Review by Jessica Cassyle Carr
The Big Book of Porn: A Penetrating Look at the World of Dirty Movies
First, let's get one thing straight: This book, which came out last month, is not pornography—it's about pornography. Whether you take one of the religious, feminist, repressed or missionary positions, or that of the enthusiast, it is undeniable that human sexual behavior is incredibly interesting. Just imagine this book on your coffee table. Think of how many people would thumb through it when they popped in for a (much sexier) visit. "It's not porn, ladies. I'm not really into porn, I'm just interested in learning," you might say, as you mentally snicker about all of the clever hiding places and disguises this book has clued you into. Now imagine scrambling to remove the book from your coffee table when mumsie drops by. Mom doesn't want to see that kind of thing, so maybe, like actual porn, you shouldn't keep this fantastic coffee table book on the coffee table.
The truth is that The Big Book of Porn does and must include nudie pictures, albeit mostly quite soft-core, but all in all the book does provide a relatively tasteful look into the world of porn, particularly films of the last century and more particularly pornos beginning in the '70s, which ushered in an age when, as never before, human sexuality became readily available and imminently on display.
In the book's introduction, author Seth Grahame-Smith says it was his intent to "show the masses that smut wasn't the enemy. That porn ... fills a hole in our lives." Grahame-Smith has done a fine job proving his point with scores of interesting factoids (it seems that Thomas Edison even got in on the action with a few movies, including What Happened in the Tunnel, which features a man groping a female); lists of the greatest pornos of all time (the classics were made from 1972-1984 and are implant- and tattoo-free); the stars and directors (Ron Jeremy and Russ Meyer, for example); a guide to different genres (such as scatological "watching one of these movies is like watching a commercial for the end of the world," and smoking "ever feel like porn puts too much emphasis on penetration and not enough on emphysema?"); porn around the world (the Brazilian government requires that all pornos have a warning label encouraging viewers to use protection); a how-to guide to making your own (you dirty, dirty, dirty perv); as well as extras like the nifty glossary, guide to websites and various filthy annual events.
I don't agree with some assertions made in the book, such as the claim that adult movies improve the quality of our collective sex lives, which, I would argue, probably only applies to men. (I got my sex education from Cosmo.) But basically, if you want to learn about porn, this is the bible. The Big Book of Porn is devoid of tedious academic analysis, but likewise devoid of sleazy appeals and come-ons. It will not warp your mind or leave you feeling dirty. On the contrary, it should give you a new appreciation for porn as a powerful force in film history, and a very natural and enticingly strange part of our culture.
A reading and signing with writer Rachel Preston Prinz.
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