Oct 022009

>Recalling his shocked dismay upon learning of all the governmental regulations around filmic depictions of sex, we’d like to think that director Joe Swanberg‘s participation in our SXSW panel, The Porn Police: Know The Rules, may have finally inspired him to cover his, um, ass.

In any case, we’re very intrigued by the revolutionary technology he’s utilizing on his new movie, Birthday Suit, an amazing advance that allows him to create the illusion of graphic sexual content. “If anybody, for even a split second, realizes that it’s a digital erection, then we have failed,” says Joe.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes report from the set:

Aug 282009

Vote for my PanelPicker Idea!

We recently submitted a couple of proposals on topics we’d like to present at the next SXSW festival–and we’d love your thumbs-up support on either or both if you’re so inclined.

Both proposals have been included in the SXSW 2010 PanelPicker, the rather sadomasochistic tool that the event uses to help determine which topics will ultimately be included… your “yes” votes and comments can definitely make a difference!

#1 – The Porn Police Are STILL at the Door
Not just for pornographers, the notion for this panel grew out of our work curating CineKink, as we noticed that entries submitted by filmmakers from the adult sphere typically included notice that federal record-keeping requirements for sexually explicit material had been properly met, while those coming from the independent film world did not. (If you’re thinking “2257, huh?” that could probably be you!) Making matters worse, the regulations have recently been expanded to cover not just actual or documentary depictions of sex, but simulated situations—ie fiction—as well.

Yikes, you say? Pick this panel!

#2 – Was It Something I Said? TOS And Content
Meanwhile, this panel was inspired by the frustrations we’ve experienced over the years trying to position and promote a sex-related endeavor on the internet–from finding a web host and sending email blasts, to processing ticket sales and donations, to creating an identity in social marketing and getting our videos placed on popular sites. Seemingly the old adage–“I’ll know it when I see it”–flourishes online, where murky definitions of what content is and is not allowed abound. One gatekeeper’s “inappropriate” is another’s “adult” is another’s “offensive, obscene and/or pornographic.” How are we affected as users and creators–and is there any recourse?

Wanna find out? Pick this panel!

Aug 242009

>We’ve just got word from Jennifer Lyon Bell that her CineKink award-winning short film, Matinée, has been banned from screening publicly in Australia.


Jennifer’s piece was scheduled to run tomorrow at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. But the event has been informed by the nation’s censorship board, the Office of Film and Literature Classification, that of all of the selections submitted for permission to screen as “unrated”–which is typically how Australian festivals are able to screen independent works which haven’t gone through a costly classification process–Matinée could not be exhibited. (Another film presented at CineKink, Tony Comstock‘s documentary Damon & Hunter enjoyed this dubious distinction back in 2006!)

In a statement of protest published by MUFF, Jennifer questions the OFLC’s decision:

The sexual relationship portrayed by the characters Mariah and Daniel in Matinée is not only a consensual, emotional and nuanced relationship, but their sex plays an important role in the story of the film. The story is not tacked on to the sex; rather, the story has everything to do with the way the characters continue to communicate nonverbally throughout the entire sex scene.

And festival director Richard Wolstencroft, after extolling the work’s artistic merits and noting its relevance in promoting a positive view of female sexual empowerment, criticizes the ban as sexist and hypocritical in light of other recent descisions by the OFLC :

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ was recently passed by the OFLC for the Melbourne International Film Festival. This film depicts extremely high levels of sexual violence and genital mutilation, and encourages a phallocentric vision in its audience that touches on the idea that women are inherently evil. ‘Matinee’ depicts actual sex between two adults in a loving and consenting partnership, and significantly it focuses on the importance of women’s pleasure in sexual intimacy, and presents a remarkably strong female lead. Passing ‘Antichrist’ but banning ‘Matinee’ reveals a tendency in the OFLC to suppress films which strengthen female sexuality on screen and to allow films which encourage view that female sexuality is damaged, fractured or violent.

There’s been some talk that MUFF will go ahead with its originally intended screening as an act of civil disobedience. That would be as part of the Mini Muff Session #5, scheduled for Wednesday, August 26 @ 7pm.

Jul 212009

(image via SIU School of Law)

Given the promises made within the bold red circle on the cover, you can imagine our delight when we stumbled upon our parents’ copy of the unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, tucked way, way up high on the top shelf of their bookcase. And, if you happened to read the same tome as an eager youth, you can also appreciate our growing disappointment as we realized the book was a bit more, well, literary than some other titles found in their 1970s-era library.

All of that was possible thanks to a court decision made 50 years ago today–resulting from the efforts of Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset, who sued the US Postal Service for confiscating copies of the uncensored version of the novel, which had long been banned for its explicit descriptions of sex and liberal use of the f-word. As recounted in the New York Times, an attorney hired by Rosset, Charles Rembar, spotted a loophole in an earlier Supreme Court ruling and argued that while a work might be found obscene, it could at the same time present ideas of “redeeming social importance” – and qualify for First Amendment protections afterall.

Though obscenity battles continue on today, a ruling on July 21, 1959 in favor of Grove Press took away the Post Office’s absolute authority to impound and restrict such works. And paved the way for Lady Chatterley’s Lover to find its way to bookshelves throughout America, to be joined later by such subsequent Grove Press gems as the first US edition of The Story of O and “My Secret Life,” the purported erotic memoir of a Victorian gentleman, along with many less prurient offerings over the years.

Barney Rosset’s heroic skirmishes against censorship and the ups and downs of Grove Press are detailed in the recent documentary Obscene:

Apr 282009

>The Supreme Court has upheld a crackdown by the Federal Communications Commission on the use of indecent language–even the fleeting utterance of a single expletive–on broadcast television. At least for now…

An earlier federal appeals panel had overturned recent FCC policy, which had arisen largely in response to brief and spontaneous exclamations during live awards programs from the likes of Cher, Bono and Nicole Richie, chiefly involving the ever-popular and–as referred to by the court– “f-” and “s-” words.

This latest decision supports the FCC’s contention that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent, no matter the context. But, as noted in an AP account of the court’s ruling:

Justice John Paul Stevens said in dissent that the FCC missed the mark in failing to distinguish how the offending words are used. “As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows,” said Stevens, an avid golfer, “it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement.

While today’s ruling dealt solely with whether the FCC had followed proper administrative procedures in establishing the new policy, still to be addressed is whether or not the restrictions are constitutional in the first place, with promising glimmers that the entire question of limits on broadcast speech may be reconsidered whole hog. Though Justice Clarence Thomas sided with the majority on this ruling, the AP story continues, he noted that the court’s previous decision and an even earlier case “were unconvincing when they were issued, and the passage of time has only increased doubt regarding their continued validity.”

The last major ruling by the Supreme Court on broadcast indecency was in 1978, when it upheld the FCC’s case involving George Carlin’s classic “seven dirty words,” as so infamously recounted below: