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literature

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Erotica and Pornography  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  

One of the first major new gay male pornographers to emerge in the wake of the new openness is Larry Townsend (b. 1936). Although he does write novels, he is perhaps at his best and certainly at his most characteristic in The Leatherman's Handbook (1972).

In this ostensibly nonfiction work, the tone is much darker than anything in Rechy but entirely without the apologia of the Genet imitators. For Townsend, sex means cruelty and control. His pornographic vision is of the sort that Perkins has described as "assaultive." Though Townsend theorizes that sadomasochism is an exercise in trust, there is an edge of danger to the sex play unique to his powerful vision here and in his fiction.

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Explicit, perverse, and perpetual man-with-man sex also distinguishes the All trilogy of Dirk Vanden (Richard D. Fullmer, b. 1933): I Want It All (1969), All or Nothing (1970), and All Is Well (1971). Taking a sensual rather than an assaultive approach to the same milieu that Townsend treats, Vanden creates dream worlds of the subconscious as he explores coming to grips with sexual identity in the no-nonsense butch world of a fisting club.

Despite the nature of the sex acts explored, Vanden always emphasizes the reassuring and caring nature of the personal dynamics. There is no pain or violence, or at least these represent immaturity to be ashamed of and outgrown.

Bill Thorne, the hero of All or Nothing, for example, is dragged reluctantly into gang-banging a suspected queer at the beginning of the book, only to spend the rest of it searching for Brad Nelson, the man abused, to apologize and expiate his offense, which he finally does when he finds Nelson and experiences the joy of being fisted by him at an orgy. The message seems to be that real men come to accept, control, and like themselves by extending their sexual boundaries.

Warren Miller, the hero of I Want It All, refuses to participate in the same gang-bang that begins All or Nothing and rescues Nelson. He then undergoes a career of self-discovery like Thorne's in the same time frame, eventually settling down in domesticity with Nelson.

John Preston (1945-1993) is a major new pornographer who has emerged more recently. In the popular Mr. Benson (1983), he expounds the correct leather slave mentality, emphasizing in particular the difference between going through the motions of dominance and submission and believing them to the extent that they take emotional hold.

Despite many scenes of fisting, water sports, and savage beating, Preston manages to give a sweet romantic cast to his sadomasochism completely unlike Townsend's darkness, perhaps by adopting the had-I-but-known tone of Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958).

Preston, whose autobiography, My Life as a Pornographer, was published in 1993, has also written a series of mock-heroic action-adventure books about crime fighter Axel Kane and his faithful companion. And Preston has collected the stories of others in Flesh and the Word (1992) and the AIDS-conscious Hot Living (1985).

Indeed, despite all the activity, the novel is not particularly the vehicle of the new erotica. With mainstream novels like Faggots (1978) by Larry Kramer (b. 1935) and Less than Zero (1985) by Bret Easton Ellis (b. 1964) now often including more explicit and more extensive scenes of gay sexuality than many gay male pornographic novels did as recently as the late 1960s, it is perhaps no longer necessary to have a full-length narrative to justify short passages.

The development and extensive growth of video pornography has undoubtedly also contributed to a movement away from the novel as the modal genre of written pornography.

In the post-Stonewall era, quality homoerotic writing flourishes instead in shorter forms, the short story being especially well-suited to intense concentration on sexual experience.

Issued together in a thin paperback, Preston's novellas The Heir (1980) and The King (1992) are an indication of this trend toward short forms alongside his popular anthologies and his own stories Tales from the Dark Lord (1992). His novel The Arena (1993) was originally a serial in Stallion, and Mr. Benson itself is, in fact, an expansion of a short story from Drummer. Moreover, the gay male erotic short story is now often the form in which new authors first make a mark.

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