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Acquired Tastes, Chapter XVI: Vintage 70’s Porn

What is the allure of vintage porn? How and why does one come to appreciate it? Personally, I find even vintage ‘Playboy’ magazines titillating – probably stemming from the number of times I ‘accidently’ came upon them while searching through the dresser drawers, under the mattresses, and in the back of the closets of any home I was hired to babysit at (don’t worry the kids were already asleep). On one occasion, I found a stack of them in a large, open wicker basket in the living room. There they lay for all the world to see, sitting aside copies of ‘McCalls’ and ‘Time Magazine’. In particular I remember a pictorial depicting the making of ‘Deep Throat II’, featuring lots of pictures of a very furry, mustache sporting porn star. I also remember an article on the making of a Kris Kristofferson film – ‘The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea’. Vera Miles did very little for me, but, oh, Mr. Kristofferson! That one had me unzipping.

In college I hummed the theme from ‘Mission Impossible’ as I snuck into the janitor’s lair in order to steal a set of scaffolding I needed to hang some lights for a theatre production. I also happened on their stack of Playboys, so I took those as well. A picture of Raquel Welch pegging a blonde stud in the movie ‘Myra Breckinridge’ got a lot of attention from yours truly. After a point those pages were so glued together they were inseparable. As are my many memories of:

Vintage Porn

Scope of Activity:

The collecting of, seeking out of, viewing and appreciation of, pornographic images and films from the golden age of porn – in my case, the 1970’s.

The Official Line:

Is there one? I mean to each their own, but because my initial exposure to pornography took place during the ‘70’s that is how I define the term ‘vintage’ (God, I’m old!). Though, in fact, porn has been around in the form of images since man first began drawing on cave walls. It also comes in many forms – many of which only received widespread recognition with the birth and success of the internet. That said, for the purposes of this entry I’ll be focusing on vintage gay porn.

There is something iconic about the images associated with that post-Stonewall time period. With the rising profile of gay folks as a force to be reckoned with, these images came out of the backrooms of dirty bookstores and found a place in the mainstream of gay life. This particular era of porn would come to end once the AIDS crisis came into sharp focus, robbing us of many of the era’s great porn stars. The crisis would also result in a ‘cleaner’ type of gay porn – featuring sterile backgrounds, little backstory, ample lighting, bodies sans pubic and body hair, and, as mandated, the use of condoms.

During its heyday, boundaries were pushed and explored. The greats of the era – Joe Gage, Al Parker, Jon King, Jack Wrangler, Kip Noll, Bob Noll, Lee Ryder, Peter Berlin, Michael Christopher, Gino Canali, Michael Braun, Clay Russell, and countless others, whose faces graced these films and magazines, but whose names I do not know – created or were part of works that helped define it – capturing the essence of a time of excess debauchery and unbridled celebration. A community kept down for so long could not help but move to the farthest reaches of the opposite end of the decorum spectrum, all underscored by the insistent thump of a disco beat. Outrageous? Of course! For, as a community, they were outraged by the injustice that had kept them in the shadows and on the edges of society for so long. The time had come for balls-to-the-walls honesty. Make us hide and live in fear? Then is it any wonder that when the opportunity finally presents itself that we’re going to shove it right down your prudish throats!

Pornography as a form of political expression! Who knew?

With information from Wikipedia:

Homoeroticism has been present in photography and film since their invention. During much of that time, any kind of sexual depiction had to remain underground because of obscenity laws. In particular, gay material might constitute evidence of an illegal act under sodomy laws in many jurisdictions. This is no longer the case in the United States since such laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.

However, hardcore pornographic motion pictures ("stag films," as they were called prior to their legalization in 1970) were produced relatively early in the history of film. Most historians consider the first American stag film to be ‘A Free Ride’, produced and released in 1915. But in the United States, hardcore gay sexual intercourse did not make it onto film until 1929's ‘The Surprise of a Knight’.

‘The Surprise of a Knight’ ushered in a brief period of homosexual hardcore pornography in the stag film era. About a year later, in ‘A Stiff Game’, an African American male would engage in fellatio on a Caucasian man without the need for drag. The appearance of gay sexual contact on film would soon end, however, and not reappear until the advent of legal gay hardcore pornography after 1970.

