IN-PRESS

 
 

Early 1980s Gay Pornography

 
Early gay male pornographic films have a distinctly 'underground' flavour but some managed to capture the frenzied passion that drives such erotic encounters where the people really want to have sex with each other. In the early 1980s the amateurism of the early films was replaced by the professionalism (and money making power) of such directors as Steve Scott, Matt Sterling, John Travis and William Higgins who still managed to capture this sexual frenzy. Gone are the really youthful body types of the earlier magazines and films - smooth, white, older muscular bodies now dominate. William Higgins is one of my favourite directors for his unique shooting style. He makes use of oblique angles, incredible distorted close-ups of blood engorged penises ('Sailor in the Wild', 1981), slow motion repeats of cum shots from many angles, and jump cuts from one carnal scene to another without a break ('Class Reunion', 1982). This surreal celluloid confusion adds to the mystery and excitement of the scenes and the participants really seem to enjoy their sex; they wince as the cock goes up their arse & there is a certain 'reality' about the whole sex thing.

Even in these early 1980s films the star has numerous sexual partners and fucks his way through the whole video having multiple ejaculations within the space of a few minutes running time. Multiple orgasms by the stars of pornographic videos help reinforce compulsive sexual behaviour that is learnt by gay men to be a societal performance 'norm'. Withdrawing before cumming enabled the director to capture the 'money shot' (ejaculation) for the viewer; gay male sex on video became not a passionate intimate union between two men but a performance, a display of shooting skills (both physical and pictorial) which presents the body to best advantage. Later in his career William Higgins also pioneered the shaved arsehole which epitomises the pumped up, perfectly groomed young white male available for plumbing lessons.

 

Anonymous.
"Untitled."
Cover image from 'The Devil and Danny Webster'.
Pornography video.
n.d.
Champions Video of Australia catalogue. Issue 31.
1997

 

 

"Unable to compete with the 'sun-bronzed gym gods',
Danny spends his nights alone watching old movies -
hoping for a miracle ... "

Anon. "Untitled." nd.

 

Gay men wanted to be seen as virile 'real' men in reaction to the stereotype of the effeminate pansy. This emphasis on the possession and display of a muscular body became even more prevalent in pornography with the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. Driven by the fear of disease and the anxiety, insecurity & dis-ease of being thin and being seen as possibly infected gay men started going to the gym and 'pumping' up in ever increasing numbers.

A big, healthy, muscular body couldn't possibly be infected with the virus! Body hair was out as it was a sign of experience & maturity and therefore of disease according to Michelangelo Signorile. Healthiness was in. Gay men with thin bodies (such as those below) or bodies like that of Danny Webster (above), hoped for a miracle otherwise they would be left on the shelf, never having any sex. Either that or they went to the gym and capitulated to the emerging stereotype. There was apparently no hope if you didn't 'fit' the ideal. But this is not the real world, this is a fantasy! Many gay men gave in to this fantasy becoming 'simulations', carbon copies if you like, of their porn star heroes.

 

 

Anonymous.
"Untitled."
n.d.
'Take It All!' Vol.1. No.1.
n.d.

 

Right: Rare image of thin
bodies in gay male pornography.
This image shows the traditional
body type of the 'ephebe' in an early
c. 1980s gay pornography magazine.
This kind of body type is rarely seen
in contemporary gay pornography
unless in specialist videos or mags
aimed at the 'twink' market.

Anon. "Untitled." nd.

Other gay men have carried on as they have always done; living their lives as positively as they can; incorporating their sexuality as part of their identity; coping with feelings of inadequacy that such bodily facades can generate. Perhaps if these bodies were seen as 'unnatural' gay men would get over some of their attraction towards them. Perhaps if they accepted them as an artifice, a deception; that the material (steroid abuse and possible HIV virus contraction to name two) and psychological (high/low self-esteem leading to depression and anxiety) cost of their production is hidden behind the rose coloured lens of the camera or the surface of the body, then their erotic power would be lessened. I suggest that gay men do realise that these images are fantasies but still strive to attain the fantasy in themselves and in the bodies of their partners.