Trust Sterling to take my request for vintage-era porn and turn into thought-provoking blog post that has me doing deep some analysis of the aesthetics of porn through the ages. I’m s’pposed to be on vacation, yo!

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As much as my Seinfeld-era sense of narrative nothingness loves the idea of only contributing a guest blog post that is about nothing more than the blog post itself, Nadine’s request that I source some silent era porn in exchange for her assless chaps quest did spark an idea for the kind of post I normally write.

Plus, I have links to a bunch of porn that looks to be genuinely of the silent era.

Open at your discretion people. These are explicit clips designed for heterosexual male consumption. It’s a fairly mainstream free porn site (RedTube.com), but I don’t know whether or not it will add crap into your browser.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,

For me, what stands out the most about these clips is how very similar they are to contemporary pornography.

Other than the actual quality of the image and a slower pace (which is true of all films — porn or not), narratively and aesthetically speaking, these films are shot-for-shot and position-for-position almost identical to most of the contemporary porn I encounter. The only real difference is a greater emphasis on kissing and fondling and, in one case, post coital bliss.

There are a few plausible explanations why this silent era porn is so much like contemporary era porn.

First, maybe these clips are aren’t genuine. In my search for silent era porn, I turned up some clips that are obviously odes to the silent era rather than actually from the silent era. If you suspect bullshit, let it be known in the comments section.

Second, it’s possible that the sexual aesthetics of most men have not evolved very much over the years.

Three, it’s possible that the sexual aesthetics of the people who control the industry (both the producers and the consumers) have not evolved much.

Four, it’s possible that the aesthetics of porn are self-perpetuating. Most people learn about sex through porn, so people’s notions of explicit sexual content is over determined by the already existing aesthetics of porn.

Five, it’s possible the genre has limited aesthetic possibilities, particularly given the target market. There’s only so many ways to tell the story of boy meets girl, boy fucks girl, boy’s relationship to girl ends immediately after he blows his load on, in, or near girl that will satisfy the demands of the hetero-male consumer.

Six, there’s no competitive advantage to innovation in this market for porn. In an industry that sells its product by the pound, taking the time to innovate might not lead to any discernible benefit. Egro, why innovate?

Seven, my sample size is too limited. There may be plenty of more interesting “for hetero-male eyes only” porn out there and, silent era or not, I ain’t going to find it on a freebie site.

Eight, it’s possible I’m not giving credit where credit is due. Maybe, by your eyes, the change in aesthetic is more substantial than I am suggesting. For example, the manner in which women give blow jobs in porn has certainly evolved over the years, even if the BJ itself appears and is presented in pretty much the same way in every clip.

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree with my claim that the sexual aesthetics of these silent era clips are very similar to the sexual aesthetics of contemporary porn? Are the sexual aesthetics of porn mostly unchanged? What factors do you think best explain the lack of change? If the porn industry is changing, what do you think is the catalyst for this change?

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Sterling Lynch waxes philosophical about everything from identity to the popularity of brailizians for balls at his eponymous blog, Sterling Lynch.

Comments

  1. vick Ko says:

    Do you find porn made by women, for women, different? Better?

    • Too limited a sample size to know for sure.

      I can say with utmost certainty that the kind of porn that gets passed off as “porn for couples” is laughably bad.

  2. So, being the vintage loving geek that I am, I am dating each clip using the clothes and hairstyles and in some cases the decor. #1 is maybe 50s or 60s, but I suspect modern made to look older. #2 I would say is 50s. #3 is 70s. #4 is a little harder to date since it starts with the clothes off and there isn’t much in the decor to give clues, but based on the women’s hair I would say 60s. Clip #5 I would say is 70s. #6, aha, the oldest so far, but not actually silent era. This is late 30s or very early 40s. Certainly pre WWII clothes rationing based on the length and fullness of her skirt. (Yes, I really am a geek for this stuff.) #7 is 20s, perhaps early 30s. Not a ton to go on to narrow it down. Clothes are the most useful since decor can cross eras a lot more. The shoes make me think 30s. #8 is late 40s, early 50s. #9, based on the bathing suits and dresses at the end, 40s, but the music overlay isn’t from then and the silent screen text doesn’t match the clothes. #10 and #11 are 60s. So, out of the lot, there is one that is from the silent era (or maybe a little bit after, but only a couple of years.) That said, it does cover a range of eras, so your analysis of porn over time can still apply.

  3. Antithesis says:

    Tan lines say a lot as well, Certain periods held “alabaster” skin as the standard for beauty and so the bikini tan lines are a bit of a give away. Discussing the clips with a photographer, he said the first three could not have been silent era as it wasn’t done with a crank camera that would have been used during that time

    • Thanks!

      Yes, the aesthetics of skin tone have evolved over the years. I suspect we may soon see an aesthetic backlash against the fake tanning and tanning bed atrocities of the last few years.

      Nice catch! In the comments section of the previous post, Ruthanne reminded me that I inaccurately used the expression “silent era”, which refers to a specific time in film history. What I should have said instead of “silent era”: “filmed at a time when porn was normally silent.”