The title, Rate It X suggests two equally tedious possibilities: a predictable diatribe against pornography or a discretely titillating peep at the world of sex for sale. But Rate It X is a film that offers a refreshingly candid, surprisingly witty look at the attitudes that allow pornography to thrive. Like smoking, drug abuse, and drunk driving, pornography is a tolerated vice that depends on broad, if undeclared, popular support. While a majority of men might not come right out and admit to consuming pornography, the fact remains that it is a multi-billion dollar per year industry.

Directors Paula de Koenigsberg and Lucy Winer have compiled a remarkable selection of interviews that put pornography—and the attitudes that nurture it—into a larger perspective. The filmmakers remain off camera while their questions, always polite, direct, and insistent, provoke discomfort and awkward mutterings from their subjects.

They begin with “average guy” types: a baker who specializes in three-dimensional “bikini cakes,” and an ad executive who explains that the voluptuous model whose ample cleavage all but overshadows what is being sold is consistent with a “quality product.”

But the film’s technique is most effective in interviews with the men who directly control pornography. A thirtyish manager glibly conducts a cook’s tour of his three-story sex emporium, giggling at Nazi paraphernalia while he demonstrates a life-size, anatomically correct female doll. “How do you blow her up?” asks the narrator. “Do you use your lips or a bicycle pump?” The manager is momentarily at a loss for words, as deflated as his sex-surrogate doll.

Even more illuminating are ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.