I've been following this "Buttman" trial with some interest, though I rightly suspected that it wouldn't get far. I was glad when the case was dismissed. I dislike vicious, mean-spirited pornography as much as the next person who loves humanity, but I also tend to be a fan of free speech and don't think it's helpful for the government to censor anyone under the guise of "obscenity". I'm not a fan of suggesting some things have no political or artistic value. John "Buttman" Stagliano is making a political statement, one that amounts to a pile of hateful crap, but is nonetheless an opinion and he has a right to express it.
With that out of the way, I have to reaffirm that one of my least favorite aspects over the debates about porn is the shocking amount of bullshit that flies around. Salon interviewed the actress in the movie in question, whose stage name is Lorelei Lee.* And let's just say it was thick in there.
What would you say to folks who are offended by the content in "Milk Nymphos" — or any of your other work?
Well, first I would say: Don't watch it.
So far, so good. It's a cliche, but it's fair enough.
I don't make these films in order to be shocking or confrontational.
Let's be clear: the film was called "Milk Nymphos" because it involved a lot of giving women milk enemas.
I make them for the audience that seeks them out.
There is a community of people who find these films hot, erotic, joyful and even beautiful.
The follow-up question put this claim into the shooting milk out of your nose (or your ass, if that's your thing) territory:
Less frequently mentioned in the coverage of the trial was the fact that "Milk Nymphos" stars two white female performers, including yourself, and a black male co-star, and the N-word is used a couple of times. What do you make of this politically offensive side of porn?
This is where the defensive posturing about how porn isn't about debasing women gets really fucking stupid. Sure, some isn't, but the Buttman videos are. And if you're numb or indifferent to words like "cunt" and "whore" being routinely thrown at actresses, Buttman will mix some racism into the mix so there can be no doubt who this is for and what purpose it serves. It's kind of how Mel Gibson dropping the N-word helped focus attention on what a slithering piece of racist, misogynist shit he is.
But Lorelei Lee is stock full of rationalizations:
What you're referring to is Annette Schwartz using the N-word when talking to Jon Jon during the "Milk Nymphos" scene I also performed in. She says, "Give me that n---- cock," and similar phrases. It isn't a word that I'm comfortable using or hearing. I've talked about this a lot with my fellow performers, and particularly with my African-American co-stars, and I can understand the eroticism of it in the same way that I can understand the eroticism of words like "whore" or "cunt."
Look, I will defend to my death the right of Buttman to say whatever horrible things he wants to about women and black men in his movies. Freedom of speech is meaningless if it's not extended even to the ugliest elements in our society. But I would have a lot more respect for Lee if she was honest about what's going on and said something like, "Look, we make movies for the same dudes that you probably encounter most as 'anonymous internet commenters'.** We feed them a steady stream of hateful bile, sure, but if we didn't do it, someone else would be doing it and making the money. I'm just getting paid. It's not like those clothes you're wearing weren't made in a sweat shop." I'd have a ton more respect for her if she said something like that, due to it being the god's honest truth.
Let me reiterate this one more time, because there are always, always, always people who will swear up and down that any feminist is demanding censorship if she suggest that some porn somewhere might be anything less than gracious towards all members of humanity, including those that aren't straight white dudes. I don't think the government should censor Buttman's movies. In fact, I think they're an argument for the value of free speech. They can, in the right light, play a valuable role. For instance, they make an excellent red flag for single straight women on the dating market---if the guy you're seeing is into them, it's almost surely time to move on. They also play a clarifying role in our society. If you see some dude spewing sexist bile in a comment thread, remind yourself that he probably beats off to "Milk Nymphos", and you will suddenly feel less inclined to give a shit what he thinks.
I just wish people could stick to defending the right of this stuff to exist instead of feeling like they have to justify it as something it's not.
*I'm sad to see she stole the name of the main character in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, a darkly funny novel from the 20s and a highly entertaining Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell film from the 50s.
**Many of whom you encounter mansplaining everything in the comments at Salon and complaining about how every single female writer at Salon can't write worth a damn.