Industry News

Defending Torture Porn

Luke Y. Thompson writes:

Pony up about 70 bucks, find the right Web site or adult bookstore, and you can get yourself a video of a professional dominatrix beating someone up. There are people who watch — and make — these videos for sexual thrills. Torture and porn: Not my preferred combo, but it’s out there.

What torture porn is not is mainstream horror movies like Saw or Hostel. But critics who can damn sure tell the difference between Basic Instinct and actual pornography seem unable to make the distinction between fantasy and reality when it comes to some of the best contemporary horror films.

Many of the criticisms are familiar: Movies like Hostel are called misogynistic, degrading, sick and socially unredeeming, or deemed entirely unworthy of discussion, as opposed to such “classics” of yesteryear as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist — both of which faced the exact same kinds of criticisms in their day. The New York Times’ Vincent Canby, for one, complained about the latter film’s “splintery cross-cutting” and an audience “getting their kicks out of seeing a small girl being tortured and torn, quite literally,” before adding, “The audience watches as if attending a porno film.”

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