To fight porn we need to view it, but screening this film is wrong
The documentary Hardcore is a commercial film and does nothing to help women
By Catherine Harper
Julie Bindel defends the screening of the documentary film Hardcore, implying that ours and other feminist organisations do not think women should view pornography (The Hardcore truth about women in porn, G2, 15 July). This belief could not be further from the truth.
Bindel writes: "Feminist group Scottish Women against Pornography [Swap] says the documentary should never be screened, because it is a 'filmed rape of Felicity' which will be 'endlessly re-enacted long after she is gone'". In fact, Swap has always used pornography where necessary to challenge pornography. Presenting a petition to press the Scottish parliament for a change in legislation to deal with pornography, we were instructed that on no account could we show any of the material we brought with us as evidence.
We have been working for more than a decade to highlight pornography and its role in violence against women and children, and have no doubt that in order to understand porn and fight against it, women have to view it irrespective of how uncomfortable or distressing it is to them. The difference is Swap uses porn images from a feminist perspective for training and information.
Bindel states: "In the early 1980s, Women Against Violence Against Women compiled a 'slide show' of pornographic images, and activists, including myself, gave presentations to anti-pornography women's groups."
Swap and other anti-porn organisations are currently doing the same using Swap resources and the anti-porn training slide show Who Wants to Be a Porn Star? Accompanying it is a script which takes the audience through each slide, providing context and meaning to the distressing images. This proves that it is possible to expose the abuse, degradation, violence and coercion of women in the porn industry without exploiting or dehumanising the women involved. The slide show continues to mobilise women to take action against the porn industry.
Why did Swap oppose the screening of Hardcore? "We need to know the truth about the porn industry to campaign against it. Hardcore tells the truth," says Bindel. But it is a commercial film, and we believe it was motivated by profit and its effect was to titillate viewers by filming the ordeal of a young woman. Our concerns are for her and innumerable other women and girls who never have the power to destroy filmed acts of male sexual violence committed against them. Is it feminist to promote and condone male sexual exploitation of women by attempting to relabel it as a documentary? The footage of Felicity after the filming, in deep distress about the relationship with her father, is harrowing and gives us an insight as to why she may have become involved in porn.
Hardcore's director and producer have portrayed themselves as victims and serious about exposing the harm of the porn industry, yet we have never heard of them donating any of the profits of their film to organisations working to end pornography. ~~~~~~~~~~~
'Warning: ‘Hardcore’ is Not A Documentary’.
Scroll down to also read SWAP's rebuttal of the FeministaUK and Object apology for screening "Hardcore" in London on July 18 in the name of "Feminism"
Hardcore, a film that purports to be a documentary about the porn industry, is to be screened in London on 18 July with the support of the feminist groups, UK Feministaand Object. Hardcore is not a documentary about the porn industry. It is a porn film posing as a documentary. Its aim is to titillate viewers and profit from the ordeal of a young woman, Felicity, whose abuse and rape are recorded in the film.
About four years ago I agreed to take part in a panel discussion following a screening of Hardcore at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Also present were the film's director, Stephen Walker, and producer, Richard Sattin. They had allowed Felicity to be subjected to horrific male sexual violence. They did not come to her aid. Instead they manipulated her, portraying her as a naïve young woman, so disguising the cunning and duplicity employed by the porn industry to entrap the disadvantaged. Walker says that “he didn't want to replicate the prurient tourism of most porn documentaries.” What he did is actually far worse. He and Sattin repeatedly ask us to feel sorry for them because of the pain they had to endure making Hardcore, but they show scant regard for Felicity's suffering. I asked them how they felt watching Max Hardcore, a violent porn actor notorious even in that callous industry, as he raped Felicity. Both men vehemently denied that Max Hardcore had raped Felicity, even though the audience at the screening of around a hundred people had just seen it with their own eyes. Elsewhere Walker has referred to this rape as an “unwillingly encounter.” On the set Max Hardcore deliberately tries to choke Felicity during an oral sex scene. This is during a staged orgy which will include her first anal sex scene. Walker and his assistant were unable to face filming this so they abandoned Felicity to her fate and retreated to the safety of a restaurant to comfort themselves with a bottle of wine.
