John Stagliano Trial Feminist Constance Penley on Porn, Obscenity, & John Stagliano


Constance Penley is a professor of Film and Media Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and co-director of the Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television, and New Media. Penley specializes in film history and theory, feminist theory, and cultural studies. She is especially well-known on campus for her controversial classes on pornography, where she analyzes the ways in which blue movies play with moral and social taboos.

Penley was slated to be an expert witness in the obscenity trial of pornographer John Stagliano, who faces up to 32 years in jail and $7 million in fines for distributing three adult movies. The judge in Stagliano's case disallowed Penley and Lawrence Sank from testifying for the defense.'s Hawk Jensen sat down with Penley to discuss the history of pornography, obscenity laws, and the case against John Stagliano, whom Penley has called "the Woody Allen of porn."

Approximately 8 minutes. Produced by Hawk Jensen and filmed by Zach Weissmueller.

For more on Stagliano's prosecution, go here.

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  1. A dollar to a donut that Ms. Penley is a big Obama supporter.

    1. This CAN’T be the real Max.

  2. I probably should not click on an AVN website around here… so can someone explain why the judge tossed Penley and Stank?

    Also, any word on the jury? (same AVN problem)

    1. I’m guessing the judge said there was no issue before that jury that required an expert opinion. I’m having a hard time coming up with one off the top of my head.

      1. An expert to refute prosecution’s claim with regard to the Miller test:

        1. Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

        2. Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law,

        3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

        Penley could cite Stagliano’s past work as a useful tool discussing morality, societal taboos, blah blah etc etc.

        1. One could argue that the simple cinematography, editing, lighting & sound covers the artistic value.

          1. I imagine it’s not easy to get flat milk to gloss on camera. Stagliano should take apprentices, pass on his craftwork.

        2. An expert to refute prosecution’s claim with regard to the Miller test:

          There’s no basis for expert opinion testimony on what the average person thinks. That’s what the jury is for.

          Similarly, I’m not sure what you need an expert opinion for in determining whether something is “patently offensive”.

          Maybe, just maybe, I can see having experts testify on literary, etc. value. But even that is a stretch. Typically, expert testimony is only relevant and admissible on fact issues that the average person cannot be expected to understand.

          1. One expert, Dr. Lawrence Sank, a respected clinical psychologist from Cognitive Therapy Center of Greater Washington, was expected to testify to the therapeutic and scientific value of the movies.

            I think the judge here is having a prejudicial effect on the case.

    2. Why the need on EXPERT opinion on this case?
      We have laws on Obscenity and he seemed to have broken them/those. What’s the issue?

        1. plz dnt feed teh tollz

      1. We should NOT have laws against obscenity, the point being.

      2. We have obscenity laws that are so subjective and unclear that there can be no due process in prosecuting them. Also, free speech is a wonderful thing.

  3. I find it amusing that we listen to this information wihout some background info.
    When she’s talking about her students “questions” or comments, they sound as if she’s talking about a different world for those who TALK about Porn and those who actually enjoy PORN.
    the so called questions and or comments are naive at best.
    She bores me…

    1. Lick my balls.

      1. Hey, Magda… if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

  4. In 1980, I took a mandatory Women’s Studies class at my Cow College on the Prairie: I saw more porn than I could handle — real radical, performance stuff.

    We also had to breakdown and analyze cartoons in Playboy.

    Fun class!

    1. Homer: Springfield A&M, that’s a cow college!
      Lenny: You’re only saying that because it was founded by a cow.

      1. Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.

        1. South Hampton is better.

        2. South Harmon is even better. And correct.

  5. Laugh if you must, but discovering Stagliano’s films back in the nineties saved my life.

  6. I hope we can all agree that pornography viewing is deviant and immoral, and that it leads to the destruction of lives and families.

    It’s disgusting how pornography, masturbation, pre-marital sex, and divorce have been been mainstreamed and accepted as normal since the 1960s. This is just what the Marxists wanted.

    1. I’m gonna have to go “troll” on this one. Sure, I know there’s a lot of people that feel this way… but they would’ve gone crazy from reading this site long ago.

      1. Yeah, TEA comes across as a bored teen just tryin’ to mess with the site.

        We’re all David Ortiz on it — jackin’ it out after being lobbed meatballs.

      2. I vote troll.

    2. No, we can’t. Now fuck off and go back to LGF or Red State or wherever you came from, statist.

    3. Such anger!

      LGF would ban me. They hate “fundies”. So that shows how much you know, which isn’t very much.

      Let me know when you can discuss these issues in a mature, adult manner, rather than resorting to childish insults and profanity.

    4. I hope we can all agree that pornography viewing is deviant and immoral, and that it leads to the destruction of lives and families.

      No, I am quite certain that we cannot so agree. I have watched plenty of porn, and my life and my family are far more sound than most I know. See, how it works is that I’m an adult and I’m solidly enough rooted in reality to know that it’s FAKE. I.e., I don’t think it’s a documentary or instruction manual for real life. See, I can separate teh pron from my sad and frustrating reality.

      So you’re going to have to provide some pretty hard evidence of how it destroys lives and families.

      It’s disgusting how pornography, masturbation, pre-marital sex, and divorce have been been mainstreamed and accepted as normal since the 1960s. This is just what the Marxists wanted.

      Oh puhleeze.

