The word “pornography” is such a lightning rod, a phrase, facet, and concept open to mis- and reinterpretation that it’s almost impossible to talk about in a calm and considered manner. From the Puritanical point of view that argues for our status as “One Nation Under God” to the complicated questions of exploitation, compensation, and criminality, one has to tread tenuously less their intention be seen as outrageous or adding fuel to an already raging inferno. So when documentary filmmakers Anna Lorentzon and Barbara Bell decided to examine the extreme bondage website Insex.com, they understood the inherent contradictions in their story - and their source. Focusing on a former Carnegie-Mellon University professor who took his fascination with all things fetish to mesmerizing, nauseating heights, they wanted to show the art, and atrocity, of mixing pleasure and pain - sometimes, violently.
Thus we come to Graphic Sexual Horror (the title taken from the intro/warning page of the former web locale) expecting both shock and sensibility. We anticipate being repulsed but at the same time reassured that what we are seeing is a situation between consenting adults well paid for their participation - and for a while, Lorentzon and Bell make the case brilliantly. They introduce us to Brent Scott (aka “pd”), the various models who ‘posed’ for his erotic experiments, and learn a lot about how a college-minded bit of ‘performance art’ and a fascination with the dark side of desire was turned into a 35,000 member adult entertainment outpost. In between all the philosophizing and blame gaming, assurances and assumptions, we see extended glimpses of what Insex offered, and it’s at these moments where the film loses its legitimate meaning and turns tacky.