Why Do People Hate the Smut Industry SO Much?

I Needed to Find out

In February, the dominoes continued to fall in the P(o)rnhub-versus-credit-cards debacle (as they are still continuing to fall). I started thinking about the activists, politicians, and zealots who have made it their life’s mission to take down the smut industry. In my decade-plus of covering the industry, I’ve seen prominent anti-p(o)rn crusaders come and go, some with more success in their mission than others. I knew there were plenty before them. And there will be plenty after.

And I wondered. Why do these folks care so much about the adult entertainment industry? Sure, the industry has issues. And sure, there are certain schools of thought that think it’s icky, generally. But the focus, the machinations, the mental gymnastics performed by some of the activists in question… It’s so above and beyond, so obsessive. I can’t wrap my mind around why people would go to the lengths they have.

So, I started work on a series of articles for YNOT, in which I investigated eight prominent anti-smut crusaders from the late sixties onward. I was hoping I’d find some commonality between them. Maybe a shared background, a prominent personality trait, that they’d all drunk the same Kool-Aid somewhere in their pasts.

Keating & Dworkin & Meese & Reisman

Starting in mid-February, I first wrote an introduction to the series, explaining my goals. Then, I profiled Charles Keating, Nixon’s anti-p(o)rn zealot on the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography back in 1969. Keating was egotist, a staunch Catholic, and a convicted financial fraudster behind the financial crisis of the late 1980s. Next, I studied Andrea Dworkin, one of the best-known anti-smut feminists of the ’70s through the ’90s. She wrote, “Pornography is a celebration of rape and injury to women” and her vociferous hatred of the medium still influences feminist discourse today.

Then I wrote about Edwin Meese, who served as attorney general under President Reagan. Meese never cared much about adult entertainment, one way or the other. But he cared about pleasing Reagan, so he threw pornographers under the bus in the 1,500-page “Meese Report” that vilified smut in the late ’80s. Then it was on to Judith Reisman, who was laughed out of academa when she tried to defame Alfred Kinsey. But her work on “erotoxins” was embraced by the Christian right, and has trickled into “p(o)rn addiction” theories.

Trueman & Lubben & Weinstein & Mickelwaite

Interestingly, Reisman’s work seems to have influenced Patrick A. Trueman, who I profiled next. The president of a prominent anti-smut non-profit, Trueman is the likely architect behind the “p(o)rn is a public health crisis” resolutions that 16 state legislatures have recently. Then I moved on to Shelley Lubben, a troubled ex–adult performer whose wildly innacurate claims about her experiences in adult entertainment landed her on Fox News, Howard Stern, Dr. Phil, and other prominent media outlets and fed into deeply held societal fears about the industry.

After that, I researched Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. He spent millions of his non-profit’s money trying to force prophylactics onto the bodies of adult actors in the 2010s. I followed that up with Laila Mickelwaite, whose far-right Christian activism led, in part, to the aforementioned P(o)rnhub debacle. Mickelwaite’s work, by the way, can be linked to Patrick Trueman. He, in turn, was influenced by Judith Reisman. She hoped to work for the Meese Commission, for whom Andrea Dworkin testified and which was a rebuttal to the earlier commission that Charles Keating sat on.

(Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)
(Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

So, What’s the Verdict?

Although I found some links between the work of several of the people I profiled, I sadly didn’t discover that they all went to the same elementary school, or were influenced by the same cult, or anything of the sort. I did, however, find some commonalities between a few of them—the true believers, the non-profit profiteers, and the sheer opportunists.

And, more than that, I speculatee on something that might tie them all together that’s a bit less easy to pin down. Something having to do with a search for influence and, even more importantly, power. I wrote all about it in my conclusion to the series, which just went up at YNOT. Sorry to rope-a-dope you by not going into detail here, but I’d love it if you’d go check out the article itself, and maybe read some of the rest of the series. I’m pretty proud of it!

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