Way back in the late ‘80s, I managed to grab a few writing gigs for a major men’s magazine and was introduced to the behind-the-scenes world of adult movies. What passed for extreme back then would hardly raise an eyebrow now. After all, this was a time when facials and butt-sex were considered outrageous.
Most of what was delivered to audiences in those days sounded a lot more dangerous than it actually was. Take, for example, the earlier work of one Mr. Max Hardcore.
Max raised a lot of eyebrows at the time by shooting movies with titles like Anal Destroyer. The box cover hype indicated that audiences were in for some extreme and misogynistic perversions, and that got the rubes in the door. But once the movie screened, what the crowd actually got was some rudimentary anal sex intercut with Max running around on a boat and calling himself a rear admiral.
In 1994, Fantastic Pictures released a movie that, in some ways, set the stage for the circus maximus aspects that were to edge into American hardcore. It’s pretty much forgotten these days, but the centerpiece of Depraved Fantasies involved Debi Diamond, Bionca, Tammi Ann, an automotive funnel, and a can of 30-weight motor oil. The ensuing enema sent a wave of hysteria through Porn Valley. “Are they crazy? We’re all gonna get busted for this shit!” cried the mainstream pornsters. It didn’t much matter that the motor oil was actually molasses.
By the mid-’90s, while the folks from Wicked, VCA and Vivid were trying to keep things as wholesome and mainstream as porn could be over in the big top, the freak show over on the midway was in full swing. Though most of this material was still relegated to sideshow status, auteurs like Max Hardcore, Rob Black, John Stagliano, Patrick Collins and host of other upstarts were starting to go for broke. ATMs, spitting, slapping, bukkakes, gang-bangs, midgets, and water sports were all making the kind of inroads that would pave the way for the Next Big Thing––the Internet.
Seemingly off the government's radar, the Web was a veritable Petri dish for perversity. Despite plenty of solo-girl sites and straight-up vanilla porn, this was an environment in which no-holds barred extreme stuff could flourish--and be found with the click of a mouse. Judging from some of the sites, the World Wide Web was a world unfettered by the rules that much of the video industry imposed on itself. And so it prospered.
It wasn't long before this new medium had an effect on the old school movies and magazines. Hoping to compete for porn consumers’ dollars, Porn Valley had no choice but to get on the bandwagon and join the freak-fest. The pervasive undercurrent of meanness and misogyny that slowly crept into the proceedings has now settled in and taken up residency. That the female participants—the whores, as some refer to them—are signing model releases and accepting payment for the privilege of being abused makes it all okay…right?
But extreme material, for all its apparent appeal, is a lot like the idiot bastard child in a Southern gothic novel: it’s obvious he’s drooling up in the attic, but nobody acknowledges him. Ask a producer of extreme content to comment on what he does, and, with a few notable exceptions, chances are he clams up.
So where do we go next? The message board furor over JM Productions’ Donkey Punch, in which willing starlets were sodomized—and then punched in the back of the head—could indicate that maybe there’s a limit to what American audiences are willing to accept as far as their adult entertainment goes.
Or maybe not. We're a fucked-up nation with a jones for anything that's extreme, whether it be sex, food, sports or just about anything else you can think of. And with an addiction like that, it's inevitable that there will be an enterprising and heinous new twist on human sexuality to feed the gaping maw. Necessity is the mother of invention--and the R&D folks of Porn, Inc., are nothing if not endlessly inventive.
Extreme porn is like any outrageous vaudeville act: after you wow the house, what do you do for an encore?
Only time will tell.