The Sporadic Beaver

The Mike Nichols Reference in Beaver Street

November 20, 2014

Tags: Mike Nichols, Beaver Street, Buck Henry, Catch-22, Henry Miller, Screw, Hellfire, Al Goldstein, Mel Brooks, S&M

Mike Nichols, circa 1970, the year he directed Catch-22.
Mike Nichols, best known as the director of such films as The Graduate, Catch-22, and Carnal Knowledge, died yesterday, at 83. Below, I give you the scene from Beaver Street, set in New York City's Hellfire Club during a Screw magazine Halloween party, in 1985, that references Nichols.

I wandered into a back room and saw Buck Henry, the frequent Saturday Night Live guest host, standing by himself and observing with clinical detachment a bleached-blond dominatrix walloping a naked man with a riding crop.

“Come here often?” I asked Henry.

“I’m Buck,” he said, shaking my hand in a firm, businesslike manner. “Yeah, I’ve been to Hellfire once before. But I was expecting a classier crowd tonight—since Al invited me.” He gestured towards the man writhing on the floor. “Is this the kind of stuff that usually goes on here?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “I’ve only been here once before myself, and very briefly at that. But I hear in the old days before AIDS, you could walk in any night and find a half-dozen piss drinking orgies—stuff like that. I can’t believe people are dying now for a little fun they had ten years ago.”

“The statute of limitation for these things should be five years,” Henry said, just as the dominatrix whacked her slave’s penis with a wicked shot that made us both wince.

“Absolutely,” I agreed, unable to take my eyes off the S&M show. “But you’ve got to admit, this is something you don’t see every day. It’s like a scene from Tropic of Cancer.

He nodded and said, “I met Henry Miller once at a Hollywood party. He was there with Mike Nichols. All he wanted to talk about was The Graduate. All I wanted to talk about was Quiet Days in Clichy.

I knew that Henry had written the screenplay for The Graduate, which Nichols had directed, as well as creating with Mel Brooks the classic sitcom Get Smart. “What are you doing now?” I asked. “Writing for Screw?”

“I’m waiting for my mother to die first,” he said.

The Sayings of Chairwoman Dines

February 6, 2013

Tags: Gail Dines, S&M, Beaver Street, Stop Porn Culture

"Robert Rosen, author of Beaver Street, and occasional contributor to this FB page just wrote a rather juvenile piece on me on his blog. The pornographers and their cronies are so interesting because they have no concept of activism for social change. They assume that we are all like them in our desire to 'monetize' everything we do. This is a typical capitalist thinking that can't conceive of a world where people act on the desire to make lives better for others." --Gail Dines, author of Pornland

The above quote, along with a link to my blog post, Gail Dines's Symbiotic XXX Embrace, appeared the other day in the Facebook group Stop Porn Culture. It resulted in a little online dustup.

To recap: I’d written, in part, about Dines’s suggestion, in a column on Counterpunch.org, that Kink.com, a production company specializing in S&M videos, was in violation of international laws prohibiting torture. Apparently unable to distinguish between professional actors being paid to make S&M videos, and CIA agents torturing prisoners at black sites, she said that both the actors and agents had committed war crimes and should be brought to justice.

The inherent absurdity of this argument led me to suggest that Dines is more interested in selling books than she is in achieving her stated goal of eradicating pornography. Because if she ever succeeds in achieving the impossible—eliminating porn—then she’ll be putting herself out of business. And the anti-porn biz is a good and lucrative business, indeed. Just ask Traci Lords.

In any case, I think Dines’s statement at the top of this post deserves a response, and I’ll begin with her grammatically disjointed charge that I’m a “typical capitalist” who assumes that everybody wants to “monetize everything.”

If by “typical capitalist” Dines means that I have attempted to make my living as a writer, editor, and occasional teacher in a capitalist society—a society where I sell my time and work for money—then she is correct. And God help capitalism if I’m typical.

But I also took this charge to mean that Dines does not monetize her time and work, that she must be a socialist, a communist, or even an anarchist, whose purpose in life is to get out word to as many people as possible about the evils of pornography. I therefore assumed that her book must be available as a free download, and that Wheelock College, in Boston, where Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies, must be free tuition.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Pornland is selling for the standard Kindle price of $9.99, and that tuition plus room and board for four years at Wheelock will cost an undergraduate about $175,000—a fee that strikes me as a form of capitalism as pure and exploitative as pornography. It brought to mind an image of one of Dines’s students, in the year 2038, still struggling to pay off her student loan, and thinking fondly of Professor Dines and all that useful information she taught her about “body-punishing sex.” It even occurred to me that this imaginary student might have, at some point in her career, turned to the porn industry to earn a little extra money to pay off that crushing debt.

But enough about capitalism for now. Let’s turn, for a moment, to the charge of “juvenile.” Funny word, juvenile. If I didn’t know the meaning, and had to figure it out based only on how radical feminists have used it to describe my work, I might conclude that juvenile means “people who write in a humorous or satiric manner about the porn industry and its detractors.” Because the only other person who has described my work as “juvenile” is a radical-feminist book reviewer who, in order to trash Beaver Street, made up things about the book that are demonstrably false, and then based her opinions on those misrepresentations. She said, for example, that I “excluded female pornographers entirely” from the book, when, in fact, there are more than dozen women pornographers in Beaver Street, five of whom are major characters.

But this post is about the absurdity of Gail Dines, not the absurdity of radical feminist critics who have reviewed my work in a less than honest manner. And though I’d love to continue in this vein, it’s getting late, and there are more books to be written. So, I’ll have to continue on another day. But I will leave you with one last thought: If my work has pissed off porn kings (such as Lou Perretta) and radical feminists alike, I must be doing something right. Could it be that I’m telling the truth?

Gail Dines's Symbiotic XXX Embrace

February 4, 2013

Tags: Gail Dines, Adult Video News, S&M

I must admit I felt a pang of jealousy when I saw AVN's takedown of Gail Dines's takedown of both James Franco's documentary Kink, and the subject of the film, Kink.com, following a screening at the Sundance Film Festival.

According to Dines's original piece on Counterpunch.org, Kink.com, a company specializing in S&M videos, is in violation of international laws prohibiting torture. According to AVN, Dines is an idiot for saying that professional actors being paid to make S&M videos are committing war crimes and should be brought to justice. Dines, they suggest, seems unable to distinguish sexual fantasy from the coercive interrogation techniques that the CIA once used on members of al Quaeda.

I’m jealous because the only thing that might sell more books than a high-profile takedown of an author is a high-profile rave review of the author’s book. And make no mistake about Gail Dines: Though she acts as if her primary goal is the elimination of pornography—“body-punishing sex” is her favorite phrase—her primary goal is selling books, and she’s very good at it.

Dines, a professional anti-porn activist, has built her career on criticizing the porn industry. And in so doing, she has become locked in a symbiotic embrace with that industry: The more pervasive pornography becomes, the more Dines has to criticize; the more ubiquitous Dines becomes with her porno-bashing books, articles, lectures, and media appearances, the more curious people become about the “body-punishing sex” she professes to hate so much. If Dines were ever to accomplish her stated goal of putting pornographers out of business, then she’d be putting herself out of business, too. And that’s not going to happen.

So, when AVN publishes a piece like “Quick! Someone Tell Gail Dines That Porn Is Actually Fantasy!” and the graphic for that piece includes the cover of Dines’s book, Dines, in the midst of her psychic orgasm, takes to her Facebook group, Stop Porn Culture, posts a link to the article, and says, in part, “I am so grateful to the pornographers for helping me understand that torture is just fantasy and sex play.” And Stop Porn Culture’s 1829 members follow that up with comments like: “Porn users are very entitled and do not like to be called out. They will grasp at anything that AVN says that allows them to maintain their dominance. They hate girls who are big meanies and make them feel ashamed!” And: “Someone (maybe their lawyers!) should remind [Kink.com] that they can go to ACTUAL prison for making people do that stuff.”

More books are sold. More pornography is viewed. And Gail Dines feels the satisfaction of a job well done.

Fifty Shades of Beaver

September 5, 2012

Tags: Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James, Beaver Street, pornography, S&M, Book House, Talk Story TV

Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Call it bloated. Call it amateurish. Call it Ishmael. The bottom line--and it's literally a bottom line--is that this series of S&M novels has sold nearly 50 million copies, and in so doing has made the book world safe for smut.

If it weren't for E. L. James, the British TV executive and mother of two, who began writing Fifty Shades as online fan fiction, I doubt that I'd have been invited to participate in a live Internet chat about Beaver Street on Talk Story TV on September 12 or to read from and sign my investigative memoir at the Book House, in Albany, NY, on September 14.

Fifty Shades of Grey and Beaver Street are both entertaining books about sex that contain explicitly pornographic passages. And there are, indeed, a number of S&M scenes in Beaver Street. But the similarities end there. Fifty Shades is fiction. Beaver Street is nonfiction that reads like fiction. Fifty Shades was written to arouse. Beaver Street, though arousing in many parts, was written to inform—to show the history of the late 20th century through a pornographic lens.

Ironically, critics have panned Fifty Shades of Grey and acclaimed Beaver Street across the cultural spectrum, from highbrow to lowbrow—which only goes to show that nobody cares what critics say. Which is to say, if, over the course of my lifetime, I can sell 1/100 of the number of books that James has sold, I’ll be a very happy author.