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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

LETTER TO MIKE KULICH AT MONARCHY DISTRIBUTION

Dear Mike Kulich:

I'm writing you after seeing your offer to Thomas Bagley intended to "shame" him for "outting” Belle Knox for having posed for porn.  Belle Knox as she's known now by her stage name, was an adult in college when she made the decision to appear in that porn.  To my knowledge any way, she's not spoken about being forced in any way to perform in the film, nor to sign the model release form, nor has she reported being motivated by a drug addiction, nor forced to film by her pimp as Linda Lovelace reports was her case in making "Deep Throat", nor even to get money to feed her children or pay late rent.  

But that she made a conscious adult choice to use porn to pay for her college tuition.  http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/duke-porn-star-outer/ Something which a lot of other students are doing by applying for scholarships or even finding ways to put themselves through school while working. I know one woman for example who drives a cab at night to pay for her classes at UCLA once she decided to stop stripping. So there are other ways to pay for school besides porn.

That said - I think it's a reasonable assumption to think some man who knows someone at her school might see said porn.  The porn was from what I understand was sold in a public manner.  It was not sold to a "private clientele" only.  Which I know can be done because I also made "private stock" porn when I was in my early 20's in the sex industry.  We didn't have the internet to contend with in my day, so when I sold a private film of myself to a private customer who signed an agreement that it was only for his personal use - I had some reasonable belief this wasn't going to wind up coming back to haunt me somewhere down the line.  

However, she took no such steps. Belle made a digital film which was then sold to anyone with the money to pay for it.  There wasn't even some geographical restriction that it couldn't be sold in her home state that I'm aware of. Which is possible to do by the way – restrict downloads within a certain geographical region.  I've read nothing in her interviews that stated she took any steps to make sure this video, or photos, wouldn't wind up in the hands of another student at her school before Thomas found her video.

When I was young, a saying that used to go around was "you made your bed now lie in it" and "don't do the crime if you can't do the time".  Belle was over the age of 18 years old when she did this film, and also hasn't reported even being drunk when she signed the release, nor where the photos snuck out of her safe or even handed over by an angry ex-boyfriend to a revenge porn site to get even with her for a break-up.  

Meaning that as a reasonable adult knowing how the porn industry works, as well as how the internet can broadcast anything anywhere in virtually seconds, she had some grounds upon which to have a reasonable belief this porn would be thus discovered by another student and word spread about what she did.  I haven't seen her film myself - but I haven't even heard of any steps taken to disguise her face in some fashion either.  

But then I see your offer which was intended to "shame" Thomas for doing what most nerds like him would probably do that are watching porn rather than being with “real” women – which is go and tell someone what he found to bring some attention onto himself.

First of all, Thomas didn't do anything that might not have happened one way or another.  This film could have been seen by other people who didn't say a word to her directly.  If Belle had managed to get all the way through school without anyone on the face of the planet seeing this film - it could have, and probably would have, surfaced during a job interview where they are doing extensive background checks these days.  I know because not  week goes by when I'm not hearing from women who signed perfectly legal model releases, to do porn they willingly contracted to do at the time, but for which they're now finding they can't get work because of years later.  With facial recognition software, I've also got women telling me they can't even go on a date anymore without the man first "googling" them, discovering porn from 10 years ago, and then having an issue about it.  I've heard from professors speaking about how their students have discovered porn they did in the 1990's and how it's gone to the heads of their schools and they've been fired. 

Five minutes of research online, and a little common sense, would have revealed to Belle before she took this step of doing porn to pay for college that exactly this might happen. She pulled the trigger and did the film anyway knowing the possible consequences. But then when it came time for her to “man up” to her decision, now Thomas is the bad guy here?

If we view this like the girl who got drunk at a party of college boys and then wakes up to find her panties on her head the next day blaming the men for what happened to her - some people would say to the woman "what did you expect?"  Also, I think it was better that Belle be prepared for this now rather than once she'd graduated and then finds herself like the many others calling my hotline after having invested years in school to get their degree - only to find they now can't get a job because of their past in porn coming back to haunt them and limit their options they supposedly used porn to obtain. 

