Thursday, July 8, 2010


I heard yesterday that dutch porn star Bobbi Eden has pledged that if the Netherlands wins the World Cup, she will give each one of her twitter followers a blow job. Not surprisingly, the number of her followers has jumped from 5000 to 30,000. Adam of the Unknown Studio asked me what I thought of this? Well, what is there to think of it? Is it shocking? No, I don't think so. I think we are so far beyond something like this being shocking. Adult actors have been doing these kinds of things for a long time now. Those who don't have any exposure to the world of porn just might not be aware of it.

In 1995, Annabel Chong was the centre of a firestorm of controversy when she and director John T. Bone staged an event where Chong would have sex with 300 men in one day. It didn't actually work out that way but the entire event became quite infamous and brought out severe criticism on both sides of the porn debate. Questions of exploitation and safety come up. Was she actually choosing to do this, as she professed, or was she pressured? Was it safe? What kind of image of women was she promoting?

Since then various kinds of things like this have been staged and these types of videos abound on the internet. It's become commonplace. Is it exploitation of women? Well, I kind of think it is. But each woman involved in these types of things has to know for herself whether she is truly okay with it or not - we can't really know that from looking at a video or reading about it. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for women to enjoy sex like this and to want to do it. Does it perpetuate a negative image of women? I think it does. I think, regardless of how the women involved see themselves and whether they are coming from a position of empowerment or not, our history of objectification and exploitation of women makes it hard to see these kinds of things as anything but that.

But back to Bobbi Eden. Is this particular offering of mass sexual acts shocking? No, not at all. It Bobbi exploiting herself? I don't know. She has sex on film for a living. That's her job. So perhaps not. I couldn't find out a lot about Bobbi in the brief web search I did but it does look like she's quite well known and somewhat accomplished - she's been in a music video and she's written for some fairly well known magazines. We have entered an era where many female adult film actors are taking charge of their own career in the industry and actively marketing and managing themselves effectively becoming successful business women. Bobbi Eden may be one of those.

So this World Cup thing is a very clever marketing strategy, in the least. It's certainly garnered her a lot of attention from people who didn't know who she was before. Will she goes through with it if the Netherlands win? I doubt it. How could she? It's not physically possible. But I bet she will do some sort of staged event like Annabel Chong and film it for distribution. The opportunity is there, why not make some more money out of it?

Sugar Babies?

I caught a bit of the Tyra Banks show yesterday afternoon. I haven't seen her in a long time so I thought I'd see what she's up to now. Looks like the same old thing....judging women for their choices around their sexuality. This show was about 'Sugar Babies'. These are women who hook up with very rich men to get their financial needs met. Of course, this is nothing new. This has been going on since before recorded history. But what is new, or at least somewhat new, is a website and service devoted specifically to helping men and women connect for this purpose. I believe there are actually a few such sites but she had the owner of a particular one on the show, as well as two women who claimed to be sugar babies.

I have to admit, I am torn by this phenomenon. Part of me wants to say 'Hey, if everyone is consenting, where's the problem?' But the other part of me sees the gender inequity that leads to this kind of thing. Why is it mainly women who do this and very rarely men? She did actually have two men on the show that were self-professed 'him-bos' (that name and the blatant misogyny behind it something I'm not even going to get into here), but it's quite clear that it's mainly women who participate in these types of relationships. The reasons are obvious, I think. There are far more men in positions of great wealth and power than there are women. As well, I think that men are much less likely to believe that finding a rich and powerful person to care for them is the easiest way for them to get their financial needs met or to live a wealthy lifestyle. The first assumption by men is that the way to wealth is to build it yourself, not to ride on the coattails of someone else. Historically women have had to depend on men to survive because they were denied the ability to own property, to accumulate wealth of their own, and to participate in most trades and professions. Their only option for wealth was to marry well, if that was even an option for them. Although that has changed, we still do not have equal access and that history still carries on in our psyche. A lot of women still believe that their financial security depends on men.

Here's a case in point. My mother was always very clear with her three daughters that we should have jobs and careers of our own and that we should plan to take care of ourselves. Although my mother married in her early 20's in 1962 and had three children, she always worked. She worked because she wanted to and because she was contributing financially to the family. My sisters and I did not grow up with the belief that we were just waiting to get married so we wouldn't have to work anymore. All of us have professional degrees. However, a few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my sister and her family. We were talking about trades because we had just been to an Alberta trade fair. My 11 year-old niece mentioned a friend of the family who worked in the oil field and made a lot of money. 'That's what I need to do,' she said, 'I need to marry someone who does what Bob does.' I was shocked. Here's a girl who was not raised with this type of value and expectation and yet still, her first thought about how to make money is to find a man with money. I said to her 'No sweetie, you need to find out if what Bob does interests you and if it does, go do it yourself. Make your own money, honey.' This little girl is smart, really smart - she'll be able to do anything she wants. But that thought had not occurred to her.

