american porn
homewatch the programprosecutingthe businessspecial reportsdiscussion
photo of diamondwarning:  sections of this interview contain explicit descriptions of sexual acts
interview: roger diamond

"Tampa Tushy Fest." What is this tape? What's on it? And why is it causing a problem for Adam Glasser?

What is on it is two hours of hardcore sexual activity, closeup shots of sexual intercourse, penis being continually thrust in the vagina. A lot of anal sex. Penis in the anal cavity, if that's the proper term. Oral copulation. And then there's a segment of women having sex with each other, fondling each other, inserting things into their vagina and anus, and also inserting their hands in both anus and vagina.

And that, apparently, from what occurred in court yesterday, is the focus of prosecution, that part of the movie. Because the stuff I just described, the anal sex, the oral copulation, sexual intercourse -- that is typical of all pornography. That's what it is. And so, I guess, the producers try to develop some different angle to separate their stuff. There's only so many ways you can have sex. And I guess they came up with some different way. But it does seem to mirror activity that's actually practiced by some people, some lesbians.

We have, and we will offer in evidence, books, scientific medical treatises on the subject of fisting.

... Why do you think the authorities are stating that this is the line, and beyond it you don't go? Why is it taking place? Why does Adam Glasser get focused on? Why is somebody not taking a Vivid tape and saying, "Well, here you have anal intercourse and we're going to go after you for this"? How come Adam Glasser gets picked? And how come this activity gets picked?

I can only speculate. And I don't know how sophisticated the police are in their analyses. It may be they said to themselves that all this stuff is basically the same in terms of it being offensive. But in terms of being able to defeat a comparable defense argument, maybe they wanted to pick on one thing that's unique or different.

The fisting stuff may be slightly different than what's ordinarily out there. But I don't think it's more extreme in terms of its alleged offensiveness. To me, it isn't.

An attorney, Diamond is representing porn producer Adam Glasser at the first obscenity trial in Los Angeles since 1993, which is set to begin in February 2002. (Glasser is charged with two counts of obscenity for his video "Tampa Tushy Fest, Part 1.") Here, Diamond talks about Glasser's video, why his client chooses to fight the charges, and what's at stake for both his client and the adult entertainment industry if Glasser is found guilty. This interview was conducted in July 2001.

Are they more aggressive recently? In the last years of the Clinton administration, there wasn't a focus on obscenity law; the locals went a little easier. Is there a feeling out there that the police are getting more aggressive?

I haven't seen it. They claim that this is not an Ashcroft-related phenomenon, because, as they properly point out, this investigation began before Bush defeated Gore, before Ashcroft was approved by the Senate as the new attorney general. ... But beyond that ... I have heard that the police have also gone after two other groups of defendants, because I got calls from their attorneys. So I would gather that maybe there's something new happening, because I have tried obscenity cases for years, both nationally as well as in Los Angeles, and I have not had an obscenity case for a number of years.

The Cambria list that came out. Industry people will tell you that they feel that they've got to protect themselves, they've got to be more careful. Is that just imagined?

I've heard that also. Keep in mind you have to consider two separate jurisdictions -- the federal government and the states. The federal government can set up an obscenity unit, and they did that in the past, because the federal government has access to the FBI, and more importantly, to the Postal Service. And I've had over the years -- not recently -- a number of cases involving federal obscenity prosecutions. But not during the Clinton administration; the obscenity cases that I've dealt with over the years predated Clinton. And I do know that once Bush took office, a lot of people said, "Gee, we think they're now going to go after the adult industry," especially because Ashcroft was selected by Bush and approved by the Senate. So there is a fear out there. But that would be for national prosecutions. ... This [Glasser] case here is a local matter.

... Getting found guilty of obscenity and misdemeanor locally -- how does that affect one's future as far as endangering one for future federal prosecution?

It wouldn't increase or decrease federal prosecution. But what it does do under California law is make that person eligible for a felony prosecution the next time around [if found guilty]. The district attorney could, in effect, charge you with a felony by alleging in the felony filing a prior obscenity conviction.

So, yes, when you are convicted, you become eligible for felony filing, so that would discourage you from continuing to engage in the activity. In addition to that, even if you're convicted of a misdemeanor and you're not worried about a future felony, usually when you're convicted of a misdemeanor, you're put on probation for as much as three years. And during the time, you're on probation; you can be monitored. And if you do it again, you can be yanked back to court and put in jail, county jail, for up to a year.

