Celebrating Books About Porn at the S.F. Bay Area Book Festival

There’s a lot more to what we do at Good Vibes than celebrating porn. Some nights we drag home after a long day’s work and would rather read the Sears catalog than cue up a blue movie or open a smut book. On the other hand, porn is more than just a product around here. Besides its obvious use as a sexual enhancement tool, it’s also a type of cultural communication that speaks volumes about the way we view sex, about our desires and fantasies — how things are and how we wish they were. Focusing explicitly on sex is still essentially taboo (if you don’t believe me, see what happens when you bring it up at Thanksgiving dinner), so porn is rarely looked at with much depth — although that is starting to change, and as theorists and academics and regular folks take a hard look at porn’s staple images, porn writers and filmmakers gradually explore new directions. Women’s voices, especially, are increasingly heard — a change we welcome with open arms.

So when we do an event that centers on porn, we do so because we sell it and like it — some of it, anyway — but also because talking seriously about porn is seldom done, and it’s interesting and useful to do it. Plus, people are fascinated by erotic images, and when we do a clips show or a panel, folks come out in droves. It’s partly voyeurism, but it’s also the desire to hear sexuality discussed in a public forum and (especially) in an intelligent way. For a culture that sells just about everything via erotic imagery and that is ever more sex-saturated, lots of the sexual discourse around us just isn’t very nourishing — especially if you’re looking for brain food. So when we showcase porn, we want to buck that trend. It’s not that we don’t want to present porn as sexy — it’s just that we insist on the right to be smart about it, too. One of the reasons sex isn’t considered an appropriate topic for discussion at Thanksgiving has to do with the fact that the erotic (and especially erotica) isn’t seen as an intelligent thing to discuss — the mind-body split, and all that.

But that’s not how we see sex at all, and we want to influence others not to see it that way either. To that end, we are again sponsoring a panel at the annual San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival, a wonderful melange of authors, readers, and row upon row of books. This year’s panel, co-sponsored by Cleis Press, is called “A Cinematic History of Porn,” and it features authors whose books look at film and video porn, especially porn made in the 1970s. Joining me (I’m moderating) will be Annie Sprinkle, world-renowned performance artist and porn queen, author of Post Porn Modernist; Jack Boulware, cultural critic and sometimes satirist, whose book Sex, American Style explores the 1970s, a.k.a. “the Golden Age of Heterosexuality”; and Eddie Muller, co-author of Grindhouse, a fascinating book about adults-only cinema in the 20th century.

This promises to be a lively gang with whom to discuss porn: Annie Sprinkle has lived the life of a porn star and a commentator on contemporary adult movies; she knows the culture of porn-making in and out, and yet her feminism makes her something of an industry outsider. She’s a loving critic and a role model for each new generation of women in porn. Jack Boulware left no stone unturned when he set out to celebrate the Swinging ’70s, and he can be by turns sardonic at the decade’s kitschy excesses (remember mink penis jewelry?) while still paying homage to a time when over-the-top sex had its day in the sun. And Eddie Muller is a historian for the rest of us (he’s also into boxing and film noir), a guy who can trace cinematic pornography’s roots almost to the beginning of cinema and link it to other underground film genres like slashers and sexploitation. Actually, I’d be delighted to sit down with these people to discuss almost anything — I know the panel is going to be great.

If you can, join us at Ft. Mason in San Francisco at 11:45 on October 16th. Good Vibrations will also have a booth, selling a wide cross-section of our unique collection of sexuality books.

If you can’t be here — pick up a book and read some sexy prose instead! Or if you insist, go direct to video.

More about the Bay Area Book Festival’s panels and featured authors is available on-line at the San Francisco Book Council’s web site: http://www.sfbook.org.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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