Mike Stabile with FSC Logo

If You Like Porn You’ll Love the Free Speech Coalition with Mike Stabile TPP287

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In this episode I’m joined by Mike Stabile of the Free Speech Coalition for an exploration of his personal journey into the adult industry, the history and mission of the FSC, and his role in helping to validate and destigmatize the adult entertainment industry

About Mike:

Director of Communications

Pronouns: He / Him / His
Mike Stabile is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who has written about and advocated for sex workers and sexual speech for over a decade. His work has been published in a wide range of publications, including the Daily Beast, Salon, Buzzfeed, Playboy and the New York Times. Seed Money, his documentary on pornographer philanthropist Chuck Holmes was named one of the Best Documentaries of 2015 by The Advocate.

Stabile founded Polari Media to help non-traditional communities and businesses better communicate with a mainstream audience. He has handled communications for the Free Speech Coalition since 2013.

https://www.freespeechcoalition.com/

https://twitter.com/mikestabile

My Non Verbatim Show Notes

MS:

thanks for being a member, supporter,

really important organization, adult industry as we know it would not be in existence if not for fsc and other free speech advocates

personal journey, started 2 decades ago

journalist, editor in SF, freelance in NY, moved back to SF, early 2000s,

internet taking off in regard to adult

freelance work for adult companies, coming online

fascinated by industry/culture

gay man, positive relationship with porn, sexuality in general,

gay community, different relationship with adult content, less shame, seen as part of healthy sexuality, compontent, rather than something you have to fight, it’s a tool in the tool box

took to the industry, met people really smart, doing interesting things

lot of room for creativity

worked at alt weeklies,

seemed like this was a new frontier

both money and will to try to do new things

community based in SF at that time, much of gay porn world based in SF, not the case necessarily today

a lot going on, working with naked sword

going on sets teaching self how to film behind the scenes content

invited by studios, go in, film things they could put on dvds, or websites, bonus content

met a lot of interesting directors, performers

started thinking about what I could do with those sort of skills

eventually decided I wanted to make a documentary

not necessarily about adult industry, some of the stories as it had been

worked on documentary about god father of gay porn industry, chuck homes

80s, different from today, arrested put in jail, really basic vanilla content,

depending on locality, how bad they wanted you, shut down your business, federal prison 3 or more years

early …people didn’t want to be photographed, didn’t want to be seen, everything was underground, sell out back of cars, cloak and dagger

government such a hostile force

reagan admin, meese commission, didn’t like it, series of crackdowns

become the beginning of the free speech coalition

needed time to work on documentary, needed time, money

wrote for new york times, buzzfeed, salon, wasn’t enough to survive

started freelancing, got called into kink.com

they were having some issues, needed somebody to help them with media, at the time getting a lot of attention not all of it positive

they needed somebody who could help

I know industry, the world, other side of media

disconnected, people aren’t understanding what you’re doing

took them on

from there, recommended to FSC

head of kink recommended I started working with them

work with a number of other companies as well

indy films, sex tec, sex educators,

pro bono work with sex workers

help better communicate their story to a mainstream world, to a civilian world

really fascinating, myths people have about the industry

longer I’m in it, almost 2 decades now,

how inventive resourceful, smart people in industry are

came from a bit of a carny family NJ

affinity for liminal entertainment industry

really funny ,feels like home, thought would be detour, might be where I was meant to be

with FSC about 7 years, worked with them on prop 60 campaign, fight against mandatory condoms,

organization, got start in late 80s early 90s, about 30 years old, it arose when after a series of vice raids in los angeles, coming out of the 80s where you had meese commission shutting people down, fbi shutting people down based on recommendations

originally legal defense fund

if somebody was busted, lapd raided your offices, fbi agent in conservative area like alabama ordered your vhs tape, it wasn’t just a criminal conviction you had to face, it was gonna drain your business and drain your money

anti porn forces really knew

order something like, vhs in alabama, in utah, in another conservative location, boom, they would go after you for selling obscene materials across state lines

wouldn’t even be able to get conviction, but having to fight 3 different criminal cases in federal court or even a raid at your studio, incredibly draining, easy way to put people out of business

federal govt trying to put people out of business

take a big distributor/producer, really make an example out of them

people really scared

originally FSC defense fund

fight and not go out of business

evolved into advocacy organization in mid 90s

CA state govt decided to tax adult content, something like 25%

unconstitutional, singling out specific type of speech

probably going to pass

fsc shifted gears, going to sacramento, lobbying, figuring out how to work within this system, was able to defeat it

