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The Porn Primaries: Which Candidate Is Best For Smut?

The adult industry has a unique set of political interests, so which candidate's platform would best benefit them?

SEX
(Photo Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso/Vocativ)
Feb 13, 2016 at 12:03 PM ET

The primaries are finally here—and with them, an avalanche of commentary about what America might look like under different political administrations. But despite all the chatter about how each presidential candidate might help—or hurt—the interests of any number of American communities, there’s little discussion of how one business will fare over the next four (or eight) years. So, how, exactly, might the porn industry be affected by the next presidential election?

At first glance, it might seem like the answer breaks down easily along party lines: liberal Democrats are better for the pornography industry, and conservative Republicans are fun-wreckers, committed to putting an end to smut. But while it’s true that President Barack Obama’s administration has been kinder to the adult entertainment industry compared to George W. Bush’s—Obama shut down Bush’s anti-obscenity task forces that went after pornographers for producing adult films that delved into more hardcore fetish and kink—porno isn’t necessarily favored by one party or the other.

After all, it was liberal Los Angeles that passed Measure B—which requires porn actors to wear condoms in films shot in L.A. County—a regulation viewed by many as a coded attempt to drive the industry out of the city. Additionally, in 2014, a similar bill was introduced on the state level and made the rounds through California’s State Assembly and State Senate before it was finally shelved.

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In order to understand what makes a particular politician “pro”-porn, one must look at their stances on other matters as reference points (very few politicians are willing to publicly come out in favor of pornographers) while also keeping in mind the issues that are most important to the pornography industry. So, to help readers determine which presidential candidate is best for porn, we’ve broken down their stances on the issues most likely to impact the San Fernando Valley’s finest industry.

(Of course, it should be noted that “best candidate for the adult industry” doesn’t translate to “the candidate all porn performers support”—Jenna Jameson did, after all, endorse Mitt Romney.)

 

Free Speech

Dirty movies may not seem like “speech” to some, but the First Amendment has played a serious role in the legal defense of pornography. As such, whether or not a candidate considers XXX content to be “obscene” (considered unprotected speech) is fairly essential to how they treat the adult industry. Adult performer Lorelei Lee, who supports Bernie Sanders, has seen the effects of obscenity prosecutions firsthand. “Under Bush, people I work with and care about were at risk of going to prison, so to me that’s a pretty big difference,” said Lee, who was called as a witness in the obscenity trial against John Stagliano, a pornographic director, producer and studio head.

Should our next president decide to prioritize prosecuting obscenity, working in porn could be a much riskier proposition, especially when one factors in that “obscenity” isn’t actually an explicitly defined term, but something open to the interpretation of the various players in our legal system.

However, not everyone is concerned about the return of obscenity task forces: “There is no mileage to be made today being an anti-porn crusader,” said Stagliano. “The movement of Americans’ opinion on gay marriage mirrors the general trend of tolerance in our culture that has been going on for a long time … The anti-obscenity task force that George Bush put in place and that indicted me in 2008 was disbanded under Obama. It won’t be back. People have more important things to think about.”

Privacy

A number of milestones in sexual rights have been achieved under the banner of the right to privacy—including the right to contraception and the right to abortion—so it’s not surprising that this is an issue that many in the porn industry consider important. It’s also an issue that doesn’t fall neatly along party lines. “Rand Paul was the only person who has talked and acted strongly in favor of privacy and protection from the intrusion of the government into our personal lives,” said Stagliano, who has in the past donated to the Libertarian National Committee. “As a libertarian he is the only politician who has a principled defense of the right of the porn industry to exist.”

Sexual Freedom

It stands to reason that a politician who fights for the rights of Americans to have sex however they choose would be more open to supporting the right for that sex to be on camera and for cash. So where a politician falls on reproductive rights, LGBT issues and a number of other battles for sexual freedom can serve as a handy guide for how tolerant they’ll be of the adult industry.

Net Neutrality

Like the rest of the media world, the adult entertainment industry is predominantly digital these days, and anything that might allow service providers to discriminate against the bandwidth-heavy videos served up by Porn Valley would be very bad for business.

True, adult entertainment rarely comes up in discussions about net neutrality, but since few porn companies have deep enough pockets to compete against big corporations (and since service providers aren’t all that likely to feel bad about discriminating against porn), there’s a decent chance XXX content would lose out in a world where all bytes aren’t created equal.

Deregulation

No matter a candidate’s opinion of the adult entertainment industry, if they stand for reducing the government’s involvement in the affairs of small businesses, many in the porno business believe that they would benefit from such practices.

Bodies such as the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for example, have over the years sought to regulate porno industry procedures by issuing safety regulations. These have been used as arguments in favor of mandatory condoms, as well as other safety paraphernalia.

While many would like to have industry actors handle their own affairs as they see fit, it is worth noting that not everyone sees that as a good thing. “I know a lot of people in the industry are staunch libertarians, because they believe the policies of deregulation … are good for the industry,” Lee said. “But I personally think there are many in our community for whom deregulation is not enough,” including many independent contractors who work as porn performers and might benefit from universal healthcare, a living wage, subsidized childcare and a number of other social policies.