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Porn: From Andy Warhol To XTube

by Michael  Cox
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Wednesday Jul 3, 2013
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"Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand."

This quote from Woody Allen is emblazoned on the cover of "Porn: From Andy Warhol to XTube" by Kevin Clarke.

One of the little tidbits of information this book offers is that in the early 1970s sexual documentaries were a widely used "for pushing the permissible limits of nudity and sexual explicitness on screen because they could be considered ’educational’ and ’scientific’." In a way, that’s what this book does: it takes the prurient and makes it classy by putting it in an informational package. But the book is primarily a very small amount of information and a whole lot of pictures of hot, hard men.

The real problem with this book is its scope is far too broad. With text in both English and German, it suggests that quite a number of things can be classified as gay porn (even the early photographic studies of naked men walking up staircases and playing cricket by Eadweard Muybridge). And if commercial success authenticates a product, the book quotes Frank Rich of the New York Times, "At $10 billion, porn is no longer a sideshow to the mainstream like, say, the $600 million Broadway theatre industry-it is the mainstream."

The chapters this book uses to structure its historical narrative are Porn as Pop Art (mid 20th Century), The Golden Age of Promiscuity (the 1970s), Boom Years: Porn as Safe Sex (the 1980s and 90s) and Grab Your Dick and Double Click (the current porn on the internet).

"Pornography as a ’body genre’... like the horror film and the melodrama... strives to move the spectator-whether to tears, terror, sexual arousal or some mixture of all three."

Aside from providing a haute jack-off experience (satisfying without leaving you with that disgusting, bloated feeling) this book brings up some interesting ideas, mostly in its (all too brief) interviews.

Franklin Melendez, author of the essay "Porn Studies" observes "pornography as a ’body genre’... like the horror film and the melodrama... strives to move the spectator-whether to tears, terror, sexual arousal or some mixture of all three."

JC Adams, Editor of "Gay Porn Times" feels that gay porn (particularly Falcon Studios) led to the mainstream ideal of the metrosexual man.

Or there’s this theory, that the gay-for-pay porn actor (namely Jeff Stryker) "suggests that being straight means being risk free in terms of HIV and thus the ultimate safe object of desire for homosexuals."

Clarke is not afraid to discuss real issues like AIDS and drug abuse among porn models. In fact, there’s a poignant moment when still photographer Fred Bisonnes says, "perhaps [we] have some sense of ’survivor guilt’ that... [we] are still on the planet, while the vital young men [we] sexually exploited are long gone."

If you have absolutely no knowledge of gay porn, other than the two or three websites you look at online, then this account may have some value as a history. Otherwise it is a very nice coffee table book with a few interesting kernels of porn theory scattered throughout.

by Kevin Clarke

Porn: From Andy Warhol To XTube
Kevin Clarke
www.brunogmuender.de/

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