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Author of The Pornographer's Daughter providing commentary on pornography, life and much more.

Filtering by Tag: first amendment

Is There Still a Witch Hunt Against Pornography?

Kristin Battista-Frazee

My father once said, “It’s a witch hunt and I’m one of the few people who knows what those unscrupulous, publicity seeking authorities are doing to free speech in this country.”  This was a quote of his from an article that appeared in The Inquirer Magazine in 1977 and he was referring to his indictment on obscenity charges for distributing Deep Throat.  His words are just as relevant today. Recent letters urging Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute pornography distributors have made me wonder if it’s possible to prosecute today’s porn industry with the same fervor it was subject to in the ‘70s.  The latest letter was signed by 43 Senators on April 4th and seems to echo a letter sent by Reps. J. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) and Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina) back in February. This all comes shortly after the John Stagliano indictment and his acquittal in July 2010, which was the first serious legal action against porn in over 25 years.

Although these proceedings got me speculating about the possibility of another witch hunt going after porn, I concluded it’s unlikely we’ll see another obscenity case like Deep Throat again and here’s why.  History seems to be a good predictor of the future and in the last 35 years no one has successfully prosecuted obscenity to thwart the spread of pornography.  Not one single win.  In these types of cases the argument to protect free speech has been effective and endured because of an underlying fear that banning porn could lead us down the wrong path of limiting our liberties. I also think those who vigorously stood up against pornography unknowingly created a tipping point that made porn culturally acceptable and consequently turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. Raising such a fuss obviously inspired everyone’s ogling curiosity.

Also, anti-porn advocates typically use incoherent arguments to state their case against pornography. They rely on unfounded claims and scare tactics to make people believe pornography inspires horrible crimes, and this obvious deceit undermines any credibility for their cause. If research were available to prove porn harms people, like the kind that proves smoking causes cancer, then this debate would be very different.  

Lastly, the Obama Administration has more important problems to deal with than America’s libido. Terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, revolutions in the Middle East, and let’s not forget the myriad of domestic problems: reducing the deficit, homelessness, lack of healthcare, hunger, taking care of the mental health needs of our veterans returning home from war.  These pressing issues crowd the top of most voters’ agendas.  The insidious danger of porn isn’t even on the list.

But the recent letters from legislators do highlight a problem that’s worth talking about — pornography addiction. There is a body of research that supports that a person can become addicted to pornography just like food, gambling, drugs, alcohol, shopping, etc. The April 4th letter notes pornography addiction will be listed in the next version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and in my opinion it rightfully belongs in this bible of mental health disorders.

Pornography addiction can be a serious problem. But I would emphasize here the word “addiction,” not “pornography” and suggest that this is truly a mental health issue and not a case of a specific type of media egging on aberrant behavior in normal adults.  To scapegoat porn will not solve the problem of addiction (which some even see as a physiological problem). What troubles me most is the fact that legislators who sign letters calling for legal action against porn could instead use their influence to provide adequate funding for addiction treatment and research. But the real services needed are consistently underfunded, and the chosen path is grandstanding to the conservative reaches of politics on this polarizing and “sexy” social topic. It’s a sad commentary about how Washington works.

I’ll always wonder why porn is still cast as such an evil in society and why we keep having these same conversations over and over again.  The “witch hunt” against pornography, I suspect, will forever remain a threat.

Senators ask Holder for more pornography prosecutions

Stockbroker to Pornbroker

Kristin Battista-Frazee

The first time I read the Stockbroker to Pornbroker article was when I was home for spring break during my freshmen year of college. I was curious about the stories I had heard growing up and dug through a stack of news clips my mother had collected about my dad from the 1970s.  It was strange to read about my father depicted as the Philadelphia stockbroker turned notorious pornbroker at the helm of a successful strip club and the target of a federal indictment.  To me, he was just my dad. This article was published in May of 1977 in the Sunday magazine insert for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the impetus to write my memoir, Daughter of Pornography. When I began writing the whereabouts of this article had been lost in between my father’s second and third marriages. I needed to find it again.

My last resort was to research microfilm at the Library of Congress. I was lucky I lived nearby so trips there were easy.  If you have ever researched through microfilm you have to look through everything chronologically, so exact dates are important. There is no database to type in keywords to narrow your search. I relied on my parents’ memories to narrow down the publication date which was frustrating and provided conflicting information.

“Was the weather warm or cold outside when you read the article?” I asked my mother trying to isolate the month of publication.

She said, “I think I was wearing a sweater. Yeah it might have been chilly.” This made me happy and indicated publication was either early spring or fall.

I asked my father yet again, “Are you sure you were interviewed in 1976?”

His response, “It was either spring of 1976 or 1977. I don’t remember Kristin it was more than 30 years ago.” This answer led me back to the microfilm drawer to pull a different year or month. 

I wondered how they could forget what I saw as a major development in their lives. But then I realized the significance of the article was only my perception and this was one of many things that occurred during this time.

I went through every Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer from the beginning of 1976 through spring of 1977. Finally one Saturday huddled behind a microfilm reading machine with my eyes growing tired and my sweater no longer keeping me warm in the over air-conditioned periodical reading room, the elusive article floated up on the screen.  At that moment I was whispering more questions to my mother on my cell phone when I hastily said I had to call her back.

Click here to view the article.

