The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships

Synopsis: Once relegated to the margins of society, pornography has become one of the most visible and profitable business sectors in the United States with estimated annual revenues totaling $13 billion. Going beyond the debate of good or bad, this provocative film features the voices of consumers, critics, activists, producers and performers and asks the question: Is pornography harmless?

Filmmakers Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun take a look at the industry from a different perspective – purely intellectual. They provide an analytical evaluation on how pornography has shaped our culture and challenges the viewer to examine how the industry impacts our lives, our relationships and our sexual well-being. Get ready for an eye-opening and stimulating experience!
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The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships 8.0

According to ‘The Price of Pleasure’, the commercialization of sex in our culture is a direct result of an out-of-control economic model which pushes profit as the ultimate measure of success; one can only win by making more money, by pushing more product to more people.

Since the ’90s, sex has become a more dominant force not just for selling product, but as a product itself – especially since the dawn of the internet era, which has seen the porn industry’s profits balloon to an estimated 10 billion dollars a year. It would be hard to deny that we are now all exposed to sex of one form or another fairly consistently, and this from a very early age – which, invariably, helps mould our attitudes about sex.

The film asks many questions along the way but, while it tries to show both sides of the equation, its agenda is clear: it claims that pornography in its current form is/can be unhealthy psychologically and, thus, affects relationships indirectly and directly. This is no surprise, given the title (which suggests judgement, if not an air of puritanism), but the only evidence that actually corroborates their statement is the porn itself – the interviewees mostly spew opinions which are offered as fact.

Most of the time, we are given quick looks into the filmmakers’ arguments, but the exploration is only surface-level. We are even told about some shocking legal precedents that were set in the name of freedom of speech, but the filmmakers only take the time to tell us what’s happened without telling us HOW or WHY it did – and if anything is being done about it. There is no attempt to offer a detailed portrait of the situation. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

Due to this approach, the data can be questionable at times. case-in-point, we are introduced to a group of researchers who tallied instances of verbal and physical aggression in porn films – but their definition of ‘aggression’ remained unexplained. While I have no doubt that there was a method, some of which is discussed, to me, it seems essential for viewers to know what the criteria is – providing the conclusions alone is no way to establish “facts”. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger

There are also a lot of interviews with “students” or regular people who talk in shadows (presumably to maintain their anonymity). However, we have no idea who they are or why these particular people were chosen. By providing us with very little information on the people they interview, the filmmakers remove much credibility from the points they are trying to make – after all, there is no way to reference these people or confirm anything that they say. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

Another problem is that it focuses on male heterosexuality. While we can all agree that most of the marketable sex is geared towards hetero men, it would have been nice to balance it out with straight women, as well as gay men and women, to see if the approach and impacts are similar. Is erotica/porn itself the problem? Or is it the way it is portrayed and consumed by a particular slice of the population? This needs to be established in order to get a more complete picture.

Now, I’m really not trying to discredit the documentary by bringing up these points. In fact, I would agree with much of what they were trying to say, even though I’m one of the least prude people you’ll find; I recognize the impact that pornography can have. But, if one is going to try to make a case for or against something, it is crucial to state facts and explore the various arguments in greater detail – if only to solidify one’s position. In my mind, this documentary needed to double our pleasure by adding some quantity and quality to the proceedings.

As it stands, it feels incomplete – more like an essay than a term paper, like a blueprint for an argument that has yet to be fully formed. It’s still a worthy viewing, because at the very least it forces its audience to ask themselves questions and reconsider their own positions on sex, pornography and gender relations. But it doesn’t serve up enough facts for anyone to come to an informed conclusion, nor does it provide leads to other sources.

…aside from the porn itself, ironically enough. winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking

Post scriptum: this film is NOT for the easily offended. It is filled with uncensored pornographic images of all sorts and it shows some pretty disturbing content. I was surprised by just how much there is. Was it to shock its audience into submission in lieu of being able to argue the points? Whatever the case may be, this is NOT a family-friendly production and it will likely trouble certain viewers.

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