From reel to virtual : the U.S. adult film industry, production, and changes in women's labor opportunity (1957-2005)




Tibbals, Chauntelle Anne

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Women work in the adult film industry in a variety of behind-the-scenes occupations and executive roles. Moreover, women can often negotiate the terms of their employment, pay scales have been standardized, and protecting women’s health is conventional practice. As would be expected, women were not always integrated into every level of the adult film industry workplace. This process occurred over time, as it occurred over time in myriad other workplaces; however, unlike many other workplaces, neither advocacy from an external social movement nor activism from workers within the industry itself initiated this integration. With the magnitude of the adult film industry, the apparent integration of women workers, rhetorical assumptions, and scholarly oversights in mind, two core questions are posed in this research. First, have women’s incorporation and opportunities for participation in the United States’ adult film industry changed since the 1950s? Second, has the content of adult films changed since the 1950s? The evidence suggests that women’s labor rights and opportunities have been expanded internally, from the top-down. Company owners, film producers, and powerful industry leaders began expanding women’s rights in response to legal and cultural pressures from regulators and industry-wide structural changes occurring during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In this study, I explore the processes responsible for these developments. The central argument is that the historical development of the adult film industry has been shaped by dynamic multidimensional tensions existing between producers, consumers, and regulators. These tensions are partially reflected in the content of key adult films. The historical development of the adult film industry has led to the emergence of a closely interconnected occupational network. This network and what I call “industry protective practices” –endeavors initiated by adult film industry business leaders, owners, and producers that protect both the welfare of workers and the industry itself— operate synergistically and are responsible for the top-down expansion of women workers’ labor rights and opportunities over time. Industry protective practices, including mandatory and centralized HIV/STI testing and the development of a production code itemizing sex depictions to be avoided, tell us much about strategic rights expansion from the top down.




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