While porn studies delve into history and theory books in order to legitimize its position within academia, scholars can often times lose track of the most essential voices that offer us an important perspective on the industry, those of the porn performers themselves! In this episode, I talk with gay porn performer Chris Harder. Harder’s journey through the industry is an interesting one mostly due to the fact that he comes from a theater background. He studied theater and queer theory while going to school in North Dakota, so his porn performances reflect a journey of a young man coming to the big city who documents his sexual awakening via his onscreen performances. However, theatrical ambitions were not stifled by his porn career. In this interview, we talk about his one-man show that he wrote and stars in titled: Porn to be a Star. The show is a hilarious romp where he plays various fictional characters that reflect on his journey growing up in the Dakota plains, moving to the big city, and discovering a new side of himself by performing in porn. Harder is also one of the world’s leading boylesque performers. He teaches classes teaching people how to perform for burlesque theater and has traveled the world performing his act. In this interview we talk about how his burlesque work is intertwined with is porn performance, how is sexual inspirations influence his work, and how the queer theory that he learned in school still influences his work to this day. Harder is one of the kindest and funniest personalities in the industry, and I think that comes across well in this interview.
More info about Harder’s tour dates can be found here
Zachary Sire is the editor of the essential gay porn blog Str8UpGayPorn. Str8UpGayPorn is the primary news and gossip site of the gay porn industry. If you’re a porn star and you’ve done something naughty, it’s likely to become a headline on the site sooner rather than later. Zachary started out as a features writer for magazines like Unzipped, Men and Freshmen before becoming a blogger for TheSword in 2010. It’s during his tenure at TheSword where he made a name for himself and became perhaps became the industry’s most notable personality who has never taken off his clothing in front of a camera! His humorous wit, coupled with is biting sarcasm, make his takedowns of hypocritical politicians, racist performers, and reckless studio bosses equally funny and informative. In 2013 he left TheSword to start his own blog about the industry, Str8UpGayPorn. Str8UpGayPorn’s layout intentionally mimics (and mocks) one of the internet’s most well-known sites, TheDrudgeReport. And just like Drudge, Str8UpGayPorn emphasizes how the gossip around gay pornography interacts with our wider pop-cultural world by providing links to news stories related to the pornographic focus of the site. By doing this, Zachary makes the intersection of porn and pop culture evident. In this interview we talk about his rise through the industry, he explains how one of his blog posts was taken down as a result of business pressure, the state of racial diversity within the industry, and we recap highlights from the first-ever Str8UpGayPorn Awards, which took place in June of 2017 in New York City.
Ashley West is the host of the most successful porn podcast of them all, The Rialto Report. The Rialto Report explores the history of the “golden age” of porn in the 1960s, 70s & 80s by interviewing the actors, directors, producers, and distributors from that era. The most remarkable aspect of the show is his amazing ability to find these long-lost people, some of whom haven’t spoken publicly in over 40 years! He gets them to not only talk about their time in the industry, but their childhood, their love life, their adventures and their passions outside of porn. In this way, Ashley paints a broad picture of these people’s lives and reveals their human complexity that shows them as typical people rather than as criminal or sadistic smut-peddlers that anti-porn activists make them out to be. In this interview we talk about his childhood growing up in Italy, and how sexploitation and pornographic movies were shown and written about in the same theaters and magazines as mainstream movies. We talk about his first porn crush, his interview style, why he keeps his identity a secret, and his work as a consultant on the HBO show The Duce. We also get into this concerns about the academic work being done on pornography and his worries that academia is being too insulated in terms of not making enough of an effort to get its work out to the public. Ashely has only done two interviews to celebrate The Rialto Report’s 5-year anniversary, so you’re not going to want to miss this rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes peek into how the podcast comes together.
Professor Rebecca Sullivan joins us to talk about her role as the chair of the steering committee for the Sexuality Studies Association of Canada, and her book on the infamous second-wave feminist anti-porn documentary Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1982). The film is directed by Bonnie Sherr Klein, a feminist filmmaker who was an important part of the National Film Board’s Studio D, a project focused on providing female directors the chance to make their own documentaries. The film is co-directed by stripper/activist Lindalee Tracey. And while the film seemed to have started out with the intention of being a progressive analysis of feminist sexual exploration, it eventually turned into the iconic anti-porn landmark that we know it as today. Over the last couple of decades, the film has been lambasted within porn studies circles due to its uncritical adoption of the views of anti-porn feminists like Susan Griffin and Robin Morgan. Interestingly, pornography/feminist scholar Rebecca Sullivan’s book: Bonnie Sherr Klein’s “Not a Love Story” (2014) is a reparative reading of the film that argues that in fact, the documentary’s importance is in offering a platform for sex workers to speak in their own voice throughout the film. While the film is best remembered for its anti-porn second half, Sullivan’s extensive interviews with Klein herself reveal an original intention to give voice and respect to the marginalized sex worker. And ultimately, Sullivan’s book is a cautionary tale of how a director’s intentions can radically change once the footage is turned over to an editor. This is a bold argument to make considering how much bad will the film has garnered over the years from sex-positive feminists. And in this interview, Professor Sullivan answers all the tough questions we ask regarding her alternative reading of the film. It’s a very enlightening conversation!
Professor David Church joins us to talk about his newest book Disposable Passions: Vintage Pornography and the Material Legacies of Adult Cinema (2016). His approach to pornography produced in the age when moving image technology was just emerging to the beginning of the “porno chic” era, is unique in the sense that he writes about how these older texts are consumed, admired, and fetishized within our contemporary mediascape. He does this by analyzing the affective resonance that these texts take on as they circulate via digital platforms today. This is a compelling way to think about porn’s history, and I think it could become a model for the way future historians go about formulating media histories as they are experienced today. In this interview, David talks to us about the role nostalgia plays in our erotic imagination, how our understanding of pornography changes when it transforms from being an object of erotic stimulation to a historical text, and explains cinephilia’s connection to necrophilia.
