When Does a Porn Parody Cross the Line?

What Women Really Think
Nov. 2 2011 2:26 PM

When Does a Porn Parody Cross the Line?

DSK
Dominique Strauss-Kahn

AFP/Getty Images.

The Huffington Post reported yesterday (via the French publication Local) that French porn producer My Porn Company is seeking to make a film based on the controversial Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, in which the politician was accused of raping an NYC hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo. Prosecutors dropped the charges in August due to inconsistencies in the victim’s story and personal history that they discovered over the course of the investigation. According to the porn producer, the parody will be called DXK and will feature actor Roberto Malone as “Dominique Sex King”; the company is currently seeking funding from the public for the project.

My initial reaction to this proposal was disgust—whether you believe Diallo or not (which is very complicated question, considering her position as a disadvantaged immigrant and ESL speaker), surely the gross and likely nonconsensual (or at least power-imbalanced) nature of the encounter is no laughing matter, not to mention not something to be eroticized. It is one thing to make a porn parody of something like the case of Anthony Weiner, the disgraced U.S. Representative from New York who was exposed as a sexter, as the gay porn company Jet Set Studios has done with Anthony’s Weener. In that instance, there was no issue of sexual violence or real misconduct (unless you count his stupidity in being caught looking foolish online, which is increasingly unavoidable); moreover, it's only natural to make sexy fun of a “scandal” that was really a joke in itself. But a DSK equivalent just seems lurid.

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Still, parody is one of those protected classes of free speech that should be defended. If we like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live, we’re obliged to tolerate, if not enjoy, porn parodies as well. So legally, I doubt there’s much that can be done to stop this company from moving forward, and, as a matter of principle, I’m forced to conclude that we shouldn’t try.

However, there is a way that DXK could theoretically be a good thing. If, instead of celebrating DSK as some kind of Casanova, My Porn Company chooses to depict him more accurately as a philandering buffoon, there’s a very slim chance that the film could be just a little worthwhile. That type of jab would undoubtedly be welcome considering DSK’s ability to slither out of legal judgment thus far in the Diallo case and others, like that of Tristane Banon. It would not, however, nearly compensate for the totally unfunny violence allegedly done to those women.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.