Pornography: from the Greek word "pornograph", meaning "writings about harlots": a word that is usually shortened to just five simple letters "p-o-r-n-o": a word that has a social stigma attached to it, like leprosy. A word that carries a moral punch, that as soon as you mention it in public, you'll receive frightened looks and nagging fingers!
It is the 21st Century evil, that is bringing down society as we speak, and which - for Britain at least - has caused problems in recent times, after Government minister Jacqui Smith put in an Expenses Claim which included the viewing of two adult films courtesy of her husband. (For those of you outside of the United Kingdom, in 2009 the national newspaper The Daily Telegraph broke a major international news story, about members of the Houses Of Parliament who were falsely claiming money ,for so-called "expenses" which they felt they were entitled to, for their duties. In and of itself, this would not be a problem, as most major organisations let their employees claim for certain expenses. The problem for the MP's, were that there claims were being deliberately exaggerated and falsified in vast amounts, sometimes into figures totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds! Money that belonged to the British public, the tax payers! The story , which ran daily for over three months, with new revelations daily, caused an outcry amongst the public, and major hostility towards any and all politicians. So much, that major claimants included Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, David Miliband, Yvette Cooper, and Peter Mandelson.)
Now, under normal circumstances, if this had been any ordinary member of the public, the charges would have been for fraud, theft, or deception, and would have likely entailed criminal proceedings and a prison sentence. What staggered the British electorate, was that the vast majority of MP's simply apologised and paid the money back, once they had been caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and that was it! In a few cases, they lost their jobs, but that was about it! No legal repurcussions, and hence, a simple slap on the wrist!
Jacquie Smith, the then Home Secretary, was the woman in charge of decisions relating to internal affairs, citizenship and immigration. Her position also allowed her to dictate what we, the public, were allowed to watch at cinemas and at home, via the British Board of Film Classification, and she was against pornography. After the Expenses Scandal, she produced a radio documentary, as mentioned in a previous Blog entry of mine. Sadly, most of it was her views, and her opinions, which were most definitely anti-pornography, with the opposing side not being allowed to give their side of the argument.
As a Blog about extreme cinema from all over the globe, sexual material is something that comes up frequently in movies. From the titillation of 70's Sexploitation films, to the Nudie Cuties of the 1950's, the Cheesecake Pin-Ups of the 40's, and the pornogaphy industry of the late 1980's. Sex sells, more so than ever before. Yet in a world that is increasingly sexual and sexualised, why is pornography still seen in such a horrific light?
And it is this, which led me to write this article.
I am not, personally, a fan of pornography. I am not against it. I don't actively discourage those who work in the industry, nor do I have an axe to grind to those who produce it, create it, endorse it, or are involved in any other aspect of it. What I am against, is the far more seedy end of pornography, where women (or men) are coerced into performing for a video producer, into taking part in something that is clearly illegal, and which the actress (for it is usually the woman) is forced into performing against her free will.
Now, I am not saying that all pornography is like that. And I certainly don't believe that all extreme pornograhy should be banned. However, there have been cases, where the men making the films, are pretty much raping the women in the films, and forcing them to take part in material that is reprehensibly degrading. Take American pornographic film-maker and actor Max Hardcore aka Paul Little! (Oh, the irony!) I've mentioned him before, but he is currently finishing a prison sentence, after being convicted of producing and starring-in films that were classified as obscene, because of their content. His films have included women who are borderline legal in age (16-18) starring in his works; actresses being forcibly coerced into performing hideous acts of depravity, such as eating faeces, or drinking urine, whilst naked; and being dressed-up as pre-pubescent girls, and indulging in hardcore sexual acts against their will, in scenarios that are ultimately window-dressings for child pornography.
Now, I'd like to think, that the people reading this article, irrespective of your gender or age, would agree with me, that no one acting in the pornography industry, should ever be forced into performing against their will. Pornography, for me, should be all about consent! And likewise, no one reading this, would ever condone child pornography of any sort.
Whether an actor (of any gender) is paid thousands or millions is not the point here, but they should be able to give or withdraw their consent at any time, for any reason, even after a contract or verbal/written agreement has been decided upon. At no point should anyone feel that they cannot say "no" if they decide they aren't happy moving forward with the filming of a certain act or event. After all, we're talking about real human being here, and real human bodies. This is not fiction, in which people aren't open to harm or pain. That is, people like you and I! It's something many viewers and users of pornography forget! What you see on screen may be fictional, in the sense of the story or acting, or whatever else, but the cast are real people, with real emotions, and a real need for absolute protection during the making of the material concerned!
So why does pornography cause so many problems, and seem to be on the increase in society?
Normally, as soon as you mention the "p-word", people will give you a dirty look, or wink at, and nudge you. There's almost no inbetween actions. It's one extreme or the other. And the world is divided very clearly, between those against pornography and those for it. Yet, no one appears to aim to look at the industry and try to make comment on the area in the middle. I am not implying that views should sit on the middle of the fence, but there does need to be much more balance in how people look at such an emotive subject. Pornography doesn't have to be one thing or the other. It is possible, I believe, to view the subject dispassionately, and retain your emotional views under wraps, whilst still being free to condemn or accept parts of the industry.
If any of you have seen the film THE GOOD OLD NAUGHTY DAYS / POLISSONS ET GALIPETTES (2002, Michel Reilhac and Cecile Babiole), you will see that before cinema, there was pornogaphy! The film is a collection of adult shorts of varying lengths, including animated sequences, originally shown to patrons awaiting time with a lady in various Parisian brothels of the early 1900's. Although it's very funny at times, it's also extremely hardcore, despite being over 100 years of age. Bestiality was common. Oral, anal, threesomes were all quite common and blase by comparison! Material depicting nuns and monks getting up to all kinds of sexual shenanigans, maids and their bosses, postal workers, everyone and anyone was doing it, and doing it in as many ways as they could. If you don't like the gynaecological detail of modern pornography, but desire something more than traditional tits-and-ass, then this is a very eye-opening historical film to own, and I heartily recommend it! Just be warned, that if you import it, it may well breach your own countries laws on obscene material, so please be very careful! You import this at your own risk!
If, as that film demonstrates, that pornography is nothing new, maybe there is something to be said for pornography having a valid existance in today's society. Before film, there was literature, and pornography existed even back as early as 1785, with the Marquis De Sade's mammoth opus THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM, which in turn, was filmed and reworked into a controversial commentary on Fascism by Pier Paolo Pasolini as SALO, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975). One hundred years later, and you had the erotic novel/diaries MY SECRET LIFE written by "Walter", which - over some 1100-plus pages - lists in graphic detail every sexual depravity the author got up to, from his pre-pubescent years, through to his death! It can be legally read or downloaded and printed here as an 8mb-sized PDF file.
As such, pornography is nothing new! Not by a long shot! Nor was it new to record details - extensive and graphically-described details - for others to access; for others to purchase for their own edification. Yet, the production and selling of pornography as we know it today, in the form of magazines and DVD's/Blu-Ray discs is considered a modern phenomenenon, that needs to be stomped-on and stamped out!
In the second part of this extensive, multi-part article, I will examine modern pornogaphy, and the social issues it raises. We shall examine why people have a love-hate relationship with porn, examine those involved in the making of it, both infront and behind the camera, and ask why pornography has become the mass cultural event that it has.
Thank You for reading! See you soon!