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PORN by Robert J. Stoller

PORN

Myths for the Twentieth Century

By Robert J. Stoller

Pub Date: Dec. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-300-05092-5
Publisher: Yale Univ.

 For a multimillion-dollar entertainment industry, film porn has elicited precious few books telling its inside story--and those mostly by backbiting porn stars (Linda Lovelace's Ordeal, 1980; Jerry Butler's Raw Talent, 1989--not reviewed). Here's a rarity, then, a revealing survey of the biz from the horses' mouths, neatly put together by UCLA psychiatrist Stoller (Perversions, 1975), who died last month in a car crash. Stoller's polemical introduction positions the work as popular ethnography, and makes an eloquent plea for the inclusion of subjectivity (i.e., informants' personal stories) in that discipline. What follows are extensive interviews with an array of film-porn figures--writer/director/actor Bill Margold; ``Happy,'' who's about to act in her first film; porn star Nina Hartley; star- turned-producer Kay Parker; porn ``bibliographer'' Jim Holliday; S&M producer ``Merlin''; and scriptwriter ``Ron.'' Expertly probed by Stoller, the interviewees cover the nuts and bolts of porn--the constant demand for young female talent; the dominance of a small group of veteran male performers; the pay scale (usually $200 a day); the long, often drug-fueled hours; the enormous profit vs. low overhead, etc.--but it's clearly the subjective side, what makes porn professionals tick, that most interests Stoller. So he digs out, for instance, Happy's erotic and financial motivations for entering porn, or Kay Parker's way of working with male stars she doesn't like--and although Stoller, in a concluding defense of film porn, doesn't deal squarely with the question of whether porn is harmful to its performers, most readers will grow increasingly glum as tales of childhood abuse or adult chicanery and exploitation roll by, until they'll agree with ``Ron'' that ``porn has become the refuge of an awful lot of casualties: the walking wounded.'' Graphic, candid, and bleak, but energized by the nervous vitality of those who work on the wild side, and deeply informative--an honorable capstone to Stoller's career.