FREE SPEECH COALITION AND PORN
George Collins was invited to speak in a public forum by the Free Speech Coaltion, a lobbying organization for the Porn industry in California.. Rather than cite statistics, George Collins decided to disclose his personal story to get his point across. Here is one of many articles that were written about that forum. Watch Video.
FSC Examines ‘Porn Addiction’ in Public Forum
By: Mark Kernes, AVN Online Magazine, SACRAMENTO
It was a C-SPAN moment – or should have been: For the first time in its history, Free Speech Coalition (FSC) sought out legitimate naysayers to the widely-held industry view that adult video is not addictive, and let them battle it out – verbally, at least – with sex researchers in a public forum, with invitations having been sent to everyone at the state capitol who might be interested in the debate.
The advertised event was titled “Today’s ‘Porn’ – Entertainment or Addiction?” The players included two familiar faces – Drs. Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, sex educators, authors and co-founders of the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco – and two new participants – George Collins, a self-proclaimed former sex addict with a Master’s degree in psychology who holds himself out as a “Sexual Compulsion Specialist,” and Al Hernandez Santana, a city planner and Fellow at Consumers Union of San Francisco, with an extensive background in public policy and healthcare.
The event was the brainchild of FSC Legislative Affairs Coordinator Kat Sunlove and Executive Director Michelle Freridge, and Sunlove spent weeks trying to find credentialed academics who could prove to be worthy opponents in the discussion. Sadly, however, many replies echoed that of Dr. Diana Russell, a British anti-porn activist:
“I decline your invitation to speak on a panel since I am not willing to participate in any activity that is sponsored or promoted by the pornography industry. Your debating topic is also a poor one. Pornography does a great deal of harm, whether or not it is addictive. In addition, I disagree that pornography is a free speech issue. It is a civil rights issue because it discriminates against women. I am sure that anyone I could recommend would share my reaction.”
Still, Sunlove and Freridge managed to come up with agreeable participants, and the debate was on for Monday evening, April 18, in a ballroom at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, just two blocks from the state capitol.
Sunlove’s long-time partner, Layne Winklebleck, acted as M.C., and gave each speaker about 15 minutes to present his or her case. Dr. Lawrence led off by quoting the non-medically-trained Dr. Judith Reisman’s testimony from the Senate subcommittee hearing on “The Science of Pornography Addiction,” focusing on her concept of porn viewing creating “erototoxins” and noting their similarity to a better-understood natural substance.
“Anything we see that pleases us, our bodies start producing substances to help us appreciate that,” Dr. Lawrence explained. “One of the substances we produce is called endorphins… The thing is, when we look at naked people, our bodies also produce endorphins [so] when you look at a pleasing nude, male, female, whatever you like, you’re inexorably on that path to addiction… [Reisman] is saying that endorphins are erototoxins. Endorphins aren’t poisons; we know this. Your natural brain chemicals aren’t poison, but the Senate thinks they are.”
Dr. Lawrence also related some of Reisman’s history, noting that her reports, one of which cost taxpayers $700,000, are not accepted by the scientific community – but are embraced by conservative religious organizations.
Winklebleck then introduced George Collins, who admitted that he lost two wives because he had videos hidden in his garage and closet.
“I guess the answer is that I confused sex with intimacy,” he said.
“I’ve really got nothing against pornography. I don’t have anything against chocolate. I don’t have anything against shopping. I don’t have anything against alcohol,” he continued. “Some people, however, because of the nature of the way we’re brought up, as men, as boys, there are some people that fall prey to confusing sex with intimacy.”
Collins said that as a therapist, he gets 50 to 60 calls a week from people who are confused about their sexuality, often from having been abused as children, and who “fall in love” with sexually explicit pictures, which become their “girlfriends.”
“It’s embarrassing for a grown man like me to have to tell you that I was in love with pictures. In fact, I was in love with Nina Hartley,” Collins said. “For 10 years or so, I had almost every tape I could get, watching her be sexual with myself, and I lost two wives because I couldn’t throw those away. I wasn’t instructed enough to know that I could watch that and have a relationship with a woman.”
