Adam Glasser, Fisting, and the Law

Whatever feelings you have about the practice of “fisting,” put them aside for a moment to meet Adam Glasser. A handsome man with sparkling eyes and a hidden, caustic wit, Glasser is also well known as Seymore Butts, a maker of adult films. Glasser’s companies Seymore, Inc. and Big Brown Eyes, Inc. (BBE), are homespun operations, with his 70-year-old mother employed as the accountant in their San Fernando Valley offices. His films are a cut above most; Glasser takes pride in the work he does, going on what turns his actors’ on and creates a genre of adult videos known as “gonzo.”

The term “gonzo” derives from Hunter S. Thompson’s brand of personal journalism, which puts the writer’s impressions, rather than objective facts, in the foreground. Pretty much all porn is now shot with a handheld camera, but what distinguishes gonzo is the acknowledged presence of the camera operator, who is almost always the main character. You hear him talk to himself and the actors, who acknowledge and react to him; sometimes the camera operator participates in the scene.

In December, 2000, the LAPD sent its finest on a raid of Glasser’s offices, looking for Tampa Tushy Fest Part 1, a tape Glasser made in 1999. In the raid, they confiscated the master and all copies of the tape. They later charged Glasser, his company, and his mother with one count of trafficking in obscene materials each as well as one count each of promoting the distribution of obscene materials.

People make piles of porn in Southern California every day. The powers-that-be often want to crack down on porn. So what got the boys in blue fired up enough to stage a prohibition-style raid, charge someone’s accountant mom (who has nothing to do with the videos and says that porn actors are “just nice people”), and begin what would be LA’s first obscenity trial in eight years? Tampa Tushy Fest Part 1 also happened to be an AVN award-winning tape, winning Best All-Girl Sex Scene 2000 for a hot encounter between major porn stars Alisha Klass and Chloe. It was this very scene that gave the LA City Attorney’s office fuel to attempt a crackdown on Glasser and others like him.

The scene in question is a fisting scene, and fisting is a sex act mentioned on a 1981 memorandum listing acts the City Attorney considers to be “triggers” for obscenity charges, along with urination and female ejaculation. When someone is fisted, whether vaginally or anally, they receive penetration from their partner’s entire hand, curled into a flexible, compact fist. For people who’ve never even contemplated penetration with larger objects, this sounds like it might hurt, and the term fisting makes it sound almost violent, as if there was punching involved. There isn’t — and fisting, when done correctly with someone who likes it, doesn’t hurt. In fact, for women who love the feeling of being “filled up,” it can induce mind-blowing orgasms.

This is exactly what it does for adult star Chloe — just watch her in any movie and you’ll see one intense, authentic orgasm after another as she is penetrated by big dildos. There’s no faking the pleasure she feels. As Chloe said about fisting and the scene in Tushy Fest: “For me, it’s almost a spiritual act. And in this particular scene, you can see that Alisha and I are having a very good time.” Glasser commented on his motivations for including the controversial scene in the first place, saying: “I didn’t do this fisting just to create a stir. I didn’t do it because I wanted to create this controversy. I did it because I asked Chloe, ‘What gets you off?’ She said, ‘I like it when somebody fists me.’ It was so innocent! So I wanted to shoot it, and that was the reality of it… Something that causes somebody to have eyes-rolled-in-the-back-of-their-head orgasms, that’s the kind of stuff that I want to see, and I think the people out there want to see it as well.”

Anyone who is a consenting adult can self-determine sexual pleasure, as long as it isn’t against the law. Fisting isn’t illegal, and as a sexual practice is becoming more widespread as people are becoming more willing to explore their sexuality — the publication and sales of the fisting guide Hand in the Bush show us exactly this. Still, the City Attorney’s office decided to push forward with the obscenity trial. Some folks think that the prosecutors wanted to make an “example” of Glasser — though scuttlebutt suggests that the city is hoping to get federal bucks from the Bush administration if it starts cracking down on pornographers.

The goal of the City Attorney’s office was a guilty charge — and they charged Glasser’s mom as leverage to try to force a guilty plea from him. Prosecutors offered Glasser a deal in which he would plead guilty to obscenity, pay $1,000 and get a couple of years of probation. (The stiffest penalty for an obscenity rap is six months in the pen and a $1,000 fine.) In exchange, charges against his mother and his company would be dropped. But they didn’t plan on the unexpected: Glasser fought back. “Why should I plead guilty? I didn’t do anything wrong. Plus, this is how I put food on the table, and someone’s saying I’m a criminal for it? Two women of consenting age enjoying themselves before a willing adult audience is not obscene.”

The topic of obscenity is, put lightly, a slippery slope. If you’re like me and you survived the NEA debacle where performance artist Karen Finley faced off against ultra-conservative US senator Jesse Helms’ frightening stance on obscenity in art, then you’re likely to be wary about the notion of others defining your individual standards of obscenity. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “obscene” as, 1 : disgusting to the senses : repulsive. 2 A : abhorrent to morality or virtue; specifically: designed to incite to lust or depravity B : containing or being language regarded as taboo in polite usage C : repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles (an obscene misuse of power) D : so excessive as to be offensive (obscene wealth, obscene waste).

In a court case for obscenity, the accused is held to whatever the local community’s standards are for obscenity, determined by a jury. The real question is, whose morality or virtue is being offended here? The LAPD? A jury sitting there worrying about how much work they’re missing while stuck in court? The many people who bought or rented the tape? And whose community standards come in question when you’re talking about a consumer product? John Ashcroft finds the exposed breast of a statue to be obscene. I find the one-million-dollar per episode salary for each cast member of Friends to be obscene (that’s 22 episodes per season, folks). But an act of mutual sexual pleasure between adults? Please — spare me, and my tax dollars.

On Wednesday, March 20, Adam Glasser walked out of the courtroom completely free of all obscenity charges against himself, his mother Lila Glasser, and his companies in what has to be one of the best “plea bargains” ever reached in a local obscenity case. Glasser’s company, BBE, Inc., would plead “no contest” to a charge of “creating a public nuisance” and would pay a fine of $1,000 into a “victim’s restitution” fund. The company was not put on probation. All other charges against Adam Glasser, Lila Glasser and Glasser’s two companies were dropped.

“Let’s be honest,” Glasser said, “the $1,000 ‘donation’, the ‘public nuisance’ plea, that’s really a compromise, a face-saving political move for the City Attorney’s office, who didn’t want to come away from this case with absolutely nothing. The charge is meaningless, and as far as I know, there have been no ‘victims’ of Tampa Tushy Fest.” Glasser agreed to make all customers of Tampa Tushy Fest aware that a “non-fisting” version of the tape exists if they wish to purchase it, or exchange a currently owned “fisting” version for it. Otherwise, Glasser is free to sell the fisting version of Tushy Fest in California, safe from any charge of obscenity.

“I have been told that the list, that 1981 memorandum, is being reviewed very seriously by [L.A. City Attorney] Mr. Delgadillo and his staff,” Glasser stated afterward. “I believe that they want to put their regime’s own stamp on how the city handles these obscenity cases. They want to re-create the guidelines, so to speak, and from what I hear, fisting is one of the acts that is going to be reviewed because of its touch on every group of sexually active people: heterosexuals, lesbian women and gay men. That act is pervasive among all three, and I think with all the information we provided to them, I think they became suddenly aware — I don’t they knew there were books written on fisting, and that so many web sites had information available on fisting. I don’t think they were aware of what’s happened in this world, sexually, since 1981.”

Or maybe longer even longer than that, Adam.