I am a documentary film director. Subjects of my films have included love, sex, 9/11, indigenous fisheries, hurricanes, refugees, HIV/AIDS orphans, and visualization of God. I am best known for the Real People, Real Life, Real Sex series of documentaries that simultaneously explore the vital role of sexual pleasure in committed relationships and the problematic place of explicit sexuality in cinema. This is my "Safe" blog.

50 Years of Failure

Posted: September 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

From my odd vantage point, what I notice is than in the more than 50 years since Roth v US, wherein the Supreme Court declared that, at least in some cases, explicit photographic representation of genitals and sex acts were entitled to First Amendment protection, both sides of the pornography debate have mostly proved their impotence and incompetence.

One one side, those who would seek to reign back the proliferation of sexually explicit imagery have completely failed; and on the other side, there has been no great cinema exploring and dependent on explicit sexual imagery.

To Gail Dines and her ilk, I would like to ask: given the abject failure of you and others to stop the proliferation of sexually explicit images, have you ever, even for one moment, considered that you might be wrong in your approach?

And to porn proponents, I would ask: Where are the D.W. Griffiths? The Charlie Chapmans? The Fritz Langs? Towering geniuses of cinema appeared within a generation after became a commercially viable, but in the 50 years Roth, the various excursions into erotic cinema are a footnote at best. Where are the masters? And what are their masterpieces?

That both sides have failed so completely suggests that there are deeper currents that neither Dines, nor her adversaries have addressed, or even considered.

2 Comments on “50 Years of Failure”

  1. 1 Charlie said at 9:30 pm on September 2nd, 2010:

    Even though movies with sex were legally acceptable (at least some of the time), the negativity attached to it kept most people away from it. For a while in the 70’s, some people were trying to create actual movies with explicit sex, but despite the media hype, none of them ever managed to get much traction.

    It seems like that situation encouraged the growth of porn purely for profit. After all, even though it was legal, it was still subject to stigma and legal challenge, so “only outlaws would make porn.” It’s hardly a surprise that no “geniuses of cinema” would touch it- it’d ruin their reputation. Instead, it was easier to push the boundaries of sexuality within mainstream movies.

    I don’t think that this fully explains it, but it’s part of it.

  2. 2 TonyComstock said at 11:21 am on September 3rd, 2010:

    A decade ago I would have been ready to accept this explanation, and in fact, my to tackle sexually explicit subject matter, but eschew outlaw production and promotion tactics was my own personal attempt to break what I perceived as a logjam.

    But in the last 10 years, artists of considerably larger reputation than my own (not a strong statement) have taken on the creative and financial challenge of explicit sexuality in cinema, and the results have been decidedly unimpressive, creatively or financially.

    More over, the more I look at the question holistically, the more I am beginning to see in citation of shame and/or erotophobia in the same light that Danes and Co see porn — pat, and intractable answers that only perpetuate unproductive discourse.

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