Pornography is one of those issues that either becomes framed as a matter of free speech or morality. Those who oppose it often are labeled as anti-sex feminists. However, there are new voices and new perspectives that are trying to draw attention to the violence in both the production and consumption of pornography.
In a new documentary The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships, the directors provide a fresh look at an industry that now has an estimated 420 million websites, produces 13,000 new DVDs every year, and is completely intertwined with mainstream media. The Price of Pleasure does not necessarily draw strong conclusions, but it does raise important questions about the pornography industry and what impact it is having in the US.
The documentary begins with a look at how pornography went from being a marginal business that tended to be viewed with scorn to a multi-billion dollar industry that boasts its own lobby. The porn lobby, known as the Free Speech Coalition, challenged legal rulings and some significant cases in the 1990s, particularly cases that paved the way for the power that the Internet would provide the industry as a mechanism for distribution. Now pornography is part of the capitalist landscape with media companies like Time Warner and NewsCorp profiting off partnerships with the porn industry.
Other issues raised in the documentary are how pornography makes commodities out of women & men, the racist elements of pornography, and new trends in pornography, such as “Dorm porn.” Dorm porn is a growing phenomenon where college students are making porn as a way of paying for tuition.
One of the most revealing aspects of the documentary was a study done by students and faculty of the New School, where they looked at the most popular porn videos to make some determinations about the content. Pornography defenders have long argued that anti-porn activists always use the “worst” porn examples and make it look like this is all porn. However, as Robert Jensen and Gail Dines have shown in their research, the bulk of porn produced now is what might have been called “extreme” years ago. This is exactly what the researchers from the New School discovered, that the most popular porn videos that were being rented in the US had extreme content. The researchers found that in 89% of the videos they viewed, verbal and physical violence was central to the production.
The documentary includes voices from those in the porn industry, former porn industry workers, researchers, and activists. It is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to understand what the industry is and what impact it can have on our lives.