The Low Down on the Lost Jesus Gay Porn Movie, HIM

Him! Him! (What a title … it reminds me of that giant ants horror flick of the 1950s, where someone screams the title Them! Them!) But it's the title of the much sought-after, famously lost 1974 Jesus gay porn film.

 

Advertisement for Him showing at the 55th Street Playhouse

 

First of all, it's almost become a trope of Western culture: speculation about Jesus' sexuality. Think Holy Blood, Holy Grail, The DaVinci Code, and the controversial Terrence McNally play Corpus Christi. Either Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene (or at least some kind of attraction between the two occurs), or Jesus was gay, because he hung around with a bunch of guys (Uh… Peter we know was married, because his sick mother-in-law was cured by Jesus, not that being married always makes a difference, but still…). And then there's the speculation about Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, who may or may not have been John, because of certain cuddly iconography of the two.

I'm not going to get into the detail about all the speculation above, and I also think all the speculation about this 1974 movie ends up going around in circles.

Starting with Wikipedia (a well-documented article, and I checked the cites), we do know that there was a film of that title that premiered on Mary 27, 1974, at the 55th Street Playhouse in New York, at that time becoming more of a porn house than an art house. The film was directed by someone going by the name Ed D. Louie and featured a mural artist named Tava Von Will as Jesus.

Now, I initially thought it was some kind of sword and sandals knock-off, Jesus wandering around having sex with the disciples, but it actually told the story of a young guy with an erotic fixation on Jesus. Actually, not that unusual a theme, for goodness sake… just open any Catholic devotional work or story about the saints (usually female). The spiritual delights of being married to Jesus often look and sound orgasmic, even sadomasochistic.

Anyway, the film also played at Chicago's Bijou Theater in January and February of 1975. The ad shows a guy in a tuxedo, not clothing one associates with Jews in 1st century Palestine. Why? Maybe to avoid controversy, but no one remembers much of a fall-out, even in the still very much underground LGBTQ world of that time.

 

Vintage ad for Him showing at Chicago's Bijou Theater

 

The film fell into obscurity, and in fact, no one seems to be able to locate a copy; film critic and later culture warrior Michael Medved even claimed it was a hoax (huh?).

Peter Malone in his book Screen Jesus: Portrayals of Christ in Television and Film, actually quotes Medved, who claims it is tasteless (how would he know? Did he see it?) but also innovative. Medved claims one scene, a “low point in the history of cinema,” involves a handjob in the confessional as the young man confesses to the priest his erotic fantasies about Jesus. (I wouldn't actually call that scene remarkably innovative in the world of porn.)

But then Medved in his 1980 book Golden Turkey Awards implies that, among the bad movies he and his brother Harry review in his book, Him wasn't real. The beginnings of an urban legend?

A number of years ago, the late porn star/director Gino Colbert was trying to find out if the film was indeed real or was a hoax, and contacted Bijou Video as part of his research. We could not at the time verify, but more recently, another researcher on the film brought to our attention the Bijou Theater ad shown above. The film indeed played in New York, Chicago, and in many other places.

 

Another ad for Him at the 55th Street Playhouse

 

We may never know all the details on this film, unless a copy or more information is tracked down. It seems to have clearly existed and, like many a classic porn film, may sadly have no copies any longer in existence. The scarcity of information or memories about this film, its missing status, and its scandalous subject matter have made it somewhat of a legend and fueled the aforementioned rumors.

In the meantime, you can find religiously-themed porn scenes in a number of other classics, many of which are featured in our compilation, For the Love of God (on DVD and Streaming), which contains scenes from our films that explore the complex connection between sexuality and religion.

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Welcome to Masturbation Nation

Posted by Madam Bubby

 

According to the holy haters, the coronavirus lockdown is turning an already sinful nation (its sins are reproductive rights and the fact that LGBTQ persons are allowed to exist, not robbing and cheating the widow and the orphan) in Masturbation Nation (and in their “minds,” that means Pornography Nation).

According to a report in LGBTQ Nation, some denizens at Liberty Counsel and the likes of gay sex-obsessed Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, (the ones who are defending those death cult astors who insist on holding in-person services, are claiming that many are now succumbing to such lustful cravings and are now so, so unhappy.