But a plea bargain normally is a small penalty. Why not get rid of the hassle of going to court? Just pay the penalty.

Because you then have a conviction on your record. Also, Adam Glasser feels very much dedicated to what he's doing. And I believe on an abstract level that what he's doing is right in terms of freedom, in terms of censorship, forgetting about the particular material, which I also do not believe is legally obscene.

This is his whole life, this is his profession. He is really sincere in what he does. He believes he's providing a benefit to society. And I agree, because he's providing entertainment and information and knowledge to consenting adults. The people who participate in his movies are all consenting adults. There's no violence. There are no children involved.

If there are no children involved, and no violence, I don't see what interest the government has at all in prosecuting this stuff. But that's why Adam is choosing to fight it -- on a matter of principle.

There's also a feeling out there that basically there's a war coming. And what happens, when you plead guilty, is that you're setting yourself up for future prosecutions by the feds that bring on the RICO laws and such, and longer criminal sentences. Is that the case at all?

Well, in the last few years there have been attempts by the federal government to use the racketeering laws, the so-called RICO laws, to confiscate assets on the theory that your wealth, your assets, were derived from illegal activities. ... And so there is that fear that you could lose your house or your car or whatever if you are convicted, and later prosecuted again. Now, in this particular case, they're not using any forfeiture laws against him. But there's always the potential.

And is this is a "put up or shut up" time, basically?

Some people might think that. It's a dramatic change. We're making the stand. We're choosing to fight, not to give in. I think if we win, the government will be deterred from doing this in the future. A long time ago, I thought the government gave up when they lost the "Deep Throat" prosecutions. The government, in my opinion, sort of went away from criminal prosecution, and tried to use licensing laws and zoning laws and those sorts of things to control the distribution of pornography, making it more difficult to be in the retail business.

Maybe with the Internet and everything, they realized now they can't control retail sales, and they're trying to go after it this way. But I had thought that at least the federal government was more interested in child molestation, kiddy porn, that sort of thing, which is obviously a very important area of the law, and should never be confused with the adult entertainment industry. The adult entertainment industry frowns upon, condemns and cooperates with the government with respect to any kiddy porn. There's just no connection between the two.

And I think the government has a legitimate interest in going after that sort of material, protecting children, for example. But not the adult industry. I don't know why they're going after the adult industry; it makes no sense. ...

What would your best guess be? After seeing a lot of these cases over the years, what's your supposition here about what might be taking place as shown by the tactics used?

If there are no children involved, no violence, I don't see what interest the government has in prosecuting this stuff.

That's certainly one interpretation, and it's very possible what they're doing is to get him to plead guilty, to get a conviction and to be aggressive. Of course, if they were super-aggressive, I suppose they wouldn't have offered a plea bargain that would have allowed him to plead and get probation. That was the offer: pay a small fine and be put on probation.

I suppose, in their defense, they would probably say, "Look, if we were that super-aggressive, we wouldn't have offered that deal; we would have said we're taking no prisoners." I think that they know that they perhaps cannot get a conviction. And, therefore, the most important thing in their mind is getting a conviction, because then they could issue a press release. Whenever the city attorney gets a conviction, they always issue a press release and brag about it. So that's probably what they were going to do in this particular case: proclaim their victory over obscenity and take advantage of it.

If anybody is focusing on this case, it's other pornographers, others in the adult business. Adult Video News covers it. So how much support do you have [from the industry]?

Adult Video News offered to supply witnesses on issues such as the prevalence of this sort of material out in the community. They're in a very good position to provide that information in terms of how many movies of this kind are out there, what percentage deal with anal sex and oral sex and so forth. And they've agreed to cooperate and have witnesses testify. So they're very helpful.

People in Washington who are talking to Ashcroft, ... they see this as a possibility to shut down the adult entertainment world.

... Have you ever been to an adult bookstore? It's just out there. So to start prosecuting -- where would you begin? There's just tons of this stuff out there. It's sort of like a thousand people charging the beach, and you've got the machine gunner who is trying to get you. If you have so many people going, you're going to get through. I think that's what happened with the adult industry. There's so much material out there, I don't think it can be prosecuted.