TP: astronomical tax, argument to use for enforcement

MS: predates me, money going to go something like domestic abuse victims, sexual assault victims, or sex trafficking, still seeing this today, legislation proposed, most recent, put a filter on all computers sold in south carolina, block adult content, if you want it removed you have to pay state $20 for them to remove it, really bad legislation, most doesn’t go very far, passionate ideology, hates porn, say gonna take money fight, sex trafficking, sexual assault, something they thing porn causes

way to get money, another way for them to link it to something they believe is one of the ills caused by porn

number of battles, ongoing battles to this day

famous battles, supreme court, law passed, you can’t have any representation of somebody under age on your site, should have anything that looks like CP, should have any cartoons

legislation, incredibly broad, somebody in pig tales, site called barely legal, are they going to use this law to go after me, are they going to then start going through films and say you know what, this person may be of age, it was criminalizing, something ….gives appearance they may not be 18, subjective thing to say

unconstitutional, isn’t a crime,

big battles fought, early 2000s, fight over documents

broadest view, its become harder and harder to get obscenity convictions

so much content online,

because obscenity test, supreme court uses, 3 part test,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_test

80s and 90s, vhs tape small town in utah, trial in utah say to jury, does this violate your community standards

internet, community standards incredibly broad

how do you say this violates community standards, people passing around most obscene things on tumblr, twitter

fsc after advent of internet, byzantine regulatory battles

backdoor ways they could try to do censorship

record keeping provision, still in effect, we were able to limit it in various ways

in order for you to post something on website, whether you created it or not, sexually explicit or nude, copy of personal id, model release, separate room in home or office, cross filed all these different ways

2257 regulations, update

goal was to make sure that a person like you couldn’t post a nude photo from your site from somewhere else, they would have to have records for all these things

affiliate site, merely showed a photo

it wasn’t about whether or not these people were of age or not, that was held by primary producer, it was really about not allowing these to travel

backdoor ways of limiting the adult industry’s ability to work freely

really want to make it harder and harder and can’t do it through courts, byzantine ways make life more difficult, too costly

if you violate one thing, or mess up one thing you can go to federal prison

fsc,

in california, regulations that will say you need to adhere to same standards as any other work places, can’t have close physical contact, mask and googles in contact with bodily fluids, don’t apply to mixed martial arts/sports, blood and sweat flying

apply to adult industries, ah ha you have to do these things or we’re gonna fine you, possibly put you in jail

fsc, been really active, industry representative, in those meetings, going to capital, meeting with legislators

helping them understand, think our industry is much different

most people outside, think, its a bunch of drugged up people and sex slaves, idea it’s a bad industry

even if this law is a little bit unconstitutional, targeting them specifically, we’re doing it for their own good

save these women, stop the people becoming addicted to porn, whatever they’re going to use

fsc, what I try to do at my position, destigmatize, help people understand what we are and aren’t

have our own best practices

on set, it’s not a free for all

tested every 14 days

checklist gonna do this or not gonna do this

regulations, best practices

change the way people see us

at least in california

TP: wasn’t first condom law, the AHF, 2016, I remember marching in the streets of hollywood

MS: I was at that march as well, inspiring, all these sex workers marching in street fighting against idea that they need someone to save them

workers come out, you know nothing about my work, we didn’t ask for your help, if you want to know I can tell you but it’s not this

TP: just did interview with Corey Silverstein, struggles on horizon, current now,

thoughts on officially defunct, attempt to create a state-wide food handlers permit of adult, IEAU, fsc position on whether or not that was furthering hope, more sophisticated dialog

