by Jeff Booth
I have experienced censorship first hand on a number of occasions. It has almost always been ridiculous, and random, and involved petty power plays by those who believe that if sex is involved, playing by the rules, integrity, courtesy, and decency are not necessary. Some of them did impact CenterSEE negatively.
One of my first exposures to direct censorship was over an art gallery showing by several friends who did erotic art. The erotic art show even got a write-up in Penthouse magazine. That was great publicity for my artist friends, especially since the show was closed after the first day. This was in Los Angeles in a regular art gallery. The show was for adults only. It was shut down not by local authorities, but by the owner of the building the gallery was in. He told them he would evict the gallery if they did not shut down the show.
I also experienced direct art censorship several years ago when I was involved working with the Lifestyles Convention. One of the important parts of that convention was the erotic art show, which was always well done with a professional curator. Kris and I were friends with the curator and his wife, so we learned first hand about what he went through. This time it was not local authorities, but the state ABC, Alcohol Beverage Control. They seemed to have decided that since they had failed at keeping alcohol away from minors, they would instead focus on the other authority the law gave them- protecting the morality of California adult citizens. They told the hotel where the art show was being held to shut down the art show or lose their liquor license for the entire hotel. No, alcohol was not allowed in the gallery. The ABC claimed control over the entire hotel, even in places where alcohol was not served. You can read about the debacle in the article by Steve Mason in our Archives.
I was the editor for the Adult Business section of About.com. It was a popular section that discussed and reviewed adult toys, movies, and other commercial related aspects of the adult industry. Unfortunately, About.com was purchased by a much more conservative company that wanted to drive away the adult content, despite the fact that it produced large revenues and was very popular. This included sections on BDSM, sex education, and other channels of content by other editors. The first move was, “to protect the children”, to remove us from their search engines and their channel listings. That dropped traffic by about 80 percent. Since all of us working on About.com were freelancers who had built up our own channels, and we got paid based upon the number of page views and advertising, suddenly, a number of people who were making a decent living saw it disappear almost overnight. The next decision was that since the adult channels were now underperforming, a problem they caused by removing us from search and channel listings in the first place, that we would no longer be paid the premium but at a lower rate per page view because of our “lack of success”. This pretty much wiped out all of the profitability from editing a channel, which took a lot of work to make a success. I and all of the other adult content editors resigned, which was what they wanted all along.
One of the most ridiculous forms of censorship was when I was doing radio interviews to promote an event I was producing for CenterSEE celebrating orgasm. It included free classes related to orgasm, educational displays, a stage show where we set the world’s record for most touch free simultaneous orgasms using hypnosis, and lots of other orgasm related activities of an educational but not hands on. Anything hands on, of course, would have gotten the event closed down. The producer of one the shows, a rather popular one actually, told me that I could not use the word orgasm. If I did, I would be bleeped. This was right after the Janet Jackson Superbowl episode and all the radio stations were a bit paranoid. A friend who did a popular educational sex segment on a major Los Angeles radio show had to quit doing that segment because of all of the fear and pressure from not knowing what the FCC would go after.
Of course, censorship goes beyond being told what to say-it also includes being told what you can’t do. That cost us the physical building where we held CenterSEE events and classes, and forced us out onto the Internet. You can read about that in the L.A. City Shuts Down CenterSEE Home article.
None of my personal experiences with censorship have been particularly positive.