The adult industry has faced criticism since its inception, with accusations of obscenity and indecency levelled from all sides of the ideological spectrum. As the industry starts to explore new themes, and stars become more ethnically diverse, some are finding new reasons to be offended. As porn reaches a wider audience, religious and cultural references have become a surprising taboo.
During a recent conversation with Persia Monir, a star proud of her Iranian heritage, I asked whether she had ever fallen victim to a backlash from the Persian/Iranian community*. She forwarded me an email from a fan disgruntled at a phrase in her scene that he saw as an affront to his faith, something that has left me puzzled ever since.
It’s a testament to Persia’s popularity that she has reached a diverse and wide audience, but it’s an interesting symptom of her diverse fan base that some are offended by her scenes.
There is a puzzling dichotomy at the foundation of the offence. The scandal is predicated on a scene being offensive to the viewer’s religion because of its verbal content; but it was seemingly okay for the viewer to have downloaded the scene in the first place. A graphic sex scene is acceptable, but the words must be censored is not a solid cornerstone of an argument against an adult scene. At best it is short sighted, at worst it is outright hypocrisy, and an example of cherry picking values that are convenient to you.
It does open up an interesting line of investigation. It is worth asking whether there would be similar offence to a religious phrase being used in a mainstream box office film. It is hard to imagine that being the case. It might suggest the viewer thinks that a porn scene is somehow more offensive or taboo. If that’s the case, it’s hard to understand why it was downloaded in the first place.
Perhaps it’s not even as complicated as a dichotomy; it’s just double standards. The message appears to be that it’s okay to jerk off in front of a porno, but don’t say anything that offends me. Such an argument is compromised from the very beginning.
The discussion around offence and taboo in film naturally comes back to a simple choice; the viewer’s choice to switch it off. If a viewer finds something not their taste, the answer is to not watch it, rather than aggressively go after it.
In some way porn exists to play out people’s fantasies, and it’s wrong for someone to try and impose their values onto other people’s tastes. Not everything in the adult industry will be to your taste, but that isn’t a signal to try and make it go away. Just switch it off. And if there is a risk that you might find something offensive in the scene, don’t download it. It’s all a matter of choice.
*Sit tight, article with about Persia, censorship and Iranian women on its way soon.