 

Guy jacking off to porn

 

(Of course the above assume men, and especially gay men, are the “perpetrators,” because I doubt it would even cross their minds that a woman might masturbate or watch pornography, but that’s another blog.)

So, lockdown is making more guys pull their puds and watch porn (probably on their phones). Yeah, right, If you’re a hetero guy locked down in a house with a spouse and kids with Grandma quarantined in the basement, I’m sure you could easily find and a time and place to watch some porn and jerk off. You could escape as many have to the forest preserves, but I’m not certain shelter in place deems this pastoral journey to essential travel.

(Yet these “family men” are many times the politicians who get caught in hotel rooms with underage persons or in public bathrooms, of course.)

So, once again, it’s the gays. Yes, we are now using the pandemic lockdown to indulge even more in nonprocreative sexuality that their God so hates.

What’s so disturbing about this both irrational and psychologically harmful world view is that during the AIDS crisis, gay men actually embraced masturbation, including the director Michael Goodwin in The Goodjac Chronicles and the other movies in his Goodjac series, as a responsible, safe sex practice in order to stay alive and keep from potentially infecting others. Yes, in order to stay alive.

 

Safe sex poster

 

The current lockdown situation is caused by an impersonal virus which does not discriminate (and it isn’t transmitted, according to the haters, by only those who indulge in “dirty” sex or “dirty” drugs, and thus are easy targets for discrimination and scapegoating), because anyone can get it from something as mundane as a sneeze (itself something of a taboo act, which is why we say God bless you, because some believed it could cause the soul to be ejected from the body!).

But yes, even the Bible-toting Southern Baptist Meemaw known for her famous church basement hot dishes lauded by Perkins and his ilk for her virtues can become sick; she can get it, and she can also transmit it to others as well. So, to stay alive, everyone, yes, everyone, has to stay away from everyone else. Alone and yet alive.

But even in this scenario, the haters still need to somehow accuse, scapegoat LGBTQ persons, and in this case, especially gay men, of somehow “desecrating” the lockdown, but at the same time, these are the ones who are complaining about the fact they even have to lockdown, claiming they are forced to do so especially by tyrannical, godless Democrats.

All in all, as usual, these holy haters confuse what being holy really is, and it doesn’t mean hating the world or escaping from it. Some can lockdown voluntarily, in order to find that ineffable “more” than the “I” by becoming monks or nuns. Many are called, few are chosen.

But the majority of humans, everyone, not just specific Christian sects, are now being locked down involuntarily, in order to preserve life, and all that lives is holy, proclaimed the great poet and heretic William Blake. We have to separate now to stay whole in order to preserve life for ourselves as individuals and as parts of communities, now and for the future.

Masturbation may not be an ideal sexual activity on a psychosocial level for everyone, but the act keeps the sex drive alive. Your orgasm literally screams out that you are still alive. Your imagination is thus still creating and by doing so is able to transcend boundaries this non-living virus is both breaking and imposing on its victims.

 

Cover of Brentwood's Self Service
The cover of Brentwood's Self-Service

 

And who knows, some imaginative person now might be doing some kind of Zoom virtual masturbation session. Just make sure you protect it from the holy haters who would love to bomb this sort of thing, not because they hate it, because they really want to participate in Masturbation Nation.

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David's Chicago Sexual Underground - 4/15/20

David's Chicago Sexual Underground header

 

Greetings P(r)icksters!

Still not much happening here with the shutdown in Illinois extend to April 30th. Looking like it might be late May before we may be allowed to reopen Touché. I’m okay with that, as the best pace to spread something like Covid-19 is a bar full of people. Not sure how they will determine what would be “safe” for us to reopen but am expecting bars to be down the list as businesses are allowed to get back to work.

Other than being a real penny pincher, I’m doing okay. Managing to pay my bills since I can’t go out for meals or drinks. Staying at home makes it easy to get by financially. Of course I’m horny as hell since my partner is stuck in his home 40 miles away. Not like either of us can go out and hook up anywhere. Porn has never been more “necessary” till now.

