Reprinted With Permission from Cuir Underground
Copyright (c) 1996 Cuir Underground
SIN TV: Sex Industry News Isn't Just Titillation by Liz Highleyman
From Issue 1.9 - July/August 1995
If you have an interest in leather/SM, sexual politics, explicit entertainment, or censorship issues, check out SIN TV (Sex Industry News). Hosted by Mistress Vicci Gold, SIN is a monthly variety show that covers a wide range of issues in the erotic realm. SIN defines "sex industry" broadly, and has appeal for anyone interested in the business or the politics of sex.
SIN debuted in February, 1995 and there have been five episodes to date. The program, produced by Gold Entertainment Prductions (GEP), airs at midnight on the first Wednesday of the month on cable channel 47. I spoke with Vicci and her partner Robert about the show and their future plans.
SIN came about because Vicci and Robert (who both have long sex-idustry-related careers) were "outraged by how those in the sex industry are treated by society, the law, and the media, and by the growing attempts to strip away constitutional rights in an effort to suppress sexual expression." The mainstream media ignores this issue (when it's not actively helping the censors), and seems oblivious to the fact that hundreds of thousands work in sex-related industries and that tens of millions are customers.
Since Vicci is well known as professional dominant, I wondered why the show did not focus more on SM. Robert said that in addition to the fact that "the SM community does not yield easily to public scrutiny," there are too few stories to sustain a monthly program without becoming repetitive, and the audience likes more variety. Vicci and Robert "prefer to practice the politics of inclusion," and noted that the police, the press, and society at large often do not perceive differences among the various segments of the sex industry. They believe that "the entire sex-positive community should stand strong together," and they strive to make SIN reflect that philosophy.
The Leather Report
Each episode of SIN starts off with "The Leather Report," focusing on an aspect of the leather/SM lifestyle. In episode 2, Vicci visited Elizabeth of Differences, episode 3 featured the SM flea market, and episode 4 had an interview with Michael DeWeil of the San Francisco Whip Company. The recent episode 5 featured local dominant and educator Cleo Dubois, who discussed her new Academy of SM Arts and her thoughts on consensual power play.
In addition to discussing their product or service, guests are given the opportunity to tell us about themselves: how they got involved in their work, what aspects they like and dislike, their personal philosophies, and so on. SIN is not a mere collection of promotional ads. Vicci and Robert have a commitment to introduce us to real people in the adult industries and to give them the respect they deserve, rather than just exploiting them for their titillation value as is so often done on mainstream talk shows. Episode 4 featured an interview with porn star Nina Hartley who talked about her career development, her feminist politics, and the vagaries of anti-sex laws. Porn actor Richard Pacheco, a regular guest, gives glimpse of the issues and difficulties -- competition, limit setting, family reaction -- that play out on the other side of the camera.
SIN confronts the politics of the sex industry head on. Episode 2 featured interviews with SF supervisor Terrence Hallinan and with artist and activist Carol Leigh (Scarlot Harlot), who are working with the SF Task Force on Prostitution to reform of local anti-prostitution laws. Other episodes have covered the censorship of cable TV (episode 1) and Spectator publisher Kat Sunlove's court victory over a law against street-box sales of sexually explicit newspapers (episode 3).
SIN also features "Censorship Watch" with Bobby Lilly of CAL-ACT (Californians Against Censorship Together). Bobby reviews and discusses pending anti-obscenity bills, gives her commentary, and encourages us to become politically active on behalf of freedom of expression. Recent episodes have focused on censorship of online material on the Internet and BBSs.
Bobby provides one of the better analyses I have heard on computer-related censorship, one that is understandable to non-experts, yet in-depth and accurate enough to interest net veterans (and free of the hand-wringing hysteria of recent mainstream media coverage). "Censorship Watch" was missing from episode 5; I hope to see it back soon.
Sex on the Infobahn
SIN overall exhibits an interest in computer technologies. Vicci visits BBSs and home pages almost as often as she does physical locations. SIN has covered erotic CD-ROMs (episode 1) and the DivaNet BBS (episode 2). GEP will debut its own online presence in July. Their Internet website "Looker" will include photoshoots of porn celebrities, erotic art by Vincent Fronczek, and highlights from SIN TV; they plan to add sex industry discussion groups in the near future.
Robert acknowledged that the extensive political coverage and intimate interviews can tend to result in a "talking heads" style. To mitigate this, each episode includes some visual segments such as event footage and video clips. However, SIN avoids nudity and graphic language in order to reach a wider audience (cable stations cannot block.or scramble shows merely for sex-related content).
Episode 3 included footage from the 38th Annual Exotic Dancers Reunion and episode 4 covered the Cyborgasm audio erotica release party with Carol Queen, Danielle Willis, and Susie Bright. Episode 5 included an extensive showing (20 minutes worth) of several clips from Star Maker video, featuring a variety of SM and BD scenes starring the likes of Sharon Mitchell, Mistress Domino and Rick Savage; one clip of an over-eager, face-licking, leg-humping girl-doggie was both hot and a hoot! I found it difficult to distinguish series names from the titles of the films, a potential problem for those wishing to make phone orders. This was the most extensive video footage I've seen on SIN, and I wonder whether it will be ongoing.
Where are the Queers?
Given Robert and Vicci's favoring of inclusivity and their belief that the audience prefers variety, I'm a bit surprised at the almost exclusively heterosexual focus of SIN. The political coverage applies to all genders and orientations, and the Cyborgasm footage and Cleo Dubois interviews featured people well-known in the queer sex-radical community, but for the most part the stars selected, the events covered and the video clips shown appear to be aimed at a male heterosexual audience. Bisexuals, gays and lesbians, transgendered people, and heterosexual women work in the sex industry and are its customers too, especially in San Francisco. I'd like to see, for instance, coverage of events like the Folsom Street Fair, footage of male strippers (for a change!), and clips from videos aimed at bi, hetero or lesbian women.
SIN risks becoming the television equivalent of the Spectator, [a Bay Area weekly adult newspaper] which has such a hetero male focus in it's ads and porn reviews that many women and queers won't read it, thus missing the excellent news columns, book reviews, and coverage of sexual politics (often written by women and queers). Perhaps SIN fears alienating straight male viewers (who undoubtedly pour the most money into sexual entertainment); they might avoid any program where they risk seeing (and possibly being turned on by!) homoerotic imagery. I hope SIN can resolve this dilemma and become more inclusive.
Over the course of five months SIN has made notable technical improvements. The earlier episodes were rather amateurish, including rough segues and poor sound quality. Later episodes are much improved. Segues have gone from being poor and overly-long to being interesting and creative.
In early episodes Vicci had a tendency to overact, and seemed more aware of the camera than her guests. She now seems much more comfortable and natural, and her interviews have a conversational feel that I like. The show has overcome the problem of how to legibly display product and service information (early episodes sometimes featured business-card-size displays that were shown too briefly). Work is still needed on how to display computer screen output in a more readable manner, especially given how often this type of information is used.
GEP hopes to extend SIN to other markets (Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York and New Orleans should be online by mid-1996), and may produce other cable or video shows in the future. You can contact SIN (and send information about sex industry news and events you'd like to see covered) to P.O. Box 423323, San Francisco, CA 94142-3323, or call 415-972-8000.
Tune in to SIN TV the first Wednesday of every month at midnight on Bay Area cable channel 47.
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