Documentary Highlights Violence in Porn Videos

Sun said the documentary is aimed at promoting "an open discussion about the topic...I have no plan of shutting down the industry. But looking into it is a great way to see how racism and sexism interlock and can stir up the core of sexuality."

Researching Porn

Sun met Jensen when she was making her second film, "Beyond Good and Evil," and met Dines, a professor at Wheelock College who has researched pornography for more than a decade, while making her first film, "Mickey Mouse Monopoly." Sun said she was impressed with both scholars and looked into their own specific research.

"They had both worked on pornography, so we talked about the possibility of making a film on the topic," Sun said. "I came into the film with no agenda because there are so many conflicting and complex issues that I had to think through. This one medium [pornography] has so many outcomes, it just depends on how people use it."

Sex and Violence

Theories about the affects of sexually explicit films on society abound. Some say that porn, which is largely protected by the First Amendment, sexually liberates women, while others argue that porn has indirectly increased sexual violence toward women and eroded relationships.

Though there's no definitive study on porn and violence, most research, including a 2002 article in the Journal of Sex Research, found no connection between those committing rape and the viewing of pornography.

Sun decided to take a deeper look at the porn/violence connection by organizing a team of researchers to analyze the amount and type of aggression used in popular porn films. Sun compiled a list of the most-rented and best-selling porn videos during a seven-month period, as reported by AVN. She then randomly selected 50.

"Porn is very diverse," Sun said. "We decided to look into popular pornography to make our study reliable."

Her team then recorded each instance of aggression (including spanking, gagging and verbal abuse). Their definition of aggression included "any action causing physical or psychological harm to oneself or another person, verbally or physically."

"Overall 94.4 percent of the aggressive acts were targeted at women," she said, and "95.5 percent of the female characters who were the targets of aggression actually expressed enjoyment or had no response at all."

"Violence is met with acceptance or pleasure. So what does that mean for the viewer?" Sun said.

In the course of her research, Sun noted a much higher frequency of aggression than reported in an earlier group of content analysis studies that also evaluated porn, conducted in the early '90s. This may be partly due to the way the researchers choose to define aggression in the films studied.

Says Jensen, "The question is often asked, 'Does pornography cause rape,' and the answer is obviously 'No.' I think the question is better framed, 'Does pornography contribute to a culture in which rapes happen at the epidemic levels it does?'"

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