During the 1960s, a series of United States Supreme Court rulings created a more liberalized legal environment that allowed the commercialization of pornography. MANual Enterprises v. Day, 370 U.S. 478 (1962) was the first decision by the United States Supreme Court which held that magazines consisting largely of photographs of nude or near-nude male models are not obscene within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1461. It was the first case in which the Court engaged in plenary review of a Post Office Department order holding obscene matter "nonmailable." The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened up the U.S. Postal Service to nude male pornographic magazines, especially those catering to gay men.

Wakefield Poole's ‘Boys in the Sand’, starring Casey Donovan, can be considered one of the first gay pornography feature films, along with the works of filmmakers such as Pat Rocco and the Park Theatre, Los Angeles, California, circa 1970. ‘Boys in the Sand’ opened in a theater in New York City in December 1971 and played to a packed house with record breaking box office receipts, preceding ‘Deep Throat’, the first commercial straight pornography film in America, which opened in June 1972. This success launched gay pornographic film as a popular phenomenon.

The production of gay pornography films expanded during the 1970s. A few studios released films for the growing number of gay adult movie theatres, where men could also have sexual encounters. Often, the films reflected the sexual liberation that gay men were experiencing at the time, depicting the numerous public spaces where men engaged in sex: bathhouses, sex clubs, beaches, etc.

Peter Berlin's 1973 film ‘Nights in Black Leather’ was the first major pornographic film designed to appeal to the gay leather subculture and drew some mainstream gays into this culture.

The 1960s and 1970s also saw the rise of gay publishing with ‘After Dark’ and ‘Michael's Thing’. During this time many more magazines were founded, including ‘In Touch’ and ‘Blueboy’. ‘Playgirl’, ostensibly produced for women, was purchased and enjoyed by gay men and featured full frontal nudity.

Psychological Aspects:

Porn is as addicting as sugar, caffeine, or nicotine. Many a future sex addict has gotten hooked thanks to its allure and promise of pleasures yet experienced. We invest these images with our own sensory memories – fueled by our desires, fleshing out the story of the picture, coloring it with personal meaning. Therein lies the appeal of vintage porn. Like a good lover, we seek out these same images hoping to replicate the feelings aroused during that first experience, that first contact. That’s why these images remain so powerful to us, for they represent those first moments of our sexual awakening.

My Experience:

The first pornography I ever saw was a black and white newspaper that my father had in his dresser drawer. I came across it while searching for ‘candy. The images depicted were crude and heterosexual in nature. The primary purpose of the newspaper seemed to be connecting swingers – a concept I wasn’t even remotely familiar with. Still, I enjoyed the images. I knew they were naughty and forbidden. I also knew that if I got caught looking at that newspaper my ass would be in the confessional in no time and I would be saying ‘Hail Mary’s’ until the cows came home.

My next major exposure came in the form of a small stack of magazines in the back of one of my older cousins closets. We were visiting from out of town. This was the same trip where a female cousin of mine introduced me to the music of Bette Midler and her first album. I couldn’t have possibly made the connection at the time, but now it seems sort of ironic that my first exposure to The First Lady of the Baths and gay porn took place at the same time. Yes – gay porn. I remember just being in awe and having no idea why my cousin – who seemed at that time to be significantly older than me – would be in possession of this kind of smut. Needless to say, it titillated me to no end and I took advantage of every opportunity to steal back into that closet for another look, for my eyes could simply not contain it all. Creepily, I also recall full page advertisements for man/boy sex magazines in one of these mags. But being just a youngster myself, I merely found the idea odd, not repugnant. My cousin, much later in life, had two children (one out of wedlock) and is married to this day. I know he has no idea what I know and I have no desire to ever bring the subject up. To each their own.

During my first year of college, I helped the first guy I ever fucked move out of his tiny off-campus house. He was on his way to California, so he was throwing everything away, including a sizable porn collection. I tried to set some it aside, but he would not let me have the stuff, preferring instead that it be thrown away. I thought that was weird, but porn still carried with it a stench of shame – and gay porn? That shame was magnified to the nth degree.

