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In the first few pages of this
heavy and lavishly illustrated 600+
page book, there is paragraph about the principal creator of The Christy Report, Kim Christy. This person (no gender is mentioned) is an
"icon in the pornographic industry" and is "primarily interested
in gender freedom and personal sexual expression." The text also reports that "Kim went on
to produce and direct ground-breaking feature films, among them Sulka's
Wedding, Squalor Motel, Corrupt Desires and countless video
series." The self-promotion and
lack of criticality in these descriptions are hall-marks of The Christy
Report. The book is divided into
six main sections, the first one covering the first half of the century and the
next five covering each of the subsequent decades. The text by John Quinn discusses some of the cultural changes
that were relevant to attitudes pornography in the different eras, along with
some of the important legal decisions that led to different levels of
censorship. The pictures show examples
of the pornography, erotica and pin-ups of the time, with some explanatory text
accompanying a few of them. Some of the
most interesting pictures are the contact sheets from photo shoots, with check
marks on the images that were thought worth using -- these give some indication
of how the pornographers themselves conceived of their product. One rather annoying feature of the
production is the addition of cartoon-like words such as "push,"
"pull," and "ass" or shapes such as hearts or starts on top
of the images -- obviously done with computer technology. It's as if the creators of the book are so
pleased with the pictures they have included that they need to add some markers
to show their enthusiasm.
As a collection of images from
twentieth century pornography, The Christy Report is probably unrivalled
for its completeness and diversity.
The text is pretty well-written and is quite thorough, although since
this is a huge topic, it is inevitably incomplete. There is often not much match between the text and the images --
for example, Quinn emphasizes the importance of Deep Throat, but there
are no images from the film. Indeed,
there are many pages full of pictures with no explanatory text at all, and so
the reader is left guessing where they come from, whether they were
commercially successful, and where people might have been able to buy
them. Especially problematic is the
complete lack of representation of the point of view of the men and women who
posed for these pictures and worked in the porn industry. There's also very little thought given to
what pornography means to its consumers, how people like to view it and use it,
and whether they find it fulfilling.
The introduction emphasizes the ideals of sexual self-expression, and
the book as a whole pays almost no attention whatsoever to concerns about
exploitation, the connection between pornography and prostitution, the working
conditions of sex workers, or the objectification of the human body. Of course, the book is written from the
point of view of porn enthusiasts, but given that it attempts to provide some
history of pornography, these omissions are major flaws.
Oddly enough, the most interesting
part of the book is the Postscript on the future of pornography, by Dian
Hanson, editor of Leg Show magazine.
She chronicles the recent move by mainstream pornographic magazines such
as Penthouse and Hustler to include hardcore images such as
intercourse and urination. She says
that the only softcore newsstand sex magazines left in the US are Playboy and
those produced by her own company. Even
with such changes, the sales of sex magazines has declined massively due to the
availability of pornography on the Internet.
The California sex video industry continues to be highly profitable,
with over ten thousand videos produced each year, and had $10 billion sales in
2000. Hanson says that videos are
becoming increasingly misogynist, featuring the degradation of women by large
numbers of men. She predicts that the future of the pornography
industry is dim since the Internet will make it increasingly difficult to make
a profit, and people will mainly view amateur-made images. She suggests that while conservative
politicians may want to place greater restrictions of pornography, the Internet
makes it very difficult to do so, and they are unwilling to risk losing such a
So The Christy Report is an
odd mixture of nostalgia, enthusiasm, and more sophisticated cultural
discussion of the pornography industry.
Those who dislike sexually explicit images should certainly avoid
it. But given the obvious importance of
pornography in western culture, it is good that there's at least some discussion
of its meaning and role in our society.
© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy
Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology
Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in
medicine, psychiatry and psychology.