Kjetil Røed
Røed is an art critic based in Oslo.

The involuntary look behind the scenes of a cynical industry is more interesting than Pornocracy’s analysis.

The porn industry have been enormous the last few decades and have, on many levels, driven the media development. It was porn which made VHS and not the BETA-cassettes the winners in the 1980s. With the introduction of DVDs, profits grew both for the producers and actors. When the internet arrived, with its almost indefinite number of channels for selling films and various types of live action and streaming, the odds further increased. But, the situation was to quickly change: the many free porn channels impacted negatively on the industry.

Money and porn. In her documentary Pornocracy, former porn star and feminist Ovidie investigates the industry. It is probably not more corruption now than earlier, but more money is involved and fewer recipients. We may not want to think about it, insists Ovidie, but it is worth taking a look at what is happening in the porn industry: where the streams of money come from, where it goes, what is being produced. Nothing is new under the sun, of course, but looking at the development over the last few year, the porn industry, and the continued pressure to make more money, has worsened the situation considerably.

A business under pressure. The fact that there is more money concentrated on fewer hands lead to greater pressure on those actually doing the dirty jobs. They earn less whilst being forced to perform increasingly more perverse acts. Despite the large, multinationals raking in the money, those actually working in the industry are often very poor. There is no surprise that the majority derive from Eastern-Europe, especially Romania, with its growing unemployment rates. It is not unusual that those making the films only receive around 20 percent of the profits. Personally, this human view as expressed by this industry, and how it speaks volumes about what we are capable of doing for money, is what is most interesting about this film. How cynical, greedy – yes, even immoral – some people are, or can become, in order to earn loads of money.

Poverty stunting. The outcome is extra nasty when the various companies lose control over their material to online services distributing free films. Anyone are able to watch what they want for free. Even young children, who, in the past, never would have been able to access to this porn. Porn being free and easily accessible to all is worrying, especially considering how it affects young people’s relationship with their own and other people’s bodies. What is most disconcerting is the lack of a reliable method to control this, as you only need a tablet or smartphone, something 80 percent of all young people in Norway currently own. It is cheap, easily accessible, and were you to lose your own phone – or it is taken from you – you probably know someone who has a spare digital unit you can borrow.

Behind the scenes. Sure, the documentary concept works as per the formula. And does lead to some critical thinking. Just about, I hasten to add. As much as I feel for these women – who suffer the most, as before – I am unable to truly get into the material presented to me. Not because it is terrible, because it is, but due to its lack of journalistic pioneering prowess. The main character – incidentally also the director – is not exactly charm personified (I see her smile only once during the course of the film). Despite this, the film is worth watching, to remind us of the enormous symmetry that exists between rich and poor.

Anal and knitting. The film is worth watching also because it portrays a reality behind porn’s fake facade. I get obsessed with some bizarre scenes which depict the jarring between normal life and porn-reality. During one scene in particular, which I regret watching (I almost turned away), the porn actresses discuss what sweets to eat to be able to serve several men simultaneously at the front and from behind, day in day out. Orifices must be oiled and maintained: a specific diet must be followed in order to avoid pain and ‘occupational hazards’, of course. They smile, laugh and titter about a reality too distant for most. They are completely normal girls discussing their sex jobs as if knitting patterns. It is both shocking and sad to behold.

A history of porn for nerds. In another scene, the smiling women show off DVDs containing ‘historical porn from around the world,’ with geeky looks and knowing smiles.  As if special editions of Tarkovsky’s greatest work or a ‘Directors’ Cut containing extra, deleted scenes’ from Back to the future III. Vintage porn? The way the DVDs are handled, as if precious and something worth watching, as if they possess an interesting history worth knowing, covers up what this genre really is: brutal exploitation of people and trading on people’s sexual urges. These bizarre scenes are what I become increasingly interested in: these normal girls with their unusual jobs behind the absurd and cynical sex front of the porn industry.


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