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Porn and Valentine's Day

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday this year, which could be celebrated as a day where our lifelong romantic love builds a foundation for our families and our faith. Or, to television executives, it could be a holiday for infidelity and pornography.

The cable channel G4 -- little known except to video-game junkies, including young boys -- announced they would host a "Romance-Free Valentine's Day," where viewers "looking for an escape from the mush can turn to the only network that will showcase unfaithful lovers and naughty adult superstars to commemorate Cupid's holy day."

After an all-day marathon of the show "Cheaters," which exposes affairs -- the channel promoted it as "13 hours of fistfights, screaming, and the most extreme relationship drama imaginable" -- came a two-hour special touring and promoting the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, hosted by porn star Sasha Grey.

Grey is a key figure in the current campaign to take porn into the mainstream. Director Stephen Soderbergh cast her last year in his art film "The Girlfriend Experience," which thankfully never made it into the suburban multiplexes despite rave reviews from film critics like Roger Ebert. It wasn't an acting stretch: Grey played a high-priced call girl, instead of a cable TV hostess.

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The AEE show, which aired from 10 p.m. to midnight (Eastern time), warned viewers of sexual content and carried a rating of TV-14, as if 14-year-old boys won't be shocked by what followed -- a seamy underworld of smut.

The programming geniuses ran this special with almost no commercials, which shows that they knew this concept was commercially radioactive, but their ardor for making a perverse "splash" won out. Is this the kind of channel that most families would choose to put in their cable package? Or is it just another smutty channel we pay for even if we avoid it like a bad neighborhood?

G4 has been trending away from its original vision of attracting gamers aged 12 to 28, as its studios have been merged in with E! (which has featured a series of porn-mainstreaming reality series like "The Girls Next Door" from the Playboy mansion). During Sunday's porn-expo special, they repeatedly advertised a new series called "The International Sexy Ladies Show," which showed bimbos around the world wrestling in flour and other goofy stunts.

G4 hostess Olivia Munn appeared on the cover of Playboy last summer and did a semi-nude pictorial inside. But G4's website promoted it wildly, quipping, "This is the most historic event since the moon landing."

This is not a "pay cable" channel. This is a regular cable channel majority-owned by Comcast, the incoming owners of NBC. Comcast clearly isn't nervous that this kind of sleaze will endanger its merger bid before Congress.

Within a few minutes of the show's opening credits, Grey stripped (briefly) for the camera and hopped into a bubble bath. A few minutes later, the routine was repeated by another porn star. At one point, Grey changed outfits in front of the camera -- pointless except for the pixilated nudity. Near the special's end, Grey rode a mechanical bull, except it was costumed as a giant pink representation of the male anatomy.

This causes almost the entire frame to be pixilated. There was almost endless pixilation in this special, but it's not meant to maintain a sense of dignity. There was no dignity at this convention. It was just another way of teasing the viewer into buying the products advertised at the "mind-blowing booths," as G4 promoted a long list of sex toys, "real dolls," puppy and bunny masks, and even "fairly priced bondage gear."

Some moments were ridiculous, like when one porn star named "Stormy" likened her tours of strip joints as "kind of like going to see Santa at the mall ... and you get to hold my boobs."

But some of it was just sickening. Perhaps the lowest moment of this low special is Grey proudly touting a new product she calls the "Sasha Grey Deep Penetration Vibrating Something Something that I cannot say on camera." It's a simulated plastic version of Grey's lower torso for sale.

G4 even promoted the Mustang Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada. G4 host Blair Herter traveled to the site, going through the motions of how he would order a prostitute and browse the menu of services offered.

This degrading spectacle thoroughly demonstrated that pornography is naturally "romance free" and an antidote to the "mush" of Valentine's Day. It's a sick joke that the "world's first sex robot" was promoted on this special in Orwellian terms, as "True Companion." True love, true romance and true companions are not found when sex is just a momentary thrill exchanged for money. But that's not the lesson that game-playing teenagers will learn from watching cable television.

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