Dr Clarissa Smith

Example of expert witness evidence by Dr Clarissa Smith at an extreme images trial in 2011. Unless a paragraph is prefaced by another identified person, all the points made are hers.

The CPS insisted all copies of the images be destroyed at the end of this trial, so it is not possible to depict them here. However that does not matter for the purpose of demonstrating the kind of points that need to be addressed when assesing an image.

The defence counsel started by asking a series of questions which flagged Dr Smith’s expertise to the jury, eg you have a Doctorate and are a senior lecturer at the Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland. Many years an academic, with special expertise in pornography.

The predominantly female Jury were smiling during this introduction, possibly having got used to the idea that there were sensible female academics specialising in sex, from Professor Feona Attwood’s evidence immediately before. Then

I agree this material is pornography. It is a niche. Necro porn. Is also termed Damsel in Distress, or Attack Fetish.

You need to know where to find it.

It is credited to Drop Dead Gorgeous. This is a small organisation. The director and producer is probably Lissa Noble, a model who specialises in femme fatale roles.

Lissa Noble is the Domme. She models, takes the pictures, and does the marketing. Fan sites credit her as a specialist, known for high glamour, camp, humour and irony.

Their fanbase says particular models are favoured. This model plays ‘dead’ in very particular ways. I think she is called Nikki Steele.

These images are thoroughly stylised, incredibly posed. There are various props and elements of the mise en scene designed to tell a story quickly.

The Domme is stereotypical. The lighting, the posing – none is natural. There is fierce burnout from the lighting on the bodies, which look plastic, posed. They are digital – why did they not use a DVcam ? The image is static. Why ? For the pleasure of the stylising.

Count 4 (naked in a bath) is obviously posed. You can see the face clearly, even under a plastic bag. It is not meant to be a documentary. Look how the bodies are posed – she is not really struggling, holding the hand of her attacker, not fending him off.

There are between 30 to 100 images in each set. They cost about 6 dollars a set.

They are not hardcore. There is no penetration, no overtly sexual acts. They are very tame.

These actually come as sets because the narrative matters. They don’t take stills from a film

Prosecution counsel cross examines. The ‘bath’ set. You say the narrative matters. But it creates an impression of death.

That argument can be made, but the fans are interested in the idea of helplessness, not death.

There is a real problem with the appearance of realism. Take the towel on the bath edge, that is clearly there for her comfort. Look at the hand against the face, that is not a stuggle. The lighting is fierce to expose the body, not death. But the narratives all end in death.

The expression of horror and surprise is important. Fans are not looking for realism. The horror is a camp style. There is no intention of seeing scenes of actual suffering.

The average western shows a greater threat to life. Even UK soaps are more realistic.

Look at Nikki Steele. She has a classic ‘dead body’ pose. And wide eyed horror.

The Judge queries: You are saying it is important to take the sets into account. To see this like a strip cartoon with actors. They have the same exaggerated elements like a cartoon.

Yes. That militates against their being realistic.

Belief is hard to sustain. There’s no energy, one stabbing.

The Judge: You are saying there are obvious clues to suggest this is not real.