At SXSW2017: PORNOCRACY

Ovidie is a French feminist filmmaker icon, who began her career in the world of adult film. Like so many other industries in our global capitalist world, it has been overtaken by one multinational corporation, created by a computer programmer that now controls a great majority of all videos (nearly all of which stream online for free).

 

Ovidie, like most of her European counterparts, accepts one basic fact: pornography produced by consenting adults and consumed by adults is fine. But she, like many of her colleagues, is deeply troubled by the recent abuses in the industry–piracy, unfair labor practices, low wages, increasingly dangerous sexual acts, and access to all this content by underage audiences–that are direct results of the centralization of content. But if we are paying any attention to the world around us, nearly all of these abuses are present in other industries as well.

One of Ovidie’s colleagues asks, “If China can ban Google, why can’t we [Europe] ban these porn sites?” It is ironic (and unfortunate) that the greatest advocates for change and tighter restrictions are many of the content creators themselves. But Ovidie’s investigation of the company that controls much of the content, reveals that it is the head of dozens of other companies based all over the world, all of which work together in a complex money-laundering scheme. Perhaps those who could ban those sites are benefitting from some of that money too.

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Pornocracy is not an easy or comfortable film to watch, but it is important, given the sheer volume of content consumed on a daily basis…and by an increasingly younger audience. It’s a real cause for concern for the health of relationships around the world in both our near and distant futures. But, ultimately, it is also a justice issue.

A former teacher described Ovidie as someone who “detests injustice.” She is taken aback by what she calls the “Uberization” of sex, the practice of independent contractors performing through live streams hosted on digital platforms controlled by large companies. The performers only keep 22% of their earnings (Uber and Lyft, for example, practice a 20/80 split, with the majority going to drivers). Ovidie has also experienced this exploitation first-hand. Having produced and/or starred in adult films, of which there were only a couple hundred physical copies, is one thing. Ovidie finding that content streaming online to millions of viewers–without her permission and without any compensation–is another matter altogether.

About J. Ryan Parker