FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Where are the Protests Against James Franco’s “Feel-Good” Torture Porn?

Celebrities have been speaking out against the movie Zero Dark Thirty because of its favorable portrayal of torture used in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. Some have even risked their membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I wish these celebrities were equally outraged by a documentary that just premiered at Sundance that celebrates the actual—not simulated—torture of women. Past experience tells me not to hold my breath.

When Acme Andersson wrote in XBIZ in 2009 (the porn business online website) that small porn companies need a lot of “good luck” to mainstream their products, he couldn’t have imagined just what good luck was coming the way of Kink.com, a somewhat niche company that specializes in the type of porn that would be right at home in Abu Ghraib. That good luck came in the form of A-list actor James Franco, a 2010 Oscar nominee for the movie 127 Hours. It seems Franco has a somewhat robust interest in porn, because he is a producer of a new documentary called Kink that premiered at Sundance just last week. According to the promotional copy on the Sundance website, “Kink tells the true story of sex, submission, and big business as seen through the eyes of the unlikely pornographers whose nine-to-five workdays are spent within the confines of the San Francisco Armory building, home to the sprawling production facilities of Kink.com.” To reassure the potentially squeamish among us, the copy declares that this “feel good” documentary features a “charming band of outsiders full of humor and insight working in a fantasyland of graphic sexual imagery.”

A bit of fantasy never hurt anyone, because fantasy happens in the head, not the real world, right? Tell this to the women (and a few men) on the Kink.com website whose bodies are displayed in agonizing contortions that would not be out of place in the Spanish Inquisition: stretched out on racks, hogtied, urine squirting in their mouths, and suspended from the ceiling while attached to electrodes, including ones inserted into their vaginas. Finally, taking a cue from Dick Cheney’s playbook, women are submerged into a tank of water until they start to cough and choke. As I watched the scenes, the term “feel good” couldn’t have been further from my mind.

Kink.com is in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The International Council for Rehabilitation for Torture Victims states: “Some of the most common methods of physical torture include beating, electric shocks, stretching, submersion, suffocation, burns, rape and sexual assault.” These are the very acts showcased on the Kink.com website. They are not mere simulations: the women are clearly bound and in contorted positions, and many are grimacing. This is not a fun, fantasy place run by a charming band of outsiders, but a group of savvy businessmen who missed their calling at Abu Ghraib.

The usual defense of Kink.com is that the women signed a contract and hence agreed to the acts. But as attorney Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law argues, “torture doctrine is not hampered by concerns about consent because, as a matter of law and policy, one cannot consent to torture.” And anyway, what does meaningful and informed consent mean to the women subjected to these degrading and painful tortures, which are designed to break the body and the spirit? Even the intelligence services acknowledge that information gained from coercive methods is unreliable. The women, like others who enter porn, are young and often don’t know the full extent of what will happen on the set, and cannot anticipate the lasting psychological and emotional effects. The ultimate lie of Kink.com is that it claims to do candid interviews with the women at the end of the scene so they can show how much they enjoyed the “sex.” This is like asking sweatshop laborers to talk about how happy they are to be working for some multinational corporation as the CEO films the interview.

If Sundance were premiering a film about Iraqis, African Americans, Jews, or any group other than women being tortured, would they be able to call it a “feel good” documentary? If you want to understand how the pornographers, and in this case Sundance and James Franco, get away with this travesty, then you need to look no further than Andrew Edmond, himself a pornographer, but one who tells the truth. In a 2000 interview with Brandweek, Edmond, President and CEO of Flying Crocodile, a $20-million Internet pornography business, stated that those outside the industry don’t understand how porn works because “a lot of people get distracted … by [the sex]. To that he could add that they also get distracted from the pain and anguish on the women’s faces as they are being debased, abused, and dehumanized. Where are the celebrities speaking out against this?

GAIL DINES is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. Her latest book is Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality (Beacon Press). She a founding member of Stop Porn Culture (stoppornculture.org).

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Here’s Hoping
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
Laura Flanders
Democracy, Dictatorship and Bloomberg
James Chandler
Among Cruel Children
February 17, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom
John Horning
NEPA is Our National Defense System

Evelyn Leopold
How the UN’s Middle East Peace Plan Was Trounced by Its Own Members
Stephen Cooper
“Just Mercy” and Justice Don’t Exist in Alabama
Patrick Cockburn
Sinn Fein’s Victory is Ireland’s ‘Brexit Moment’ When Left-Out Voters Turn on the Elite
Ralph Nader
“Democratic Socialism” – Bring it on Corporate Socialists!
Phillip Doe
Every Day’s a Holiday for the Oil Business in Colorado
Binoy Kampmark
Fashion Fetishism, Surgical Masks and Coronavirus
Cesar Chelala
The Democrats’ New Chapter
Robert Koehler
The Wall: Separating Democracy From Voters
Peter Cohen
Time to Retire the “He Can’t Beat Trump” Trope
Sr. Kathleen Erickson
Lessons From Ministering on the Border
Alvaro Huerta
Another Five Lessons for Democrats to Defeat Trump in 2020
Wim Laven
Donald Trump’s Plan for America: Make it Ignorant
Christopher Brauchli
You Tube’s Trump Predicament
Steve Klinger
Trump Shoots Romney at Prayer Breakfast; GOP Shrugs
Elliot Sperber
Ode to the City Bus 
James Haught
Megachurch Mess
Weekend Edition
February 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Mayor Mike, Worse Than Mayor Pete
Bruce E. Levine
“Sublime Madness”: Anarchists, Psychiatric Survivors, Emma Goldman & Harriet Tubman
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Leader of the Pack
Jennifer Matsui
The Doomsday Cuckoo Clock
Paul Street
Things Said in Confidence to 4000 Close Friends This Week
Jonathan Cook
Even With Corbyn Gone, Antisemitism Threats Will Keep Destroying the UK Labour Party
Thomas Klikauer
Cambridge Analytica: a Salesgirl’s Report
Joseph Natoli
Vichy Democrats vs. the Master Voice
David Rosen
Sanders vs. the Establishment Democrats: McGovern All Over Again?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail