The Sporadic Beaver

Penetrating Academia

November 23, 2013

Tags: The Ethics and Politics of Pornography, David Edward Rose, H-Net, Beaver Street, Whitney Strub, Perversion for Profit, Patrick Glen, Peter Kenneth Alilunas, The Pornologist

I've always felt confident that sooner or later academia would embrace Beaver Street and the book would find its way onto required reading lists for any number of sociology, history, and gender studies courses. My confidence was not misplaced.

Soon after its publication in the U.K., in 2011, a glowing review of Beaver Street, titled "Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States," appeared on H-Net, a site devoted to the humanities and social sciences. Written by Patrick Glen, a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield, it compared Beaver Street to Perversion for Profit, by Rutgers professor Whitney Strub, who essentially covered the same material I did, though from an academic perspective.

“Shocking… evocative… entertaining… A rich account that adds considerable depth and texture to any understanding of how the pornography industry worked,” was the blurb I took from Glen’s critique.

Then, a few months ago, I became aware of The Pornologist, the website of Peter Kenneth Alilunas, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan. On his “Essential Reading” list, Alilunas had placed Beaver Street #1, and as it turned out, his PhD dissertation, Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video, 1976-1986, contained numerous references to the book.

Now, to complete the academic hat trick, a book recently published by Palgrave Macmillan, The Ethics and Politics of Pornography, by David Edward Rose, references Beaver Street in chapter six, “‘I Can’t Do It by Myself!’: Social Ethics and Pornography.”

I don’t know what it says, exactly, as I’m not about to buy a textbook that lists for $105, even if I am in it. But Rose, a lecturer in philosophy at Newcastle University, in the U.K., who, according to his bio, specializes in “Hegelian ethics and counter-enlightenment thought and their application to contemporary moral and political issues,” sounds like a serious fellow. And like The Ethics and Politics of Pornography, Beaver Street also raises “a host of moral and political concerns” about “coercion, exploitation, harm, freedom of expression and the promulgation of sexist attitudes.” Which, apparently, is why it continues to make academic inroads.

And it’s always nice to see my name in an index, atop French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I’m sure he, too, had a few things to say about smut.

Perversion for Profit

September 16, 2013

Tags: Perversion for Profit, Charles Keating, Whitney Strub, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, politics, Beaver Street, pornography, H-Net

Perversion for Profit is the title of an anti-porn film that Charles H. Keating, founder of the pro-censorship group Citizens for Decent Literature, produced in 1965. If Keating's name rings a bell, however, it's probably not because of his heroic efforts to save America from the pornographic menace. Most likely, you remember Keating because, in the 1980s, he was at the center of the savings and loan scandal, which cost taxpayers $341 billion in bailout money. Keating's bank alone, Lincoln Savings and Loan, had sold uninsured junk bonds to 23,000 elderly investors, swindling them out of $300 million--real money in those days--and Keating himself was sentenced to 12½ years in federal prison on 73 counts of racketeering, fraud, and conspiracy.

In Beaver Street, I describe Keating as one of the "Fab Four anti-porn warriors of the 20th century," a select group of men that also included President Richard Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, all of whom had to resign their office in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution or jail time.

Keating serves as a prime example of one of the main themes of Beaver Street: The biggest crooks cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest.

Whitney Strub, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, was so impressed with Keating’s anti-porn work and the breathtaking magnitude of his hypocrisy that he titled his book Perversion for Profit.

Perversion for Profit came to my attention about two years ago, when Columbia University Press published the hardcover edition, and an academic site, H-Net, reviewed it along with Beaver Street. Both books essentially told the same story, they said, Strub’s from an academic perspective, and mine from a literary perspective.

Tuesday night, September 17, from 8:00-10:00 P.M., at the 2A bar in the East Village, Strub will be joining me, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, J. C. Malone, Gloria Malone, Britney Shannon, David Healy, and Peter Loureiro for a night of readings about sexual and gender politics. Check out the flyer on my home page and stop by 2A for a drink.

Professor Strub says attendance is mandatory, Beaver and Perversion will both be on the test, grades of A will be liberally awarded, and extra credit will be given for those of you who’ve actually read the books.

When Academics Attack (Each Other)

September 12, 2011

Tags: H-Net, Beaver Street, Perversion for Profit, Whitney Strub, Patrick Glen, pornography, Sonja Wagner

Nasty business, academia. Imagine what it must be like to say something inconsequential about an obscure theory only to have 14 other professors in your department, all of whom are competing for the last remaining tenured position, drag you into a metaphorical dark alley and viciously pummel you to within an inch of your professional life.

I got a taste of this kind of scholarly brutality when I sent to the so-called anonymous professor who once edited Swank magazine (I call him “Jack”) the H-Net review comparing Beaver Street to Whitney Strub’s Perversion for Profit. (Jack had previously weighed in with his opinion about Beaver Street.)

