Interview with Bonnie Klein
"The first major discussion
of pornography on film"

by Lisa DiCaprio

from Jump Cut, no. 30, March 1985, pp. 42-43
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1985, 2005

The following interview with Bonnie Klein originally appeared in the December 1982 issue of the Haymarket newspaper, and was later republished in The Guardian. It was conducted soon after NOT A LOVE STORY opened in Chicago in 1982.

Bonnie Klein is the director of NOT A LOVE STORY produced by Studio D of the Canadian Film Board's English Production Branch. The Studio was founded in 1974 to provide a forum for women filmmakers and their concerns. Its main objective is to bring a women's perspective to social issues and to act as a catalyst for social change through the medium of film. Over 50 films have been produced by Studio D in the past eight years.

DiCAPRIO: What was the main goal of Studio D in producing NOT A LOVE STORY?

KLEIN: Our film was the first stab at the broad question of pornography. Our point was to show that pornography is not about sex or eroticism, but its opposite. It represents an anti-sexual attitude. As we see it, pornography and rape are opposite sides of the same coin. Pornography is not about sexuality, but about power relations between men and women. It is the matured child of sexual repression. NOT A LOVE STORY represents the first major discussion of pornography on film.

DiCAPRIO: What specific impact has the film had politically?

KLEIN: At the time it was being made, a governmental inquiry was being carried out in Quebec with a view towards changing the provincial law to permit the showing of films classified as "hard-core" and portraying "excessive violence." This was to be the new "Cinema X." Opposition inspired by the film succeeded in defeating the proposed legislation. The film was also shown by the Minister responsible for the status of women to Parliament's Standing Committee on Social Affairs as part of a report on family violence. In a more general sense, the main impact of NOT A LOVE STORY has been to place the issue of pornography in the mainstream of politics, beyond the confines of the women's movement.

DiCAPRIO: What is your opinion on the question of censorship?

KLEIN: I personally believe that direct action should be utilized and is preferable to censorship. However, there are some forms of censorship that should be considered, such as drawing a parallel between pornography and hate literature, as well as nuisance laws. The problem with censorship is that it only deals with the symptom, not the root cause of pornography.

DiCAPRIO: In the film, research psychologist Dr. Ed Donnerstein concludes that of the top ten variables which can increase aggressive behavior among men, eight of them are present in aggressive pornography. Could you elaborate on this connection between pornography and violence against women?

KLEIN: Until fairly recently, the research on this issue has been fairly biased. Increasingly, however, a causal relationship is being established between violent pornography and aggressive behavior among men towards women. The findings of Donnerstein as well as Neil Malamuth of the University of Manitoba in Canada are long and complicated. We could have chosen to discuss their work in much more detail, but our basic choice was to use the film as a medium to deal with feelings and imagery associated with pornography. In some sense, I see the question of scientific proof as a diversion since such proof can never be established definitively. Most women do not have the problem of requiring scientific evidence to make the connection between male aggression and violent pornography.

DiCAPRIO: In her review published in the Village Voice, film critic Ruby Rich referred to NOT A LOVE STORY as a "religious parable." How do you deal with the criticism that former stripper Linda Lee Tracey is portrayed as having made a superficial conversion against pornography?

KLEIN: I think that such a criticism is extremely condescending to Linda. She actually continued to work as a stripper for six months after the film was completed to be sure of her decision to quit. She finally realized that she had been lying to herself. Linda started to hate her work and to lose her sense of humor about it. She actually became physically ill from it.

As portrayed in the film, Linda originally began to question her work after going to a Women Against Pornography march. She was already asking questions when we met her. From Linda, I have learned what the inside of the pornography industry is like. Originally, Linda thought of her work as a celebration of sexuality but she gradually came to see it as actually based on hate and fear of women.

D1CAPRIO: Another criticism of NOT A LOVE STORY is that it focuses too narrowly on pornography and does not adequately deal with the objectification of women in advertising.

KLEIN: There already is some general consciousness about the sexism in ads. The connection between the exploitation of women in pornography and in advertising is invariably made by those who see the film. What we wanted to show in the film is that violent pornography is no longer a small fringe, but is now the bulk of the market. The harder images have taken over and this is terribly frightening. We felt compelled to portray this reality.

DiCAPRIO: How do you define pornography?

KLEIN: The best definition of pornography is provided by the Greek root of the word, which is "portrayal of female sexual servants." This is in marked contrast to the root of eroticism or eros — sexual love."