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Down wit porn, what?
August 15, 2004 4:52 PM   Subscribe

When did Porn become mainstream? John Walsh asks the question in the Independant. The question might seem silly save for this. People in Buffulo asked to pose niked in public? Why not, American athletes do it, Spike Lee endorses it, and even Matt Damon wants to screw in front of you. Bosnian men don't seem to share Matt's fervor for the camera, but everyone is talking sex, even those icky old folks who frequent online football magazines. Why not have your tittilation in-your-face! Does the line between erotica and pornography even exist any more? many of the links via World Sex News.
posted by Wulfgar! (45 comments total)

 
I, for one, welcome our pornographer overlords.
(c'mon, someone was gonna say it.)
posted by keswick at 5:06 PM on August 15, 2004


i blame the internet.

seriously.
posted by joedan at 5:07 PM on August 15, 2004


Since when does nudity == pornography? Posing naked in public is not the same as public orgies. Porn is still an under-the-bed/hidden-folder-on-computer substance. If porn was mainstream, I could take out a mag at work and kill a kitten during my lunch break. In the break room. Since I can't, it ain't mainstream.
posted by graventy at 5:13 PM on August 15, 2004


Matt Damon can screw inside me if he wishes. Camera, schmamera.
posted by digaman at 5:28 PM on August 15, 2004


I don't think Al Goldstein'd be doing so badly if porn was mainstream.
posted by amberglow at 5:32 PM on August 15, 2004


According to a show I saw on VH1 the other day, porn became mainstream in the '70s with the popularity of "Deep Throat." And if it's on VH1, you know it's true.
posted by spilon at 5:33 PM on August 15, 2004


I'd hardly call Spencer Tunick's work pornographic.
posted by obloquy at 5:34 PM on August 15, 2004


All the shopping choices in the Harmony and Hustler world, all the technical wizardry of penile splints and vaginal eggs, the chamois whips and ormolu shag-divans, will not advance by a millimetre our ability to love or understand or even enjoy each other. Sex should be about more than retail decisions. Our sexual nature is more complex and delicate than wallpaper or kitchen utensils.

Yes.
posted by weston at 5:34 PM on August 15, 2004


... from my cold, dead ... what?
posted by wobh at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2004


i wonder if that old stuffed bison is still in the terminal. last time i saw it, was on my way to fort dix, circa 1966. it was a lovely space.
posted by billybobtoo at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2004


I think the question is: when did pornography fall out of the mainstream? I mean, the Romans had huge dinner party orgies all the time.
posted by thebabelfish at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2004


If images of nudity equals porn, I'd say it became mainstream back around the time the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted.
posted by Orb at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2004


Actually, the answer to this question is known. The Internet originated at 00:00 hours January 1, 1983, when the ARPANET officially switched from the NCP protocol to TCP/IP. The first boobies site appeared twenty minutes later. (It was an automated mail server for dirty ASCII graphics.)
posted by jfuller at 6:03 PM on August 15, 2004


A little over a month ago Spencer Tunick was here in Cleveland and I posed along with 2753 other people. It broke the North American record for participants. [i think the world record is in Australia with ~8k folks]

What was more notable, at least according to Mr. Tunick, was that this event was officially approved by the City of Cleveland. Apparently he is often arrested when he tries to do these things in other cities in the US.

Which leads me to think that 'mainstream pr0n' idea might be specific to a rather prudish USA. I'm gonna go think about this some more and root through those links some more as well. Thanks for the brainchow Wulfgar!!
posted by sciurus at 6:10 PM on August 15, 2004


The religious right isn't going to like this :)
posted by Hackworth at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2004


Frontline's well made American Porn documentary for PBS (available in Quicktime and RealPlayer), which was posted to Metafilter previously.
posted by ALongDecember at 6:19 PM on August 15, 2004


I also blame the internet. Seriously.
posted by dobbs at 6:30 PM on August 15, 2004


There is absolutely nothing pornographic about what Spencer Tunick does. (Although I can't quite fathom why he isn't bored with this particular idea yet.)
posted by jjg at 6:50 PM on August 15, 2004


I think it's only a matter of time until porn hits mainstream theatres. My guess is that it will happen while Matt Damon is still good looking enough to co-star.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:05 PM on August 15, 2004


How much more mainstream theaters than Brown Bunny, The (2003)

Chloe Sevingy' claimed in interviews that the fellatio scene was not simulated
posted by filmgeek at 7:45 PM on August 15, 2004


A question that should be asked about porn, and actually has some complex answers, is "what is the purpose of porn?"

The immediate answer is something like "stimulation and titillation". And yet, if you (ahem) look at a lot of porn, think about how much of it you have to look at to be stimulated. (It has been noted that slow loading computer pictures stimulate *more* than quick loading ones.) And, while you're at it, why is one *particular* image more stimulating than another?

titillation is different. You are not wanting to get sexually excited as much as looking into some peculiar or exotic novelty. Titillation overlaps pornography with other subjects that also titillate, some decidedly un-pornographic.

