Imagine pulling up the list of the highest-grossing box office films of the week, or even the year, and seeing a title like Deep Throat in the top 20. Imagine that the first ever VHS tape your parents owned (and that was ever created) was of an adult film. This is exactly how the world was in 1970’s, when the adult film industry was alive and well, moving away from theaters and into homes where it would grow to be a multi-billion dollar dirty little secret.
How exactly did we go from the puritanical, black and white movies of the past being strung through a series of censorships, to now having full access to obscure and specific genres of on-screen sex having to do with things like dominatrixes and digital octopuses touching women with their tentacles? (Yes, there is a genre for tentacle porn). When and how did this shift occur?
These questions will be answered on Friday, May 6, when the School of Journalism and Communications will host its latest Research Presentation Series, “Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video.” Presented by Assistant Professor Dr. Peter Alilunas, this event will begin at noon in Allen Hall and will cover the evolution of pornography from the visual jukebox in the 1940s to 1960s peep show booths and the early adult videos of the ‘70s.
“As a rule, pornography is a topic people think should be private,” Alilunas said. “There’s a difference between people’s private behaviors, and studying cultural phenomenon. I’m not in the interest of peeking into people’s bedrooms, that doesn’t interest me. But we’re talking about a multi-billion dollar industry. That’s not private. People’s pleasures are private, but not how they acquire them.”
It’s an area of film that had yet to be explored before Dr. Alilunas set out for eight years to find the answers as to how exactly this booming industry came to be. From hours of research to tracking down the maker of the first adult film, Alilunas has been working to be the first to link all the pieces together and address this phenomenon in American history.
“I can’t just go to my shelf and say ‘here’s the first adult video and here’s who made it.’ Why?” Alilunas said. “There are only like two or three of us in the whole world who are doing this.”
Like many professors, his work is very specifically focused. This presentation and findings are all on the important transitional years of 1976 through 1986. While he is not in the business of showing any X-rated material, he insists that as a cultural phenomenon we cannot simply ignore it.
“There are at least 10,000 adult films released every year,” he said. “At least. Hollywood might release 300 movies a year. So, it’s not even close and yet it makes everyone nervous.” Dr. Alilunas sits back in his office chair as old books and famous adult videos line his bookshelf in the corner. The spines face out with titles like The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat demanding attention.
“We have to move away from this paradigm that something is too private or embarrassing or shameful to talk about. It just exists, so we should study it,” Alilunas said.
All of this will be found in his book, Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video set to come out in September.