Video: Expert Witness in Stagliano Trial Speaks Out

Jul 14, 2010 2:00 PM PST
SANTA BARBARA — Film and media studies professor Constance Penley, whose expert testimony was disallowed by the judge in the John Stagliano obscenity trial, speaks out about porn, obscenity and Stagliano himself.

Speaking to Reason.tv, Penley says she was surprised to see the indicted videos, “Milk Nymphos,” “Storm Squitters 2” and “Target Practice,” all of which were done by some of the top people in the industry.

“Since when did women exchanging bodily fluids and a little light bondage become the most obscene thing in the land?” Penley said.

“But, I think that what the prosecution wants to try to do, I mean they are gross, they are deliberately gross, they’re also quite playful and I think that they want the jury to be able to look at this and say, ‘Oh my, this is gross, this is offensive, this is, you know, awful’ and of course we know that juries don’t often say what a reasonable person in the community might think, but they are saying what they think and what their reaction is.”

Penley says what would be interesting would be to give the “bad taste,” and the “grossness” of these videos, historical context.

“Where these videos are meant to gross you out, they’re meant to make you think about what’s acceptable in our culture and to really challenge those boundaries about what’s acceptable to you.”

Penley said that she once called John Stagliano the “Woody Allen of porn.”

“I believe I said ‘John Stagliano did for anal fetishism what Woody Allen did for neurosis’ because I really do think of him in that way especially in his Buttman character, where he’s kind of hapless, never achieves his desires to really be able to find the perfect butt.”

Penley teaches a variety of subjects on film history and theory, feminist theory and cultural studies. But, she says she is most remembered for her classes on porn. Penley says with every technological advance, there’s a greater democratization of sexual explicit expression through film, video, photography and the Internet, allowing more people access to sexual explicit material.

“That’s the great fear that’s represented by the Internet, that’s just the most recent wave of hysteria that’s around the democratization of sexual expression.”

Penley says many people don’t think it’s important to define pornography. She says they think they already know what pornography means, which is not just sexually explicit expression, but that it is obscene, has no 1st Amendment protection and therefore can be banned.

Penley teaches film and media at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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