But you can take porn further, even as a means of psychological self-examination. What is it in your head that, for example, makes you think that anthropomorphic animals are sexy? Or people who are disabled? Or just looking at feet? Can porn be a form of psychoanalysis?

And, just as important, what is your psychology of revulsion? What type of porn is unacceptable to you, and do you have reasons why? This can also be very revealing.

But so far, this is just about you. When you have a sexual partner, you double the introspection involved, plus you have to communicate with each other your insights, opinions, likes and dislikes. Porn as icebreaker?

Porn as educator: "This is what it looks like." "This is what it looks like when people who are more attractive than us do it."

Porn shouldn't be dismissed under a single label.
posted by kablam at 8:21 PM on August 15, 2004


I vote for the rise in home VCRs in the early 80's.

Porn used to require a visit to an adult theater that showed cinema style porn. You could, um, enjoy yourself, but were in the same room with others doing the same. As you were not alone, people didn't want to take the chance of being seen by someone they knew, like their minister, boss, neighbor.

As VCRs became available, you could bring the pornograhpy home, thereby removing part of the stigma. As people saw porn for the first time, it became more and more accepted.

I remember seeing, but not where, a documentary on how porn has always been an early adopter of technology for the masses. VCR's, DVDs, and the internet were new mediums for entertainment and one of the first entertainment options was porn.
posted by karmaville at 8:36 PM on August 15, 2004


How much more mainstream theaters than Brown Bunny, The (2003)

Intimacy did it earlier.
posted by John Shaft at 9:47 PM on August 15, 2004


"How much more mainstream theaters than Brown Bunny, The (2003)

Intimacy did it earlier."

The Tin Drum did it even earlier.
posted by arse_hat at 10:11 PM on August 15, 2004


I would agree that cheap video players contributed to the mainstreaming of porn but I would add the introduction of portable, lower cost, color video cameras in the late seventies and early eighties had a huge impact. In many locals (like Ontario, Canada) you could not buy porn legally but hey you could make your own!
posted by arse_hat at 10:20 PM on August 15, 2004


Brown Bunny? Intimacy? The Tin Drum?

Sorry, Last Tango in Paris plays the trump card here. Regardless of individual opinion, it opened a few eyes in the mainstream of cinema. Another pic of note would be Pretty Baby. Pedophilia for the masses?
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:02 PM on August 15, 2004


The best TV show about porn, in my opinion, is Family Business (or Porn: A Family Business, here in the UK). You get to see a reasonably normal guy who just happens to be a porn star/producer, and his family who help him run the business.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has done a lot to make middle America open up (just a little) to homosexuality, and perhaps programs like Family Business will do the same for the porn industry. I personally don't really 'get' porn videos (but perhaps I haven't seen the right ones) but from watching that show and seeing his fans, it seems porn videos have helped a lot of couples! This can't be a bad thing..
posted by wackybrit at 11:28 PM on August 15, 2004


Wulfgar! and arsehat, those films only simulated sex, so I don't think you could actually call them "porn". (Actually, don't quote me on Tin Drum as I haven't seen it in years, but I think I'm right.)

Intimacy and Brown Bunny were "mainstream" movies (meaning they were distributed by "legit" distros and played in regular theatres and had adverts in NYT and other mainstream publications) featuring actors actually having sex.
posted by dobbs at 12:18 AM on August 16, 2004


Family Business is just one long ad for the company that makes the porn. Utterly staged.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:14 AM on August 16, 2004


According to IMDb [the wise and infallible] Deep Throat "moved pornography from the underground into the mainstream, a position the genre has enjoyed for 30 years." I think I remember hearing that it was one of the top ten grossing films in 1972.
posted by sciurus at 3:16 AM on August 16, 2004


I'm not even sure what porn is. I think there's JesusPorn on television all the time... and it's bad. It's so bad you can't turn on the TV sunday morning.

But if naked people isn't inherently porn, is people having sex porn? What if they're faking it?
posted by ewkpates at 6:49 AM on August 16, 2004


Dobbs. The Tin Drum was controversal because it featured actual oral sex not simulated. Add to that the male partner was a child and you have a movie that probably would not even be distributed in North America these days.
posted by arse_hat at 7:02 AM on August 16, 2004


What about Ai No Corrida (AKA In the Realm of the Senses) in 1976? That was before Intimacy (2001) and Romance (1999). Romance also features Rocco Siffredi who may be well known to some of you as a star of porn. Showing "real" sex in the cinema is no longer the barrier it once was...
posted by longbaugh at 7:28 AM on August 16, 2004


(It was an automated mail server for dirty ASCII graphics.)