MS: still face things all the time, most recently, not just people coming from outside industry with ideas, sometimes people within industry, had experience, want to fix that, in general we welcome that

dialog about how we can make sets safer, empower performers,

don’t think anyone who works in the industry says its perfect

fsc, try to make it better, inform legislation that comes through, make it so it doesn’t do more harm

head of IEAU, small group of performers

one of women involved with that, put fort h proposal, people need training when they come into industry

wonderful in some ways ambition, want people to have as much information as possible, be empowered

unfortunately you get to a legislator, they don’t know much about the industry

formalize as a bill, put it through assembly, issue was it amounted to having to have a license

government shouldn’t be able to restrict

speech is different…we have a constitutional amendment

different that opening a hamburger stand/factory

government can’t restrain us from speaking unnecessarily

I think motivation in the right place, often people don’t think through consequences, as a result, license to speak

once you did these things you’d be able to operate as an adult performer, be essentially licensed

fsc, no this is a limit on a specific type of speech, we don’t ask this of reporters, politicians…religion

we had to call that legislator, go in and having meetings, talk about why this is a problem, arguments fall apart

didn’t even mean that, we understand, that’s why we’re hear

something ….can have wide ranging implications, we are a community already heavily stigmatized and criminalized

already ways in which members of adult community are discriminated against, stigmatized socially, want to make sure there aren’t any laws going on the books that can be used against us broadly

if you want to go after something that’s illegal, or actually a crime that’s fine, but don’t put something on the books that can be used broadly, it will be haunt us

adult industry canary in coal mine when it comes to free speech

us confernce of bishops recently called for pornography to be banned, evil, harmful, all these things not supported by science, but by morality

has to be somebody there that says no this is wrong and this is why

here’s where you’re argument fails

if you shut down pornography, what comes next, what qualifies as pornography

those are the discussions that fsc…built to have

TP: in my estimation, upgrade my thinking if necessary, might be naive, been in adult films for quite a while, attempted to get really legit about it in last 5 years, in that journey, opportunity to have internal industry self policing debates, progress, improving conditions on set, solidarity among different actors in the ecosystem, xbiz show, gripe, abused, mistreated, go to get some rally troops, stir up some discussion, better place than that

MS: xbiz, avn shows, couple of others, tradde shows, here in vegas, or europe, a lot of it, the value of those often is, connected with people in industry, also communicate best practices on sets

kink.com done a lot of work, how to better structure sets, performers feel empowered to speak up, structural problems

trade shows often good place for people to have discussions, best practices, performers, issues that affect them

social media, twitter, really revolution, adult performers, sex workers more broadly, seen a number of times in past, somebody has bad experience on set, consent violated, or scene was harder than expected, director didn’t listen, I am upset, community of performers on twitter who will share and retween, gains steam, performers on twitter have access to journalists in a way that they never did before

I think that, twitter works really well for journalists, works really well for adult performers, political groups as well have really thrived

other performers retweet, tag fsc, journalists will pick it up

issues, need multi level response

consent violation on set, wanted to stop, when you talk to law enforcement…doesn’t do anything, you’re a porn star this is want you signed up for, too messy, walk away

find out whats’ going on, what their resources are, don’t often have law enforcement willing to be involved, may be put in touch with crisis center, understand, legal rights, different resources legally, put in touch with performer groups, maybe reaching out to producer and say hey what the hell happened here

we’re a trade organization, advocacy organization, resource for performers and producers, whether somebody had a bad time on set, or somebody who’s bank shut them out

TP: real time court of public opinion

covid era, paradigm, may not have in person conferences to look forward to, relying on these platforms even more key

I know there was a moment not too long ago, scare of twitter wiping out adult related profiles

