September 24, 2001 02:46pm
The Latour Letter - A Line In The Sand - The Age Of Innocence Vs. The Age Of Consent
Source: Adult Industry News
by: Miss Charlie Latour
When it comes to the difficult issue of age, maturity and social conscious in the adult industry my voice may not be the most welcomed. The goal is to stir the consciousness of the adult industry, not because of the recent cataclysmic tragedy in New York and Washington, but because of the on-going tragedy which happens everyday in the adult entertainment business.
Webster clearly defines a tragedy as a disastrous event and the word event as an important occurrence. The decision to become an adult video entertainer is without question an event, whether it becomes a tragedy, or disastrous event, is the outcome unknown until it is too late. The adult entertainment business publicly pronounces itself the guardian of free speech and opponents to child exploitation at the same time, yet little is said or done about the issue of how old is old enough and when industry executives must say no.
I can hear the chorus from the knee jerk crowd now, "You chose to be an adult entertainer and now that you are older you want to impose restrictions. Well, you're just jealous." Believe me, I have heard that my whole career because I entered the adult industry later than most. There are many performers in the adult entertainment business who have influenced me and my opinions. Like some of the women I admire most; Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, Sharon Mitchell, and others, I have a profession, which involves personal interaction beyond sex on screen. I chose to be a social worker, Nina a professional nurse, Annie a sex counselor and researcher and Sharon a substance abuse counselor. Nina is a respected sex health educator, Annie (soon to be Dr. Annie) is a sexologist, and Sharon heads AIM, which is involved in testing and counseling performers in the adult business. All of these women had far better known careers in adult entertainment than I, yet I always admired them, looked up to them for their beauty, talent and brains. Similarly, other intelligent women I have met, like Bobbi Lilly, Candida Royalle, Gloria Leonard and Kat Sunlove have influenced my knowledge and opinions. My point with this diversion is to clearly state that I am writing to stir the consciousness, not vent frustration at age. These women have all been in or around the adult industry for a long time and continue to be successful in their chosen careers. Over many years I have either talked with, listened to lectures or have read what they have said about the decision a woman makes to enter the adult industry. There is no unanimity. They may disagree with what I have to say, but each has influenced my thoughts, one way or another, on the issue of when or if a woman should become an adult performer. This is an issue that demands thoughtful consideration. The deliberations must include the experience and wisdom of the women who have personal, first hand experience. So to the knee jerk crowd, refrain from attacking the messenger and try to think beyond the end of your penis or the size of your wallet. I urge you to give reasoned thought to this issue.
For many years, especially the years I worked closely with the industry trade association, I was concerned with the pressing trend towards younger women. From a sociological, medical and mental health standpoint this trend has been troubling. It was too easy to just blame the "dirty old men" who controlled the industry, especially in light of comments made by a few executives that "women 22 years of age were over the hill". What is not so easy to detect is that the trend towards very young women is not universally accepted by all the male executives, because so few speak up. Bill Margold, a man who it is hard not to have a radical opinion of, (you either love him or dislike him….I happen to love and admire him) had even gone as far as to bait the Meese Commission with the challenge to raise the age of consent to 21 years of age. (Like wimps they never met the challenge) In conversations I have had with some top executives and experienced directors from major adult entertainment companies there is an uneasiness about this trend. The most difficult decision any producer or director in the adult industry has to make is to determine where the line is, without solely depending on the legal definition of 18 years of age.
Within the past week I received a phone call from a young woman who had been given my name and number by a free lance photographer in New York City. This young lady had traveled to NYC from the Midwest with dreams of becoming an adult actress. She had responded to a few Internet ads from small producers for amateur performers. This photographer thought she should talk to me before commencing her all out effort to breech the industry. She wanted to meet at a restaurant, which was fine with me. Her choice, an ice cream restaurant. Now I like ice cream like most folks, but this was a harboring of things to come. Upon meeting, I could not help but notice how young she appeared. I had told her over the telephone that she had to bring photo ID with her to prove to me that she was over 18 and that I would require her to sign a document that she was not an undercover police agent before I even spoke to her. She brought her ID and signed the paper. She was 18 years, 2 months, and 3 days old.
