Not at all meaning to steal a bit of IACB's finely-tuned thunder on the subject, I just had to bump this topic up again now that I've seen the movie. Whatever your feelings about InSex or BDSM in general. If you have any business on this blog, you'll see why a graph or two down the road.
So now that I have actually seen this picture, I just can't wait to tell everybody how good it is. It's more than good. It's a fine piece of documentary work on a very difficult subject of which any filmmaker should be proud, whatever the subject may be.
The directors resolutely resist the temptation to oversimplify the contradictions of InSex - its weird visual richness or the sordid circumstances under which it was often created – allowing viewers to make up their own minds.
Certainly, those who were inclined to see InSex's creator, PD, as either a monster or a genius or a mountebank or any combination of the above will find plenty of evidence here to validate their preconceptions. However, they'll also be confronted with plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Special thanks, after the ugly exploitation of sex performers in a tacky hock of agitprop like The Price of Pleasure, to G.S.H.'s co-directors for allowing sex performers to speak for themselves, at length and without manipulative editing. Not surprisingly, they prove perfectly adept at articulating their own experiences without the need for noxious interlocutors explaining that experience for our benefit.
But of all the fascinating topics covered in this riveting film, the one most chillingly relevant to the matters we address here concerns the manner of InSex's sudden demise. PD claims, and it's a claim confirmed not only by other BDSM Web site operators on camera but also by the experiences of others I know personally, that the Bush administration put him out of business by means that make a paper airplane out of The Constitution, set it alight and hurl it in the face of a symbolic target, burning that target to the ground.
Rather than attempting to prosecute InSex for obscenity, which would have been challenging given PD's substantial artistic credentials, agents of The Department of Homeland Security were sent forth to intimidate banks into refusing to process InSex's credit card transactions. A laughable-if-not-so-disturbing charge was leveled to the effect that Internet porn money was being used to finance international terrorism and that banks unwilling to cooperate in putting their clients out of business might have cause to regret their resistance.
Even I might be tempted to dismiss this as grandiose hyperbole, which is entirely consistent with PD's M.O., had I not heard the very same story from several small, independent BDSM site owners who were similarly shut down without warning by banks with whom they had long done business to no ill effect for either party.
This raises a question more disturbing, or at least it should be, to the citizenry at large than any image that ever appeared on InSex. Why would a regime that was torturing people all over the world, often in a sexualized manner but without the williing participation of those being tortured, go to such bizarre lengths to suppress images of people being tortured voluntarily?
Why indeed? What is it about BDSM that inspires such murderous loathing in authoritarian personalities of all stripes? Go anywhere in the world where human rights are routinely abused and what you won't find is any above-ground BDSM cultural representation of any kind. Clearly, in these various dystopias, torture is regarded as a ruling-class monopoly not to be mocked by ordinary folk playing at it for their mutual enjoyment.
Another troubling element of this part of the story is the outsourcing of censorship to the private sector as a way of circumventing legal restrictions on the use of government power.
Strangely, those howling about government involvement in healthcare seem to find nothing troubling about government involvement in mass communications with no public oversight or debate whatsoever.
The triumph of Graphic Sexual Horror, like that of most excellent documentaries, is how many more questions it asks than it answers.