LOS ANGELES — The U.S. porn industry's movers and shakers accused Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday of pandering to conservative voters when he vowed to crack down on their business if elected.
The former Pennsylvania senator says in a statement posted on his website that the United States is "suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography," which he said has been shown to produce brain changes in children and adults, cause the destruction of marriages, and contribute to prostitution and violence against women.
Santorum offered no evidence to back up those assertions. Steven Hirsch, who runs the Vivid Entertainment Group, dismissed them as "ridiculous and just plain wrong."
"It just feels like another ridiculous attempt by Rick Santorum to appeal to the far right," said Hirsch, chief executive and co-founder of Vivid, one of the industry leaders in the marketing of sex films, books and other ventures.
Rape, teen pregnancy, and sex crimes have all dropped since porn became widely available through the Internet in the early 1990s, Hirsch said.
He and others said they believe Santorum targeted the porn industry because he sees it as an easy target.
"But what he doesn't understand," Hirsch said, "is that in the age of the Internet, people are more comfortable with adult material than ever before. He thinks that this will appeal to his core base of voters, and that may be true, but it certainly won't appeal to the mainstream population."
The porn industry generates about $8 billion a year when films, Internet downloads, sex toys, dance clubs, and other ventures are included, according to the industry trade publication Adult Video News.
The city of Los Angeles, where industry officials say almost all of the country's porn films are made, recently enacted an ordinance requiring that actors use condoms, But that provision only applies to films made on location and not in a studio.
Hirsch and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt acknowledged that if Santorum is elected he could appoint an attorney general who would step up porn prosecutions. But they added that winning convictions would be another thing.
The public has gotten so much more tolerant of porn, Flynt said, that he routinely sees things on television now that he couldn't publish in his magazine 30 years ago, when he was fighting his own obscenity battles in court.
"While they may not be interested in certain practices themselves, people don't want to impose their values on other people," Flynt said.
"The reason why you don't see a rash of obscenity prosecutions in the country today is because they can't get a conviction," he said. "If they could convict these people they would be prosecuting them."
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