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It’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer for the multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry. In May, a federal grand jury in Phoenix indicted on obscenity-related charges a California-based adult film company called JM Productions and an Arizona distributor of its films called Five Star Video, along with three owners of the businesses. The charges pertain to four allegedly obscene videos with titles such as Gag Factor 18 and Filthy Things 6. After an absence of federal obscenity prosecutions under President Clinton, the charges are the second shot fired by the Bush administration against the adult entertainment industry. The first case, targeting a company called Extreme Associates and its proprietors, Robert Zicari and Janet Romano, is pending in court in Pittsburgh. Rather than going after mainstream producers like Vivid Video and Wicked Pictures, the feds are zeroing in on individuals like Zicari, who goes by the name Rob Black. His material pushes the envelope of obscenity law and is even offensive for some within the adult industry. “Rob Black called me and asked me for a contribution. I wouldn’t give him a nickel,” said Hustler publisher Larry Flynt in an interview with us in June. “There are certain things you don’t do, not because you don’t feel you have the right to do them, but because they are indefensible in court.” Flynt contends that Extreme Associates hurts what the Adult Video News calls a more than $12-billion-a-year business. “He’s making it difficult for the whole industry. I hope he’ll get acquitted, but I don’t think he will. Obviously they went after him instead of coming after me because he is the worst,” Flynt said. While some may disagree, Flynt says that Hustler now only produces “vanilla sex.” Some industry leaders, although objecting to Black’s work, defend his right to produce it. “I’ve known Rob Black for years and years, and the guys from JM Productions, they’re going through their own battles right now-it’s an unfortunate situation that those guys want to be out there pushing the envelope,” said Joy King, vice president of special projects for Wicked Pictures, also in an interview with us. “I don’t like what they do, but I certainly support and recognize their right to do it,” she added. In a joint statement released by JM Productions and Five Star and published in the online Adult Video News on June 5, the companies claimed that the “prosecution represents a pointless and arbitrary waste of scarce investigative, prosecutorial and judicial resources. Instead of protecting Americans from actual crime, the government is trying to make criminal the offering of movies which only willing adults can see.” As the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) turns up the heat on the adult entertainment industry, its efforts have gone relatively unnoticed. The latest indictments generated no media attention, except for mentions in several adult industry trade publications. It’s not as though the feds are trying to keep their efforts secret. In fact, DOJ issued a press release about the case shortly after the indictments were unsealed. The industry is no longer taboo Perhaps the reason the efforts to curb pornography have generated barely a yawn is that most Americans have matured to the point where the flow of adult materials into willing adult hands doesn’t work them into a lather. There is no question that the adult industry has mainstreamed into American culture. Revenue figures are one stark indicator, but there is other, even more visible, evidence. Jenna Jameson is the country’s most recognizable adult film star. Instead of being relegated to the dark rooms of windowless adult stores in shady areas of town, Jameson can be found hosting specials on the E! cable television channel, on billboards in Times Square and on the bestseller lists. Today’s popular culture not only accepts adult entertainment but welcomes it. Porn’s portability through videos, DVDs and the Internet obviates the need for adult theaters, which provided community eyesores and uncomfortable parental moments. The direct-to-consumer environment in which adult entertainment now operates seemingly eliminates the need for the government to spend vast resources attempting to stop it. Ironically, DOJ instead is redoubling its efforts against pornography and spending taxpayer dollars in the process in a midterm election year. Ultimately, no matter how many indictments the government hands down, the genie that is adult entertainment is out of the bottle and there’s little that can be done to reverse American culture. Clay Calvert and Robert D. Richards are professors of communications and law at Pennsylvania State University and co-directors of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment. They are living in Los Angeles researching a book on the adult entertainment industry.

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