She is not the first woman I've heard who used porn to pay for a law degree, only to now find no law firm will hire hire them – nor the first to get a seat as a trader on Wall Street only to find they can't get their license because of a porn or porn photo surfacing. I've seen women use porn to pay for their degree to become teachers – only to find themselves fired once a photo turned up on the dean's desk from sometimes over a decade ago. Now in situations where they were forced in some fashion to have those photos taken – they've been able to mitigate the damage.

But I venture what made Belle have to change her whole future plans wasn't the porn, nor was it even Thomas discovering it and then "outting" her to the other students.  I venture it's in the way she responded to it instead that caused some of this backlash.  Look for example at the career of Fredrik Eklund. His past in porn hasn't affected his career in real estate in any negative fashion whatsoever.  

However, when he's had people try to "shame" him for it he didn't go whining about how the person who actually watched it was the "big bad guy" who "ruined his life" and "sent him into a suicidal depression.  Instead of whining about the other person, he faced it square on as a decision he made, and that while it was something he did in his youth, he's not ashamed of it, and then he's moved on while owning responsibility for his decisions and actions.  .He never ran from this, nor did he let it dictate and dominate the rest of his life either.  So I venture he has had people react differently to his past in porn because he handles this differently than Belle did.  

Personally, it was a completely unrealistic fantasy to think that in today's digital age where people live on the internet that no one was going to see something clearly made to be watched by as many people as the producer could find to pay for it.  I'd like to know why you're holding Thomas responsible for her choices number one.  I'm also curious why you're holding him responsible for something that could have happened to her by any number of people at any time.  

I mean I didn't see the producer go and take the video down the minute she was "outted" did you?  If this was such a big horrible deal then all she had to do was deny it was her, and then ask the producer to take the tape down off the internet for sale.  Yet I don't see you lashing out at the producer who filmed it making it possible for Thomas to watch the film nor acting like Belle has any responsibility here whatsoever to what happened.  Or maybe we should hold the person who bought Thomas a computer responsible?  I mean it's their fault he saw the film right?   You even insinuate it's his parents' fault for giving him spending money he then used "unwisely"?  If we don't hold Belle responsible for her choices she made as an adult - then where does the buck passing stop exactly?

At least I don't see Thomas treating the women in the porn industry with the complete and utter disrespect I see in your letter directed at other female porn performers.  You offer him a $10,000 paycheck to fly out to California and then he can "have his pick of any porn actress he wants" that you will then arrange to have him sleep with for money on camera.  I love the way you just automatically assume by this offer that not one of these women are going to say "no" to you or him.  I didn't see any mention anywhere of "if they agree" certainly nor a list of women who gave you the green light they would agree to do this or any sign here that shows you feel these women would just automatically drop their drawers for Thomas on your say so.  

You make this offer to him to "shame" him for "outting" Belle yet let me ask you - when you first heard the news about how distressed she was upon the word leaking out did you (1) call to arrange to have the film taken off the market so other students on campus, or people she knew, or family members, wouldn't go and then see the film after the news broke to further add to the shame, and (2) did you then offer her enough money to cover her tuition entirely so she didn't have to continue her porn career in order to stop her obvious shame and discomfort caused by the film at that point in time? Further, do this privately, without publicity, so she could just bury this as a “youthful mistake” and move on with her life the way she had originally intended before all this press broke?

No - what I see you did was write yourself a letter to Thomas and then post it online where I found it clearly designed to garner your production company more press, make yourself appear to "care" about Belle's feelings without actually doing anything to help resolve the situation in reality, and make a sweeping statement about every porn actress being someone you have personal sexual control over to give consent to "any porn actress you wish" to a man like they have no mind of their own or any choice over not only who they'll have sex with, but who they'll shot film with as an employer.   Whether their consent would be to have sex with Thomas, or as a performer to work with him on a job, I don't see one sign anywhere you acknowledge even one of these “porn stars of his choice” might have some objection to doing a scene with him.

