Last night I watched a 1970s nostalgia piece that celebrated a phenomenon it called the Golden Age of Porn. A string of ageing hippies were brought out to rhapsodise about “classics” such as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door – which – their makers claimed, at least – attempted to bring genuine artistry to their romping. In the minds of these auteurs of obscenity their films broke down the stale conventions of yesterday’s moralists and introduced the world to, er…

What? Well, that’s where the nostalgia collapses beneath the weight of its own revisionism. Because “porno chic” was only groundbreaking inasmuch as it plumbed new depths of sleaze. As far I can tell, it combined the worst of pre-1960s power relations with the worst of post-60s liscentiousness. Deep Throat, say, was premised on a woman who gets satisfaction from an act that, in reality, can only pleasure men. It was, in other words, a pathetic male fantasy – performed by a woman who was being tormented by her sleazebag husband and financed by the Mob. It’s been a cause celebre of libertarians but the fact that something challenges authoritarianism needn’t be to its credit – I’ll defend the rights of neo-fascists but that doesn’t mean that I admire the guys.

What rankled was how smug the veteran pornographers were about their transgressions. Yet transgression is hardly a virtue in itself – it’s the form a virtuous act can take. Anyone can flout conventions; it’s flouting a bad one that’s important. Sadly, the gaze of many hippies seems to have drifted from the world and to their own navels (or, perhaps, a different orifice).

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