Elevate Difference

The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality, and Relationships

The advancement of gender equality and feminisms are arguably difficult to measure. One of the greatest successes, however, is the growing level of complexity with which we view previously black and white issues. In other words, we as a society are more capable to recognize the grey in controversial issues. As the face of feminism becomes more of a collage than one iconic portrait, as the proverbial intersection of race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, religion, and other forms of identity receives more thoughtful traffic, documentary films such as The Price of Pleasure emerge. This film boasts a unique approach to exploring the contentious world of pornography.

Abandoning the tired and often cyclical rhetoric on whether pornography is “right or wrong,” The Price of Pleasure investigates the collision of pornography, sexuality, and relationships. Instead of wagging a finger at the billion dollar industry from an academic pulpit, this film features a diverse group of college students, professionals, media makers, distributors, consumers, and adult performers to expose a panoramic and dizzying look at how pornography affects our lives and relationships. Instead of making statements that legitimize or demonize the porn industry, the film asks questions, and then allows people talk for themselves.

Equally compelling as it is disturbing, The Price of Pleasure spans the pornography business with several different lenses: race/gender roles and power, economic and capitalistic trends, political and corporate involvement, and sexualized violence against women and children. The weight of these issues is undoubtedly distressing. The film takes a bold approach to examining the stunning financial profits of the industry and the connection to our human needs and insecurities. The Price of Pleasure presents an unapologetic inquiry into the blurring line between the pornographic world and real world. That line is the primary battleground of the film.

The Price of Pleasure is loaded with explicit and violent imagery, vulgar language, and disturbing commentary, which may upset an unsuspecting viewer or trigger a survivor of sexual assault. Educators should exercise acute judgment when using this film for discussion and note that the DVD contains an option to view an edited or unedited version. Even with the most seasoned of facilitators, audience members should be appropriately prepped and forewarned.

The Price of Pleasure holds immense possibility for transformative dialogue. The questions raised are almost too difficult to hear, but once they are voiced they are too impossible to ignore.

Written by: Lisa Factora-Borchers, July 24th 2009

"Thanks for giving alternative examples, and if you'd like to collaborate on a future review, definitely get in touch."

I just published a review of Graphic Sexual Horror at Carnal Nation. It can be found [here](http://sf.carnalnation.com/content/24261/921/graphic-sexual-horror-documentary" rel="nofollow).

"I agree with you about your larger point, which seems to be that mainstream feminists aren't great at representing a pro-porn perspective."

People who have been, or do not want to be, tortured aren't great at presenting a pro torture perspective either. No big surprise, eh?

Iamcuriousblue said: I'll also point out that there's been well over a dozen documentaries on pornography done in the last two years alone...Not to mention all of the other writing that's been done on the subject. Yet, it seems like feminist blogs have been name-dropping TPoP as the be-all and end-all about porn, as if perspectives beyond the Jensen/Dines approach aren't worth paying attention to.

I think if you search our past reviews, you'll find that we've covered a variety of material (books, film, and performance) about pornography and other types of sex work, and have represented many different opinions about the topic. As for other feminist blogs, I can't speak for them.

I agree with you about your larger point, which seems to be that mainstream feminists aren't great at representing a pro-porn perspective. Thanks for giving alternative examples, and if you'd like to collaborate on a future review, definitely get in touch.

"I've NEVER had a boyfriend or known a guy that simply watched erotica or anything that could ALMOST be considered feminist porn or non-degrading. I'm not saying that those men don't exist - I've just never met one. And most of my guy friends are pretty open about these discussions. Many openly admit that they like porn because of the degrading things women are willing to do.

Also - pointing out that there is porn in the world that isn't degrading - is an ad hominem argument - it's a logical fallacy. Just because porn exists that is not degrading, does not negate the fact that MOST of it is! and most straight men that I have met - viewed degrading porn."

Where to begin with that statement. Your argument rests on a lot of assumptions that are arguable or downright wrong. First, there are a lot of definitions of "erotica", many of which don't draw a hard distinction between erotica and porn. The definition of what's "degrading" is certainly subjective. And I don't think your assumption that the men you know (who apparently all like gonzo porn and porn that's specifically degrading to women) is a representative sample of straight male porn viewers in general. From an equally anecdotal point of view, I could point to many male porn fans who strongly prefer porn that, from their point of view anyway, is non-degrading.

And before anybody comes back at me with this one – spare me the "content analysis" study carried out by one of the folks associated with TPoP, Robert Wosnitzer. That study was full of problems – lack of a reliable method of sampling what porn titles are in fact widely viewed, lack of transparency (and likely bias) in what acts were tagged as "aggression", and overall a priori bias on the part of the investigators on a study that's very vulnerable to subjective bias. I'll note that the study in question has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and I'll be surprised if makes it through peer review.

My god, did we see the same film????

I can't begin to see how you could remotely say that TPoP didn't "wag its finger" or make "statements that legitimize or demonize the porn industry". Just one small example – the intercutting between a piece of hard BDSM porn and illustrations of torture carried out in Chile under Pinochet. For godsakes, a documentary can't get any more condemnatory and propagandistic than this (not to mention the very problematic hijacking of human rights language to condemn what's ultimately consensual activity).

I'll also point out that there's been well over a dozen documentaries on pornography done in the last two years alone (I checked this on IMDB recently because I had noticed there seemed to be a wave of such dos all of a sudden.) Not to mention all of the other writing that's been done on the subject. Yet, it seems like feminist blogs have been name-dropping TPoP as the be-all and end-all about porn, as if perspectives beyond the Jensen/Dines approach aren't worth paying attention to.

As for other documentaries, there are a couple in particular I want to point to - [9to5: Days in Porn](http://www.9to5-themovie.com/" rel="nofollow) and [Graphic Sexual Horror](http://graphicsexualhorror.com/" rel="nofollow), which are a couple of warts-and-all takes on the mainstream and BDSM porn industries, respectively. These come much close to the ideal you described in your review, which is discuss porn without condemnation nor idealization. They're making the rounds of the film festival circuit right now, but will hopefully get the wider release they deserve.

[Renegade Evolution: What's going on At The Moment (or ATM, for the pervs)](http://renegadeevolution.blogspot.com/2009/07/whats-going-on-at-moment-or-atm-for.html" rel="nofollow)

Anonymous # 1:

The thing is, your boyfriends do not negate a simple fact. The film claims to be looking at the top grossing porn films of 2005, something that actual sales records can disprove. Its right there in the money and numbers- feature films outsold everything else, hence- they are the top grossing porn movies of 2005- So, if the top grossing films of 2005 were features (which can be proven), yet this film is looking at gonzo and BDSM and no feature films, how can it truly be an accurate look at the top selling films? Answer is- it can't.

People have an absolute right not to like porn and speak out against it- but misrepresentation- such as that in the film- doesn't help get whatever legit message people are trying to get across make it there.

http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=235&template=PDGCommTemplates/HTN/Item_Preview.html

You can view it for yourself here

I definitely don't agree with the first two comments... Basically - Every guy I have ever dated had gonzo porn - not feature films. When those boyfriends borrowed porn from their friends - they borrowed gonzo porn. And even if those porns had some acting other than the sex in them - it wasn't much and only accounted for about 1% of the duration of that film.

I've NEVER had a boyfriend or known a guy that simply watched erotica or anything that could ALMOST be considered feminist porn or non-degrading. I'm not saying that those men don't exist - I've just never met one. And most of my guy friends are pretty open about these discussions. Many openly admit that they like porn because of the degrading things women are willing to do.

Also - pointing out that there is porn in the world that isn't degrading - is an ad hominem argument - it's a logical fallacy. Just because porn exists that is not degrading, does not negate the fact that MOST of it is! and most straight men that I have met - viewed degrading porn.

And even if non-degrading porn was the most popular (which it isn't) - how does that really justify the existence of degrading porn? How does it justify the racism, the msogyny, the FEMALE HATRED in MOST porn?

Does pointing out that some women go into the porn business because they like it negate the fact that a lot of women are sucked into it for class reasons????

And I wish that more women in porn would realize that YES it is their choice but once they have MEDIA of themselves doing those things (especially the degrading things) that it DOES affect society - just like fat-shaming in most TV commercials affects society.

I have, twice now, been invited to attended screenings of this film at colleges to offer a differing opinion and an unedited performer opinion because you know what? It really is needed. There are a lot of problems with this film, a lot. It's claim to be fair and unbiased is totally off base. I've written about it at length as I have been asked by women's studies programs to speak on it- but two huge problems with the film, right off the top of my head are: 1) Almost everyone- if not everyone- involved in the making of this film comes from an anti pornography stance thus the minds of the film makers were already biased going into production, and 2) It claims to be speaking about top grossing pornography, then focuses totally on the gonzo & bdsm genres, which are not the top grossing forms of porn- feature films are- and they are totally ignored.

If TPoP was billed as an anti porn film, this would be all fine and dandy, but it is not. Its claims to be fair and unbiased are totally off- and Snow is correct in that may of the performers interviewed for it were outraged at the way their statements were edited for effect.

Are you aware that many of the pornography performers and makers who were interviewed for the making of that film have later denounced it as utterly misrepresenting them? Many of them, and [other sex workers involved in the porn industry](http://lalibertine.blogspot.com/2008/10/price-of-pleasure-alrighty-then.html" rel="nofollow), have attended screenings to protest and make sure that their real voices have been heard. There have been cases where the makers and promoters of the film have [deliberately moved or concealed the location of screenings](http://bppa.blogspot.com/2009/02/tpop-la-return-by-invitation-only.html" rel="nofollow) in order to avoid facing these protests.

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