I am planning for things to get back come June and looking forward to a busy summer. The nagging question will be how we will operate in this age of the coronavirus. They may get infection rates down but if it continues to circulate we’ll have to figure out how to party while keeping an acceptable social distance. (Really huge dicks would help keep some distance, maybe.)

But in the meantime, I have been reading a lot. As a lover of history, I did watch the History Channel’s day long run of their The Bible shows on Sunday. I pulled out some of my history books and read along portions as the show unfolded. Got to put some dates along with the events depicted and got a better understanding of some Jewish history.

I have always been curious about what was happening in different places around the world at the same time. Looking at what happened in Egypt and Israel and then at what was happening in Asia and then in Europe and the new world at the same period. Always love how folks of western culture thinks of themselves as the pinnacle of man’s greatness, when these other cultures like China and India flourished while Europe was barely civilized.

Of course, religion was the main focus of this series, first the Jewish and then early Christianity. Many of these stories I had learned growing up. But in college, I began to learn more about other religions and after viewing this series, would like to know more about the history of other religions, too.

So what does religion have to do with porn? Well, as it happens, some of our early producers of gay films delved into this thorny subject. Many of our Bijou Classics came out of Hand In Hand Films. Director Jack Deveau established Hand In Hand Films in 1972 and allowed other directors to create some of the most imaginative gay films ever made. Big themed, big budget classics like The Idol, A Night at The Adonis and Adam and Yves, to name a few. Some of these classic titles from Hand In Hand Films dealt with religious themes, exploring gay men’s conflict with their religious upbringing and their sexual desires.

Which brings me to my P(r)ick of the Week, The Destroying Angel. Director Peter de Rome brings a balanced measure of storyline, emotion and steamy sex to this Bijou Video re-release of a truly unique classic gay porn film completed in 1976. Caswell Campbell (Tim Kent), a haunted young priest torn between the call of the cloth and his own pent-up feelings, takes a three month sabbatical and plunges himself into the world of man-sex and drugs.

Fans of the sword & sandal biblical epics should check out Hand In Hand’s Centurians of Rome. This ambitious classic gay porn film - a blockbuster epic production - stars George Payne (Demetrius) and Scorpio (Octavius) as Roman countrymen sold into slavery for not paying their taxes during Caligula's reign as Emperor. Immense scripting, acting, set design, direction and superior efforts were all combined to make this one of the most sought-after gay films of all time! 31 luscious men sprawl across the screen with realistic uniforms and costumes, dungeon equipment and steamy (and often rough) sexual encounters adding to their passionate fight for freedom and man-love.

Who says history and religion can’t be fun? No wonder I like doing “research” - want to study with me?

David

To order from Bijou, visit bijouworld.com, call 800-932-7111, or email bijou.orders@gmail.com



The Destroying Angel images
The Destroying Angel (D00132) - On DVD and Streaming

Centurians of Rome images
Centurians of Rome (D00224) - On DVD and Streaming
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The Backstory of Peter de Rome's THE DESTROYING ANGEL Revisited

 Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

Vintage poster for The Destroying Angel

For today, I wanted to resurrect an old blog I wrote on my personal favorite movie in Bijou's catalog (and one of favorite movies in general), the 1976 Hand in Hand Films classic The Destroying Angel, which insightfully and provocatively examines one man's internal conflict over his sexuality and his place in the Catholic church. The film follows a man on sabbatical from his priestly studies who becomes - in this case, literally - fragmented into two selves in his inability to reconcile his sexual desires with his call to the cloth, while having a series of bizarre sexual experiences under the influence of psychedelics.

The Destroying Angel images

"It started with the thought that gay films had been made in various forms, but that they hadn't yet tackled the horror genre," starts celebrated gay porn auteur Peter de Rome's backstory write-up on his truly unusual 1976 horror/porn hybrid, The Destroying Angel - an entertaining, disturbing, and hallucinatory film about Catholicism, sexuality, doppelgangers, and psychoactive mushrooms. "Almost at the same time came the idea to write a story about twins - one that had been lurking in the back of my mind for a long time."