Mr. Kulich, if you really gave one damn about how upset Belle was after Thomas “outted” her on campus, as a man with so much money to throw around, and so much power in the porn industry, and if it was someone like your daughter, I would think you would have gotten on the phone with the producer and had the film taken immediately off-line. Then I think you would have contacted Belle, told her to simply deny the film as “mistaken identity” and then cut her a check to pay for the rest of her tuition so she wouldn't have to continue working in porn while now people who knew her personally, that she was driven to the point of contemplating suicide over, could all be resolved as a “mistake one makes in their youth” and thus allowed her to move on with the original life path she'd chosen before all this press broke.

Now because of press you've contributed to, now the news has broke even wider and people who wouldn't even watch porn normally now know her face and her real name. I've already started a poll of top Fortune 500 companies who are admitting to me that while they support anti-trafficking efforts they wouldn't hire someone to work for them in an position of power where the face can be easily found in pornography. In other words, it's going to now be virtually impossible for her to make a career for herself outside of the sex industry now should that be a choice she wants to make. 

I know because our hotline takes calls regularly from women who have degrees, all the proper qualifications, work experience, etc. and yet they're now being blocked from obtaining work at even basic jobs in even food service because of their past literally following them online. I'd love to be able to devote more time to helping to create a list of companies who don't have a problem hiring someone with such a past - but unfortunately to make sure our hotline stays on every month I have to work at a job that eliminates all but the time I spend answering the calls we get on the hotline, and running some of our meetings. While I have a list of a few companies who have come to me to offer they will hire someone who has been in the sex industry before - it's certainly not an exhaustive list of the top companies in this country and where they stand on the of hiring someone like Belle Knox who upon graduation would have all of the education they're looking for with respect to some positions.  

So let me venture that maybe a more productive offer of what to do with the $10,000 you offered Thomas that he's never going to take you up on anyway – would be to instead help us put the research time into creating a list of top reputable quality companies outside of the sex industry who will hire someone with a “known” face and name within porn.

For example, Christy Mack has said she isn't quitting porn after her attack. Again, I say to “work for who?” While I've seen many of us go on to found our own business, or even do well in professions like how Sharon Mitchell went on from porn to become a doctor who founded AIM – things have changed since the internet has now created a tail that is following performers, male and female, in a way that didn't happen back in my day. 

Also, you obviously believe Belle was seriously damaged by Thomas merely reporting to people in her school that she was in an adult film.  Enough to have written this letter.  Might I suggest then we do two other things that might be more constructive so that this doesn't happen again in the future.  Because Belle was not only driven to contemplate suicide by what Thomas started, but there have been others who even accomplished this horrible waste of life such as Alyssa Funk to name only one.  Your offer to Thomas, while amusing to read, isn't going to change anything to stop this from happening to other young girls.  I doubt future viewers of porn will remember this letter and keep news to themselves when they discover the girl down the hall was in the latest gonzo production.  

The National Trafficking Hotline, and the state of California passed Senate Bill 1193.  https://oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/sb1193  What this does is require, by law, that companies within the adult industry have signs posted that publish the National Trafficking Hotline phone number.  I further know a sign company owner who has offered to produce signs for us which meet the letter of the law with respect to what's required, and who would further list our hotline for adults who want to have a number to call when thinking about quitting the sex industry, as well as Children of the Night, for those under the age of 18 who are thinking about leaving as well.  However, again not being a person who applies for grants, or holds fund raisers, I don't have the personal means to get these signs delivered to every porn production company within the state of California - but $10,000 would allow us to get these signs printed, and then hung in every porn production company and studio within California certainly.

