Buttman is free.
That might mean nothing to you, or it might sound totally inappropriate, or appropriate, depending on if you’re the tits or ass type. And if knowing that Buttman is free doesn’t exactly change your life, don’t feel bad, it hasn’t changed my life either, but it has got me thinking.
Here’s my disclaimer: I don’t consider what I do to be wrong, and what I do deals with sex and sometimes even porn. And if you think what I do is wrong, that’s your choice. I respect that you don’t have to like my work or me; I respect that all people have choices, and I will never force you to see things my way, or support my causes. But if you’re one of the kinds of people that believe you know what’s best for everyone, then you and I won’t get along at all.
So who is Buttman, besides a guy who really loves ass? John Stagliano is Buttman and he was the one the feds came after. He’s a producer, director, entrepreneur and actor. He owns Evil Angel, a company that makes porn. From regularly eccentric (what’s regular, really?) to especially fetishy, Buttman makes the types of movies that turn a bunch of people on, and off.
Just this month he was on the verge of going to prison for up to 32 years for producing and distributing some of his movies. The feds called them obscene. He went to federal court in DC, in a case called The United States vs. John Stagliano. So what is obscene? By definition it is (since 1973’s Miller v. California) “whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.” Of course questions abound. What community)? Whose standards? What defines prurient interest (since 1984 prurient interest has been defined as a shameful and morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion.”)
32 years is a long time to be locked up behind bars for a rather hazy definition. He didn’t kill anyone, rape , beat, stone, bludgeon or commit hate crimes or other heinous acts against mankind. He didn’t cheat or steal, or run over helpless kittens. His alleged crime wasn’t even purely his own, but someone had to pay. And since it was his company, his Evil Angel productions that produced and distributed the very movies that “they” found disgusting, he would be the one to take the rap.
Milk Nympho and Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice. Interested? Some federal agents were. Back in April of 2008. They ordered them online, from Washington DC. He shipped them from California and then was charged on multiple counts of obscenity.
Stagliano isn’t the first pornographer in recent years to get smacked on the ass by the hands of the law, a.k.a the men and women who think they know what’s right for everyone else, even people they don’t know at all. Whether or not you agree with the content of Max Hardcore, or Lizzy Borden & Rob Black art doesn’t have to be high brow, it doesn’t even have to be good, to be art. I’ve seen toilet paper rolls stapled to walls in famous modern museums being called art, so the definition of art may be just as loose as that of obscene. Regardless of whether or not you regard it as art, it’s out there.
When it comes to our first amendment rights, what bothers me still is that Stagliano didn’t get off because he was found innocent. He got off because the prosecution wasn’t strong, or hard – as the case may be, enough. There’s no new law in place, no precedent set. Instead, this is just another respite, a place where we, those of us who devote our lives to teaching and making the kinds of things that straddle the line of this word “obscene,” can continue to work on what we do. While we all work on changing how we view sex on film.
And it’s not just porn being censored. For a horrific look into the movie ratings industry, please watch the 2006 documentary, This Film is Not Yet Rated. You’ll be shocked at what goes on before your very eyes (get to see it.) Or at least I hope you will.
And thanks to Reason too, for their excellent, in-depth coverage of the Stagliano case.