Peter de Rome and Jack Deveau on the set of The Destroying Angel
Peter de Rome and producer/cinematographer Jack Deveau on the set of The Destroying Angel

British filmmaker Peter de Rome, who passed away in 2014, was the subject of the 2016 documentary, Peter de Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn. His work, which is both avant-garde and explicitly gay and erotic, has been widely critically recognized and written about in recent years. Working independenly on shorts in the late '60s/'70s and then with Hand in Hand in New York City in the early days of hardcore, de Rome's body of work consists of many short films and two features (1974's fascinating Adam and Yves, shot in Paris and featuring the last known footage of Greta Garbo, along with The Destroying Angel).

Vintage Adam and Yves poster

Eight of his shorts made between the years 1969 and 1972 (notably, the well-known Underground, which depicts a real sex scene shot on an active NY subway train) make up the collection The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome, released by Hand in Hand Films as the follow-up to their innagural film, Left-Handed. (For more of the studio's history, read our interview with editor/co-founder Robert Alvarez, our blog on Hand in Hand, and the 2019 book Good Hot Stuff: The Life and Times of Gay Film Pioneer Jack Deveau.) Hand in Hand also released de Rome's two features and included a few more of his short films in their compilations In Heat and Private Collection.

The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome poster

De Rome was an atypical pornographic filmmaker, largely because he had little interest in the straight-forward depiction of sex or the conventions of pornography, prefering to focus on exploring a broad, suggestive, and multi-dimensional look at sexuality through his filmmaking. "My feeling is for eroticism. And that, for me, is 'leading up to the sex.' Once you're at the sex stage it can quickly get terribly boring," he told HIM Magazine. "For me, a lot of the arousal is in the mind and the imagination. That is what really turns me on. Most of my ideas, therefore, are concerned with how we get there."

Peter de Rome directing Destroying Angel stars Tim Kent and Philip Darden
Peter de Rome directing Destroying Angel stars Tim Kent and Philip Darden

In an interview with In Touch Magazine, de Rome elaborated, "I think that we've barely scratched the surface of pornography in filmmaking, and that it has become a sort of mandatory thing in sex films to show a positive view of sex and all of sex is supposed to be the ultimate, the pinnacle of excitement, and life simply isn't like that. It seems to me that sometime we've got to get honest about sex and admit to ourselves that very few sexual encounters do work out agreeably or are completely successful. And that's one of the reasons that I did the first scene in Destroying Angel as a 'down'; it was meant to be an unsuccessful sex trip. I have a very simple if not simplistic attitude toward sex films, and that is that sex is just as much a part of life as living, eating, breathing, sleeping - it's just another function of life and I don't see why it can't be depicted dramatically just as those other funcitons are and as honestly, too. And I think we have to show every aspect of sex in films before we can really say we are making sex films."

Bill Eld in a Destroying Angel publicity photo
Star Bill Eld in a Destroying Angel publicity photo

Hand in Hand's press sheet on The Destroying Angel discusses the elaborateness and complexity of the production. It was shot in ten days, with twenty-two scenes in nineteen different locations "from Montauk Point to The Spike [a NYC gay bar] to Christopher Street to Brooklyn to an eighteenth century cemebery in a forgotten spot in rural New Jersey." The Spike sequence includes a barely-discernable cameo from Peter Berlin in the background. Though he's hard to spot in the film, itself, there are a few clear behind the scenes photographs of him on set.

Peter Berlin in The Spike during The Destroying Angel's filming
Peter Berlin in The Spike during The Destroying Angel's filming

The press sheet also mentions that post-production took a considerable time to complete - about a year - and cites some of the filmmaking challenges present during production, primarily finding a double for the lead (Kent) with an identical body but larger cock, and shooting and constructing the doppelganger threeway scene through camera and editing tricks.

