They’re not just there to f*ck’: sensibility and cultural provocation in 1970s American hardcore pornography

Darren Kerr

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter considers the shift of porn into the mainstream. While 1970s porn and its place in culture at that time has been well documented elsewhere and is revisited in recent writing on material cultures, this work offers an account detailing the value of recognising a wider cultural sensibility that paved porn’s necessary path into the mainstream during the period. Rather than focus solely on-screen industries or histories of sex on screen leading up to hardcore in the multiplex, Kerr explores how cultural sensibility evolved through the transformative effects of social critique that was evident and apparent in the arts and culture of the time. What emerges is a period steeped in a culture of provocation, not just in countercultural politics, but in the wider landscape of cultural production and cultural activity.

    Following idea that sensibility is active, perceptive and experiential, Kerr argues that the move from margins to mainstream was not just the result of a series of pragmatic, economic, legislative and industrial influences but significantly was an act of production in itself – constructed, produced and performed. As Kerr points out, pornography and sexually explicit material of the time was not just describing sex or dramatizing sex, it was producing sex and doing so in a time often understood as a golden age – something that involves as much cultural forgetting as it does cultural remembrance. The result, Kerr claims, is that the move into the mainstream was epiphenomenal – in other words a secondary effect caused by wider shifts in cultural feeling, perceiving and understanding.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationShockers!: The '70s Cinema of Trash, Terror and Sexploitation
    EditorsXavier Mendik, Julian Petley
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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