Violent Porn

Well, that’s caught your eye.
The Goverment has announced plans making the possession of violent pornographic images illegal; this followed a campaign by the mother of a young woman murdered by a man was obsessed with internet images of violence and necrophilia. Besides all the good arguments against the claim that volent imagery leads to volence in real life, and the question of whether this particular killer would have murdered anyway, there are many doubts and questions about criminalising the possession of violent pornographic images – what consitutes “violent pornography”; what about mainstream Hollywood moves containing violent sexual imagery; would BDSM images be illegal, for instance. But what made me fume was a Guardian article on the subject, giving the views of a range of women campaigners. A couple of them were remarkably sensible, cautioning against more censorship. However, the inevitable hardcore feminist made her appearence.
Julie Bindel spent most of her contribution talking about a film she had seen years ago, and how awful it was. The film was Snuff, the ganddaddy of the snuff films genre and it supposedly shows the real-life killing and dismemberment of a woman. Bindel writes:

There are, of course, people who have never encountered extreme pornography, can’t really imagine what it could be like, and therefore can’t see why we need this law. Twenty-five years ago I watched a snuff movie with other anti-porn activists, journalists and special film-effects experts. One of the activists had gone into a porn shop in England and asked if the owner had something “really extreme”. He gave her a film of a woman in South America being raped, tortured and murdered. As a finale, her hand was sawn off. By that time it was only the feminists left in the room, the others having run out to cry, or be sick. We knew what we would be seeing, because we had heard about it from activists in the US who were fighting the same battles.
We had proved that snuff existed (the film experts verified that there were no camera tricks to depict the sawing), and one of the journalists wrote copiously about the issue, urging police to take action. Nothing happened.

Nothing happened because the film was a fake – as were all the other “snuff movies” that followed. In three decades of police porn seizures world-wide, no genuine “snuff movie” has ever come to light; the panic over women being brutally slain for the cameras was a typical urban legend.
It would be interesting to know just who were the “film experts” who verified that the film used no special effects. (As it happens, I used to have a copy of the Radical Feminist Network newsletter that carried a report of the film viewing that Bindel refers to. Having chucked out most of my magazine archives in a house move since, I no longer have the newsletter, but I clearly remember there was no mention of “film experts” then – only a reported claim by an unnamed police surgeon that the dismemberment scenes were real.)
OK, so Bindel is an ignorant person – does it matter? Yes it does. She presents herself not as an ordinary person with no special knowledge, but as a feminist campaigner, expert in anything concerning pornography and violence against women. That was why the Guardian asked her for a contribution to the debate – and snuff movies certainly fall within the remit of ‘pornography and violence against women’. Yet she has clearly never done any research at all into the subject.

The feminists’ reaction to Snuff wasn’t all that much different from the reaction of Christian fundamentalists to the “blasphemous” The Last Temptation of Christ a few years later. Both sets of fundamentalists were outraged for much the same reasons – having little or no exposure to mainstream films, they were unaware of the language and evolution of cinema, and ignorant of the place of the film in question in the natural progression of cinematic story-telling. And their dogma, and leaders, told them that the film was Evil and the work of Satan/Patriarchial Culture. And fundmentalists of all stripes need their Bad Guy, whatever name it takes; that way, they can be certain that they are the Good Guys….

There is no lack of information about snuff films out there. With analyses and debunkings going back to the 1980s, anybody who has done any investigation at all into violent pornographywill have come across the truth about the snuff movie legend. Some of the snuff-film makers themselves have been happy to admit to fakery; the Japanese film-makers who produced the gory Guinea Pig series were so amused by the outrage generated by the first film that they promptly brought out Guinea Pig 2: The Making of Guinea Pig 1.
There’s also at least one book on the subject: Killing For Culture which devotes a whole chapter to Snuff and explanations of its special effects (lots of pig parts, apparently).
Heck, you don’t even have to read a book – just go to the Internet Movie Database, type “Snuff” into the title search field and you’ll get all the details of the film – writers, director, actors etc. The viewers’ comments on the film are even more informative, by the way; according to them, the laughable special effects, with bright orange “blood” and organs pulled out of the wrong places, wouldn’t fool anybody. Finally, if you want to see the film for yourself, you can order the DVD from Amazon (Region 1 only, though).

In 30 minutes or so of internet searching, I’ve come up with all of the above information – and I’ve never pretended to be either an expert on pornography or a spokesperson for womankind.

3 comments

  1. Since Feorag has already complained that you forgot that Julie’s position is not, in fact, “the” feminist position, I’ll stick to agreeing that you’ve pretty much pegged her and most anti-porn campaigners as people who either don’t know or don’t care that there is no evidence to back up their claims and that, in many cases, they’ve been explicitly and conclusively refuted.

    A few anecdotal data points about Julie: When we have appeared together on television or radio and the subject is prostitution or pornography, we not only disagree but afterwards she usually won’t even speak to me.

    And yet, when we have appeared together when the subject was violent media, she is side-by-side with me on the issue. This makes little sense, since the arguments are ultimately the same, but once it’s “violent pornography”, it’s the pronography part that appears to matter with her.

    Is it just that these people haven’t done the research? Well, by and large they haven’t, but even when they are challenged or specifically corrected, they don’t stop saying these false things. I’m sure Julie has heard me and others say there has never been a snuff film found, but these people just choose not to know it.

    You might want to get on the bandwagon with us – we have some posts over at the Feminists Against Censorship blog with pointers to the campaign against this issue.
    http://facnews.blogspot.com

  2. My father was an ARP Warden (later Civil Defence) during WW2. and the whole fakery of snuff movies has a resemblance to the simulated casualties of the training exercises, in which the casualty volunteers sometimes had deliberately shocking injuries.

    One of the points of the training was to get people past the initial shock reaction, so they could actually do something useful. From which I reckon that one of the problems with viewing a movie such as Snuff would be that many watchers wouldn’t be able to judge it. Not just an ignorance of the language of film, and of a context of cinematic gore, but that potentially disabling shock reaction.

  3. Dave – that observation is a valid one, that I hadn’t thought of. However, 25 years is quite long enough to get over the shock, surely?
    Avedon – Yes, you’re right. I should have made it clear that Bindel is NOT representative of feminism today and hasn’t been for a long time.
    I fully support FAC.

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