The admission was greeted with some laughter, if for no other reason than that Hartley was in the audience for the event.
“The hardest thing I ever had to do, the last piece of pictures with somebody else – the last picture was of me and Nina taken at the Mitchell Bros. adult theater, in the lobby – she didn’t have any clothes on – I wish I didn’t, but they made me keep them on at the time – that was the last picture I put in the fireplace, and I cried for two days,” Collins admitted.
“I have a saying, ‘My clients can’t get enough of what won’t satisfy them,'” he said. “What will satisfy them is a deep, rich relationship, emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy.”
Dr. Queen next took the microphone.
“When I told somebody this morning in San Francisco that I was going to come and talk about pornography,” she began, “whether it’s an interest or an addiction, she said, ‘Are we still debating that?'”
“I should disclose at the outset that I reject the very notion of porn addiction,” she continued, “which I reserve for discussing chemical substances introduced into the body.”
Dr. Queen traced some of the history of the anti-porn crusaders, from Anthony Comstock in the 19th century to the Meese Commission in 1985, and told of her own awakening as a sex-positive activist.
“I come from the ’70s, the heart of the [Andrea] Dworkin era, the years when college campuses hosted showings of the famous anti-porn slide show, ‘Not A Love Story,'” she said. “It was tempting to believe their point of view until I began watching porn myself, which I did as part of the process of understanding it and its cultural role in preparation for my doctorate in sexology … I found porn way more diverse and lots of it way more benign than that which had been carefully selected to upset my young feminist sensibilities.”
“Today’s new notion that we have found a new pornographic harm in the chemistry of the brain is a strategic departure from the same goal as Comstock’s,” she continued. “Addiction implies a physiological response to something added to the body; alcohol, for example, or drugs. Certainly, you can find people … who’ll argue for an adrenalin rush hooking gamblers … or an endorphin rush from porn… But you’ll also find a lot of scientists who don’t accept this way of framing the issue… It’s true that some porn consumers may behave compulsively around this form of entertainment – I’ve seen it myself – but how does this differ from me losing sleep because I can’t stop playing the damned online solitaire?”
Though not denying that some use porn compulsively, Dr. Queen noted that neurotics can hardly account for the billions spent on adult entertainment in any given year, nor should they be the basis for laws against sexual speech.
“Certainly there are viewers with mixed emotions, including me,” she said. “I personally wish they would retire that one ratty-ass plaid sofa in the San Fernando Valley that all those movies are shot on … plus there’s all those ‘pizza boy’ scenes that we have to contend with [but] there are ways to watch porn guilt-free even if your belief system frowns upon it.”
“I can tell you anti-porn partisans in the room how to enhance people’s desire to access porn, especially the young,” she declared. “Just keep supporting abstinence-only sex education; sex education without any pesky sex facts or discussion of the anatomy that, if young people knew they had it, they would inevitably want to take around the block for a spin.”
“Recent studies have suggested that abstinence-only education, in spite of its obvious advantage that none of the class materials will be mistaken for porn, may actually increase the percentage of unwanted pregnancy and STDs in those young people who are subjected to it … which I assume was not what purveyors of abstinence-only education had in mind… Minimize the good, scientific content in sex education in the culture and you’ll have more and more people becoming addicted to non-judgmental visions of sex.”
“I guess you’ve gathered that I don’t have a degree in sexology,” began Al Hernandez Santana, “but I’m glad you saved the religious guy for perspective for last.”
Santana was introduced as someone who would address the role of religion in shaping public policy, but he narrowed the topic to what place porn has “in society and in our physical and virtual communities; what redeeming values does it hold or contribute, if any,” he said.
“As a young man, I grew up watching adult films, like many males in this society,” he admitted. “This is way before Ron Jeremy became a huge star and he was like 30 or 40 pounds lighter… I went through a period where I watched together with my wife, and even from this Catholic’s perspective, that’s slightly better than watching it alone… So those of you who were hoping to hear from a stark conservative that they could heckle or poke fun at, I hope you will be sorely disappointed.”
Santana peppered his talk with jokes, but he took his subject seriously.