Slating, recording sound, and Peter de Rome with Tim Kent and his body double
Slating, recording sound, and Peter de Rome with Tim Kent and his body double

Hand in Hand make-up artist prepping Tim Kent, his body double, Philip Darden, and Bill Eld
Hand in Hand make-up artist Gene Kelton prepping Kent, his body double, Darden & Eld

In Peter de Rome's backstory write-up from our files, 'Genesis of The Destroying Angel,' he goes further into the film's origin story:
 

By chance, I happened to read John Allegro's fascinating study, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, that seeks to equate Jesus Christ with a mushroom, the Amanita Muscaria. This, in turn, led me to R.G. Wasson's Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, which traces the same mushroom to the Soma plant in the ancient Rigveda of India. The whole incredible story seemed to me to be a natural for erotic treatment. But how to blend the two ideas together?

I sat down at the typewriter and looked up at the painting hanging on the wall before me. It could have been a portrait of myself, except for the way he was clothed and the caption underneath: Edgar Allan Poe. Was this a sign? Maybe, but inspiration eluded me. So I went back to his stories and, sure enough, there was the answer.

Peter de Rome in front of a portrait of his look-alike, Edgar Allen Poe
Peter de Rome in front of a portrait of his look-alike, Edgar Allan Poe

"William Wilson" provided just the sort of structure I was looking for with one important change: the twins became one troubled young man and his alter ego. A few scenes in the film are direct parallels to the story, but mostly only the structure is retained.

And then, because of the religious aspect of the mushroom story, it seemed logical to make the principle character a young priest, sorely tempted beyond his means to resist.

Destroying Angel stills featuring Tim Kent as the priest

The urination scene derives from the hypothesis that the sacred plant called the Soma in the Vedic culture was, in fact, a hallucinogenic mushroom, a plant with miraculous inebriating virtue, enjoyed both by the peoples of the Valley of the Indus and the cattle they tended. The juice of the Soma had a similar intoxicating effect on the animals, and is excreted still in its purest form in the urine, only to be ingested once more by the peasants. This way they could stay high for days!

 

[This likelihood of this urine-drinking claim of Wasson's has been debated, but it seems to have caught de Rome's piss-fetishistic interest (piss-drinking also makes a tiny appearance in Adam & Yves).]

The hallucinatory piss orgy from The Destroying Angel
The hallucinatory piss orgy from The Destroying Angel

Orgy scene cast
Orgy scene cast

De Rome's write-up concludes:
 

Small wonder that the sun became a compelling metaphor for the gleaming red-topped mushroom, and the urine its golden rays.

Destroying Angel still featuring a mushroom, knife, and cross necklace

The Destroying Angel has a heavy focus on religious themes, and this was hardly first time de Rome tackled these in his films. Adam and Yves features a masturbation sequence (starring muscular Bill Eld, who also plays a prominent role in The Destroying Angel) in an 11th century French chapel, and two films in The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome (The Second Coming and Prometheus) also come to mind. Prometheus, a sort of reinterpretation of the Greek myth, focuses on a man who is brutally used by a group of strangers ushered into a room by a figure resembling Christ. The Second Coming starts off as a lark, as two men (one played by Peter de Rome, himself) travel across Europe, collecting clues that lead them from city to city. One of them winds up in an old village, where he wanders into a cathedral. A group of men are huddled together inside, looking at what initially appears to be a large crucifix on the wall in front of them. However, the figure on the cross moves - it is not Christ, but a live nude man mounted there, who ejaculates, hands free, all over his own torso.

Image from Prometheus
Image from Prometheus

Peter de Rome and Bill Eld on The Destroying Angel's set
Peter de Rome and Bill Eld on The Destroying Angel's set

The Destroying Angel - a film that is simultaneously complex and campy, hot and disturbing - was de Rome's final feature, as he was, at this point in his career, growing uninterested in the increasingly graphic sexuality being demanded in pornographic films by producers and audiences. This film (referred to as "a mess but a masterpiece" by Rupert Smith) spends a larger portion of its running time on sex scenes than does Adam and Yves or most of the rest of de Rome's work, but this is not to say that it abandons de Rome's preference for erotic imagination and the underpinning motivations and forces behind sexual acts. Its sex scenes are very unlike most others, growing organically out of the lead character's inner states, becoming increasingly surreal and deconstructed over the course of the film, and serving as the means of relaying the film's themes and character development; they are integral to the movie, not diversions from the plot. And The Destroying Angel fully fuses the genres it is tackling - its sex scenes are horror scenes, making it one of porn's best and most effectively creepy horror entries.

