Uncovered – 2257

Adult content production is nothing but an LA-based free-for-all of sex and drugs and sex and sushi, right? Wrong!!

The adult industry is just like any other business, but with heaping doses of stigma and regulation thrown on top. Consequently, a lot of very serious behind-the-scenes work must take place every day in order to keep all us consumers in smut.  For example, maybe you’ve heard of 2257 records keeping regulations at some point and thought “what the heck?”

Let me explain…

2257 regulations are part and parcel of 1988’s Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act, which is itself an artifact of the 1986’s Meese Commission report and the Traci Lords scandal. According to US Code Title 18, 2257 (which has nothing to do with Texas farm road 2257), anyone who produces sexually explicit visual media depictions after November 1, 1990 must “create and maintain individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer portrayed.”

Let me put that in normal person terms – if you made or make any “sexually explicit” (and, as always, what exactly constitutes “sexually explicit” anyway?) films, pictures, etc after 1990, you have to keep really specific records documenting the identities, particularly the ages, of each person featured therein. Whatsmore, you have to make a 2257-compliant record for each person for every single project.

So, say you are staging a fine art photo of some orgiastic sex that features ten “models”… You must make and maintain (read: keep forever) a 2257-compliant record for each of those ten models. And say you really like working with just one of those models, so you start to photograph him regularly… Even though you already have a 2257-compiant record for him from the first orgy photo thing, you must make and maintain a new one for each subsequent project.

2257 regulations obviously apply to hardcore sex depictions, of which contemporary adult production consists largely of, but what about softcore (read: adult content with no visible penis and/or penetration)? You may not know this, but a lot of the time there’s not any actual sex happening in that HBO After Dark-type content (although sometimes you may be looking at a “soft shot” from a hardcore film). Is that content then “sexually explicit”?

And what about mainstream media? I recently watched some “Californication” and, although I know David Duchovny isn’t really banging anyone on screen, some of those scenes are pretty graphic… plus, that show definitely features a lot of nakedness and some… ummm… “uncommon” sex depictions (I’m thinking specifically about the squirting scene in the episode entitled “The Devil’s Threesome”).  Is that content sexually explicit such that a 2257-compliant record needs to be maintained? Well, this is where 2257A comes in…

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 created a 2257A of US Title Code 18. 2257A requires producers of “simulated sexually explicit conduct” to create and maintain records relating to the age of performers. Unlike 2257, which defines “actual sexually explicit conduct” as – essentially – hardcore adult content, 2257A defines “simulated sexually explicit conduct.” This law could thus potentially encompass “The Devil’s Threesome” episode of “Calfornication” and any number of other mainstream Hollywood-type projects as well as softcore adult content.

At this point, at least two issues/series of questions come to mind. First, barring some occasional human errors, the vast majority of professional adult content producers are compliant with 2257 regulations; but how compliant with 2257 standards are the producers of sexually explicit mainstream and/or fine art content? And what about mainstream producers of simulated sexually explicit content? Moreover, how stringently is 2257 and 2257A compliance enforced in mainstream production populations? Being as I’ve never seen a compliance statement preceding any mainstream anything, I’m thinking probably not very…

Second, what is the point of all this anyway? Although perhaps well-meaning, how do 2257 and 2257A records keeping mandates protect anyone? I suppose one might argue that 2257 records keeping protects content producers from future Traci Lords-like scams (details of that are on PVV here), but how in the world does all this paper pushing get at the real issue – protecting kids from evil people that like to abuse them? Because even though graphic depictions of minor children in sexual situations do not come from the professional adult industry, there are still random citizens out there who like record their crimes… how do these regulations help put a stop to this sort of thing?

Answer seems to be that they don’t.

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Check out this interview with a real live 2257 compliance officer – Wicked Pictures’ Julie Russell!!


(pictured: nothing to do with 2257 records keeping regulations)

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PVVOnline‘s feature Uncovered explains key dimensions of adult production and sheds some critical light on adult film industry urban legends and myths.

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You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from PVVOnline/Porn Valley Vantage, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”

PVVOnline – Critical Commentary on Adult Production