      Like people never had pre-marital sex or masturbated before 1960?

      And Marxists? Huh?

      1. Marxists want to undermine other, traditional institutions of society besides the government (such as religion, and the traditional family) to make people more dependent on the total state.

        Read “The Naked Communist”. Then see how many of the Marxist goals of the 50s have become reality today–including the mainstreaming of sexual deviancy.

      2. WTF, don’t waste your time responding to TEA — he/she is either a troll or a nutjob, ie not worth arguing with.

    5. Actually they’ve always been ‘normal’.
      Unfortunately some religeous zealots have developed and abnormal fixation on them.

      1. I’d also argue that porn is not healthy for relationships and families. But whether we’re talking about this, or drugs, or any vice, I’m not going to try to take away your right to partake. Even libertarians don’t like it when you use free speech to disagree with their behavior. Thanks for making people feel bad, TEA!

    6. My experience with people like you is you are hiding something, …… something sinful.

      You know exactly what I’m talking about don’t you? Have you told anyone? Your wife? Your Preacher? God?

    7. Let me guess:
      1) Sex is only for procreation.
      2) No sex education except abstinence.
      3) No sex outside of one-man-one-woman marriage.
      4) Only do it in bed with the door locked, in the dark, using the missionary position.
      5) And even then, it’s really a sin.

      1. No sex outside of marriage, and no sex outside of one-man one-woman marriage, yes. And only vaginal intercourse.

        The rest is up to you. Sex is wonderful and healthy under those circumstances regardless of the purpose or position. But otherwise, it can destroy your morality (and eventually society’s).

        Just look at the proliferation of single mothers since the 60s. And who are those children of single mothers raised by? Since there’s no father figure, the state becomes the “father”, right down to being the primary breadwinner if the form of welfare bennies.

        1. No sex outside of marriage? How do you plan to enforce that?

          My experience with people like you is you are hiding something, …… something sinful.

          I used to date a young woman who believed everything you do, until we were alone together.

          You know exactly what I’m talking about don’t you? Have you told anyone? Your wife? Your Preacher? God?

        2. Look, you’re gonna have to either find one of those religious-cult compounds or move to a theocratic nation if you want that kind of community. I sure as hell would never want to go back to that. I consider myself a person with good morals… I follow the John Stuart Mill philosophy of “do whatever pleases you as long as you’re not harming anyone else”. And if pornography and premarital sex was really that bad, this republic would have fallen apart decades ago. If you want to foster better morals, do it through your churches and other faith-based communities. Adopting and sustaining a system of moral guidelines set by a religion is a good thing. But trying to get nanny government to adopt those guidelines as laws to impose on non-believers is a BAD thing.

          1. No one here is trying to say that the government should be enforcing morals, even at the “decay” of culture. I would also argue with TEA about getting too technical with “vaginal only” sex (as long as both parties are ok with it). An interesting site to check out is (definitely not pron).

        3. Does that include titty fucking? Cuz I’m really gonna miss that on my B-day.

  7. As evidenced by the amount of crazy that came out of the woodwork for this thread, Stagliano doesn’t have a snowballs chance in hell.

    R.I.P. Buttman

    1. Don’t give up on the Buttman until you see the box going into the hole!

  8. The Woody Allen of Anal Fetishes? How do you say that without a smirk up to your eyebrows?

    1. True. Everyone knows he is the King Vidor of Lactation Fetish.

  9. Why do feminists always wear those weird scarves? Seriously.

    1. Don’t knock it. Lets us identify them easily from a distance. Good call.

    2. To cover the raunchy tattoos that their ex-boyfriends made them get.

    3. Because it is hella sexy my friend. Well at least on a sexy feminist.




    YEE HAW!


  11. To cover the raunchy tattoos that their ex-boyfriends girlfriends made them get.

    1. Works just as well for me.

  12. There is nothing more obscene than the mental gymnastics required to argue for federal obscenity laws. Even if the First Amendment had never been ratified, federal laws of this scope go beyond the Constitution’s enumerated powers.

  13. She’s terrific. Her point of course is this – outlawing this form of expression on the basis of its being “offensive” does not make sense —

    1. it is supposed to be offensive [as are many other kinds of expression, though she does not say this here] and 2. one person’s “bad taste” is what the next person happens to like.
    Though she does not say this, it is implicit that – if something offends you, you can keep away from it rather than insisting it be outlawed.

  14. Scat sites? Patently offensive to me… butt apparently not to others.(pun intended) Totally hot Brazillian women sniffing each others farts? Not my cup ‘o’ tea. Both readily found on the w.w.w. Perhaps “patently offensive” has lost it’s meaning.

  15. Sie immer noch zu bleiben, dieses Massaker schweigen.
    Die Schlachtung unschuldiger M?rder des israelischen Staates tun wird ein Auge zu drehen, ob
    F?hlen Sie sich Ihr Gewissen?
    h?tte nicht gedacht, es ist Zeit genug sagen, um keine Zeit zu warnen unsere Regierung,
    Wie viele m?ssen sterben?
    Worauf wartest du noch?
    you still going to stay silent on this massacre.
    Slaughtering innocent killers of the Israeli state are doing will turn a blind eye to whether
    Are you comfortable your conscience?
    did not think it is time to say enough, no time to warn our government,
    How many more must die?
    What are you waiting for?
    I’ve seen so far is in perfect

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