Images from The Destroying Angel's doppelganger threeway
Images from The Destroying Angel's doppelganger threeway
Images from The Destroying Angel's doppelganger threeway

The sexuality depicted in the film is complicated, conflicted, compulsive; the priest character's internal struggle - rooted in religion and made terrifyingly manifest by way of hallucinogens - the source. Psychological and emotional concerns are primary within the sex scenes, which serve as the narrative, helping to make the full runtime of the film engaging as a piece of cinema (particularly as brought to life through its compelling performances, Jack Deveau's expressive camerawork, Robert Alvarez's trippy, frenetic editing, and the evocative music selections). Porn certainly needn't operate on all of these levels in order to be interesting, hot, or significant, but the multi-layered, experimental, and cinematic work of Peter de Rome is a unique and compelling type of pornographic filmmaking.

Illustration from Peter de Rome's Destroying Angel script
Illustration from the cover of Peter de Rome's Destroying Angel screenplay

Learn more about the backstory of this classic (including other interpretations of the film's meaning) in the Ask Any Buddy podcast episode on it.

You can watch the trailer for The Destroying Angel at BijouWorld, where you can also read more about its storyline and get the full movie on DVD, or go to our Video on Demand site to stream it! Bijou also carries Peter de Rome's other films released by Hand in Hand on DVD and Streaming.

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Solo Sex

Posted by guest blogger Miriam Webster

 

As many of us are currently spending a lengthy stint without sexual partners as we practice social distancing during this pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on eroticism that does not involve physical engagement between people.

Non-in-person sex work (via phone or the internet) and viewing pornography can play a huge part in helping folks through this necessary dry spell - though, of course, the coronavirus relief package explicitly excludes applicants who earn money from performances, services, or depictions “of a prurient sexual nature” from being eligible for loans. (There has been an increase in internet censorship and policing of consensual sex work and sexual materials under this administration done in the name of decreasing sex trafficking and exploitation. SESTA/FOSTA, which passed in March of 2018, directly led to the shut down of sites that enabled sex workers to operate more safely, porn companies and performers having their personal data deleted from their private drives, and the major social media platforms increasing their content restrictions and banning countless users. The currently-proposed EARN IT Act looks to extend internet surveillance under the same guise, further putting at risk sex workers and other marginalized groups who would likely be targeted and increasing the possibility of additional sexual content restrictions on social media platforms, as well as compromising the privacy of all internet-based communication and data.)

There are countless ways of sexually engaging with others through distance, many via technology - such as swapping nudes, dirty talk (see our recent blog discussing the Old Reliable audio collection), video chatting, sexting, video games, and even internet-controlled sex toys - through which each individual involved may be physically alone. And, of course, there is also a wide array in the realm of sexuality in which the inspiration for excitement doesn’t necessarily come from another person at all: object fetishism, autoeroticism, and more. A plethora of imaginal and tactile erotic experiences can be explored while physically by one’s self.

One fascinating cinematic look at solo sex and object fetishism exists in Czech artist Jan Švankmajer’s 1996 film Conspirators of Pleasure, which follows several characters’ independent fetishistic rituals. One man builds a masturbation machine with many motorized hands attached to televisions, which he operates during broadcasts of a lusted-after news anchor. Another man creates homemade sex toys - rolling pins covered in materials of different tactile natures like tacks and fur - which Švankmajer live-action animates rolling all over the man’s body. A couple of neighbors create effigies of each other, which they violently torture.

 

Stills from Conspirators of Pleasure
Images from Conspirators of Pleasure

 

In some of these scenarios, the object of desire is a person represented by the masturbation object, while in some, the contraption and/or tactile materials seem to be the objects of desire, themselves. But in each scenario, the rituals are performed in isolation.

