In the Flesh | Pittsburgh City Paper

In the Flesh

Porn star and pastor hold live debate about pornography

When Ron Jeremy and Pastor Craig Gross talk about pornography, it's something of a family affair.

Jeremy, the 54-year-old porn star, and Gross have been touring the country in a bus, debating about porn on college campuses and in night clubs, as they did Aug. 9 at Stratus in the Strip District. Ross has his wife and two kids with him on the bus, and says he's come across Jeremy talking to his wife while shirtless and in shorts.

"Put a shirt on, I told him," says Gross.

"They were shorts; they weren't boxer shorts," asserts Jeremy.

Both men agree they are friends, but judging from my interviews with them, they don't agree on much else.

Gross thinks pornography creates unrealistic expectations. "The girl/girl thing is huge right now," he says. "A guy would say, 'What about involving this in our relationship?'" Gross says anal sex is also a staple of porn these days, and that a lot of women just aren't into it. He believes it puts unfair pressure on women to become fantasy porn stars. These unrealistic expectations can harm a relationship, he says.

"That is the most pathetically dumbest, stupidest argument," counters Jeremy. He says if you buy that reasoning, then much of everyday pop culture and everyday life also create unrealistic expectations. He says that by that same logic, a guy might watch a Baywatch rerun and say, "Hey, my wife's not built like Pam Anderson." But that doesn't mean he's going to file for divorce.

What about child porn and bestiality? That's some of the ammo critics use when attacking the evils of pornography. "Why stop there?" asks Jeremy. "Why don't you include cannibalism and serial killers?" His point is that even guys with gimungous units who regularly have anal sex with hot, apparently willing partners, have standards, ethics, ... and, dare I say it, perhaps even morals. Jeremy says you're not supposed to look at porn unless you're 18, and by that time you should be able to separate fantasy from reality.

Gross says he doesn't want censorship. He doesn't want a government crackdown. He basically wants people to voluntarily stop looking at porn because it's degrading to women and it may harm traditional male-female partnerships. "In a bedroom, in most relationships, things that happen in porn movies don't happen," Gross says, adding that the actors themselves may not even be enjoying it. "It's all about the editing."

Gross acknowledges watching porn when he was a kid, but says the Internet didn't become widely available until he was already engaged. He does not look at porn now, at age 31, though his mom blames him for putting porn on her computer -- because when she Googles his name, some of the sites referring to him include actual porn.

The pastor also says Jeremy apparently doesn't watch porn: "He says, 'Put on Fox News.'" I would argue that is equally obscene, but that's another column.

Jeremy insists there's just no point in trying to appease the critics because they're unappeasable. He says any changes in porn movies would never satisfy critics like Pastor Craig. To make the pastor happy, says Jeremy, you'd have to make a movie "and make sure all the girls are wearing turtleneck sweaters with dresses down to their ankles so every guy can look at the screen and go, 'Well, my wife looks better than that.'

"We could portray a husband and wife in a porn film and it still won't appeal to Craig." Adults are adults, he insists, and should be treated as such. "If you're 18 you can fight on the battlefield and die for your country. You should be able to watch what you want."

And what about being a 54-year-old porn star who still dabbles in movies and is paired with younger women? "That's a fact of Hollywood," Jeremy says. "Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a romantic lead with Sean Connery." Touché. And then there's always Woody Allen.

What about putting women in the uncomfortable position of having to consider anal sex if their husbands are inspired by porn flicks? "People like to see that because it's more visual." Ah, so that's the appeal. "You can try it or not. Who cares?" bellows Jeremy.

Not me. Porn is here to stay.