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NEWS | August 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 33
(Left Behind Part 3: Education)

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‘Girls Gone Wild’ Ban Sparks Debate

by Sam Baltrusis

Where can a girl flash her boobs in public these days? Crews from the soft-core porn outfit, “Girls Gone Wild,” were spotted at the infamous Flora-Bama Lounge—and various dive joints scattered throughout Orange Beach—last week.

Part of Mantra Entertainment’s search for the “Wildest Bar In America,” the group’s tour bus made a pit stop in lower Alabama prompting Orange Beach Mayor Pete Blalock to threaten area watering holes. If they allow “Girls Gone Wild” to film while the ladies let it all hang out, he chastises, they’ll be put out of business.

 “We will not allow any promotion or production of this sort in our city,” Blalock says in a prepared statement.

Citing a city ordinance adopted in 1995, the mayor had officers approach area bars about the alcohol clause that bans the filming of nudity at establishments that serve booze.

“We promote ourselves as a family community and a family destination for tourists,” he says. “And this sort of activity is definitely not keeping with our values.”

Orange Beach City Administrator Jeff Moon says the “Girls Gone Wild” bus began attracting attention on Tuesday, Aug. 8 when the Los Angeles-based crew started handing out T-shirts at a Winn-Dixie.

“I’ve been here since 2001 and this is the first time this sort of thing has come up,” Moon says, adding that ordinances in Pensacola and Escambia County vary depending on zones. “The rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and in our case, it’s not allowed.”

The “Girls Gone Wild” franchise was built on cheaply priced tapes and DVDs depicting college-age girls—and sometimes men—in public venues exposing themselves for the camera. While controversy surrounding owner Joe Francis’ company is nothing new, the Orange Beach refusal has rekindled a national debate that’s resurfaced during the George W. Bush administration: Is the government’s overt hostility toward erotic expression infringing on our First Amendment rights?

“Yes, absolutely, that’s a no-brainer,” says attorney Lawrence G. Walters, who is serving as defense counsel for Clinton “Ray Guhn” McCowen, Patrick Stevens and Andrew “Jim Manley” Craft, who were recently arrested on obscenity charges in Pensacola for employing local women to appear in hardcore footage on their website. “The governments we deal with on a daily basis stop at nothing to censor this type of expression.”

Walters says officials, especially during election years, feel compelled to impose their moral agenda on the masses.

“What we really find is that our clients are open about their sexuality and that’s threatening to them,” Walters says. “People are fine with the concept of sex and eroticism, as long as it’s below the surface, where we have access to it when we want.”

The lawyer says groups like “Girls Gone Wild” infuriate civic groups and government leaders because they’re so unapologetic about their sexuality.

“As soon as you start being open and proud, especially with women, we see an intense hostility by the local governments because they’ve been taught to keep sex as a repressed desire, something that’s done in the dark,” he says. “When our clients start engaging openly in the celebration of sexual expression and eroticism, our opponents go crazy.”

Francis, who was arrested in Panama City Beach in 2003 after two 17-year-old girls claimed that a “Girls Gone Wild” cameraman videotaped them in sexual situations, didn’t return our calls about Orange Beach.

However, Walters defends groups like “Girls Gone Wild” saying that the public, as a whole, rarely has problems with sexual expression among consensual adults.

“I don’t think this reflects the mood of the country or even the mood of a city like Pensacola,” Walters says. “We’re seeing with juries throughout the country that they’re openly tolerant of erotic expression—even if they’re not interested in viewing or creating adult material themselves. Even the most conservative jurors realize that this is the United States and the government shouldn’t waste its resources in trying to enforce their morals on what we watch and read.”