Outsourcing Porn


America has a multi-billion pornographic moviemaking industry. It turns out on an average around 4,000 films every year, which yield revenue of $13 billion (The Observer, April 18, 2004). Thousands of people are engaged in it from its production to distribution. With the advent of the Internet, its range of distribution has become worldwide and is ever expanding. Nation states are, notwithstanding their wish and efforts, not able to censor and restrict them. Not only adults, but adolescents too watch them without any effective restrictions. In America, as The New York Times (May 2, 2004) reports, “Almost all of the national cable providers offer a pornography channel, millions of sex videos are sold each year and 50 percent of hotel guests watch pornography on pay-per-view channels.”

This industry, however, is facing a grave threat to its very survival. The main reason for the crisis is the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS. Within less than fortnight three porn movie performers have tested positive for the virus that causes the fatal disease AIDS. This has created panic so much so that major producers of porn films have downed their shutters for 60 days. Meantime, industry will think of ways and means to revive its fortune.

Sharon Mitchell, the founder as well as executive director of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation has been quoted by CBSNEWS.com as saying that “This is not over.” Her organisation screens movie performers for sexually transmitted diseases. Though she refused to identify the woman found on April 29 to be afflicted with HIV, Mitchell did confirm that this star had sex with five male performers who have since been barred from acting till necessary tests are carried on them and they are found to be free from any HIV. By the end of April as many as 53 stars were quarantined, compelling dozens of producers halting their activities.

It needs to be noted that Mitchell herself was an actress in the porn films and knows the ins and outs of the industry. Seeing the appalling conditions prevailing there, she has set up her organisation with a clinic after earning her master’s degree in public health.

The Observer (April 18, 2004) thinks: “The crisis comes at a difficult time for the industry. Pornography, driven by the explosion of internet porn, has never been more popular. Several soap operas on US television have been based in or around the San Fernando studio scene. A current Hollywood film, The Girl Next Door, is about a retired porn star, yet the film has been billed as a teen comedy. At the same time there is a conservative backlash in the US against sexual images in the media.”

The efforts by the producers to allow only those stars to perform who undergo regular tests for sexual diseases including HIV, gonorrhoea and syphilis and submit certificates of fitness have not improved the situation.

The porn film industry based in the San Fernando valley, on the outskirts of Los Angeles city has been trying hard to ward off the danger of closure by making regular tests and certification compulsory. The Los Angeles County Department of Health is not convinced that these steps are sufficient. On April 19, 2004 it ruled that male actors must wear condoms just as building workers put on hard hats to protect themselves. In the case of the former, it is all the more necessary because they put not only their lives but also of those with whom they come into contact in danger. This regulation is being resisted by producers who “argue that the actors are independent contractors, and thus not covered by the regulations. What they really mean is that films with condoms sell less well than films without, hence only two of some 200 production houses in southern California are “condom only”, and less than one-fifth of the industry’s 1,200 performers regularly use condoms.” (The Economist, April 24, 2004). Mitchell in a signed article in The New York Times (May 2, 2004) confirms: “Filmmakers believe that viewers prefer the “reality” of unprotected sex. But the reality of unprotected sex is risk of HIV infection.”

To get over these problems and reduce costs, there is a serious thinking on the part of the industry to outsource it. Already a number of Hollywood producers are making their non-porn films outside America. Newspapers report that talks are going on between them and the Bollywood people to cooperate so that American films may be made in India. This will benefit both the Hollywood producers and India. The former will reduce their costs and increase their profits while the Indians will get work and the government tax revenue. Thus it will help a section of the Indians “feel good” and add further brightness to NDA government’s already “shining India”. If this is so, the porn movie making can also well be outsourced to India. Both moral and other objections can be overcome and people can be persuaded to see reason! Has it not happened in the case of opening the doors to foreign print media? If Brazil has allowed American porn moviemakers to outsource their activities to it, how can India stand on the moral postures inherited from bygone eras? Look at Vatsyan’s Kama Sutra and the temples of Khajuraho besides vivid depictions Ratikriya in our Sanskrit literature and then decide whether there is anything morally objectionable in filming such scenes and earning revenue as well as providing jobs to our young men and women. Just like export processing zones that do not allow country’s labour as well as other laws to operate because we earn money and get jobs for our people, we can also create special zones where porn moviemakers from America can carry on their activities without any hindrance from either the laws and judicial institutions of the country and the morality police operated by the Sangh Parivar and the Shiv Sena. The American moviemakers will get performers at much lower wages and the infrastructure at reduced rates. They will get talented performers and highly skilled workers to help produce the films. Both sides will benefit and mutual cooperation between the two countries will deepen.

There are, however, two big snags. Just like the question of sending Indian troops to Iraq, the proposal may not take off because what havoc outsourcing porn moviemaking has caused to Brazil is no longer secret. Though the Indian press has, by and large, ignored it, the Western press is full of details. Let us refer to just one report. The Miami Herald (April 29, 2004) informs from Sao Paulo: “Flush with dollars, American porn film directors swoop into Brazil for its exotic and uninhibited women, dazzling tropical backdrops and cheap production costs—a phenomenon that has turned South America’s largest country into a prime destination for adult film outsourcing.

“But the infection of an American porn star with HIV last month after shooting unprotected sex scenes with more than a dozen Brazilian women is sending shock waves through the industry’s California heartland and prompting Brazilian performers to criticize their American counterparts.”

It goes on to add: “At Sao Paulo’s eighth annual Erotica Fair last week, Brazilian porn actors said American directors often bring in their own male talent but usually hire Brazilian actresses who often moonlight as prostitutes and are also willing to have sex without condoms.

“The Brazilians make about $175 for sex scenes with condoms, but can double their pay working actors not wearing them.”
Second, globally, India is second only to South Africa so far as the incidence of HIV/AIDS is concerned. As many as six lakh people are afflicted with AIDS and 45 lakh 80 thousand carry the virus that causes the disease. The Economist (April 17, 2004), quoting the CIA, editorially states that as many as 90 lakh Indians will get infected by HIV by 2010. In this situation, if American porn moviemaking is outsourced to India, one may well imagine the havoc it will cause. In spite of our nuclear bombs we will be defenceless.

Girish Mishra, New Delhi E-mail:gmishra@girishmishra.com. 

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