Porn Industry Fears the Trump Era
That hasn't stopped people who work in the adult video industry, which is based in the San Fernando Valley, from quaking over the ascension of Trump as president. While Trump might harbor more liberal attitudes toward sexual content, his choice for attorney general, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has a strong record of moral conservatism. Sessions once suggested, for example, that exposure to pornography is linked to a rise in sexual attacks in the military.
Many in the industry are expecting the worst, including a possible return to the obscenity prosecutions of the George W. Bush administration, which put two pornographers, Max Hardcore and Ira Isaacs, in federal prison. Last summer, Trump signed a pledge to crack down on porn and to “give serious consideration to appointing a presidential commission to examine the harmful public-health impact of internet pornography."
"I think a lot of people should be fearful of their future," says Tasha Reign, a big-name performer in adult video.
"The biggest worry is that Trump's attorney general nomination is antiporn," adult business attorney Michael W. Fattorosi says.
"We're preparing for a big push against adult video," says Mike Stabile, communications director for the adult video trade group known as the Free Speech Coalition. "Trump is seen as very hostile to adult consumption and production."
However, experts say there's not yet a lot to worry about. Jeffrey Douglas, a First Amendment attorney who helped defend Max Hardcore, argues that changes in the last 10 years would make obscenity prosecution prohibitively difficult for the federal government.
Community standards used to prosecute the likes of Hardcore in conservative jurisdictions (in his case, Florida) are no longer so easy to prove, according to Douglas. In Hardcore's case, allegedly objectionable DVD material was distributed across state lines. The Bush administration used a wily strategy: Bust Max Hardcore for obscenity not in his home base of Los Angeles, where a conviction might be difficult, but in a conservative community such as Tampa, Florida.
Today an argument that hardcore pornography is outside the bounds of even a conservative community's standards would be hard to prove, largely because of the internet. Online distributors of free porn have quantified the tastes of even the most conservative places in the country, and it turns out they're quite kinky. This could be introduced as evidence to counter an argument that a producer is making obscene porn as judged by local standards — and it might quash any prosecution, according to Douglas.
"If you can get that information in front of a jury — the government would do everything possible to prevent it — it's not reasonable to assume those viewers aren't only outside of Tampa," he says.
Douglas also argues that the players in the adult video industry are more complex and layered today, making it harder to prosecute them. The parent company of the biggest online host of adult video, MindGeek, is based in Luxembourg, and for the most part, it acts as a sort of YouTube, a platform to which others upload content. The attorney argues that the federal government's man power would be stretched to the limit trying to track down and prosecute those involved in a chain of distribution.
"It means that FBI agents have to sit and watch porn all day, 40 hours a week–plus, as part of their jobs, then see little reward for it," Douglas says. "It does nothing for their career."
Finally, what was considered criminally obscene to the Bush administration is today widespread and commonplace in porn. "Whatever category of content or how extreme it is, you could show thousands of video clips devoted to that category," Douglas adds.
So far producers are not changing their habits, insiders say, but it's still too early to determine whether Trump will have a truly chilling effect on the multibillion-dollar adult industry and the kinds of kink it produces.
"I think there's a well-founded anxiety in the industry," Douglas says. "But it will not affect the consumer."