Is this true jfuller? Source? I'd love to add this factoid to my tagline file but this predates my network access by a bit and I don't have first hand knowledge.
posted by Mitheral at 9:27 AM on August 16, 2004


Does the line between erotica and pornography even exist any more?

did it ever? the only difference i see is price. erotica is just a term rich people came up with to justify their porn addictions. sure, one has a much higher production value, and can often be considered "art," but both fail if they don't make dicks hard and/or pussies wet.

i'd be curious if anyone believes in a distinction.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on August 16, 2004


Pola X I believe also had real sex, with Gerard Depardieu's son. I doubt many people saw it, though.
posted by kenko at 11:35 AM on August 16, 2004


Original Sin 2001 had all sorts of unsimulated sex between Angelina Jolie and Antonio Bandaras as well. And as a bonus has the best acting by a guy falling down drunk I've ever seen.
posted by Mitheral at 12:58 PM on August 16, 2004


Porn vs The Erotic. And the question repeats.
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:03 PM on August 16, 2004


Dobbs. The Tin Drum was controversal because it featured actual oral sex not simulated.

arsehat, sorry this post is so late but do you have any links to back up your statement? I mean, I haven't seen the film in years but I don't recall seeing actual sex on the screen.

I just did a search and found this:

"Video Dealers Sue Oklahoma Police
The Video Software Dealers Assn. (VSDA) Wednesday filed a federal class-action suit against the Oklahoma Police Dept., which last month raided six video stores, seizing copies of the Oscar-winning movie, Blechtrommel, Die (1979), which a judge had declared to be obscene. The film, based on the Gunter Grass novel, includes a scene suggesting that a boy of about 7 has oral sex with a teen-age girl. Oklahoma law bars depiction of a person under 18 engaging in a sex act. "

Emphasis mine. There's no way the VSDA would have sued anyone if there was actual child sex in the film as they wouldn't stand a chance of winning and would look like supporters of paedophila.

In addition, this film was rather controversial where I live (Ontario, Canada) because the OFRB (ontrio film review board) banned it when it came out. However, the reasons for the ban had nothing to do with "real sex"--in fact, I'm pretty positive that if there was real sex in it, the ban would not have been so widely condemned.

In addition, an essay in the recently released Criterion DVD makes no mention whatsoever of what you're saying and I find that rather suspect as, having read many of their essays, they always include comment on things as controversial as that.
posted by dobbs at 2:11 AM on August 17, 2004


Family Business is just one long ad for the company that makes the porn. Utterly staged.

But certainly less so than the still entertaining American Chopper! Besides, if it's an ad, it's not working on me. I'd rather watch their show than their porn.
posted by wackybrit at 2:23 AM on August 17, 2004


Dobbs. Yeah I too can't find any in depth talk about the controversy even though at the time Macleans magazine and the Toronto Star were full of it. As I remember it (and I could be wrong as I often am) the censor board in Ontario was against a scene with explicit oral sex. The child actor David Bennent was not actually used for the brief scene (a stunt dick if you will). However even the removal of the scene did not satisfy the board as just the depiction of pedophilia was too much for the good folks of Ontario no matter what the context. The movie was cut several different ways for several markets. Do you know if the Criterion release is the original directors cut?
posted by arse_hat at 4:52 PM on August 17, 2004


Dobbs. PS. I always liked Atom Egoyan's take on the Ontario censors in The Adjuster
posted by arse_hat at 4:56 PM on August 17, 2004


If you're killing kittens while viewing it, it's porn.

If you're sipping wine and nibbling cheese while viewing it, it's erotica. If you subsequently go home and kill kittens, it's really good erotica.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:35 PM on August 17, 2004


arse_hat, we have different memories of the controversy. To my recollection, the OFRB was vilified because they objected to a scene in which the boy witnesses a couple having sex (he's watching through a doorway). In fact, the fact that the Board objected to it made them laughing stocks because there was an obvious cut in the scene and Schlondorf said they were ignorant of how films were made. Indeed, the boy never "saw" the sex taking place and the scenes were done weeks apart with the boy not even being on set the day of the shot in question.

I don't know why I remember this so vividly. I believe it was used in a documentary on censorship that I saw at film school, something I would have seen much more recently (early 90s) than the film itself.

The Criterion edition is indeed the Director's Cut and it features a commentary as well. To my knowledge, all Crit discs are director- (or estate- if the director is dead) approved cuts.

p.s. I can't stand Egoyan so you can have him. :)
posted by dobbs at 9:39 AM on August 18, 2004


Dobbs. I find it interesting that while I can find no end of links mentioning the Ontario controversy I can’t find anything that goes into detail. Just a reminder that while the web has a whole lot of stuff on it, as a resource it does not come close to a well run library.
posted by arse_hat at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2004


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