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Rated X is a low-budget documentary by Dag Yngvesson on the porn industry. He interviews porn stars, directors, camera operators, make-up artists, and agents. Often he does these interviews on set, while scenes are being set up, or the actors are having sex. Yngvesson is in his twenties, and he is both curious and thoughtful. He has long blonde hair and a nose ring, and his mother is an anthropologist. He is aware of the various objections to pornography, and he addresses concerns about AIDS, objectification, racism, exploitation, and what porn tells us about people's desires and contemporary sexuality. Stylistically, the film is varied. It switches between color and black and white, film and video, 16mm and 8mm film, fine grained and course grained textures, and it has interesting music in the background. It is explicit, showing people having sex and nudity including erect penises, but it does not linger on these elements. I would be cautious showing it to an undergraduate class, but it might be feasible to show excerpts after forewarning students about the content.
While Yngvesson is not censorious, he is uncomfortable with many elements of the porn industry. One of the most interesting parts of the film is when he is asked to be the cameraman on a porn film, and after some deliberation including discussing it with his mother, he agrees. Part of his justification is that like an anthropologist he will be able to better understand the culture he is studying if he participates in it. Rather than being a mere rationalization, it seems to turn out that he is right about this. He gets a revealing interview with a star called Gina who turns out to have a history of heroin addiction and homelessness, but now has a more stable family life and a child. Earlier in the film, a couple of female porn actors say that nearly all of the women porn stars they know have a history of childhood sexual abuse. Yet he also interviews the parents of a young woman who is just starting out in the industry, and they are supportive of their daughter's plans. On the other hand, a male actor explains he no longer talks with his religious father after his father condemned the actor's life.
The DVD extras include two deleted sections, one on the role of men and the other on African Americans in the industry, along with interviews with Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy and Nina Hartley. These are all interesting and add to the quality of the DVD.
The general impression Yngvesson gives in Rated X is that the industry is sleazy and difficult to work in. It pays well, but it carries many risks, as well as a good deal of stigma. It seems that most people who work in porn end up having to socialize with others they know from work, because they get rejected by the rest of society. While the women who appear in porn films do so voluntarily, it is far from clear that they have made a good choice. On the whole, Rated X is one of the best available documentaries on the porn industry, giving a personal and rounded picture.
Link: Movie website
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.