Sex talk
Speaking of Vintage Porn

Simon Sheppard,

No, Junior, male/male sex didn't start with the Internet; it was around even before the sexual revolution of the 1960s. And, gay men being the horny beasts we are, there was prick-pleasing pornography way back in the old days, too.

Though filthy ancient frescoes can be found in the ruins of Pompeii, modern man was a bit slow in catching up. Sure, even in the Victorian Age there were sexy queer novels – one supposedly written by Oscar Wilde. Racy French postcards and printed-in-Tijuana porno kept many a World War II soldier warm at night. There was also a brisk trade in gay graphics, a tradition of dirty drawings that reached its apotheosis in the art of Etienne and Tom of Finland. But in much of the Western world, censorship long held sway.

In the 1950s, queer pulp paperbacks brought somewhat explicit gay sex to the book rack at the local drugstore – though homo hanky-panky too often came with an unhappy ending. But whether flaunted in a "daring tale" or embedded in a supposed "scientific study," the portrayal of gay desire reassured many an otherwise isolated queer that he wasn't alone...or "sick."

And then there were the physique magazines, ostensibly about fitness or art, but chock-full of photos of hunky young men wearing little more than well-filled posing straps. One older gay man recalls, "I remember going down to one large newsstand that carried magazines like Demigods and Tomorrow's Man in the back, furtively buying a few, and hurrying home to jack off to photos of nearly nude, oiled-up men. Their dicks were always hidden, and the guys in gladiator outfits or cowboy hats and jockstraps just look campy now. But back then, it was as hot as it got."

Indeed, there's still a market for those old manflesh-filled mags, and some of the photos have made their way to websites. Says a younger fan, "The models were different then – fewer steroids, more body hair – and I like that."

But it wasn't till the mid-1960s, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned most censorship laws, that the floodgates of American fuck-literature opened wide. Conveniently, the modern gay rights movement went into high gear around then, too, bringing homosexuality more aboveground. The market was awash with cheap paperback porn novels and photo-filled hardcore magazines. There were also 8-millimeter movies for sale, and a bit later, dirty videotapes followed.

"A lot of porn stories from back then were crap," says one connoisseur, "same as today. Really basic, badly written boy-meets-boy stuff. But there's a surprising amount that's imaginative and nicely done. Explicitly pro-gay, too. And, because self-censorship was less rigid then, some of the early publishers put out books that many of today's major erotica publishers might not."

One guy with an extensive collection of old magazines and porn films has simpler standards. "I like watching bearded men fucking without rubbers," says he.

Technology has changed many man-to-man matters. There's a plethora of erotic-image websites – including "amateur" sites that echo the body-type variety of older porno magazines. Even the semi-literate can post their filthy writings and have them read by eager wankers. And horny guys are more likely to reach for a shiny DVD than for a well-thumbed dirty book with the pages stuck together.

Still, vintage porn has a lasting appeal, both as a homo-historical record of how buttfucking used to be, and as still-potent masturbation fodder. It's reassuring to remember that – to paraphrase an old song – a dick is still a dick, and the fundamental things apply.

"And even if old porn isn't very good," says our porn film collector, "it's still fun to watch a couple of hippies shagging on a 1970s shag rug."

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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