It's been more than three decades since Deep Throat united smut peddlers and intellectuals in the name of free speech. But in an era when Jenna Jameson's autobiography is reviewed by the New York Times and the ability to pole dance is a prerequisite for pop stardom, porn has become nearly wholesome. So where's a pervert to go for some good old-fashioned adult entertainment? To one of the city's most respected art museums, of course.
All month long, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts spotlights the finer points of porn with "Ravished: Retro and Recent Kink," a naughty film festival that mixes vintage blockbusters with the latest reels. And though the mere mention of 16mm stag films, 1970s loops, and Scopitones (films made for jukeboxes) should be enough to pique anyone's interest, what's really groundbreaking is the opportunity to view these dirty movies in an artistic setting. As Yerba Buena film curator Joel Shepard explained to us over the phone, "Most pornography is really dull, but the nonsex parts can be really interesting. The lame attempts at dialogue and narrative are much more revealing of human nature and cultural traditions than the hard-core scenes."
The series kicks off with "A Star Is Porn: X-Rated Versions of Hollywood Favorites." A staple throughout movie history, these kinky knockoffs have been churned out by the adult industry for decades. The museum's Web site promises the "most entertainingly bad acting, direction and dialogue imaginable" from such, uh, seminal favorites as an erotic spinoff of Gone With the Wind and a 1995 parody called A Clockwork Orgy. The steamy nights continue with "The History of Lingerie," a collection of vintage stag flicks that celebrates the time-honored hobby of admiring women in their undies. A 1915 movie of two ladies removing layer after layer of undergarments (including corsets!) warms the audience up for "the greatest strip act ever filmed," starring Dixie Evans in How to Get to Hollywood. The single women in the audience can also look forward to the prenuptial primers What the Blushing Bride Wore and How to Undress in Front of Your Husband.
Admission is $5-8
In addition to these all-American pictures, a double feature of European erotica includes Frightened Woman, which Shepard describes as a "really warped psychedelic kink bondage film," and the American premiere of photographer Roy Stuart's Glimpse, a compilation of experimental stream-of-consciousness scenes filmed during his erotic photo shoots. Perhaps the most bent offerings are saved for the final night in the series, when CineKink, a New York film festival, showcases six shorts spotlighting polyamory, rubber fetishism, and all the leather-clad gender-bending you can stand.
Don't feel tawdry for attending these naughty evenings. As the pretentious among porn lovers are sure to say before the reels unspool, pornography is a respected art form. After all, it's in a museum.