MS: with big tech, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, are people being shadow banned, profiles don’t come up when you search for them or is something going to happen

a lot of times a tech platform, new terms of service, TOS, sometimes, might say you can’t do anything obscene, sexually explicit, or violent, they can update the TOS put in new restrictions, might not operate on it immediately, might be something where they want the ability to go after you later, might be big crack down, might shut down your account, make you agree before hand

we don’t really know

used to be battle for free speech was fought in the courts, whether or not legal to show this movie at movie theater or sell this magazine

but the public square is internet, controlled by a few major corporation for the most part, facebook , twitter, instagram I guess is facebook, small number of places, reddit

not government by first amendment, governed by tos, no recourse, if twitter takes you off you can’t sue them and say we’re gonna go to the supreme court the way you could if a local judge shut down your movie, you had a recourse for appeal, there’s no appeal with social media, private company they can take you off if they want, appears to be an open public square, but you don’t have that same control

sort of where, we didn’t necessarily see anything happened, don’t have access to their back end,

account got shut down, shadow banned, something like that, we have no idea what’s going on, it’s a big black box,

really guess work, nothing catastrophic happened, this fall,

TP: selective enforcement,

spirit of fsc going back so many decades now, having been iterating through so many different chapters of new tech, are there people on your staff that are really keyed into web 3, blockchain, uncensorable rails of content and transactions, a lot of adult industry early adopters of bitcoin, but also ethereum smart contracts, platforms hoping to be uncensorable, can’t deplatform users, because it’s all peer-to-peer

original ethos of the internet to begin with, bastardarization of peer to peer open source becoming centralized big data

one of your staff, crypto geek?

MS: small staff, just a handful of us, what we depend on are are members, various committees, board of directors, rotates every two years, people come in, nobody specifically on staff that handles crypto, new platforms, what we have is

adult industry is really well positioned, people in industry, tremendously innovated

we’re working on regulatory/legislative

people in industry building platforms, blockchain, crypto

adult industry, really fertile soil, natural consumers, gonna be there no matter what you try, always gonna be somebody who’s turned on by what your fetish is , how you’re structuring your company

something we don’t do specifically, keep aware in larger industry, what’s happening, understand it in terms of a resource

one thing we’re seeing right now, with alternate platforms, rise of premium social, only fans, just for fans, many vids

alternatives for people who are looking to build a following, but aren’t allowed on instagram, or worried twitters gonna get taken away

legislation not gonna help

alternatives

not gonna be as big as twitter, but might be a place, should twitter shut down, natural migration

seeing coming in future, seen it with some of social media already, build a better mouse trap

get something that does what we need it today, if they ever do decide to take off adult content, we have a place to go, contingency plan

TP: lots of life rafts being built, awesome, zooming in now impetus for this call, joined zoom meeting, xbiz town hall, fsc rep, survey in email about task force, have you give a sort of, some info on what the task force is doing, some of the ways the covid crisis is affecting adult

MS: industry has been shut down since march 15th, when governor of CA called for non essential businesses to close, FSC went into crisis mode, not just in terms of how do we deal with this as an industry, how do we take care of performers and crew members now not going to be able to work

we are a vulnerable population, a lot of us maybe not connected to families, come from communities we might be exiled from, it takes a certain person to work in this industry, given the discrimination want to make sure, we need to help people get by

industry shut down, production shut down, want to observe, but have to pay rent, have to do underground shoot, or do something unsafe

fundraising mode, raised $150k for performers, crew members struggling under covid, started distributing

turns out , about half performers in industry, doing alright, through crisis, because of premiums, clips, cams, rise in traffic, porn has seen dramatic rise because of shut down, people being locked at home, revenues are up, performers the only ones that can really produces, studios/sets shuttered,

if home alone can make solo content, partnered with someone willing to be on camera, can shoot sex scenes

studios reaching out to couples in quarantine, can you shoot something, we’re running out of content

in some cases performers making more money than they have

not everybody in that position, if if you have a following, already set up,

crew is in worse position, no mainstream jobs, no adult jobs

challenging time for a lot of people

one thing to be stuck at home another thing to lose your income

long term effects of covid crisis, maybe performers are in more control than ever

