Violent porn flick prompts apology

Sex Week at Yale ran into more controversy Saturday night when porn director Paul Thomas, on campus to participate in the event, screened a graphic porn film that featured violent sado-masochism.

Coordinators said they were appalled by the film — which they had not watched before it was aired in front of an audience of over 200 students — but members of the gender-balanced crowd did not appear upset by the movie and reacted with disappointment when the Sex Week team ended the film early.

On Sunday night, Sex Week coordinators emphasized that they do not support the practices displayed in the film, which depicted fantasy rape, bondage and piercing. Colin Adamo ’10, Sex Week event coordinator, called the screening a grave mistake.

“We really dropped the ball on this one,” he said. “No one watched the movie before Paul showed it to the audience.”

But Sex Week Director Joe Citarella ’08 said he thinks the event was positive overall because it gave people the opportunity to speak out against violent pornography and the effect it can have on the public’s conception of women.

“Part of Sex Week is to challenge what’s being done,” he explained. “And I questioned Paul as to whether these graphic, violent images are OK, knowing that there is someone on the other end who is enjoying it.”

During the question-and-answer period that followed the screening, Adamo described the images as sexually unhealthy and disrespectful to women. But Thomas’ response insinuated that he was a prude and just needed to watch more porn, Adamo said after the screening.

Adamo said several students in the crowd booed when he made his comment, and during the screening there was a “sense of revelry” in the images being displayed among some audience members.

William Wong ’09, who was involved with the Sex Week tech team but not with events planning, said the crowd’s reaction was mostly supportive of the film. He said the vocal members of the audience were not offended by the material and appeared to be enjoying it. Like Adamo, he said the crowd was fairly diverse and was almost evenly divided by gender.

Wong said he himself was not shocked by the material in the film but was slightly taken aback that the Sex Week coordinators had chosen to screen that particular movie.

“It’s really the team’s fault for not pre-screening,” Wong said. “And I think it’s probably difficult for Paul Thomas to judge what’s appropriate and what is not because he’s been in the business so long.”

Wong said he thinks the debate is really over whether it is right or wrong to use those kinds of violent images for sexual satisfaction, rather than whether screening the film was a responsible decision on the part of Sex Week organizers.

Shazan Jiwa ’09, who attended the screening, said Thomas was unfairly attacked by members of the audience. Thomas’ intent was to showcase aspects of the porn industry that people are not familiar with, Jiwa said, and the director had provided a disclaimer before the screening in which he said the audience should be prepared for graphic images.

“He was trying to show us that not all porn is about happy sex or has a happy atmosphere,” Jiwa said.

Jiwa said it would have been interesting to hear the motive behind the movie rather than listening to Thomas defend himself.

The last Sex Week events will be held today.

Comments

  • Joe Citarrella

    It's a bit unfair that this article doesn't mention a key detail of the pre-screening issue: I asked numerous times for the film to be sent for pre-screening and Paul Thomas obliged. However, I never actually received the film, and thus could not screen it before showing.

    -Joe Citarrella
    Director, Sex Week at Yale 2008

  • Darklady

    It would sure help the educated reader to know what video PT showed.

    Was it "Layout?" If so… why is the ONE BDSM scene the focus of this article and this tempest in a teapot, when the film itself is about so much more than that?

    Is it about "Sex and Violins?" The violence in that also follows logically with the complex plot.

    People complain about gonzo porn that features a couch and two/three performers but no plot, yet when they get the chance to see something artful, they still complain? What a country. If the Vivid folks didn't get the film to Citarrella and company, then that's certainly a fault on the company's part… but hopefully there are quality adult video rental places near Yale where a copy could have been procured?

  • y10

    They're apologizing for not white-washing pornography? Really?

  • Anonymous

    This is a really interesting issue.. it is a fact that a substantial number of humans associate physical and psychic pain with eroticism. It is also a fact that such the acts that cause such pain can do more than produce erotic gratification, consequences such as irreparable physical and mental injury and even death. As thoughtful people, perhaps we should try to see that "confronting" this collection of behaviors and thoughts by suppression, outlawing, and namecalling, we might more constructively investigate the matter… asking, for example, what is the range of such things that humans do? how can we understand the motivations? how can we logically and dispassionately analyze the harm and harmlessness of various practices? If "porn" is a category that is defined by cultural and social norms, we can/should study and understand it not in the everyday folk wisdom of good and evil but by with the clarity and nuance that thoughtful people bring to all interesting aspects of life.

  • liz

    i am amazed that no one is concerned that a fantasy rape scene was played and no one has any objections? S&M sex is one thing but simulating rape is comparable to simulating mass violence, as rape is the singular instrument used against women to violate and annihilate communities world-over. i enjoy pornography but not rape. simpleton as i am, there is a difference.

  • SnowdropExplodes

    As a sadomasochist myself, I am puzzled as to why my form of sexuality should require censorship when others' forms shouldn't. Strange as it may sound, but to me, the giving and/or receiving of erotic pain can be as much an expression of joy and love as any other sexual experience.

    In reply to Liz - you may not be aware of this, but up to 25% of women have forced-sex fantasies; all you're talking about is a video aid to that sort of fantasy. Real rape is absolutely horrific and not erotic at all, but fantasy is something different altogether.