At the time I sent it to him, I was still not aware that a revised version of the essay, by Patrick Glen, PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield, had been published on H-Net, and I lightheartedly suggested that “Jack” had written it himself, on a sojourn to England.

Here is the anonymous professor’s response to “Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States,” an essay that I thought was brilliant, and that another reader has lauded as “the first scholarly paper to refer to the ‘insertion of fifteen billiard balls into a man’s anus followed by an elbow-deep fist-fucking.’”

Hey Bob,
I may have been a bit slow in responding to this for a reason—it is a gargantuan pile of silliness. First, from the spelling and punctuation, it is safe to assume the review is from the UK (or perhaps Oz.) Second, its possibly valiant attempt to merge a post-mod theoretical study (meaning it is largely improvised according to political need) and your authentic and gritty memoirs is sad and strained. I wouldn’t be the first to compare the former to a type of mental masturbation that aligns reality with the titillating prospect of a “reasonable” theoretical outcome, no matter how outrageously this interferes with perceived facts. I’m afraid I don’t have the energy or inclination to respond more fully, but I’ll add that the stylistic errors throughout attest to a desire to put the message before the medium, to the certain detriment of both.

Frankly I enjoyed best Sonja’s comment—“I’m one of those women that worked as an art director for D-Cup. I assure you I am a feminist.”—which simply blew apart the absurd posing of both the “academic” study and the review itself. Pfft.

Jack

PS—I’d probably give him a C-. He’s fairly articulate, though makes stylistic errors that a grad student should not. (Was there no editor?) The main problem is that his approach is simply wrong-headed—it follows a construct that is largely improvisational and therefore less than useful. He does (perhaps by accident) make some useful observations.


Do we have a genuine, take-no-prisoners academic controversy brewing? One can hope.

A Dirty Book with Universal Appeal?

September 8, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, H-Net, Vanity Fair, Village Voice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bizarre, Amazon

As I prepare for Beaver Street's inevitable US publication sometime in 2012, it has come to my attention that the book has achieved an unusual cultural hat trick, so to speak.

The highbrow critics (H-Net) like Beaver Street.

The middlebrow critics (Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) like Beaver Street.

The lowbrow critics (Bizarre) like Beaver Street.

And if you add the sex critics (Erotic Review) and the chorus of professional, semi-professional, and amateur critics on Amazon US and UK who have weighed in with unanimous five-star reviews… well, one might be tempted to argue that Beaver Street is a dirty book with universal appeal.

But one would be best advised to hold his or her tongue until Traci Lords, the right-wing media, and others with delicate sensibilities render their opinions.

About That Scholarly Analysis

September 6, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Perversion for Profit, Whitney Strub, Patrick Glen, H-Net, pornography, Eric Cantor

The scholarly analysis comparing Beaver Street to Whitney Strub's Perversion for Profit that I wrote about last week is showing signs of being a turning point in Beaver Street's publication.

The essay, titled "Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States," by Patrick Glen of The University of Sheffield, and published on the humanities and social sciences site H-Net, seems to have persuaded certain people, who were leery or dismissive of Beaver Street because of its subject matter, to reconsider the book's merits.

Their thinking seems to be: If a scholar, in an academic paper, is describing Beaver Street as “thought provoking,” “vivid,” and “a rich account,” etc., perhaps it’s more than a dirty book. Perhaps it’s even a book worth reading.

But my favorite reaction to the essay comes from an old friend who plays a small but crucial role in Beaver Street. On page 146, he informs me that while I was incommunicado in the mountains of Idaho, trying to forget about what I did for a living, Traci Lords had confessed to being underage for her entire porno career.

Here’s what he said in his e-mail:

Congratulations, Bob. Not only is the analysis flattering, but you are now responsible for the first scholarly paper to refer to the “insertion of fifteen billiard balls into a man’s anus followed by an elbow-deep fist-fucking.”

I hope that no federal funding went to pay for this paper; you might end up being named in a tirade by Eric Cantor on the floor of Congress and will have to defend yourself in the presidential election.


To which I replied:

No need to worry about Cantor. The paper is a product of the British university system. Someone should alert the Queen.

Mystery Solved! Source of "Beaver Street" Review Found!

August 31, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Perversion for Profit, Robert Rosen, Whitney Strub, pornography, Patrick Glen, H-Net

The source of the "anonymous" review that I posted last week, comparing Beaver Street to Perversion for Profit (Columbia University Press), by Whitney Strub, has been located. Titled, "Free Speech and Competitively Priced Smut: Pornography in the United States," it was written by Patrick Glen, a PhD candidate at The University of Sheffield, in England, and published on H-Net, which describes itself as "An international consortium of scholars and teachers," dedicated to the advancement of "teaching and research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences."

Well, I’ll drink to that. And while I’m at it, I’ll post a blurb on my homepage.

Click here to read the review on H-Net.