Monday, 17 March 2014

Just a thought

Okay, so the last post on here was almost six months ago - time flies when you're having fun. Or, actually, in this case when you're not. The last few months have been pretty hard going with members of the extended family being ill and suffering various other misfortunes, plus working very hard on the kind of writing that pays the bills. Which erotica broadly doesn't, at the moment, as you may know if you've been following these things.
Never mind.
I don't normally read the Daily Star, which is the kind of 'newspaper' that makes headlines out of things like whether an actress I've never heard of might or might not have flashed some sideboob on a 'reality show' I've never watched. However, it also recently decided it was news that 'Porn movie filmed at uni campus in BROAD DAYLIGHT racks up thousands of views'.
The movie in question is 'Johnny Rockard at University of West of England in Bristol. Student pick up, and public sex with horny Xzena', which has apparently had 41,000 views on a sex website. The title's easy enough to google so I'm guessing it's the site of 'porn babe Xzena', though it's also now on a bunch of other places.
The UWE has called in the police to investigate how this happened - erm, they walked on campus and just did it? Yes, most campuses now make staff and students wear ID tags but it's never been well policed. It's gonzo film-making. It happens. It's mildly amusing. Just get real about it.
What amused me most about all this was the ill-considered reaction of the university vice-chancellor: 'I am appalled that the university should be subject to such behaviour from someone with no connection to the university, resulting in a false and misleading representation of the university.'
To which my thoughts were
(a) this is a corporatist autopilot reaction, which is understandable but maybe not very well considered. 'Some of the parents of next year's applicants will think we're letting people film porn while pretending to be students, ohmygod ohmygod our corporate image will slip and they'll apply somewhere else.' I don't think so. In a way the best outcome would be a parallel to the 2013 'wrecking ball' problem at Grand Valley State University in the US - if you don't know what that was, here's a Huffington Post piece about it. And they reinstated the ball a couple of months later when the fuss died down.
(b) no one in their right mind is likely to assume the film gives any 'representation' of the university, any more than the couple caught doing a porn shoot in a Healthrow carpark a couple of years ago were offering any 'representation' of the airport. Okay, so Zxena apparently identifies herself on the video as a third-year psychology student. So what? And would it be a 'false and misleading representation' if they were doing anything else - reciting poetry or staging an impromptu Pussy Riot-style gig, for example? Universities are supposed to be above making the chilling assumption that anything and everything that happens is a 'representation' of the institution as a whole. They're supposed to be liberal organisations, not corporate control freaks.
(c) would it have been better if the film participants had a connection to the university so that their actions wouldn't be 'false and misleading' representations? Erm... I'm pretty sure if anyone checked video footage on students' mobile phones they'd find equally explicit material. They would in my day, if we'd had mobile phones back then.
Call me old. And cynical. And over-liberal. But in my university days no one would have raised an eyebrow at this. The student union, far from co-operating with the police inquiry, would probably have invited the 'performers' to a public meeting at which they'd be asked to expound on the revolutionary and liberating potential of porn in relation to, or as a commentary on, the crisis of capitalism and the rise of the police state.
Which isn't as daft as it sounds. I'm still rather partial to the Frankfurt School analyses of such things (Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilisation, and so on). And I may be in the minority here but I still think Susan Sontag's essay 'The Pornographic Imagination' from 1967 has a lot going for it. Pornography reveals knowledge and truth that may be dangerous - because often it's knowledge about how repressive current morality has become.