  • liz

    snowdrops explodes, as you said it, rape is horrific. whether 25% or 90% of women have such fantasies, it certainly does not absolve it of the violence which rape fosters. many teenage women engage in eating disorder and desire to loose weight in medically dangerous ways - are we to consent that this then makes the act permissable?
    i also wonder then, what the author imagines the line between fantasy about rape is. isn't fantasy made titilizing by virtue that it may become reality, that it may substantively become true? if this were not the case, fantasy would loose its tantalizing feature if it remains merely in the realm of imagination.
    similarly, consider that many young people now learn about sexuality through the dissemination of porn. what is the instruction that we image that they might receive as young men and women as what constitutes as sex? the scenario you propose is a privileged one that involves an audience of educated adult for whom the line between reality and fiction is clearly marked. to learn about sex through fantasy rape scenes impairs our concepts of consent which is foundational to creating safe living communities.

  • disappointed

    I apoplogize in advance for the length, but this has been building up for a while.
    Keeping in mind that I was not at this screening, all I have to say is: shame on you, SWAY organizers, for stopping the clips. I agree with Ms. Ahn's op-ed that there is too much of an emphasis on pornography at Sex Week. Equally disturbing to me is how thoroughly you ignored alternative sex and lifestyles. By eliminating LGBT content, you alienate between 10 and 20 percent of the Yale population. By eliminating any sexual content that is non-fluffy-bunny-PC-vanilla sex, you eliminate almost as many. According to one study, 5-10% of the US engages in sexual pleasure at least occasionally (Lowe, 1983). 14% of men and 11% of women have tried sadomasochism (Janus &Janus, 1993), while 11% of men and 17% of women have tried bondage (Lowe). Moreover, snowdropexplodes cited the very large number of women are very much aroused by variants of the "rape fantasy" (obviously widely divergent from the rape reality). Liz, porn exists to fulfill people's fantasys. By comparing BDSM fantasy to an eating disorder, you are saying that my fantasy is medically dangerous, deviant, and morally wrong, as it has no benefit. Is that really what you're saying to me? A rape fantasy, even when enacted, can be stopped at any time - THE VICTIM IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL, as in any good BDSM relationship. And therein lies the difference. By saying my desire is un-PC, and unacceptable, you are killing part of who I am, who 25% of women are. If it isn't your thing, it isn't your thing, and you will never understand it; but plain vanilla sex isn't mine, and you don't see me getting offended for being subjected to such gross debasement and un-empowering sex, because that's what regular sex is to me - degrading. S&M porn is also generally better-made, ethically, than regular porn - higher standards for the care and comfort of their actors. You really have to WANT to do S&M porn.
    As a strong, powerful, submissive kinkster female, I'm disappointed by SWAY's actions, anyone of my fellow women at the Women's Center who supported such an anti-sex, normative move, and the lack of a place for me at Sex Week. If you're going to do it, do it right.

  • A.C.

    Liz,

    I agree with at least one part of what you said wholeheartedly: that these kind of images should only be presented to "an audience of educated adult[sic] for whom the line between reality and fiction is clearly marked".

    Considering that a Yale auditorium is presumably full of people just like that, I assume you don't have a problem with the film being screened there.

  • SnowdropExplodes

    Liz:

    "isn't fantasy made titilizing by virtue that it may become reality, that it may substantively become true? if this were not the case, fantasy would loose its tantalizing feature if it remains merely in the realm of imagination."

    In a word, no.

    Very often, what makes a fantasy tantalizing and enjoyable is precisely the fact that it cannot/will not come true. That is what makes horror/thriller/war movies so entertaining, when the possibility of actually being exposed to those experiences would be genuinely terrifying.

    I agree, it is a problem that young people are having to get their sex education from porn - that would be like getting one's history lessons from Hollywood blockbusters and gung-ho comic books! But that just means there should be a much bigger effort to do away with "abstinence only" sex education and replace it with open and frank discussions of what sex is and what part it plays in a relationship. Teenagers use porn to learn about sex mainly because they know they're not getting the whole story from the teachers.

  • Anonymous

    And it because it makes learning fun!

  • Anonymous

    "Considering that a Yale auditorium is presumably full of people just like that, I assume you don't have a problem with the film being screened there."
    Because <i>no one</i> from Yale has ever committed violence against women!

  • A.C.

    That's a different point entirely, and a complete non sequitur from Liz's claim that such material should only be shown to responsible adults followed by my point that Yale students are exactly that.

    Now, if you're the kind of person that believes seeing something bad on a screen will make reasonable, intelligent people go out and do it in real life, that's your opinion -- albeit a pretty silly one, in my humble opinion.

  • disappointed

    I have to say, while some men who commit violent crimes watch violent porn, so do a lot of very peaceable men and women. This even-consensual-violence-against-women-is-wrong thing has caused a lot of problems. But the awakening in the face of a man or woman who has finally been released from their social training - that is a beautiful thing. People like rough sex - how many times have you had a hickey? Same thing, different scale. I think 18 is well old enough for people to deal with their own reactions to violent sex on their own, and they should have to apologize to anyone, as the actions of the SWAY committee and (some) Women's Center Members would suggest. Violent porn exists because violent sex - usually of a non-rape variety - exists.

  • Anonymous

    The idea of banning some or all pornography because some small subset of violent men may happen to be "triggered" by it is positively ridiculous. If somebody is unstable enough, any number of things might set them off. And as I've pointed out before, far more people have been hurt or killed by somebody claiming the Bible or Q'uran as justification than have been victimized by someone who may have gotten the wrong ideas from porn.

    The whole idea of banning a particular thing for everybody because some small minority may misuse it reeks of the worst sort of nanny-statism.

  • Recent Alum

    Peter W, I don't disagree with your main point but it is a bit irresponsible of you to include the Bible and Q'uran in the same sentence as if they were the equivalents for this purpose. The number of people killed in the name of the Q'uran (or communism, for that matter) is hundreds of times greater than the number of people killed in the name of the Bible.