massive growth in performer produced content

able to make decent or exceptional living performing own content, gives you more choice when studios open up as to what shoots you’re gonna take

if youd on’t have financial incentive to go on sets because you have own income…recurring billing, content make at home, no reason to go on set, unless you want to go on specific set unless fantasy of yours or something that will give a lot of attention

covid reorganize industry in that way

interesting in that regard

regard to sets, discussions we have on task force, geared toward how do we open up and how do we open up safely

industry in some ways is well positioned for this type of discussion we test already every 14 days, protocol for production shut downs, hiv, stis already have these discussions, already talk about going on set, making sure partners are tested, workable precautions

prevent transmission, body fluids, already sanitize sets, use gloves, some cases masks, crew member don’t want to get hit with fluids

ahead of game, most other industries

new challenge, with stis, decent assurance you’re gonna be safe on set, you’re tested, partner tested, everybody tested,

with covid, performer population may be tested, person at grocery store may not be, beach may not be

unlike hiv, fairly long time between contract and transmit, about 14 days, why our testing set up the way it is, with covid, potentially infectious 2 days after contract,

task force, in light of covid, what precautions, what guidelines, how they should shoot, how often they should test, that sort of thing, it has been a bit of a challenge

TP: I hear that, kudos for doing all that hard work, recently listening to podcast, mainstream scientific analysis, look to porn industry they’ve been doing this for a quite a while, at least for stis

Dr. Eric Ding, harvard epidemiologist, health economist, medical digest of news through his twitter feed,

don’t know chance of covid to be transmitted sexually, the male testicles, didn’t know, fun fact, immune from immune system, privileged, cytocine storm, immune system over reacts, can’t get into that part of male anatomy,

imagine the way zoom is blowing up, pass system open sourced so everybody is using it to go to grocery store

crew members into pass, not for stis, similar testing system around it, not just about scene partner,

as intimate as your relationship is going to be with your scene partner, right now no evidence it can be transmitted sexually, might appear in semen, not clear if would be transmitted sexually

for adult industry, what we’re facing, not different from hollywood love scene, same level of transmission

we’ve done a lot to tell other industries, we’ve got something, not sure how it’s gonna apply to covid, can tell you how the protocols are

sports team, grocery store,

haven’t had hiv transmission on pass regulated set since 2004, shoot 100s of thousands of scenes since then

something we know how to do, we can help you with it

TP: hopefully outcome, porn saves the day, people rejoice, have to pay respects

what would be the pitch for my listeners, diverse array, pay dues to support, become member, make donations, best way and why

gonna be a huge economic pressure for people who never considered camming, making content, by financial pressure, flooding into platforms to make new revenue stream

info for newbies?

MS: why you should support industry, we’re the canary in the coal mine, censors come after us before anybody else, regulations, whether adult content producer or not, they’re gonna come after you

go to website, set up small recurring donation, get clued in, newsletter, things like survey, understand going on, performer, producer, fan,

sustain organization, protect your rights

keep you informed as to issues that we face

go to free speech coalition, donation

new, inspire program, created by performers to performers, whether you should have an agent, how the testing system works,

webinar with people success in camming, clips, in premiums, brought 6 together, held webinar, all talk about how they got to where they were,

pros to ams, how do I get started, how often should I update, what’s biggest mistake, hour or so master class, how to get started, what to be weary of

tremendous time to be performer, you have more control than ever, so many platforms to do it, own your content, never used to be able to do

go to website become a member, get an alert when it does go up

follow on twitter, fsc army

dm us, tweet at us

very active on social media

TP: if major influx of people losing jobs, realize they can ethically and legally trade their labor and artisanship in adult industry for a livelihood, critical mass, decrim all sex work

fsc probably near front lines

can of works to open, final prayer final thought

close us out

MS: we are on the front lines of decriminalization, certainly support for sex workers across the board, partnered with various organizations

tremendously creative, really enjoy being a part of it, does feel like family

the more people we get in it the more the stigma decreases, thanks so much for having me

thanks for being a member

TP: thanks so much!