Walker defends his filming of the abuse and violence Felicity was subjected to by saying that he wanted to film what really happens behind the scenes, because “You know it’s absolutely the kernel of your story and it’s criminal not to film it.” Felicity told Walker she was terrified that Max Hardcore was going to kill her. I asked Walker and Sattin if Felicity received any proceeds from the film. She didn’t. They did pay for her and her daughter to go on a holiday, implying generosity on their part and the idea that this somehow made up for what she had gone through. Particularly hard to stomach is Walker’s comment, “Who knows what would have happened if Felicity had been alone?” He seems to think his fake concern for Felicity lets him off the hook for his responsibility in ensuring that Max Hardcore had the opportunity to rape Felicity. Felicity did not suggest meeting Hardcore -- Walker did. Sickeningly, he admits that every bad thing that happened to Felicity made his pseudo-documentary better: "It's true, in an awful, sick, terrible way. It's a documentary maker's dream.”
Hardcoreis the filmed rape of a young woman. Has she consented to having it shown yet again? Does she want the memories of what she endured to re-surface because some misguided feminists have decided it's fine to show this film? When Hardcore was released Felicity was hounded and vilified by the tabloid press, forcing her to leave her job and go into hiding. She will never be free of her experience. The exploitation, abuse and rape of Felicity have been digitally captured to be endlessly re-enacted long after she is gone. The porn film Deep Throat became famous in America in the 70s. It featured Linda Lovelace, formerly Boreman and later Marchiano, who revealed in the 80s that she had been forced to take part in the film at gunpoint by her husband/manager, Chuck Traynor. Linda Marchiano, who later became an anti-porn campaigner, said, “When you see the movie Deep Throatyou are watching me being raped.” Felicity and innumerable other women and girls continue to be denied the right to destroy all copies of filmed male sexual violence inflicted on them. What are we saying when we condone the showing of this film on the grounds that it is feminist?
SWAP campaigned with other women’s groups against granting a license for a late night screening of Deep Throat in Edinburgh a few years back, although our protests failed to stop the film being shown once again. To date, Deep Throat has grossed $600m. Walker claims that the making of Hardcore was “one of the most unforgettably unpleasant experiences” he ever had, and the film continues to be shown. As feminists we should be condemning the showing of Hardcore because it exploits Felicity's suffering when Walker and others ensnared her into their scheme to make money. Walker is still dining out on Hardcore.
The ugly truth about Hardcore demands that it be boycotted by organisations such as UK Feminista and Object, who should take the opportunity instead to show the anti-porn slide show Who Wants To Be A Porn Star? produced by Gail Dines, Rebecca Whisnant and Robert Jensen, who are committed to a feminist critique of the pornographic world. It deals with the realities of malestream porn, to which it's all too easy to become de-sensitised.
Catherine Harper for SWAP June 2011 Contact:
********************** Catherine Harper was commissioned by Woman’s Support Project to edit the slide show Who Wants To Be A Porn Star? for a UK audience in 2007.' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Re UKFeminista/Object Defence
The SWAP statement issued about the film Hardcore is not misleading or wrong. SWAP are taking a pro-active stance and publicly condemning Walker and co. for their collusion in ensuring 'Felicity' was set-up and raped by Max Hardcore.
It is from a feminist perspective that SWAP uses images from pornography for training and information as does the anti-porn training slide- show ‘Who Wants To Be A Porn Star?’ The anti-porn slide-show is a tool which does not exploit the women in it. The script used takes the audience through each slide shown providing context and meaning to the distressing images. This is very different from presenting the film Hardcore as a documentary about the porn industry. It is a porn film posing as a documentary. Its aim is to titillate viewers and profit from the ordeal of a young woman, Felicity, whose abuse and rape are recorded in the film.
In your response to SWAP you include a statement by Stephen Walker Director of Hardcore about the meeting with Max Hardcore in L.A .in which Walker states it was Felicity’s agent man called ‘Dick Nasty’ who introduced Felicity to Max Hardcore. This is different from his statement in a piece he wrote for the Evening Standard 29.03.01 ‘My Fears for all Felicities’ where Walker states that it was Felicity’s agent ‘Richard’ who set up the meeting with Felicity and Max Hardcore. Walker states here “that was how we found ourselves one afternoon at Max Hardcore’s house.” He also states “I had not heard of Max Hardcore before then”.
