The Sporadic Beaver

How I Spent the Winter

March 12, 2015

Tags: Florida, Beaver Street, Nowhere Man, John Lennon, Charlie Hebdo, City College of New York, Observation Post, Stoya, Amazon, Twitter, 1970s

One of the problems with writing a book and then preparing it for submission to publishers is that it's an extraordinarily time-consuming process. Take into account that I also have a demanding freelance gig, and there are simply not enough hours in the week to tend to blogging, Facebooking, and tweeting, at least if I want to have something resembling a life. Which is why it's been two months since I've posted anything new on this blog. But I am still here and I know some people have missed me.

So, aside from the book, what’s been happening since January 12? Here are a half-dozen highlights:

Like everybody else in the northeast, I’ve been getting through the winter, which can’t end soon enough, though I’ve not been letting the cold or the snow interfere with my daily walks by the Hudson River, which on some days might be mistaken for the Northwest Passage.

My wife and I spent a week in Florida, visiting my mother and being tourists in Miami. It was warmer there, I went swimming every day, and at no point was I forced to stand my ground.

For a brief moment, Beaver Street was the #1 porn book on Amazon Germany and Nowhere Man was the #1 Beatles book on Amazon Canada. Is it too soon to declare them both cult classics?

Quadrant, a conservative Australian literary journal, cited Nowhere Man in an essay comparing John Lennon to Russell Brand. The conservative media’s 15-year embrace of my work, using it to prove whatever point they’re trying to prove, continues to be a source of astonishment.

In my blog post about Charlie Hebdo, I wrote about the artist who, in the 1970s, had drawn a pornographic cartoon as a way of expressing his discontent with the Catholic Church. I’d published the drawing in Observation Post, the City College newspaper I was editing at the time. Major controversy ensued. Well, the artist read the post, and contacted me. We got together for the first time since 1974. He’s still an artist. And he’s still crazy after all these years. But so am I.

I woke up one morning to find that the porn star Stoya, whom the Village Voice had described on their cover as “The Prettiest Girl in New York,” had mentioned Beaver Street in a blog post. If I could have picked three people on planet Earth to read and appreciate Beaver Street, Stoya would have been among them, alongside Philip Roth and Joan Didion. So, I tweeted her a thank you and she tweeted back, “Thank you for writing it. Amazing glimpse into the adult industry.” Say what you will about Stoya, but I’ll say this much: The girl gives good blurb.

Cubitt's Concept

May 13, 2013

Tags: literature, Clayton Cubitt, Stoya


Amanda reads from A Clockwork Orange

Genius is a word I use sparingly, but I would apply it to photographer Clayton Cubitt's Hysterical Literature, an erotic art project that transcends both literature and pornography.

The concept is deceptively simple: Film, in black and white, a series of sexy, articulate women--some are porn stars, some aren't--sitting at a table, reading a passage from their favorite book. As they read, somebody is underneath the table, out of sight, pleasuring them with a vibrator. All you see is the table, the fully clothed woman from the torso up, and the book she's reading, as she becomes more and more aroused until, no longer able to read, she gives herself over to orgasm.

Not surprisingly, the most popular video in the series, with more than six million views, is porn star Stoya reading from the anthology Necrophila Variations.

Here, I’ve selected two videos that I found especially interesting. The one above is Amanda reading A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess. The one below, which appears to be a knockoff of Cubitt’s concept, is Elaine, a Brazilian woman, reading something or other in Portuguese. Which just goes to show that you don’t have to understand a word that’s being said to appreciate Hysterical Literature.

Can’t wait to see somebody do justice to Beaver Street. In any language.


Elaine reads something in Portuguese

The Stoya Exception

May 2, 2013

Tags: Stoya, Village Voice, Beaver Street, porn stars

"People become porn stars because they're good at it; because they have no other options; because they have nothing to lose; and because they're desperate, either economically or emotionally or both." --Robert Rosen, from Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography

"It made it harder for people to stay in that mindset of porn stars as people who don't have other options because they're too emotionally damaged or stupid to do something else." --Stoya, the porn star, telling the Village Voice why she prefers to post her thoughts directly on the Internet rather than talk to the press.

I’d never heard of Stoya until I read the cover story in last week’s Village Voice. The article, “Pop Star of Porn,” by Amanda Hess, tells how Stoya, 26-year-old star of such X-rated videos as Stoya: Web Whore, has become the toast of the New York art world, perhaps because of her “Snow White beauty,” the mathematical perfection of her face and body, and her even more famous boyfriend, porn star James Deen.

I find it interesting (though not especially surprising) that when I was looking the other way, the line between XXX celebrity and non-XXX celebrity seems to have vanished completely. But even more interesting, I thought, was how Stoya’s above quote echoed what I wrote in Beaver Street, and might have even been a response to it.

Stoya does not want you to think that people become porn stars because they have no other options or because they’re emotionally damaged. And she holds herself up as a shining example of a porn star who has options and is not emotionally damaged.

Fair enough. Stoya is the exception that proves the rule. Though I wonder what, exactly, she’s planning to do when she’s no longer under contract to Digital Playground and her celebrity is no longer based on how well she performs sex acts on video or in live shows. A handful of success stories come to mind: Danni Ashe (Internet millionaire), Jenna Jameson (best-selling author), Ginger Lynn and Christy Canyon (radio personalities).

And I’m sure there are a few more potential Stoyas out there—intelligent, beautiful, emotionally together women with a wide array of options who see hardcore porno as a good career move. But my quote, about economically and emotionally desperate people without options, is based on what I learned from conducting approximately 200 in-depth interviews with porn stars, erotic performers, and nude models, many of whom were intelligent, witty, and articulate.

Stories of sexual abuse, incest, and loss of virginity through rape were common. The porn stars I spoke with, over a 16-year period, were people scarred by emotional trauma, with little education, who were usually driven into porn by economic desperation. If they had options, it was a choice between a minimum wage job at McDonald’s, Burger King, or Wendy’s.

So yes, what Stoya has accomplished is remarkable. But, I think it would be best for the rest of the world to hold on to the mindset of “porn stars as people who don’t have other options because they’re too emotionally damaged.” Because it’s true, even if Stoya doesn’t want you to believe it.