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Lewd Looks

American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s

2017
Author:

Elena Gorfinkel

Lewd Looks

The untold story of the American sexploitation film—a major development in screen sex in the decade before “porno chic”

Elena Gorfinkel examines the social and legal developments that made sexploitation films possible: their aesthetics, their regulation, and their audiences. Recovering a lost chapter in the history of independent cinema and American culture, she explores the ways sexploitation films changed how spectators encountered and made sense of the sexualized body and set the stage for the adult film industry of today.

Sex sells, but it also speaks, and few have listened more attentively than Elena Gorfinkel. In Lewd Looks, she untangles the dense, complicated looking relations of the sexploitation film cycle that most have brushed off as a speed bump on the race to hardcore, revealing it instead as a staging of the fundamental American ambivalence and anxiety regarding sex. Full of recovered moments of previously-lost film history and piercing analytical insights, this brilliant book peers avidly into the cinematic gutter, seeing the truths of our culture floating there.

Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

One of the most fascinating phenomena of 1960s film culture is the emergence of American sexploitation films—salacious indies made on the margins of Hollywood. Hundreds of such films were produced and shown on both urban and small-town screens over the course of the decade. Yet despite their vital importance to the film scene, and though they are now understood as a gateway to the emergence of publicly exhibited hardcore pornography in the early 1970s, these films have been largely overlooked by scholars.

Defined by low budgets, quick production times, unknown actors, strategic uses of nudity, and a sensationalist obsession with unbridled female sexuality, sexploitation films provide a unique window into a tumultuous period in American culture and sexual politics. In Lewd Looks, Elena Gorfinkel examines the social and legal developments that made sexploitation films possible: their aesthetics, their regulation, and their audiences. Gorfinkel explores the ways sexploitation films changed how spectators encountered and made sense of the sexualized body and set the stage for the adult film industry of today.

Lewd Looks recovers a lost chapter in the history of independent cinema and American culture—a subject that will engross readers interested in media, sexuality, gender, and the 1960s. Gorfinkel investigates the films and their contexts with scholarly depth and vivid storytelling, producing a new account of the obscene image, screen sex, and adult film and media.

Lewd Looks

Elena Gorfinkel is senior lecturer in film studies at King’s College London. She is coeditor of Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image (Minnesota, 2011).

Lewd Looks

Sex sells, but it also speaks, and few have listened more attentively than Elena Gorfinkel. In Lewd Looks, she untangles the dense, complicated looking relations of the sexploitation film cycle that most have brushed off as a speed bump on the race to hardcore, revealing it instead as a staging of the fundamental American ambivalence and anxiety regarding sex. Full of recovered moments of previously-lost film history and piercing analytical insights, this brilliant book peers avidly into the cinematic gutter, seeing the truths of our culture floating there.

Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

Groundbreaking and exquisitely presented. With a fearless dedication to archival research, Elena Gorfinkel forges an original research trajectory that can be productively extended to other under-researched media forms as well as mainstream media.

Constance Penley, University of California, Santa Barbara

Lewd Looks

Contents
Introduction: “Coy Leericism”
1. Producing Permissiveness: Censorship, Obscenity Law, and the Trials of Spectatorship
2. Peek Snatchers: Corporeal Spectacle and the Wages of Looking, 1960–1965
3. Girls with Hungry Eyes: Consuming Sensation, Figuring Female Lust, 1965–1970
4. Watching an “Audience of Voyeurs:” Adult Film Reception
Conclusion: Skin Flicks without a Future?
Acknowledgments
Notes
Filmography
Index