Once I moved to the cities, I discovered one of Ferris Alexander’s porn palaces. I would sneak into the bookstore portion on occasion and buy a ton of porn in one fell swoop. I did this to avoid the need to have actual sexual contact with anyone and keep my visits to this particular establishment to a minimum. In the attic of the house I lived in I would revel in the powerful images that I would spread across the floor before my naked self. And with over-stimulated hard-on in hand, I would proceed to bless and shower those images with my abundant seed. Each mag would then receive a good wipe down, for I was well acquainted with the adhesive powers of cum by this time. Then they were stacked and hidden, until such point that they became so numerous that hiding them was no longer an option. On those occasions, I would place them in grocery bags, steal down the back stairs to the alley and find the empty garbage can of a complete stranger to dump them in – so great was my need to distance myself from their potent imagery.

This ritual would be repeated over and over again in my life, until such time as I came to terms with my sexuality and informed others about it.  Now, I have a whole cabinet full of vintage pornos that I tracked down on the internet.  I'd buy more, but realized I liked the idea of owning them much more than actually taking the time to watch all of them.  Sometimes I put them on when I invite a trick over and they play in the background.  They've gotten me through a coulple of really boring fucks. But back to those magazines of yore...

You can’t imagine (or perhaps you can) the joy I feel when coming upon an image from one of those magazines. It’s like seeing the photo of an old friend – one whose dick you’ve seen hard as a rock. I collect them on a USB flash drive I drag around with me. No, I don’t jerk off to them anymore. But there is a part of me that yearns to.

What is it I like about this particular period that causes my heart (and dick) to soar heavenward?

I love all the backstory that the editors and filmmakers invested their works with. I love the younger brother who sneaks into the closet in order to watch his older, much hotter, brother jerk off after school. I love it when that older brother catches him watching and then fucks the interloper silly. I love the baseball jock with the big nut sack and the space in his teeth, showing off his nicely curved cock in the locker room. Looking at the photo, I can almost feel the texture of the ribbing of his beautiful jock strap. The fate of the stupid blonde bubble-butted man who comes in to try on swim suits, not knowing that the curly-haired clerk has other things in mind. The heady nights on the road in a big rig truck. The allure of an abandoned house in the middle of the desert. So many stories, so many men, so much dirty, dirty sex.

I love the hair – the horrible, granola, 70’s hair, the mustaches, the beards, the chest, back, and ass hair! And the pubes! Big mountains of curly seduction! In the day you could kill two birds with one stone – give a blow job and floss your teeth at the same time. Beneath all this hair, were less-than-perfect bodies, some of which never saw the inside of a gym – with all that fucking going on, who had time? I guess this is at the core of my appreciation for real men; men with physical flaws, men without body trimmers.

The rawness, the crudeness. The bad lighting, the poor editing, the corny backdrops and sets. The stilted dialogue, the naked earnestness of it all.

And – ultimately - I loved the ‘me’ from this time – the stupid, naïve future perv, who desperately needed to believe that one day he would be worthy of men like those showing off their wares in all those magazines and films. That freak of nature who had no clue, no fashion sense, and no sense of how the real world worked, or the times he was living in.  I wasted my sexual prime and have been desperately trying to make up for it ever since!

For there lies the real power of these images; they connect our present selves with our former selves. They remind us of the power of youth and first impressions. They bring us home to our most basic, primal selves once again.

My Conclusion:

Everyone’s definition of vintage is dependent upon when they grew up. I think first exposure is what marks that time for each us – the moment when those images are seared onto our brain, igniting our loins and desires. The gay porn industry has gone through so many periods and I truly believe each is a reflection of the bigger picture of what was driving our society – straight and gay – at the time. The golden era of ‘70’s porn can never be recreated. For we as a group of men will never experience the feelings that came to light during the post-Stonewall era. That first flush of freedom was heady. Apparently, it went straight to our dicks and our dicks went straight into someone’s hole – pubes and all.

There are several other blogs that cover this material in much greater detail and offer plenty of pictures. I would encourage you to pay a visit and even subscribe to them, as I think they are doing a great job of capturing this particular and peculiar part of gay history.

Vintage Gay Media History

Vintage Gay Men

Next Acquired Taste: Rimming

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