in 2010.

After Lubben's husband, Garrett Lubben, confronted him, Whiteacre nearly spit out his rage:

"You're a piece of sh—!" Whiteacre told Lubben, adding that he thinks wife Shelley is "a diseased animal."

Yeah, it was ugly.

To his credit, Lubben's husband, an ex–military man from Bakersfield, used restraint. The Lubbens say this is what you get when you attack a multibillion-dollar industry: a backlash featuring YouTube videos, street confrontations and a stream of ex–porn stars insisting that Lubben is a fraud.

But Lubben believes no young woman should endure what she says she did in the 1990s — contracting herpes and HPV on-set that led to serious medical complications, including miscarriage. Porn-related STDs, she says, "led to me having cervical cancer and having my cervix removed. I lost several babies."

Her goal is to rescue girls from the industry, and she claims that since 2007 she has helped more than 100 women recover after they left porn. "I've probably let 25 or more porn stars into my home. I cooked for them. I loved them."

But some of the women who have dealt with Pink Cross describe it as a means for Lubben to take in donations and get famous. Some have questioned how she spends the relatively modest money — $142,000 in revenue in 2010 — that Pink Cross raises.

Former performer April Garris is one. Garris says, dismissively, that after she was contacted by Lubben to join Pink Cross, and quit a job to go to work for Lubben's group, "One of the first things she showed me how to do was her laundry."

Lubben acknowledges that dealing with former adult performers can sometimes be messy, but, she asks, "Where do you go to school to learn to take on a multibillion-dollar industry?"

The question is whether she's a true Christian prophet for reform, as she has called herself, or a middle-aged postporn diva with a bad memory and a self-serving mission to grab the spotlight and some spare change.

"Porn destroyed my life," Lubben, who now has the buoyant, bottle-blond hair of a politician, once wrote. Perhaps. But it also has resurrected her.

Her story starts with a San Gabriel Valley childhood (Temple City and, later, Glendora) that Lubben describes in her self-published autobiography, The Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn. She says her upbringing lacked much-needed parental attention, particularly from her father, a mechanic who worked long hours.

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