Used car buyers are allowed to have "buyers remorse" yet models who do adult film, or even still shots, are not required to prove sobriety before signing model releases, nor are photos held for even 72 hours pending "model's remorse" should they change their mind about the session is completed.  Model releases don't even expire - meaning I literally do have people calling my hotline who are unable to find work, are getting slapped with divorce and eviction papers, or even are being fired - because of someone discovering porn they did clear back in the 1990's now everyone and everything is going online.

For this reason, I'd like to see some kind of federal law not only giving a model 72 hours to change his/her mind about the photos, but further to be required to undergo an orientation of some kind that makes sure they know what they're getting themselves into.  We've now heard of at least one death over this sort of regret with Alyssa Funk's death, and that Belle wrote in Jane Magazine that she even went to this point herself.  This is the report of an intelligent young woman who was not forced to do this type of shoot, who wasn't being forced by a drug addiction or even economic desperation - who reports becoming so depressed over the way people responded to her porn that she contemplated suicide herself.

I grant you that if this was any other type of profession such as waiting tables causing this kind of reaction in more than one young woman - then the employers would be stepping up to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again by making sure future models are not only properly advised of the full possible consequences of their actions, then given a 72 hour time frame within which to change their mind that again we give someone buying a used car, which is way less important than a young person's whole future, and possible life, but also that we call for a federal law that would expire all model releases within one year after the date of publication automatically.  Thus saving me from trying to help callers to our hotline trying to figure out any loophole we can to get film from the 1990's taken down off the internet that is blocking them from finding work, being used against them in court, and in some cases even causing them to lose their children in custody cases.

All joking aside - let's use this as a learning experience to change things for the future. This is something I've been trying to open up a dialogue with companies within the sex industry about the after-effects our group is being left to clean up.  Issues that are probably not reaching your attention, because when those who leave the sex industry leave the sex industry - they don't usually call up the producers of companies like yours and talk about the problems they're having finding work outside of the industry.  The reason they don't tend to do this they report to me any way is because when some have, they then get an offer to "come in and do another shoot then if you need money".  Which to solve the immediate need - yes they'll come in and do a shoot.  But then they come right back to my doorstep and leave the long term solutions at my feet.  

Only I can't solve these problems on the back end.  I'm the one people call when they're "done" and want out - not before they enter into the sex industry.  This is why all kidding aside - we need to open up dialogues with each other.  For the thirty years now I've been running our hotline and 12 step program - I feel too much like the sex industry just chews up these young men and women, and then just spits them out when done with them on my doorstep to do the clean-up.  All the money that's going into programs right now is going into "anti-trafficking" programs which have nothing to do with situations like what Belle Knox, and others like Alyssa Funk, have experienced when they report being slammed with some pretty vicious attacks once they're identified in the "real world" as to who they are once they've done porn.  Attacks which these young people report not only were they completely ill-prepared to deal with, that drove them to depression deep enough to attempt suicide, even completed it in Alyssa's case, and then had them change the whole course and direction of their lives.  

I venture that while Belle Knox is happy now as a "libertarian activist" as her future career - that was not what she wanted to do when she entered college bad enough to do porn to pay for her tuition even when her parents wouldn't help her.  Now we can change this by taking taking a few steps on the front end to make sure future performers are fully advised as to possible consequences of their actions they're about to undertake, that there is some reasonable copyright release dates set so that any damage doesn't follow one for life, they know about hotlines such as ours for one to help them adjust with the exit process, and maybe even set up some kind of awareness campaigns on college campuses to do something about the "slut shaming" that is a form of non-physical abuse I venture on women like Belle Knox by men like Thomas.  Granted, he didn't beat her up physically, nor rape her physically, but he still trashed her life pretty good by running off his mouth the way he did.  Along with the fact maybe young women should be better informed about the consequences of porn before they do a shoot.  So maybe we can even find a way to turn all of this into an educational campaign to bring to colleges at a time when education about the many ways women are being harmed on a college campus need to be addressed.  



If you'd like to talk about any of these ideas to help us prevent a young person in the future from "identifying" with Alyssa and/or Bella, you can reach me at www.sexworkersanonymous.com




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