Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography playwright, Declan Greene, muses on the need for censorship in a world where ‘porn isn’t code for the grimy pastime of perverts anymore’. And, it is 2014 after all.
Truth be told: I’ve never been any good at titles. My first ever play was called Bog. My next one was called LOL. I stepped up to four letters for my first commission – but in truth, it wasn’t even named by me. It was called Moth by the theatre company because I couldn’t decide before the brochure cut-off date.
Sneaker porn…this is allowed
But with Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, I feel like I’ve stumbled onto a good one. It’s provocative. It’s sexually charged. It suggests something salacious, titillating, edgy. And then you head into the theatre, and watch a play about two sad, hateful, middle-aged people and their humiliating lives. Lolzzzzz/Punk’d/Candid Camera etc.
The problem is: it’s difficult to communicate this to a Facebook auto-message, after they’ve banned you for advertising porn.
This is the situation that Griffin have been wrestling with for the last few weeks, as they’ve tried to secure online adspace for Eight Gigabytes. But it’s been a difficult situation to resolve. Facebook won’t allow any advertising to feature the word ‘pornography’ (or any version of it). And for this reason, the Facebook ads are now advertising the exciting new play “Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore P*rn*graphy”… Which is OK, I guess, but doesn’t exactly speak for the boundary-pushing potential of the performance…
Maybe I’m a bit naïve, but it really did surprise me that the title had to be censored. It’s not like we can just erase the word and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s 2014. Porn isn’t code for the grimy pastime of perverts anymore. It’s a monolithic social force, which exerts tremendous influence on contemporary mass-media. The ‘pornographication’ of the mainstream – and the effect this has on our sexual development – is a major point of cultural debate.
As a theatre-maker: I’m continually fascinated by the seam between fiction and non-fiction, performance and non-performance. Which is maybe why I find the moral panic around porn so interesting – hinged, as it is, on the distinction between fantasy and reality. Does the viewing of abusive, overtly misogynist porn encourage real-life violence against women? Does the casual depiction of anal sex, DP, A2M, result in ‘real’ men and women being pressured into these acts en masse? Does even the most vanilla porn enforce a standard of waxed, passive, jailbait femininity?
These are timely questions, and to me it seems kind of ridiculous that a major media platform like Facebook would ban the promotion of material which contributes towards conversation on this subject. And it’s also ridiculous because, right now, ‘pornography’ isn’t even specific enough a term to be offensive. It’s not a single thing. It’s an umbrella for an enormous, deeply stratified range of media and content. Some porn is not fit for sharing on Facebook. But some porn is no more raunchy than a Rihanna video. And then there’s porn so deeply embedded in fetish sub-sub-subculture that it’s actually pretty much G-rated.
To my mind, the only thing that unifies all pornography is a singular mechanism: the breaking of a taboo. Porn is material which eroticises the destruction of a personal limit – and, for this reason, its definition is entirely specific to the individual. The thing you call ‘porn’ is a fetishisation of your specific boundary being broken. The softcore nude spreads of Playboy exist because that’s someone’s idea of personal transgression. Hardcore BDSM rubber porn exists for the same reason. But this point of definition can refer to a sexual boundary, or it can not. ‘Misery-porn’. ‘Torture-porn’. We use this word for anything that pushes beyond a barrier we’ve erected to contain the abject, the interior – and relishes doing so.
Strangely – in this sense – Eight Gigabytes actually might be pornographic. It’s a play written to deliberately (if not erotically…) penetrate the hard, socialised skin we wrap around our anxiety, our pain, our deep feeling of inadequacy. It speaks directly to an exposed audience – without a fourth wall, without the anonymity and passivity of a darkened theatre. It will definitely push through some people’s boundaries of comfort, and taste, and willing introspection. And for this reason, I think it will make some people angry. Kind of like porn does. But I think it will make other people kind of relieved.
So then, maybe Facebook is right to censor the title (They weren’t). But in the meantime, for your money’s worth, here’s some porn that it IS ok to put on Facebook. All of which is – to my mind at least – HEAPS more fucked-up than just pictures of sex.
This is allowed…
Declan Greene’s Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography plays until 14 June. To book tickets, click here or call 02 9361 3817.
Find out more about the creation of Eight Gigabytes, watch our Q&A with Declan Greene and director, Lee Lewis