“It’s not a question of whether the church can impose its views on society,” he said. “Moral arguments go beyond that, and to me personally, it always comes down to a question of public versus private morality, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Buddhist, a Hindu, agnostic, atheist, Muslim or in the Judeo-Christian tradition … The question is, what does the moral framework that derives from that teaching, and your application or interpretation of those principles say about X? And we each bring a view of the world to the public debate that, as citizens, we are all entitled to have a say in putting forth our vision of the common good and a just society.”
As a professional city planner, Santana pointed out that he was familiar with local officials who are rightfully concerned about preventing a high number of adult entertainment venues … in their communities.”
“There are a number of reasonable steps that can be taken to make sure that different types of land uses and businesses may coexist together,” he said. “But as a religious community, we come down formally on the side that such uses – whatever you want to call it: ‘adult,’ ‘pornography’ – are incompatible with residential zoning.”
Santana described the efforts by some feminists and law professors to “draft a constitutional framework that would survive a First Amendment challenge, that would allow some censorship – they wouldn’t characterize it as such – of erotic material that would completely get rid of any violence or objectification of women or female sexuality,” but noted, “That has proven an impossible task.”
But as glib as Santana tried to be, he betrayed his real views with derisive comments about how, in fighting the Calderon “sin tax” bill and other anti-adult legislation, “It was funny to me to observe how you guys tried to portray the industry as this mainstream – you tried to stress the fact that there’s all this therapeutic value, and couples see this all the time, and … every faction that I saw come through the capitol portrayed the dancers as someone who’s a single mom or putting herself through college, who needs to make a living, just like Demi Moore in Striptease, you know.”
“In this day and age, the cliché argument that all you have to do, if you don’t want to watch porn, is to change the channel, doesn’t hold water anymore,” he continued. “If we’re not careful, we would be constantly bombarded with all kinds of intrusive displays that run counter and disrupt our moral sensibilities.”
Apparently not very familiar with the First Amendment, Santana continued, “There’s policy after policy and case after court case that talk about your right to have a tranquil life; you don’t want noise from the neighbors and so on, so I think that this also applies to the porn industry, and what many Christians and other social conservatives think is that this is considered obscene, so this really disrupts their view or their going about their business in daily life.”
Santana also referred to “sociological studies” that supposedly demonstrated that men who use porn are more likely to find their partners less attractive, but he gave no details or sources on this point.
“Men who are in a relationship but who resort to masturbation are at special risk,” he warned, though he promoted the idea that couples can put their disagreements behind them by having sex.
“In the Catholic tradition, marriage is a sacrament,” he concluded. “It is a vocation, like the priesthood or any other vocation in the church. This means that it’s sacred and can be a reflection of divine love, and we defile the gift of human sexuality when we carry it outside of marriage. Consensual sex has to be open to procreation …and the possibility of life.”
It wasn’t a view that found a lot of support in this audience.
A question-and-answer session followed, with several audience members commenting that they found the debate stimulating. Nina Hartley also spoke, relating that she and Drs. Lawrence and Queen had “spent a lot of time talking, thinking, exploring how do we bring the so-called profane and the so-called sacred in the same room at the same time, because I know in our experience, we wade through our fears into that place of happiness and bliss and love and connection and wholeness. Some of us come [to it] through our bodies, through pleasure; for other people, it comes through prayer, but physiologically speaking, the connection we get through wholesome use of pleasure and proper use of prayer, on a graph, are the same thing… We’re all trying to get to the same place, which is feeling worthy of love and affection and good relationships, and how do we get there?”
It wasn’t a question that anyone answered to the satisfaction of the anti-porn faction present, but Hartley said one thing that everyone seemed to agree on:
“I think the culture gets the porn it deserves, and … in a deeply conflicted culture and conflicted people, of course the erotic images that we make are going to reflect this conflict. And in a culture that keeps sexuality discussions extremely underground, it is sad that people are reduced, driven, forced to look at an entertainment fantasy medium for kernels of educative moments, and it’s really not a good idea, because porn is not educative; it’s fantasy, it’s live-action cartoon, and we should not be trying to glean from it relationship advice.”
It was sane advice that deserved to be on national TV. Someday, maybe it will be.