More information about Disposable Passions can be found here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/disposable-passions-9781501307539/
More of Professor Church’s writing can be found here: https://nau.academia.edu/DavidChurch
Some online sites where you can find vintage texts:
Preservationist and co-founder of the company Vinegar Syndrome Joe Rubin joins us to talk about his restorations of classic sex films. Vinegar Syndrome can be thought of as the “Criterion Collection for porn!” And the quality of their restorations have garnered compliments from their peers who say that their work is better than what has been done on Paramount’s Hitchcock restorations! Joe also has encyclopedic knowledge about of the Golden Age of porn. This is what lead the Quad Cinema in New York City to ask him to program a series of classic sex films for their Erotic City series in the summer of 2017, where films like Bacchanale (1970), Bijou (1972), Both Ways (1975), the documentaries Changes (1970) and Not a Love Story (1981), Double Agent 73 (1974), Naked Came the Stranger (1975), Not Just Another Woman (1973), The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1974) and Scoundrels (1982) were screened. This is a wide-ranging interview covering Joe’s fascination with porn at a very early age, how he got into restoration while still in his teens, and why his company’s restorations are better than those VHS copies that you all covet so dearly. Joe fills us in on a lot of behind the scenes stories about a lot of the films screened in the series. And Joe discusses what bothers him most about the way porn studies is practiced by academics.
you can find out more about the series here: https://quadcinema.com/program/erotic-city/
New York Times article about Vinegar Syndrome: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/movies/smut-refreshed-for-a-new-generation.html?_r=0
Playwright, educator, and activist Alan Bounville joins us on the podcast to talk about his immersive theater piece Adonis Memories. The show is based on the testimonials of patrons of the infamous gay porn mecca known as the Adonis Theater, located in New York’s Hells Kitchen Neighborhood. It was a gay porn theater at the 51st location from 1975 through 1989. The theater’s legend was cemented within pornographic history because of Jack Deveau’s 1978 film A Night at the Adonis. A film that was shot within the theater. In this interview Alan describes how he put the show together by weaving a multitude of narratives from people who experienced the theater in their own way. We talk about what this era within gay history, and the sexuality explored in this space, means for gay sexuality and civil rights today. And we use Samuel Delany’s 1999 book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue as a guide to help us think through some of these issues.
More info about the theater: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/4693
A New York Times’ article about the theater’s closing: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/12/nyregion/new-york-shuts-2-gay-theaters-as-aids-threats.html
A link to the In Our Words project: http://www.inourwords.org
An article from Alan about how the play came together: http://extendedplay.thecivilians.org/in-our-words-makes-gay-sex-happen-102616/
A New York Times’ article about how Adonis Memories fits within a growing number of plays addressing the gay sexuality of the past: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/theater/gay-histories-close-enough-to-touch-but-dont.html?_r=0
More information about Times Square Red, Times Square Blue: https://nyupress.org/books/9780814719206/
More info about Alan’s Into the Light walk: http://imfromdriftwood.com/alan_bounville/ https://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-j-hamilton/alan-bounville-into-the-light-walk_b_2639379.html
Professor Whitney Strub joins us to talk about his books: Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right (2010), Obscenity Rules: Roth v. United States and the Long Struggle over Sexual Expression (2013), and this co-edited anthology with Carolyn Bronstein titled, Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: American Sexual Representation in the 1970s (2016). We talk about his historical approach to porn studies, New-Right censorship strategies of the post-war era, the important obscenity trials that have formed the obscenity laws that we’re familiar with today, and we talk about how is new edited collection is fighting against our commonly held assumptions of the “Golden Age” of porn in the 1970s. And after the interview, we take you on an audio tour of New Jersey’s last porn theater, the Little Theater. Which opened in Newark in 1929, and has been showing pornography since the 1970s. You don’t want to miss it!
Here’s a link to Whitney’s personal website: https://strublog.wordpress.com/
A link to the 1965 short film Perversion for Profit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om4kMTw-R6o
Link to more info about Perversion for Profit: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/perversion-for-profit/9780231148863
Link to more info about Obscenity Rules: https://www.amazon.com/Obscenity-Rules-Struggle-Expression-Landmark/dp/0700619372
Link to the court’s oral argument of Roth v. U.S. on April 22, 1957: https://apps.oyez.org/player/#/warren6/oral_argument_audio/13231
Link to more info about Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: http://www.umass.edu/umpress/title/porno-chic-and-sex-wars
I want a president on the NYC High Line: http://art.thehighline.org/project/zoe-leonard/
Here’s a link to an article that Whitney wrote about the Little Theater: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/nnkwyg/the-little-theater-newark-porn
Here’s a link to a porn theater in L.A. that I mention during our audio tour: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/miranda/la-et-cam-los-angeles-last-adult-theaters-20170706-htmlstory.html
More information about the Queer Newark Oral History project can be found at: http://queer.newark.rutgers.edu
Professor Peter Alilunas joins us to talk about his first book: Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video (2016). He details the little-known history of adult cinema on video that actually started in the early 1970s! He describes this type of video technology's use in bars, screening rooms and hotels. And he goes into what it took to create this history from the ground up.
More information about the book: https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520291713
Here's a link to his website: https://www.peteralilunas.com/
Here's is a link to the map of NYC video bars that were open as early as 1971!: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1wPcD9xSCxzCfdTJu4nHG12j0W6o&usp=sharing
Here's a link to professor Alilunas' ongoing adult film history archive project: https://adultfilmhistoryproject.wordpress.com/