The Great Porn Debate

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A few weeks ago I was privileged enough to catch "The Great Porn Debate" between self-proclaimed "Porn Pastor" Craig Gross and porn legend Ron Jeremy. By now you all know what happened after the debate, but here's a rundown of what Craig and Ron are bickering about each night on their traveling roadshow.

The funniest thing about all this is that I tried to bring this debate to my college a few years ago, back when Ron used to debate an anti-porn feminist named Susan Cole, but nobody at my school seemed interested or willing to help me make it happen. Possibly the cost was prohibitive, but more than likely they were prudes, not realizing what a huge crowd an event like this can attract. Sure enough, the event was near sold out and the crowd was somewhat diverse, but obviously more aligned with Ron's point of view.

Craig is the pastor of the XXX Church, which sounds more like a dirty sanctuary for porn lovers rather than the anti-porn traveling circus they really are. He's young, looks somewhat hip and not at all like the typical Christian holy rollers we're used to seeing. He readily admits that he or anybody else will ever be able to eradicate porn, but wants to help the performers who want to get out of the industry, most likely by helping them find Jesus. He did mention that his church has helped pay living expenses and education costs for several performers who wanted out of the industry, but always seemed to stress that women needed the most help, rather than the men (more on that later).

The debate began with Craig presenting his case on why porn is harmful. He stated that it causes men to have " unrealistic fantasies about women", causing women to complain about not being able to compete with porn. He also cites some statistics about porn ending up in the hands of children (don't they all use this excuse?), stating that 20-30% of kids aged 13-17 have looked at Internet porn. He rattles off titles such as "Barely Legal", "Teen Cock Suckers", "Young, Dumb, and Full of Cum" focusing on how they target teens, as well as luring the consumer into thinking the performers are under 18. Quite frankly, I wouldn't disagree with him. Titles like those usually make me pretty angry as well.

Next he disputes the claim that "porn is empowering to women." How can titles such as "Cum Dumpsters", "Stupid Ho's", and "The World's Oldest Gangbang" be empowering? Craig also brings up the act of analingus, which he can't describe but wonders how any woman could possibly be empowered by it. He stresses that even those female performers are making big bucks for their work, money doesn't mean you're empowered. Craig thinks that porn is progressive, meaning that the more you watch, the more damaged you are, and believes there is no such thing as watching porn responsibly.

I'll readily admit that Craig presented his case well and I agreed with a lot of the points he made, but ultimately knew I disagreed with his opinion of porn. Thankfully, he rarely brought religion into his argument, instead mentioning that he uses his faith to help people when they need it.

Next, Ron tried to dispute Craig's case by first off describing "analingus", saying "you take a shower and get squeaky clean and put your tongue where the sun don't shine." Either way, it's still gross to me. Then he went on to mention that the largest selling titles are those with Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick, and the biggest selling titles of last year was "Pirates", not the kinky, "bottom rung" stuff that Craig was focusing on. He explained that the niche marketing of disgusting titles exists on a small scale and doesn't make up the majority of sales in the industry. He also brought up the fact that Jenna Jameson is worth $17 million and if that isn't empowering then what is?

I disagree with Ron here. I subscribe to AVN (the industry bible) and the gross-out, exploitative "niche" titles he mentions exist on a much larger scale than he tries to convince people. They may not be the biggest sellers, but there are more of these titles because they're cheaper and easier to make. They make up a huge portion of the industry and sell fairly well. And yes, female porn stars can make a lot of money but none of them make as much as Jenna Jameson, who sold her production company to Playboy last year for a huge sum of money.

As far as creating unrealistic fantasies, Ron mentioned, "I used to masturbate to Gilligan's Island, who cares?" Regular people don't look like celebrities, but you can't ban them either, so why should people target porn? Porn creates fantasies, he noted, and if you have a fantasy you want to see he you can call the number on the box and have them create it for you. As far as the Internet goes, Ron stressed that they support prosecution on illegal content.

After the debate, a moderator took questions from the audience and over the Internet. The first question was good one to say the least... (Answers are abbreviated from my notes)

Q: Has not religion done more harm than porn?

Craig: Yes, there were bad things-Ted Haggard, etc. So many people who claim to be of faith do bad things and I can't defend it. I can only say, "I'm sorry." It does happen

Ron: Yes, thank you.

Q: Ron, at what point has porn gone too far?

Ron: I do boring, safe, sex. Kinky stuff is done overseas. Things you see on the Internet. The Pam/Tommy Lee tape was sold illegally, anything like that. Anything outside the realm of consenting sex. Serious pain, anything you can't recover from.

Craig: Yes it has gone too far. Back in the day, you had plots, story. Now it just takes a few minutes to do a scene. (He then tells a story about seeing a behind-the-scenes shoot of a girl doing ATM (Ass-to-Mouth) and watching the girl throw up afterwards. The director knew the girl was going to barf as he sees it all the time.)

Q: Craig, you're never going to shut down the industry.

Craig: You're right, but we're here to help you.

Ron: It's your right to choose. We agree on this.

Q: For Ron, what do your parents think of what you do?

Ron: They think I'm a bit of a nut case. They wanted to see me go on to other things. I'm one of the few who can say that other than Jenna Jameson. I've had a whole variety of careers. It's easier for a guy to admit you do porn, there's a double standard. Women in porn don't tell their families. It is changing a lot; it's changed completely, a whole different ballgame.

(Not sure what the question was here)

Ron: MTV caters to young people with videos showing young girls looking sexy, why doesn't he (Craig) go after that industry? Also, violent video games desensitize children to violence.

Q: What problems do porn stars face when leaving the industry?

Ron: Porn can help you get cut out of a Disney movie. I was cut from "Ronin", other films. It was my choice to do porn. Girls will get stereotyped in mainstream movies.

Craig: Beyond movies, you're gonna have a tough time getting a job period. The Internet...this stuff will stay with you.

Ron: The average girl in porn can change their look afterwards. Recently a teacher got busted for being in porn but it was because her husband ratted her out in a custody battle. She looked completely different than when she had been in movies.

Q: Pastor Gross, who is your favorite porn star?

Craig: Well I don't watch porn so I wouldn't know. (rambles on for a few minutes)

Ron: Me, you dick! (Audience laughs)

Craig: He's a great guy. I'm not afraid to bring my kids around him. (If only Craig knew what Ron does when he's not around.)

Q: For Ron, if you had a daughter and she wanted to go into porn, would you let her?

Ron: Girls who have a lot of college usually don't choose porn. I'd like to think my daughter would go through college. Some girls only work with a boyfriend, only do girls, etc. When she turns 18, I'd give her advice but I couldn't stop her.

In the end, I'd have to say each side presented their case well and I agreed with some things that both Ron and Craig had to say. Obviously, I'd have to side with Ron on the whole thing, but I like Craig's fairness and realistic approach on the issue. I had issues with some things Ron said such as "kinky stuff mostly comes from Europe" as if that makes it OK? That statement is not true (Max Hardcore comes from the US and his stuff is truly disgusting) and even if it was, it still doesn't back his point up. If it's sick and exploitative porn, then what does it matter where it came from? It's still out there. Either way, the debate was interesting, drew a big crowd, and got people at least thinking intelligently about both sides of the porn issue without any salaciousness.

After the debate, my friend and I waited in the lobby to get Ron's autograph and well, I think you know the rest...

The Libertine, aka Libby


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