Mommy does Dallas

Should a porn actress lose her parental visitation rights?

Published July 8, 2009 9:09PM (EDT)

Here's a knotty -- and partly NSFW -- saga from the city by the bay. Back in April, Matt Smith of the San Francisco Weekly revealed  that California state government funding designed to make businesses more competitive had (long story short) gone to subsidize job training in multimedia technology -- for the employees of, a pornography business that runs BDSM and other fetish-related websites. "California's government has been subsidizing torture-based pornography," Smith wrote.

But that's not the story! Smith's piece -- an arguably not-so-rich blend of reporting and opinion, which actually lost this funding -- made a lot of people angry, including a Hollywood-based fetish and bondage model/dominatrix/actor/blogger known as Mz Berlin, who, along with her peers, took serious issue with Smith's apparent conflation of consensual (if unconventional) sex with non-consensual abuse.

Mz Berlin has experienced both, she (NSFW) wrote, thank you very much, and she knows the difference.

Smith wound up (NSFW) interviewing Mz Berlin for a follow-up story. In which -- despite her express wishes to the contrary -- he evidently tracked down and printed her real name. (That version of the story has since been taken down.) When he asked why she didn't want her name used, Mz Berlin told Broadsheet today, she said, "Because I get naked for a living." Having her name out there, she said, would make her feel unsafe. 

In more ways than one, as it turned out. (Okay, now this is the story.) Mz Berlin's ex-husband in Louisiana, she says, used the SF Weekly story to make the case -- successfully -- for erasing her right to visit their 8-year-old son.

Before now, she had unlimited access -- and a much more amicable relationship with her ex. His stated concern: her safety, and their son's. Sure enough, Mz Berlin was in London when the story with her name ran. "I'm in a foreign country, and all of a sudden people are calling me telling me they're in my yard," she told Broadsheet. (Fortunately, she had just moved; the yard callers were actually at her old address.) He also says that he thinks what she does is immoral, and that he plans to use that in court if necessary. (She was not doing this work when they were married. He since learned of it but, she speculates, hadn't realized the scope or extent until now.)

"This is not a pity party. I realize that I put myself out there. I chose to do the interview. I choose to do porn," Mz Berlin told Broadsheet.  "But I meet people a lot who have seen my asshole before looking in my eyes, and the exposure of my name truly made me feel scared. It's the most violated I've ever felt." She adds: "The whole custody thing just makes me so angry. It should never have been questioned." In that regard, she feels her ex is overreacting.

Her ex says the only way he'll allow custody rights again is if she moves back to where he lives in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Mz Berlin intends to change her legal name in order to re-protect her identity.

In fact, Mz Berlin set up a PayPal account to solicit donations for a legal fund (and the name change process), receiving enough to move forward with a petition for revision of custody. (Financially, the timing here was bad: she had just run down her savings launching a production company and several new websites.) "I am completely humbled and thankful for all of your letters of encouragement, your hard-earned cash and your empathy," she wrote. "So many fans and friends really came through for me when I needed them to. This is a personal and time sensitive thing and the fast action of the community has been really inspirational."

Much here to discuss, no? Can't put it better than our tipster, who wrote: "From a journalistic perspective it raises questions about the granting of anonymity, as well as being a chilling reminder of the power of what we write. Then you have the added elements of morality, sexuality, parenthood and the adult film industry. Is a pornographic actress inherently unworthy of being a parent? Setting aside the morality of the industry, will even the best-intentioned porn star put her child in danger of stalkers?"

Your thoughts?

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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