Though best known as an animator/filmmaker, Švankmajer works in a wide array of mediums, including poetry and sculpture, and uses all to grapple with tactilism. From 1972 until 1979, he was banned from directing films by the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, who considered his films subversive. During this span, Švankmajer went into extensive exploration of the sense of touch and tactile art, including writing a book, Hmat a Imaginace (now translated and available in English as Touching and Imagining), “of which he produced five copies in 1983, all with ‘tactile’ covers. Featuring rabbit fur along the spine and a hand shape cut out of sandpaper on the front, these copies circulated as samizdat, that is works which were clandestinely produced and distributed to evade officially imposed censorship.” This book details Švankmajer’s Surrealist experiments with touch and tactile art and “is a kind of alchemist’s philosophical treatise.”

 

An original copy of Hmat a Imaginace
An original copy of Hmat a Imaginace

Švankmajer tactile poem and sculptures
A Švankmajer tactile poem and three tactile sculptures

 

Upon his return to filmmaking, he brought what he had learned about tactilism into the medium through content, concept, and technique, trying to create synesthetic experiences for viewers. “Film animation is just another alchemical aid to the performance of a magic ritual in which Švankmajer summons the immanent vitality that resides in the inert material... This capacity for metamorphosis extends to moving images… Švankmajer’s work explores the idea that both direct and indirect tactile experience is mediated by the ‘tactile’ imagination.”

The development of a new personal relationship to touch is described in Švankmajer’s poem “The magic ritual of tactile initiation,” featured in Touching and Imagining, which concludes:

Make the cold warm and the soft hard!
Make the loose compact!
Make the course slimy!
Make the hurtful pleasurable!
And vice-versa!
So that the eye will not perceive and give touch timely warning, constantly confuse his utilitarian habits of touch by disorientation, mystification and panic!
Bear in mind that our entire body is a unified erogenous zone!
Do not smooth down the crumpled sheets!
In winter kick off the bedclothes!
On hot summer nights crawl under a heavy quilt!
Do not scorn masturbation!
Do not have your old shoes re-soled!
Do not urinate before going to bed!
“Be repulsed by all objects yet touch them all!
Learn to love insects!
Tire yourself out!
Only when Touch is freed from its utilitarian context, not constantly forced into a self-conscious moment, will it reach the point where it transmutes the barrier of its identifying existence, and without being aware of it, becomes the language of the poet.


Eroticism is frequently a focus of Švankmajer’s work, as he observed that “if there does exist one aspect of human perception where Touch still has a position dominant over all others senses, it is in the field of eroticism.” The realm of pornography extensively explores “indirect tactile experience” and the sensations this depiction evokes in viewers, also striving to inspire corporeal responses.

Countless approaches to solo sex can be found in pornography. Object eroticism is certainly common, from fetish magazines eroticizing attire and materials such as leather and rubber, to the use of sex toys and such things as household items, balloons, and food as tools for self-pleasure.

 

Stills from Mansize & Food Sex
Stills Michael Zen's Mansize (top) and the Bijou Video compilation Food Sex (bottom)

 

The object in question’s sexual appeal may stem purely from the physical sensations it creates and one’s tactile relationship with it, or from a more symbolic place of connection or memory. And inanimate objects, themselves, can seem to carry inside them their own energetic life. As Švankmajer said, “a strong emotion leaves an indelible imprint on the objects touched.”

Erotic inspiration can be found in the natural world. Director Peter de Rome’s lovely short porn film, Green Thoughts (1971), features a man who becomes stimulated by the plants in a conservatory. Porn star and sex educator Annie Sprinkle has recently been spearheading an “ecosexual” movement, reframing nature as “your lover, not your mother” in an effort “to make the envirnomental movement more fun and diverse.”

 

Images from Green Thoughts
Images from Green Thoughts

 

Acts of self-pleasure may be performed not just as the result of the absence of a sexual partner, but because one’s own self or body or personal sexual technique are, themselves, the source of excitement. Many Bijou titles feature examples of this: enthusiastic solos, autofellatio practitioners, people jacking off to their own reflections, fantasies of self-fucking (brilliantly staged in Jaguar’s Grease Monkeys and in the short film Double Scorpio featured in Hand in Hand’s Private Collection), and intricate autosadism rituals (as in the Jason Steele segment of Big Bear Men and the sounding demonstration in another Private Collection short, Penetration).

