Golden Age of Porn

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The Golden Age of Porn or porno chic refers to a brief modern period in the history of pornography, approximately from the late-sixties to the early-to-mid-1980s. The period is idealized as a time in history where difficult to treat or untreatable STDs had not achieved wide public notice and birth control and abortion permitted sex for pleasure without worries about unwanted pregnancies. This freedom was ostensibly reflected in the pornography industry, with adult movies and magazines approaching the mainstream and becoming increasingly visible.

The golden age was also typified by interactions with the contemporaneous second wave of feminism. These were radical and cultural feminists allied with the religious right in attacking pornography, while other feminists were more concerned with ideas of sexual liberation and freedom from government intrusion into the growing industry.

Early Days

The origins of the Golden Age are typically associated with the massive widespread success of the movies Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones. These movies saw the blossoming of pornography in the mainstream consciousness, whereby drive-in theates would take out full page newspaper ads to promote the latest adult features.

Along with these classics, filmmaker Bob Chinn, along with the priapic porn star John Curtis Holmes {aka Johnny Wadd} and his manager Bill Amerson raised adult film to a new art form, with the release of Johnny Wadd in 1971 and the subsequent release of six other films in the Johnny Wadd series. The Wadd series saw true character development, recurring chraacters, plausible story lines, and 35mm cinematography brought to the adult screen. Thanks to these films, John Holmes became a household name, and a "brand" that guaranteed box office success.

The origins of the Golden Age are typically associated with the massive success of the movies Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, which were both released in 1972. These two were the first hardcore porn films to reach a mass mixed-sex audience, and both received positive reviews in mainstream media. Other key films from the period include Boys in the Sand, The Devil in Miss Jones, and Score, which appeared in mainstream moviehouses of the United States for the first time.

These movies saw the blossoming of pornography in the mainstream consciousness, whereby drive-in theatres would take out full page newspaper ads to promote the latest adult features. Porn films started being shown in mainstream public theaters, and thus were accepted as suitable for public consumption, or at least tolerated. Debbie Does Dallas (1978) is also regarded as one of the most important releases during the period.

Mainstream attention

For a period of two or three years it was fashionable to watch and discuss such films. An influential five-page article about the movie Deep Throat in the New York Times Magazine in early 1973 used the phrase "porno chic" in the title and described the phenomenon.

In an 1970s interview in the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Actress Linda Lovelace once stated at that time that she believed that the porn industry would merge with the mainstream film industry.

Porno chic actors

During the Golden Age of Porn, adult film stars such as Linda Lovelace, Marilyn Chambers, Annie Sprinkle, Lisa DeLeeuw, Harry Reems, John Leslie, Ron Jeremy and John C. Holmes, a.k.a. "Johnny Wadd," became household names and much sought-out superstars.

As their popularity rose, so did their control of their careers. John Holmes became the first recurring porn character in the wildly popular "Johnny Wadd" film series. Lisa DeLeeuw was one of the first to sign an exclusive contract with with a major adult production company Vivid Video and Marilyn Chambers worked in mainstream movies being one of the few cross over porn actors.

The dominant pornographic film studios of the age were VCA Pictures and Caballero Home Video.

Modern usage

More recently, "porno chic" or "porn chic" has been used to refer to the mainstreaming of pornography and the use of imagery from pornography in popular culture, such as advertising, music videos, movies and cable television.

Adult models and actresses are routinely interviewed on radio and appear on "The Howard Stern Show." As a result, such actresses, as well as a few actors such as Ron Jeremy, have received increased exposure. In the 1990s it became common for mainstream Hollywood actors to date adult video stars. In some cases, private videos subsequently made by them were discovered and later sold over the Internet.

Perhaps inspired by the aesthetic of the original "porno chic" films, Pornochic (as one word) is also the title of a European pornographic film series first introduced in the early 2000's and produced by Marc Dorcel.

The latter use of the term has been promoted by British media researcher Brian McNair. The Golden Age was commemorated in the 1997 mainstream film Boogie Nights.

Fashion and criticism

Barneys creative director Simon Doonan has criticized porno chic fashion style in his book, Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You. Michele Malkin has criticized Beyonce (owner of the House of Deréon clothing line) and other leaders of clothing lines, for marketing flirtatious clothes to elementary school children.

Dutch academicians Linda Duits and Liesbet van Zoonen have argued that public debates about teenage girls' adoption of porno chic (in the manner of bellyshirts and exposed G-strings) constitute a "metonymic location" of a social dilemma.


Some of the best-known movies are:

  • Sex Wish (USA, 1976)
  • Johnny Wadd (USA, 1971)
  • Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here (USA, 1977)
  • Taboo (USA, 1980)
  • Amanda By Night (USA, 1981)
  • Talk Dirty To Me Part III (USA, 1984)

Further reading

  • Legs McNeil, Jennifer Osborne and Peter Pavia: The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry. Regan Books 2005. ISBN 0-06-009659-4


External links

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