The cover had a picture of the woman executive with her feet up on a desk and the headline, “Problems for the Female Executive”. It was so cliché 1970s feminism.  I was sure that same woman executive would be the first to malign the Golden 33, my father’s strip club, as the bastion of everything machismo and disrespectful to women.   The article had some great lines. My favorite was a quote in an inset, “the big difference between selling stock and selling smut, according to Tony Battista, is the hours. Also, he doesn’t wear a tie anymore.”

There was also a mention of me and my mother,” I never seem to get enough time with my family,“ my father said. The reporter references his young daughter and wife in Upper Darby.  There is a clear hesitation from my father to expand on that topic. I know why. He always wanted to protect us and being away from home was his greatest disappointment.  

This article has provided me great insight about these events and most importantly a rare glimpse of a younger version my father during this tumultuous time.  It’s a gift to learn about my family that has given me a more complete understanding of myself.  This story continues to unfold in my memoir Daughter of Pornography. Stay tuned.

The FBI and Me

Kristin Battista-Frazee

A large manilla envelope finally arrived on my doorstep from the FBI in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about my father 18 months ago. I had always heard the comical stories about the surveillance of my family. Like when our neighbors mentioned to my mother how nice it was “our friends” picked up our weekly trash. Alarmed by the discovery, my mother staked out the front of our house in Plantation, Florida coyly peaking though the living room window on garbage day. As soon as she saw the dark sedan pull up and a man jump out to throw our bags into the trunk of the car, she hit the carpet.

Also the clicking sounds my parents heard while talking on the phone and FBI agent, Bill Kelly, mentioning to my father in court, “the agents said your wife was very pretty.”  We were like the early pioneers of the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program. I asked my mother what she thought about the FBI’s intense interest. She said, “they (the FBI) just found out I had a very boring life.”

Now here in my home more than 35 years later was proof that our movements were monitored by the federal government. As I read the more than 300 pages the package contained it seemed like an endless query. It described FBI agents that traveled all over the country to interrogate every movie theater owner from Montana to Maine in person. They flashed pictures of my father and asked if they knew unsub “Anthony Michael Battista” AKA Tony B and if he had provided them copies of Deep Throat.  Most people answered they didn’t know my father and a handful of others acknowledging they did.

The purpose of the FBI query seemed consistent with the prosecutors’ relentless effort to compile evidence to build a national conspiracy case. The vast information gathering was a terrible waste of tax dollars and in the end we know it never stopped pornography.

For $19.35 the FBI will release another 300 pages to me they have on record about my father. When I get it, I’ll let you know what I find.

FBI tried in vain to stop 'Deep Throat' film

Let’s Talk About Pornography Again

Kristin Battista-Frazee

The latest headline about pornography jumped off the page in the style section of the Washington Post, Publicly a Whole New Lewdness — an article about watching porn in public. Now this was a compelling story in an otherwise boring news day. The pornography industry today is a far cry from when people lined up around the block to watch Deep Throat in a movie theater and when my father was federally indicted for distributing that film in the 1970s. It has transformed over time; from VCRs bringing adult material into people’s homes to porn content made available in the palm of our hands. IPhones, laptops and Internet on planes makes it possible for everyone to have immediate access to porn.  So the same conversation about what is decent and appropriate happens again 30 years later. With all this new technology, didn’t we know this day would come? Even the people who publicly protest it have dabbled in the obscene.

Several states have passed legislation on what they are calling “drive-by porn”. Could the obscenity trials in the 1970s happen again? Community standard laws that give local communities the right to determine what is obscene is still on the books but enforced haphazardly. If you’re on a plane going from DC to Alabama, what locality determines what we watch at 27,000 feet? Could this issue fall under indecent exposure laws? Or should viewing porn in public be left to decorum? These are vexing questions.

It is unacceptable for a child to be subjected to this material. My father, who has been in the pornography business for 30 years never exposed me to adult material when I was a child. It was even hard to find it around the house. Trust me I looked. I would also be uncomfortable if the guy or girl next to me on a plane started up the latest Jenna Jameson DVD.  She’s a beautiful woman…just not my thing. I would watch something in the John Hughes genre.  Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles is more my speed.

The retail pornography business has declined from 12 billion dollar in the US in 2007 to 6 billion dollars in 2009.[1] But this doesn’t mean that the interest in pornography is decreasing just accessed differently. Based on the Experian Hitwise sample of 10 million U.S. Internet visitors porn is one of the most popular categories of online content.[2]

So as these questions danced around in my head. I needed an expert opinion…my dad. 

He said, “those people [who play porn in public] are indiscreet. It’s wrong, they shouldn’t do things like that.” 

I wasn’t surprise with his take on this.  He’s a reserved guy. But I was surprised at his following remarks.

“I would be a lot happier if they outlawed playing porn in public. It would help the retail business. If porn was less accessible my business would be better. Now that you can get free porn anywhere it is not as big of a deal to go into a store. When I was one of the few guys that sold pornography, business was good. I knew the Internet was the information superhighway but this is ridiculous.”

Could I be hearing this right? From the man that fought the early legal battles for the first amendment rights. I was a little taken a back and questioned his stance. It’s because of him and others that fought those battles that there is even ready access to pornography today.

As I reflected on our conversation, his reaction made more sense. My father understands, and so should everyone else, pornography is a business and he is an entrepreneur. He always viewed it in this way. When law enforcement authorities tried to shut down his business he did what he had to do to protect his livelihood.

So where ever the pornography industry might go next we can only speculate but one thing is certain it will be sure to make headlines.