The price of pleasure

Photo courtesy of the University of Texas in Austin

Despite the barrage of pornographic images flashing across the screen, only one person got up and walked out.

The rest of the audience stayed glued to their seats during the documentary “The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships,” which was followed by a critical discussion on pornography led by Dr. Robert Jensen.

Jensen, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin and a consultant on the film, was also on hand to field questions from students regarding his role in the feminist anti-porn movement, during his lecture “A Critical Look at Pornography.”

“A lot of what drew me into this line of study was to specifically work out my own issues,” Jensen said. “Having grown up in a sexist society, it was an honest way to engage myself in critically examining the culture of pornography.”

It was only a matter of time before he developed a detachment when regarding his subject of study, but Jensen still chose to sit outside during the screening, having viewed the film many times before.

“The Price of Pleasure,” which was directed by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun and interspersed interviews with actual porn footage, was hard to watch for some, including Jessica Villar, a junior social work major.

“It was definitely a little more than I would have liked to see,” Villar said, “but it made some very good points.”

Pornographic film clips ran the gamut from the softcore to the extreme, including the use of toilets, whips, gags and nooses, but “The Price of Pleasure” also showcased scenes from popular movies, TV shows, music videos and commercials to demonstrate the mainstreaming of porn in contemporary society.

“This culture has no problem talking about sexuality,” Jensen said. “We live in a culture saturated by sex, and it affects us all, whether we’re consumers of pornography, or simply living in a society consumed by it.”

And perhaps what bothers him the most about porn has always been what he terms “the sexualizing of inequality.”

“Most pornography is about the control of women’s bodies,” Jensen said, “and this is a direct result of living in a patriarchal society. And as the industry pushes the limits in regards to violence, one has to wonder where exactly this culture is heading.”

In fact, the rise of violence in porn is something Jensen finds particularly disturbing.

“These images are becoming increasingly cruel, degrading and racist,” he said. “They’re also becoming increasingly popular. What does this say about the society we’re living in? How far will the porn industry go?”

Loretta Kensinger, the coordinator for the Women’s Studies department, thinks it’s about time these very questions were asked.

“We need to bring this discussion out into the open,” Kensinger said, “because these are issues that seriously impact both women and men. Discussions like this get us thinking.”

Many statements are made in “The Price of Pleasure,” by a variety of college students, psychologists, authors and porn directors and performers.

“All I’m seeing is a disgusting customer,” one porn actress says, “and all he’s seeing is a hot slut who wants to have sex.”

“What makes an image of suffering sexually arousing?” a scholar asks.

“The future of American porn is violence,” a director matter-of-factly states.

And to this cacophony of voices, Jensen, author of “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity,” added a statement of his own.

“Some will argue that pornography opens up the imagination to unlimited fantasies,” he said, “but it actually constrains the sexual imagination. Porn shuts it down.”

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