A new documentary being shown on college campuses takes aim at violence against women depicted in the $10 billion U.S. sexually-oriented video industry.
The film "The Price of Pleasure," was screened at the University of Texas last week, kicking off a five-month nationwide tour at 13 college campuses and community centers.
Filmmakers Chyng Sun, Miguel Picker and Robert Wosnitzer teamed up with University of Texas professor Robert Jensen and researcher Gail Dines in 2004 to document the Adult Video News annual pornography convention and to juxtapose it with trends of sexual violence. Sun invested $60,000 into the movie for research and resource access. The remaining $20,000 to produce the film was funded by a few donors and the NYU Research Challenge Fund.
Jensen has researched the pornography industry for more than 20 years.
"I had used pornography like most men do in this culture and had a pretty normal experience with it," said Jensen. "When I went back to graduate school, I started reading feminist literature, and it opened a whole new way of seeing the issue."
Last week, the film was shown to a packed lecture hall where UT students overflowed into the aisles. Some of the material presented in the film focuses on the subset of porn that includes scenes of graphic violence, mainly directed against women. The graphic scenes prompted some viewers to cover their faces during the movie. When the lights went up, Jensen appeared at the podium to address the silent audience.
Rachel Willis, a senior at the college, wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke about what she saw.
"I have never watched porn consistently but I never minded it until now," Willis said. "I think the quote that resonates with me most is that 'When violence is sexualized, it becomes invisible.'"
Senior Amena Sengal, who works for UT's Gender and Sexuality Center as a research assistant studying pornography, said what she saw made her "more cautious" about watching porn."
"Actually, during the film, I was trying to analyze whether or not the films we were showing the participants [at the center] are in any way degrading," Sengal said. "Then I remembered that the films we show are the ones geared to women -- the 'femme' production ones. So, I feel a little better, but still not that much better about porn in general."
Junior Buddy Schultz said after seeing the film he would re-evaluate his own views as a porn user.
"It [the movie] made me think about myself," said Schultz. "I'm definitely going to think about it a lot more in the next few days. There are a lot of concepts that I never thought about, and I think I will change the things I do."
Porn videos do serve a legitimate purpose, said journalism senior Albert Alvarado.
"If someone wants to go home and get online and watch porn, then what business do I have telling them him or her what to do?" he said.
Jensen said he is preparing to screen the documentary at Augsburg College in Minneapolis on Friday.
Jensen said he was inspired by feminist theory that originated in the late 1980s by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon. His interest led him into a dual role as researcher and activist.
Porn has become more normalized in the U.S., said Jensen, who hopes that the release of "The Price of Pleasure" will promote reflection and discussion of porn's place in society.