Disrobing a Biased Documentary

It must have been porn night on SuperChannel. They had three sex-related 'documentaries' on in a row. One was the extremely entertaining and somewhat enlightening 'Inside Deep Throat', which I have already seen. Another was a really very good British doc called 'Transvestite Wives'. The third was called 'Adult Entertainment: Disrobing an American Idol'. I have to admit upfront that I missed the first half an hour of it, so I probably am not getting the full effect. What I did see was upsetting to me. The purported purpose of this film was to show the effects of pornography on its consumers and their families. Its actually purpose was to attempt to prove that pornography has negative effects on its consumers and their families.

So let me just say right up front that I'm not really an advocate of porn. There is a lot of stuff, (and I mean a lot, I have access to numerous extremely large video catalogues) produced within the porn industry that I think is degrading to women and that sends a negative message about women and relationships between men and women. I know this and I do not like it. However, there is a lot produced within the bounds of the porn industry that I don't think is degrading or negative. And this is my first criticism of this film, it lumps all pornography together. There is no distinction between types of films, their content, their producers, and the circumstances under which they are produced. Heck, there are entire production companies now that are owned by women where all of the actors in the movies choose exactly what they want to do and who they want to do it with. There are a lot of movies that simply film people having sex they would probably be having if there were no camera. Pornography is a blanket term and it really behooves the maker of this movie to explain exactly what type of material he's talking about.

The film goes even further and includes strip clubs, prostitution, toy stores, and fantasy and SM clubs in its 'study'. Attempting to examine all of these things together is preposterous because they are totally different things with different purposes and different modes of use. As a toy seller, it disturbs me to see my industry and profession equated to prostitution.

So this 'documentary' attempts to show the effects of porn consumption by taking three subjects - a single man, a married man, and his wife - who profess to not use porn at all, and ask them to watch porn or visit a strip club or other venue for at least an hour a day for 30 days (the wife did not do this, only her husband, but she was also studied). They were given several surveys throughout this period to see how their beliefs and relationships might have changed. More on that later.

The part that I found so disturbing about this film is how the 'experts' were used. Nina Hartley and Dr. Sharon Mitchell were two of the experts. Some of their 'expert' opinions were excerpted directly from one of their videos about being in the porn industry. This made me wonder if all of their soundbites were taken from other media and not procured from actual interviews with them. The clips made them sound as if they were discouraging everyone from being involved in porn and talking only about the negative. These are two extremely sex positive women who have both been in the industry. Nina Hartley is still in the industry as a producer. The clips were simply their discussions of some of the hazards of the industry. They are not anti-porn - far from it!

Another distressing moment was when Marty Klein was 'interviewed'. Marty Klein is a certified sex therapist and a well-known and respected educator, writer and civil liberties activist. The clip of him was 15 second long and showed him saying that watching porn together may, in come cases, be helpful for a couple's sexual relationship. The director cut out the rest of the interview and said simply that Klein has no research to back up this claim. However, the director has no research to back up his claim that it is detrimental.

The 'expert' who got the most airtime was 'Dr.' Judith Reisman. Reisman is, to use an objective and technical term, a crackpot. She has, for many years, waged a one-woman war on Alfred Kinsey and his research. She has accused him, without any evidence whatsoever, of being a child molester and has called for his posthumous conviction on child abuse charges. She has been key in stirring up the controversy about his research findings with the clear goal of disproving his claims that roughly 10% of the American population is gay and that many of us have some element of homosexuality or bisexuality within us. Reisman is a homophobe and a right-wing conservative. If you don't believe me, consider this fact - Reisman was one of the key advisors to the George W. Bush administration on matters to do with sex education.

At the end of the 'study' that was documented in this movie, many results from the subjects' questionnaires were shown as proof that the porn consumption had a negative effect. Here is an example: after the study, the married man was 13% less attracted to his wife. There are so many things wrong with this that it's difficult to detail them all. Firstly, they used a 10-point likert scale. What that means is that he may have answered a 9 the first time and a 7.7 the next time. That would be 13% less. Does that really mean he's less attracted to her because of porn, or just that, on that day, she was wearing jeans that make her ass look fat? Secondly, perhaps a part of the reason he felt less attracted to her was because his wife did not like him watching porn, was very uncomfortable with the study, and became more unhappy and uncomfortable with it as it went on because it violates her personal belief system. There was a ton of stress put on that relationship by making him do something they were both uncomfortable with - he did it, she got suspicious and resentful, he hated that she was unhappy and resentful but still felt he should keep doing the study, he liked what he saw and felt bad about it etc. etc. That probably accounts for the change in the relationship rather than the porn itself. Had I been involved in this study, since my values are different, I'm sure the results would have been quite different. Thirdly, once again, the study makes no attempt to detail exactly what it was that he watched so it simply says that all porn and sex-related industries are bad for marriages. We have no idea what he was watching - was it romantic 80's porn films or was it triple X snuff movies? There's a big difference.

If this guy is as off-his-rocker as I think he is, why am I getting my panties in a knot over this? Here's why. This kind of misrepresentation of the sex industry causes two major problems. First, there are so many of us out there who have natural inclinations to explore sexually but are scared because of all of the things we've been programmed to believe as children. This kind of portrayal of how damaging feeding those natural urges can be just makes people scared of their own sexual feelings. That leads to more repression and more broken relationships, not less. Second, there are lots of people out there who have never taken even one baby step into the various sex-related industries and don't know a thing about it but, because of their 'morals' want to deny everyone else the freedom to explore these things. They will use any little bit of 'evidence' they can find to back up their convictions. And unfortunately for us, many of those people have the power to curtail our freedom. 'Documentaries' like this give them fuel for their political fires.

I did some net research on the director of this film, Lance Tracey. He has publicly admitted to being addicted to internet porn and has been on several TV shows talking about his experience. He is also Christian and produces Christian movies. I don't have a problem with either of those two things but I do have a problem that he neglects to apprise viewers of the film of these potential biases. Clearly, Tracey feels that his life and relationships have been damaged by porn. That's his experience and I wouldn't ever say that he's wrong about that. But perhaps he should let others decide for themselves if it is damaging to them instead of trying to make that decision for them.