Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pornotopia's Censorship Saga as told by an Insider

One of the star volunteers of the Pornotopia Film Festival Planning Committee tells the story of the festival's recent censorship woes.

Autumn in Albuquerque: the chile is harvested, the state fair brings the whole of New Mexico to town, the hot air balloons rise (weather permitting), and the perverts gather to celebrate healthy sexuality at Albuquerque’s only erotic film festival, Pornotopia. At least that has been the narrative of the last three years; this year the city of Albuquerque’s zoning enforcement division has finally succeeded in eliminating any legally-approved site to host the festival.

Conceived as a way to bring erotica that is “healthy, tender, raw, real and beautiful” to a willing public, Pornotopia has grown increasingly popular over its three year history. Put together in hundreds of hours, donated by dozens of volunteers, Pornotopia 2010 was ready to roll Nov. 5-7 at the Sunshine Theater in downtown Albuquerque. That is until the third call to the zoning commission was made and it was revealed that things had changed.

Pornotopia has endured a contentious relationship with the zoning regulations in its short lifetime. At the inaugural festival in 2007, before the first film had even been introduced by Matie & Molly, the zoning office presented the Guild Cinema with a letter, threatening legal action for potential zoning violations. Despite its history as an adult theater, the Guild is not now zoned to show adult entertainment on their screen.

For six months, the Pornotopia committee researched zoning, looking for any space that was approved for adult entertainment. Narrowing the options were additional codes for public safety. Minimizing the list further was finding proprietors who were sympathetic to a porn festival on their property.

When the Sunshine Theater appeared both sympathetic and appropriately zoned, we verified its category with the zoning office. When negotiations with the Sunshine were coming together, the theater also researched regulations thoroughly. One month before the festival, just before contracts were to be signed, we decided on a triple-check with the zoning office. This time, however, we found a previously-forgotten, newly-passed “downtown corridor plan” that overrides the zoning code and expressly forbids new commercial adult entertainment ventures. No exemptions, exceptions, ifs ands or buts, even for a special event. One weekend of an erotic film festival would not be allowed downtown.

While no one is arguing that the content of Pornotopia isn’t “adult entertainment,” it might surprise you to learn what else qualifies as adult entertainment: Anything that shows the male member, anything that shows pubic hair, and anything that shows the female breast below the top of the areola.

That’s right;
every time you’ve seen a movie that contained a fully-exposed breast, you’ve technically been watching ADULT ENTERTAINMENT. Do you feel dirty? No one is saying that we CAN’T show this pornography. But we can’t show it here…or here…or here…or, it turns out, ANYWHERE in Albuquerque without intentionally violating the zoning codes.

Zoning codes have historically been used to limit adult entertainment, and truly, any sexual information, education or art. It's problematic, and even in this twenty-first century, intelligent and open-minded adults should realize the censorship going on here.

tried to play by the rules; we tried to play nice. Censorship is trying to screw our festival, but without buying us dinner or even complimenting us on how nice our hair looks. And we’re not putting out anyway. We will not take this lying down. We will not take our sex toys and go home (well, we will, but we’ll be back shortly.) We are adults, you are adults; we have a legitimate right to show this pornography, and you have a legitimate right to see it. You should care that your rights are being restricted.

Pornotopia is not canceled; it is simply postponed until we can find a home. The further we go from Nob Hill and Downtown, the more dollars we take from those local businesses. But we will find a home for our porn. We will find a way to bring the hottest, most real, diverse sexy films to a public screen for you perverts.

With Love,

Pornotopia Volunteer Coordinator, Pornducer and Big Supporter of the 1st Amendment


Molly said...

Molly will be on KRQE Channel 13 4 o'clock news talking about Pornotopia being censored! Watch if you can and check our blog tonight for news updates! There's also an interview planned for KOAT 7

Durnholde said...

Can't you get the ACLU involved? This appears to be a clear infringement of the first amendment and freedom to assemble.

Maybe you could recast pornotopia as a protest of the government regulations? If the city loses, that may break open the anti-first amendment zoning laws in their entirety.

Nancy said...

When I was trying to organize on behalf of the sex workers, ACLU would not get involved on the grounds that we "brought our troubles on ourselves." I had contact with the national organizations, funding from some concerned local citizens, amused tolerance from the local cops and legal system -- mostly because organizing working women is a lot like trying to scramble hard boiled eggs.