 

Nick Rodgers seducing himself in Grease Monkeys
Nick Rodgers seducing & fucking himself in Grease Monkeys (1979)

Jason Steele in Big Bear Men (left); sounding film Penetration (right)
Jason Steele in Big Bear Men (left); the sounding film Penetration (right)

 

One of the true masters of inventive autoerotic practice in porn is “Sultan of Solo Sex” Scott Taylor. Taylor never performed a full partnered sex act in any of his films (the closest is perhaps in Surge Studio’s Strange Places, Strange Things, in which he and another man wildly enlarge and distort their cocks together with vacuum pumps), but he did many solo jack off sessions, as well as self-sucking and creative bodily play. In the Steve Scott masterpiece, Turned On! (1982), Taylor performs a remarkable display of dance and movement, in which he stuffs his own cock and balls up his ass. Al Parker stated, in a Manshots interview, “Even though Scott only has sex with himself, I think he is one of the most erotic people in this business, because you can’t pay somebody to be as crazy as Scott Taylor is in a movie.”

 

Scott Taylor
Scott Taylor


Scott Taylor in Turned On!
Scott Taylor's performance in Turned On!

 

Another artist of self-fucking in classic porn is Chris Burns. Having well-earned the title “the Ultimate Bottom,” Burns certainly can take it from others, but just as aptly can dish it out upon himself. In Steve Scott’s Dangerous (1983), he exchanges dirty talk over the phone with Rick Faulkner (who beats off in a phone booth) while he shoves massive dildos up his ass. Jason Bleu’s fascinating S/M video, Black on Red (1987), takes us into the interior life of the submissive, as Burns literally bends over backwards to punish himself at the feet of and worship a mature dominant, who stands over him throughout the tape's runtime, nearly silent and umoving, like a remote God. Burns, here, performs nearly all of the actions upon himself, shoving more enormous toys (as well as enema tubing) up his ass, putting sounding rods in his dickhole, piercing his nipple, and shaving his pubic hair off with a straight razor.

 

Chris Burns in Black on Red
Chris Burns in Black on Red

 

Not requiring a partner to explore one’s own body and sexual interests can be a liberatory element of sexuality. Illustrations of this can be found in some of the feminist pornography of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which encouraged women to learn about their bodies and personal sexuality - for example, the classic 1992 instructional, How to Female Ejaculate, and the odes to self-pleasure in Annie Sprinkle’s Sluts and Goddesses: How To Be a Sex Goddess in 101 Easy Steps. I’ve personally found developing solo kink practices to be useful and exciting. I taught myself how to do play piercing by practicing on my own body, with the help of online technique/safety tips and instructional video examples. This was a helpful way to learn (without risking fucking up an early attempt on someone else’s body), but maintaining this as a solo practice has also served as a way for me to engage with sadism and masochism on my own, without being reliant upon a partner for outlets.

Some porn makers depicted solo practices as a part of the exploration of various types of safer sexual expression during the AIDS crisis. Artist Michael Goodwin, whose late '80s Goodjac video series focused on handjobs and masturbation, brought creativity, playfulness, and enthusiasm to his documentation of solo sex.

 

Solos from The Goodjac Chronicles & Goodjac Too
Solos from The Goodjac Chronicles and Goodjac Too

 

And we can take eroticism outside of the tactile entirely. There’s the far-reaching imaginal realm of fantasy, which can draw eroticism from endless places. There are erotic responses to music and other audio, such as the visceral and abstract sound textures and vocal intimacy explored in ASMR videos, popularized over the past decade, which for many enthusiasts are not erotic, but can be for some. And there’s spiritual yearning, which can often take on an erotic coloration.

One may find eroticism with and without other people; erotic touch with and without other people; eroticism with and without touch. Perhaps we can use this time away from parntered sex to find ways to connect with our own erotic imaginations and to deepen our relationships with our own bodies, whether by nurturing their health (as a part of the project of collective health) or developing our solo sexual practices, whatever the tools and objects of erotic excitement may be.

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