Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution ed. by Eric Schaefer
Sex Scene, edited by Eric Schaeffer, includes contributions from sixteen authors and specialists with various scholarly sexual backgrounds including the history of hardcore pornography, sexuality and gay matters, as well as media, film, culture, and gender studies. The book is divided into five parts (each has three chapters) of almost equal length. Each essay is supported by nude, erotic or sexy scenes, stills, and posters thus there are more than five dozens black and white figures in the entire book. The book discusses art films, sexploitation films, mainstream movies, erotic films, and gay pornography in fifteen lively essays. Schaeffer’s anthology offers a comprehensive and complex history of the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Part I, Mainstream Media and the Sexual Revolution, has three chapters. In Chapter one, Rate It X? Hollywood Cinema and the End of the Production Code, the author examines the transitional period in American film history which consisted of the 1960s to the end of the 1970s. Milliken mainly focuses on films which were made “immediately preceding and after the implementation of the rating system through 1973–1974” (26). In chapter two, Williams states that in the late 1960s and early 1970s Hollywood began to “devise new tropes for sexual representations” after the demise of the Production Code (53). Female sexual pleasure was frequently represented in the willowy body of Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968) and hardcore pornography discovered fellatio and mainly featured two heterosexual acts––genital sex and oral sex. Levine in The New Sexual Culture of American Television in the 1970s offers an overview of television’s translation of the sexual revolution for the American mainstream.
Part II, Sex as Art, consists of three chapters. Heffernan starts his essay with a quote by Inside Deep Throat’s (2005) director Gerard Damiano, which states “I always believed that Hollywood and porn would eventually merge” (105). The writer discusses the reception of I Am Curious (Yellow) over a two-year period when the MPAA’s ratings system was implemented. Chapter five, Wet Dreams: Erotic Film Festivals of the Early 1970s and the Utopian Sexual Public Sphere, presents a micro-history of the rise of erotic festivals in New York, San Francisco, and Amsterdam in the early 1970s. Gorfinkel argues that erotic film festivals represented “a shift in the conceptualization of sexuality in film, in film culture, and in the public sphere” (126). Chapter six uses the case study of WR: Mysteries of the Organism to trace the intertwined cultural discourses and market histories of a specific time and cultural space.
Part III, Media at the Margins, includes chapter seven to nine. In 33 1/3 Sexual Revolutions per Minute, the author suggested that sexually explicit records convened the home audience in several different configurations and “played a part in three overlapping sexual revolutions,” including stag party records, the records of sexually explicit female comics, and LPs (long-playing recordings). Jacob argues that these revolutions helped bring new forms of popular sexology to couples in the early 1970s. In chapter 8, editor Schaefer discusses some of the factors involved in defining sexiness in “terms of a national point of reference” in the eyes of Americans and France (208). The chapter also reminds the readers of the seemingly progressive sexual attitudes in Scandinavia. Sconce, in Altered Sex: Satan, Acid, and the Erotic Threshold, emphasizes frustration, failure, and damnation resulting from sex. The author discusses the case of The Satan Club, The Satanic Bible, The Acid Party, and The Big Freak-Out alike, where the combinations of acid and witchcraft displayed for staging eroticized erotic displays. [End Page 88]
Chapter ten opens Part IV: Going All the Way. Johnson talks about sex education as an environmental multimedia experience and argues how this theory was put into practice by the National Sex Forum (NSF) for sexual attitude reassessment. The essayist deals with sensory stimulation techniques for entertainment, therapy, and education for psychic gratification. Duong in San Francisco and the politics of Hard Core suggests the adversarial politics that May Rexroth conveyed and how Arlene Elster developed a political consciousness through the Sexual Freedom Movement. Chapter 12 shows the transition from softcore pornography to hardcore pornographic films and argues how this proliferation of pornography “opened up social space for the emergence of the perverse dynamic” (342).
The final part addresses the publicizing of sex through consumer and privacy rights and the liberation of the media brought on by the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1960s. In Critics and the Sex scene, Haberski explains how many critics had found the work of art that transgressed a boundary of the mind. He analyzes I am Curious (Yellow), Last Tango in Paris and Deep Throat, noting how Marlon Brando bared his soul in Last Tango in Paris, whereas “it was Maria Schneider who bared her flesh” (399). The last chapter, and the only co-authored one, discusses how porn moved into American colleges and universities, affecting students between 1968 and 1973. Overall, this text is a wonderful read. The essays are original and contain wide-ranging agreements that gave rise to sexual revolution.