She and her boyfriend sat down. We ordered our milkshakes (I'm partial to strawberry myself) and began to talk. I will share with you my recollections and you make up your own mind where the line in the sand should be drawn. She told me that she and her boyfriend had driven in from the Midwest because she was promised work and told she could make huge amounts of money. Her boyfriend is 21 years old and a bit more wary of the industry than she is. Her life in the Midwest was ideal. Good parents, solid home, great school, excellent grades, a nearly perfect upbringing. She is tall, blond and very pretty. The type of young lady that some (note I said some) in the adult industry drool over.
I inquired about her sexual past. She did not have sex until she was well into her 17th year. Her sexual experience had been very limited (that's an understatement). She could not tell me what positions she liked or preferred, because she knew of no other positions other than missionary. She had never seen an explicit XXX-rated movie. Let me repeat that, SHE HAD NEVER SEEN AN EXPLICIT XXX-RATED MOVIE. She never had bi-sexual contact, nor does she understand the first thing about STD's. Nothing folks, this young lady knew nothing of the issues, risks, or consequences of her decision to become an adult performer. I asked her what her parents would think and she turned white. She told me it would kill them and she would be mortified if they found out. HELLO, is anyone home, once you make a video it is FOREVER! I asked why New York, since LA is where the main adult industry resides. She was under the impression from the Internet ads that the adult industry was New York based. I informed her she was more than 20 years late. As we spoke I came to the opinion that this young lady was legally old enough, yet no where near mature enough to make this decision.
During our conversation she indicated that when she first arrived about four days earlier she met up with this "producer" who kept telling her how pretty she was. He told her he would test shoot her, you know, a little masturbation, maybe some girl-girls action. She agreed and allowed the shoot to take place. Afterwards she said he wanted some oral attention, which she provided. She didn't say whether it was videotaped or not. (I would bet dollars to donuts that it was….I know this guy). I think she told me she was paid $400.00….so much for being amateur. His website specializes in very, very young girls. Just of legal age. Purely pedophilia in nature by any stretch of the imagination, BUT LEGAL! The following weekend she was going to meet another producer for a shoot with transvestites. I sat with my mouth gaping. I asked her what she thought a transvestite was. SHE HAD NO IDEA! This producer was promising to teach her how to be a dominatrix and make lots of money. All of these "producers" were promising lots of money and would tell her how pretty she was. They knew what she wanted to hear. Now, New York is not alone in the area of pedophilia. I can assure you, with her innocent looks she would have been thrown to the same wolves in LA as New York, maybe worse. I attempted to quickly educate her about the adult industry and to give her all the reasons why not to become part of the industry. It wasn't sinking in. I urged her to wait a bit longer, get a regular job, look around, rent a few adult movies and if she really wanted to get into the business I would put her in contact with mainstream people in LA and NYC who would offer her a "safer" haven. For several hours I lectured, asked questions, offered advice and provided insight. We parted with my stern recommendation that she consider the long-term implications, not the short-term gains (whatever they are in this industry). I told her how wonderful sex is, how great sexual freedom is and I assured her that, as a woman, she has the right to make decisions about her sexuality, including performing before a camera. I wanted to be upbeat, along with real. I am sure she did not take my advice. Her entrance into the adult entertainment business is a tragedy.