But some people are going to fall on that beach?

Well, they're going to have to pick somebody different. Who are they going to pick?

Adam Glasser.

Maybe they did that, to pick him. I don't know. You'll talk to the police and ask them why they went after him. I don't know. It didn't seem to me like the material was that different than anything else. ...

Have community standards changed?

Oh, certainly. They used to prosecute cases where there was a suggestion of sexual activity going on underneath the covers. You have a man and a woman under covers and maybe the cover was slightly pulled and you could see one breast of the woman. And they would prosecute that. In 1969, there was such a prosecution in Newhall. And over the years, the conduct has gone in the industry [to] more revealing, more sexual explicit. There's no question about that -- the standards have changed. Evolving, more sexual explicit activities are being revealed in these movies and magazines.

... So where's the line on what's obscene?

The law does not set a line. It has a vague test for what is obscene. It doesn't say, "Graphic, hardcore, sexual penetration is obscene, but simulated is OK." Those words are not in the statutes. People would be surprised to actually read the definition of obscenity. After reading it, they probably wouldn't know what it means. It's a very vague test.

So how does one who is a producer of this material know when you're crossing the line?

You don't really know. It's sort of like trial and error, I suppose. You kind of test the waters, put the material out there, and see whether or not there's a reaction. And it's been a gradual evolution over the years.

There is sort of a common understanding as to what is taboo and what is not, but it's not officially written down. There's no written agreement. But there was sort of an implied understanding that if you stayed away from certain activity, you were not going to be prosecuted. Obviously, you don't want violence in there. You don't want sadomasochism. Obviously, children is a separate category. Animals would be banned, and also urination and defecation. Those kinds of things would be frowned upon and probably prosecuted, which comes back to Adam Glasser's movie. None of that is in there. It's just consensual sex with adults. So what's the problem?

But fisting has always been sort of on that line. ...

I don't now whether it's ever been prosecuted before. But clearly, if one sees this movie, the participants are enjoying themselves. And there are books that have been written about the subject with approval. Obviously, not everybody engages in this activity, but enough do to warrant books having been written about it; sex therapists having described it, and people filming it. And again, voluntary by adults, women. Maybe there's a thing about lesbians, I don't know. Maybe there's a gay prejudice. I do know that, in years gone past, that was sort of one key element that prosecutors sometimes used. They never admitted it. ... Sometimes what they'll do is prosecute interracial sex. They would never say, "That's why we're doing it," but they're always hoping that there would be some residual prejudice from the jury to convict. But basically it's erotic activity that some people like to watch.

In the end, what does it say, and what if the jury finds Adam guilty?

On a more immediate level, we would appeal any such conviction, and take it all the way through the state appellate courts and through the federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court. Usually it takes a couple of years for that process to be completed. I don't think there would be an immediate effect, but I don't know. There are only five officers in this unit, so I don't know what they're going to do. The officers tell me they have other work to do. This is not the only thing to do. So I'm not sure whether in L.A. City there would be an immediate response, just because I think they lack the resources to go after everybody.

What happens if you win?

We would hope that the city attorney and the police and others would take the hint and drop this altogether, and go on to more important things -- like protecting us from gang shootings, protecting us from robbers, murderers and so forth -- and not waste our time, and waste the taxpayers' money on censorship.

Is this an important case?

It's obviously very important to us. And I think it's also important to the industry. ... It's possible that law enforcement could become encouraged by conviction, and become more aggressive. To that extent, it would hurt the industry. And also, as I said, a win would perhaps deter future prosecutions of this sort.

In the end, why is it important that a fisting movie, a movie like this, be supported to the fullest extent of the law?

Because of the danger of censorship. This particular movie may, or may not, be so important that Western civilization depends on its being exhibited; it's the principle behind it. We don't want government telling consenting adults what they can see, what they can read, especially in the privacy of their own bedrooms. We think it's a danger to free society that the government can tell us what to do. It's censorship, and that's bad.

home . introduction . prosecuting . the business . special reports
watch the program . if you were the juror ...  . quiz . do you use porn? . discussion
interviews . readings & links . tapes & transcripts . press reaction . credits . privacy
FRONTLINE . wgbh . pbs online

some photos copyright © 2002 photodisc all rights reserved.
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Solitary NationApril 22nd

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS