"I know it when I see it": Guidelines for the pornography industry.


You thought the sexual revolution happened in the 1960s and 1970s. In the pornography industry, the revolution kicked off in the 1990s. Back in the day, police used to wear operating theater-style rubber booties over their shoes when they raided porn stores and brothels, for fear of disease. With the sudden popularity explosion of the internet, customers didn't have to skulk around the seedy, dim-lit, black-fronted adult stores of the 1970's. Pornography was available freely at any time of day, in every wired house in America, for viewing and ordering. This was an incredible boost for vendors. Suddenly, you didn't have to leave the house to find porn. You didn't even have to wear pants.

At the same time, the number of obscenity prosecutions began to diminish. With the election of the Clinton Administration, anti-pornography cases stopped being a federal priority. Says former Attorney-General Janet Reno, "I suppose somebody could decide to use all their resources for obscenity prosecutions. It seems to me clearly that national security and human life free of violence are two very important priorities." Producer Mark Cromer concurs: "When Clinton came in," he says, "it was definitely blue skies and green lights."

Add these two factors together, and you get an open-door pornography bonanza. Former Justice Department attorney Bruce Taylor, who claims to have prosecuted "more obscenity cases than anyone in U.S. history", said, "If there had been continued federal prosecutions for obscenity, you wouldn't see the Internet presence of the porn syndicate as big as it is today. The combination of the industry's willingness to go on the Web in a big way and the prosecutors not indicting them for it allowed it to explode beyond anybody's imagination."

But George W. Bush campaigned hard on a promise of cleaning up American porn. Throughout 2001, the Justice Department spurred on the Bush Administration's anti-pornography stance, and began to prepare a series of obscenity legal cases. The pitchforks and burning torches were laid aside after September 11, 2001, when the Justice Department decided it had better things to do.

During this time, the industry was deeply concerned. Four of the largest hands in the industry - VCA Pictures, Vivid Video, Hustler, and Video Team - met in late 2000 to discuss their options. Also in attendance was Paul Cambria, a First Amendment attorney and defence counsel in many cases against pornographers. Together, they devised the Cambria List.

The Cambria List describes 26 pornographic situations that run the risk of prosecution. These acts are not necessarily illegal. The depiction of them is not necessarily illegal. But prosecutors may argue that the depiction of these acts is obscene, as per Miller v. California. Therefore, Cambria suggested that, to err on the side of caution, pornographers should avoid depicting these acts.

The list itself was never meant to go public, but it was leaked onto a pornography-industry pulp site in January 2001, and then published on the widely-read Adult Video News ( http://www.avn.com ). Upon reading the list, it's clear that the industry does not necessarily adhere to these guidelines.

Naturally, it is not without controversy. Some people are outraged that same-sex love-making and certain inter-racial couplings are considered taboo by community standards. Tristan Taormino of The Village Voice ( http://www.villagevoice.com/ ) was livid: "What kind of blatant homophobia, transphobia, and racism is this bullshit? So white men can fuck black women, but black men can't fuck white women? Whispered in a closed boardroom meeting, I'd definitely believe it, but who would put such a thing in print?"

It's important to remember, some of these acts should not be considered obscene. Some of these acts should not be taboo. Some of these acts should not be prosecutable. This list is a guideline for an industry running scared. It is not a Bible of what's right and what's wrong.

The Cambria List

Box-Cover Guidelines/Movie Production Guidelines

Before selecting a chrome please check facial expression. Do not use any shots that depict any unhappiness or pain.

Do not include any of the following:

American Porn, an excellent PBS documentary; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/
Prosecuting Obscenity: The Cambria List; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/prosecuting/cambria.html
Panic in Pornville; http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0107/taormino.php

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