This contradicts what Walker says in the Evening Standard 29.03.01 “I was uneasy the moment I set eyes on Max Hardcore. I'd already been told about the hat. I knew he wore it in most of the thousand-plus porn films in which he'd starred. And I knew something about those films.”
I don’t intend to spend any more time debating which of the men involved in making Hardcore arranged the meeting with Felicity and Max Hardcore. What is clear is that the porn film agents, the director Walker, and producer Sattin all had a role in the serious physical assault and rape of Felicity.
From Walker’s own statements it was with knowledge of Max Hardcore and his extreme porn films that he made the decision to take Felicity to a notorious porn film maker house. If Walker was uneasy about Max Hardcore and knew about his extreme porn films then why did they bring Felicity to his house?
Felicity didn't 'get herself into anything' it was Walker & co. who coerced and pressurised Felicity into submitting to what they demanded. Where's the ‘choice’ when one young woman is subjected to intense pressure from a number of men determined to make money literally from the body of a young woman.
The man called Richard , Stephen Walker and Felicity went to watch on set a ‘gang-bang’ being filmed where ten men were having sex with one girl in a wrestling ring. Walker describes the stench of bodies, of sweat, of various other excretions and seeing the expression on Felicity's face, as she saw, for the first time, just what it was she'd got herself into. Notice all the responsibility is put on Felicity. Walker manipulated the facts of Felicity's suffering by claiming he and his male colleague were 'the real victims' and couldn't endure watching Hardcore raping Felicity.
Walker claims Felicity agreed to take part in another extreme scene in the film. How can a woman consent given the situation she was in? She wasn’t dealing with one man who was her equal and she had an obligation to two men, Walker and Sattin who had paid for her travel and her accommodation in L.A to be filmed by Walker & co for his ‘documentary’. Even if this was a ‘free choice’ (it isn’t) it still does not change or alter the abuse, degrading and physically injurious treatment Felicity was subjected to in the making of Hardcore.
Why do feminists make anti-porn films? If we allow pseudo documentary’s to be aired then let's show any malestream porn film because they are all the same – all filmed acts of male sexual violence against women and showing such acts without ensuring the dignity of the women involved is collusion with the porn industry and the men who profit. Where is our empathy for Felicity and the millions of other women in the porn industry?
The anti-porn training slide show ‘Who Wants To Be A Porn Star?’ made from a feminist perspective shows the harsh reality of the porn industry. It isn't a pretty or sanitised picture nor is it easy to watch. The anti-porn slide show proves that it is possible to expose the abuse, degradation, violence and coercion of women in the porn industry without exploiting or de-humanising the women involved. To date the anti-porn training slide show has been and continues to be successful in mobilising women to take action against the porn industry.
Compare Hardcore to the film ‘Lilya4 Forever’ a film made to raise awareness the trafficking of women into prostitution with Hardcore. It is a very, very disturbing film which successfully exposes the brutality and dimensions of the trafficking of women into prostitution without eroticising the male sexualised violence committed against Lilya - unlike Hardcore.
The justification for watching Hardcore is that unless we see the evidence as it happens we can't possibly understand or make a judgement about pornography. Porn is all the same- men repeatedly raping women. But there is no protection for women's dignity or humanity.
Consider the situation in Sri Lanka, prior to Channel 4 transmitting the documentary concerning the events after the Tamil Tigers were captured by the Sri Lankan soldiers. The malestream Channel 4 publicity repeatedly aired warnings stating they couldn't show all the filmed acts of gynocide and genocide because it was too horrific. In Abu Ghraib 2004 when American soldiers tortured, degraded and humiliated Iraqi prisoners, the majority of the images were censored. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress, the images depict "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." The few images released were immediately recognisable as pornography, because it was men who were being treated inhumanely. The difference in regard to the Tamil Tigers and the Iraqi prisoners of Abu Ghraib is that the men’s dignity and humanity is protected while women continue to be exploited.
Felicity, like innumerable other women who have had their experiences of male sexual violence filmed know they must constantly live with the knowledge these films are on record and available for anyone and everyone to watch as supposed ‘entertainment’.
The film Hardcore was recently shown on commercial television almost at the same time as Walker and co. are celebrating the tenth anniversary Hardcore.
Catherine Harper on behalf of SWAP Links to press articles with Stephen Walker