So my feminist soul has a dilemma here. I actually do support the right of these women to do what they're doing. According to them, they are completely forthright with their 'sugar daddies' and they with them. They both know the parameters of the relationship and the expectations. The men are not being used because they know exactly what the woman expects. The woman knows what the man expects and makes a choice as to whether she accepts it or not. If there is upfront knowledge and informed consent, I don't think anyone is being abused or exploited. If that's what they choose to do, it's their business. I do not believe that they are necessarily exploiting themselves, or devaluing themselves. A major point of contention on the show was whether this was prostitution or not. I don't think it matters. If everyone agrees, it is an agreement. I don't believe that taking money for sex, if that is a part of what they are doing, is necessarily wrong. So I don't judge them like Tyra Banks and her 'expert' do.

But it does make me sad that so many women still feel that their most valuable asset is their sexuality. And maybe that is judgmental of me. Who am I to say that's not okay? I just wonder if the women who make these kinds of choices do it because they feel that's the best thing for them, that they know they could make the money themselves but they just don't want to, or if they feel that even now, they will never be able to achieve the kind of lifestyle they want without the help of a man.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do we need .xxx?

I was driving home last night when a piece on CBC radio caughty my ear. They were reporting on the progress of an application to have .xxx established as a new top level domain name. Although this application has been in process for the past six years, this is the first I had heard of it. Knowing the potential implications of this, I stopped to listen.

So here's the deal. An internet domain registry service called ICM has been trying to get the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbering to approve their proposal for a .xxx top level domain, to be used solely for adult content. This idea has been brought forward to ICANN and others many times in the past, but this six year battle that ICM has engaged in is not only to have the domain established but for ICM to have exclusive rights over it - ie. if you want an .xxx domain, you'll have to pay ICM and only ICM. Other domains like this exist but they are small and not widely used.

My concern, the second I heard this was that if such a domain was established, attempts might be made to make a .xxx domain mandatory for all adult content on the net. Given the climate in North America around sexuality and pornography, it's not a stretch to be concerned about this. That could put my website and my business, and those of my fellow business owners in the industry in jeopardy. How does one define ''adult content'? I've been lumped in with random porn sites and other adult content industries and denied business services before so this makes me vary wary.

However, after listening to the interviews and doing some digging around, I don't think we need to be concerned about that........yet.

So what is this all about? ICM, and the proponents of this idea claim that it will help internet users avoid unwanted adult content and will help protect children from incidental exposure. They say that it will make filters even more effective because parents can simply block the entire domain.

But if use of the domain is voluntary, will it really make a difference. A .com domain costs anywhere from $7 to $20 a year so what will likely happen is that adult site owners who have a .com right now will simply add a .xxx to increase their traffic. They won't drop the .com. So bam! We've just doubled the number of porn addresses on the web! Great way to control kids access to porn. Not only that, but then everyone will know that there is a virtual goldmine of porn over the .xxx rainbow. Type in and you're sure to come up with some porn. So does this make it easier or more difficult for kids to access porn.

It seems obvious to me that this is nothing more than a money grab. ICM has spent $10 million so far to make .xxx a reality. Yes, you read that right, $10 Million!! So guess how much they expect to make from it? As mentioned before, a .com domain name is, at most, $20 a year. ICM does not state, on their website, how much the domain will actually cost but a rep. from the Free Speech Coalition said she has heard estimates of anywhere from $50 to $275/year. Why so much more than .com? It's because you can only get it from ICM so they can charge whatever they want. The president of ICM did say in the interview that they expect to make up to $150 million a year from .xxx! He said that they already have 156,000 domain names parked - so if all of those end up paying their $50, that's $7.8 million in their pockets before they even start!

In a totally transparent and somewhat smarmy move, he mentioned that 10% of the cost of each domain would go towards child protection charities. What does that have to do with anything? The only reason ICM wants to make that so public is to try to win people over to the idea that this is good for everyone. 10% is nothing to them when they're making that kind of money.

Do I think .xxx is a bad thing? No, not really. My only concern is that we will get some right-wing crazy group lobbying ICANN and their governments to make it mandatory for all adult content. I know how difficult that would be to enact and enforce so I don't think it's something we need to be worried about for now. I don't think it's fair business practice to allow it to be exclusively owned. Website builders know that they'll pretty much have to get the .xxx name for their site or they'll lose a huge amount of traffic and revenue to someone else who scoops it out from under them. It's basically strong-arming them into paying for an extra site. Other than that, is it damaging? No, I don't think so. Will it help to prevent incidental exposure to porn on the net? No, I really don't think it will. Will it line to pockets of some brilliant, but pretty clearly unscrupulous business people? Yes, most definitely.