Porn is cool, isn’t it? It’s just a little harmless fun, yeah?
Porn is cool, isn’t it? It’s just a little harmless fun, yeah? Judging by the way porn is seen by today’s society, sure it is. ‘PornStar’ and Playboy bunny t-shirts are all the rage. Pulp release a song called Hardcore about pornography and name their album after it. Films like ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘The People vs Larry Flint’ turn porn industry workers into glamorous media celebrities. Eurotrash features reports on porn actors in a jokey, tongue-in-cheek way. The internet’s most famous use is the downloading of porn. It’s practically mainstream.
However, the issue of pornography is one that has split feminists and is a contentious issue of debate. On the one hand, you have the ‘radical’ feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine McKinnon, who have campaigned vehemently against porn in the U.S., saying that ‘porn is the theory, rape is the practice.’ On the other hand, there are the mainly younger set of feminists who see this kind of attitude as fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned, and above all, pathetically sad. Who are they to prescribe what people find a turn on? How dare they attempt to censor the free expressions of human sexuality? If it feels good, that’s all that matters.
‘Hardcore’ was a documentary following a 25 year old mother from England, who travels to Los Angeles, the centre of the porn industry, with her agent Richard to make a career as a pornstar. The maker of the documentary, Stephen Walker, did not have any agenda or secret opposition to porn. In fact, he intended to make a light-hearted film. Nevertheless, what emerged as Felicity was dragged deeper into the industry, was a deeply disturbing and degrading world. The agent, Richard, behaved as little more than a pimp, parading her around like a prize possession, constantly pressuring her to do things she had said she categorically did not want to do; and getting very angry with her when she continued to refuse. It became clear that if he persuaded her to do the more hardcore, disturbing stuff, he would get more money. It was obvious that he didn’t care for her sanity or her physical welfare, constantly pushing and nagging her to go further, introducing her to more and more hardcore film makers.
The worst scenes of the film were when Richard persuaded Felicity to meet the notorious Max Hardcore; a man who could have walked straight out of a Helen Zhavia novel; a man whose idea of interviewing Felicity and assessing her potential was to walk into the room and shove his penis into her before even shaking her hand, looking her in the eyes or asking her consent, while Richard stood and watched, smirking. It was obvious Felicity was terrified and deeply frightened, but alone in a strange house with no-one to speak up in her interest apart from the supposedly objective film crew, the best she could offer was nervous laughter. She had been constantly told that this is what she was supposed to be doing; who was she to disagree? Eventually she was reluctantly persuaded to do some filming there and then. Thirty minutes later she ran off the set crying after being deliberatly choked during oral sex. Max Hardcore followed; Richard, again, did nothing. Felicity was shocked and traumatized, but Max Hardcore sat by her and tried to persuade her to continue, first faking sympathy, calling her special, but then suddenly turning and subjecting her to a torrent of verbal abuse: ‘I’m not fucking impressed with your fucking effort, it’s fucking pathetic, you’re a fucking loser.’ Felicity would have agreed to continue had the camera crew not stepped in, realising they were about to be complicit in a rape. But what would have happened if they hadn’t been there?
After this appalling encounter, Felicity went back to jobs elsewhere, but seemed to be numbed, agreeing to go ahead with things she began her trip saying she would not and could not do. Her visit to Max, explained Richard, was all part of her ‘education’. It emergedthat one of the purposes of it was to test her ‘limits’ and to scare and shock her into doing more hardcore scenes. The film exposed an industry run by men for men, in which women are to be abused, physically hurt and degraded, simply objects objects to be used, and offered no support whatsoever from the people who aimed to make money from their hard work. This was anything but empowering and light-hearted. If this is how certain sections of the porn industry really work, they are abusive, demeaning, harmful, sickening beyond belief, and I absolutely loathe it. And if saying that makes me some kind of radical, then so be it.