Q&A: Angie Rowntree on the 'Women in Porn' Debate Aftermath

Jul 26, 2014 12:00 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — One of the most highly anticipated online forums on the issue of women in the porn industry — Sssh.com’s “Women in Porn: Shattering the Myths," broadcast on Mindbrowse.com on July 22, came to a close with more than 600 people viewing the event.

The lively debate — moderated by sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals — took on some ever-sensitive anti-porn topics and industry concerns with luminaries including Penthouse managing director Kelly Holland, adult performer/director Ashley Fires, MakeLoveNotPorn.com co-founder Cindy Gallop and attorney and author Frederick Lane.

XBIZ caught up with Sssh.com founder and broadcast organizer Angie Rowntree who weighed in on the aftermath of the event, giving insight as to the genesis of the idea, its success, and plans for the future.

XBIZ: What sparked the idea for the “Women in Porn” broadcast discussion?

Angie Rowntree: For this broadcast, our goal was to provide a venue for anti-porn activists to engage in live debate with women in the adult industry. When critics of porn take aim at the adult industry, one of their main arguments is that the industry is inherently misogynistic, and that the women who work and perform in the industry are basically broken people, who have been manipulated into working here. Among other things, this event was an opportunity for several prominent women from the industry to rebut those kinds of assertions, head-on.

XBIZ: How long was it in the making?

Rowntree: A few years ago, we ran a similar video series called “DirtyOldMen.tv” in which each episode featured an interview with people in the adult industry. Although these were not live broadcasts, over the course of that project we developed the resources and technology to go to the next level and produce live events with multiple speakers in a moderated setting.

The bulk of the time in setting up the “Women In Porn” broadcast was spent trying to recruit a speaker from the “anti-porn” sector who would be willing to be part of the debate. This took months, literally, and ultimately failed; we couldn’t find anyone willing and available to fill that position in the discussion. At the eleventh hour, we did come up with a novel solution (more on that later).

XBIZ: How did the discussion differ from other feminist porn conferences?

Rowntree: The most obvious difference is because the show was Internet-based, it gave us a much larger reach (geographically speaking) and it also allowed us to engage both the general public and people within the industry.

XBIZ: How did you secure the panelists and moderator?

Rowntree: Our goal for this was to include a female adult industry executive, a female performer, a woman who was “thinking outside the box” as far as producing adult content that is not in the traditional “porn” paradigm, and a vocal anti-porn feminist to present the opposing views about pornography.  Within a month or so, we had three of four set up: Kelly Holland, Ashley Fires, and Cindy Gallop. But, right up to four days prior to the broadcast, we still had no anti-porn activist, after having contacted more than 20 vocal and public anti-pornography activists, academics, and organizations, individually inviting them or their affiliates to participate in the event. 

Finally, we heard that longtime adult industry coverage author and lecturer Fred Lane might be an ideal person to fill the void, as he is in constant contact with anti-porn activists and could at least present their point of view by proxy. Lane serves on the advisory boards of Enough.org and S.E.S.A.M.E. ("Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation") and is a founding member of The Ethics Consortium. He is the author of several books on the interaction between culture and technology, including "The Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture," and has lectured across the U.S. on the pornography industry and the culture wars.

XBIZ: Why were there no men originally asked to be on the panel?

Rowntree: The original concept was to have the panel be all women in order to present women’s points of view and experiences. At the end of the day, Fred Lane wound up representing the anti-porn point of view, but the original concept was for it to be an event in which women talked about the role of women in porn; intuitively, with a topic like Women in Porn, it just made sense that the panel be comprised of women.

XBIZ: Was the turnout what you expected?

Rowntree: Although it’s a little hard to come up with an exact number as no sign-in or registration was needed to view the broadcast, we’re making a conservative estimate that more than 600 people were watching based on our stats. Since the panel will now go on to YouTube, Vimeo and other archived video sites, the number of people that will ultimately view the show will be substantially larger.

XBIZ: What topic spurred the most interest, controversy?

Rowntree: Residual pay for performers via a Hollywood-type royalties system really lit up the conversation. One of the perennial topics that comes up among performers in adult is the lack of any residuals or royalty payments like mainstream actors in SAG, etc. that’s been afforded for many decades. This concept instantly shed light on the long-term conflict between producers and performers, both of whom have legitimate economic viewpoints on the issue.

XBIZ: Was the audience primarily women?

Rowntree: Again, it’s hard to tell what the gender breakdown was as no registration was needed, but gauging by the viewers that were also on the twitter feed, “#WomenInPorn,” the majority of viewers were women.

XBIZ: Do you think you’ve accomplished your goals and clarified some issues?

Rowntree: We are very pleased with how much information was presented and debated and have had such a positive viewer response that a part two of “Women In Porn” is already in the works. In truth, one discussion or debate can never really settle a question about a topic this controversial; what you hope to do is get the discussion going, and to keep it going.

XBIZ: Are there plans for a future broadcasts?

Rowntree: Yes. We have several more cued up for the coming months including: “An intimate conversation with Nina Hartley and Ernest Green;” “Feminism and Porn: Can They Coexist?” and “Women In Porn — Shattering the Myths, Part 2.”

XBIZ: Will men be included in future events?

Rowntree: Depending on the topic, of course. Our next show will feature Ernest Greene. Ernest has participated in the production of adult video for three decades as a performer, writer, director and producer. His body of work comprises more than 500 titles and he has just released his new book, “Master Of O,” the classic tale revisited through the eyes of the Master.

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