Where do we draw the line in the sand? Where is the demarcation between the age of innocence and the age of consent? I understand the legal arguments that 18 is the legal age. I read on a major industry players' website about the thrill of videotaping a girl on the day of her 18th birthday. I won't name company, but if you are in or near the adult industry you know the company. They brag about it. We have become a society of extremes. The number of websites bragging about young teens is mind numbing. I have talked with some of those site owners and they tell me if the traffic wasn't there they would not do it. Let's understand that some people are more mature at a young age. Not that they make better decisions, but they, fortunately and unfortunately, have seen and experienced things others have not. I had a great family (still do) and I started sex very early, yet I struggled with the decision until my mid-20's. At 18 I was great at sex (still am), but I was not mature enough to make a decision that would change my life. Between 18 and 25 I experienced a world of things that helped to shape me, including getting a college education and working a regular job. I use the imagery of a line in the sand, because it can be erased and changed depending on circumstances. Raising the age of consent to 21 may not be possible because of legal issues and I am sure, no I could guarantee you, that lawsuits would begin immediately as companies that exploit young women and some young women themselves would seek to overturn such a regulation. The change has to come from within, from the collective consciousness of the adult industry. I hear all the pomposity from the industry about how they dislike child exploitation, how they were done in by Traci Elizabeth Lords and how they set up a reward for the arrest and conviction of child pornographers. Yet many of those same people want to walk as close to the line as possible. What is the difference between a young lady who is 17 years, 364 days old and one who is exactly 18 years old? About 10 to 20 years in the local prison would be the answer by some, but emotionally, mentally and socially there is no difference. Yes, some young women at 18 are ready to make that decision and currently have the legal right to do so. The problem is most are not ready to make that decision and the consequences are life long and potentially horrifying.
So back to my question, where is the line in the sand? Where is the line between the age of innocence and the age of consent? The young lady I met with is of the age of consent, yet she is still in the age of innocence and I had no power to convince her to wait. Some may be of the opinion that I had no right to try and convince her otherwise. Might she be the next mega beauty to be an adult industry superstar like Jenna, Jill or Jewel? Absolutely! But it is more likely that her decision may PREVENT her from being the next teacher of the year, the next female member of Congress, or the best classroom mom in history. She deserves the right to make that decision, but it needs to be an informed decision, a decision made with full knowledge and without the undo influence of others who's only objective is either make money off her hide or to pander to their pedophilic proclivities. Most don't care what happens to her life when they are done using her, but she needs to care and the industry, as a whole, needs to begin to address this issue. As the extreme elements of the adult industry push the envelop the mainstream needs to be asking questions about our motivation, our sense of humanity.
In horror we all watched thousands of innocent people die in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Beyond the anger, the hurt and the blooming patriotism there was a sense of humanity. That sense of humanity exists in most of us. The extremists who caused this tragedy are the exception and need to be carved out and isolated. This too is true in the adult industry. We need to address the issue of the line in the sand. We need to understand the age of innocence and the age of consent and we need to collectively raise our humanity and search our conscious. It should not be the extremists that drive our industry; rather it should be the mainstream who sets the agenda and lead by moral conviction. Sex is great, sex is wonderful, the adult industry plays a vital role in our sexual identity and our sexual health and your moral conviction can include a vibrant and healthy sex industry. We just need to set our own personal line in the sand and not depend on others to do it for us.
I am interested in your reaction and feedback. Contact me through this website at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can e-mail me directly at email@example.com. Either way I will receive your comments and take seriously the thoughts you have on this very serious topic. I also want to say thank you to the hundreds of industry people and fans who have contacted me about my safety. I was to be in the city (NYC) on September 11th, at about 9 a.m. about one block from the WTC. My plans changed. I have friends who worked in the WTC and I know many NYC police, firefighters and EMT's. Some I have met in the normal course of life, neighbors, people you meet at the market, and yes, the police who have given me traffic tickets. Others were fans I had e-mail contact with and others I have met at the East Coast Video Show. So many have died and I have no way to express the depth of my sorrow. I may never know the extent, but I feel kinship with each and every soul. I pray for each, their families and their friends. I also pray for the perpetrators because their tortured souls will suffer for eternity. To the mayor of New York, who I have disagreed with in so many ways and have written about in such unglowing terms, I commend you. You have shown your humanity in the face of a tragedy, along with your skill and ability. I hope that such revelations can have an impact on those in the adult industry who need to show their humanity in the face of a tragedy, albeit a different form of tragedy, but none-the-less a tragedy that must be dealt with.