A Cure for Sex

Old Faithful

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine confirms it: Each year, between one and two dozen adult U.S. males are admitted to ERs after having castrated themselves. With kitchen tools, usually, sometimes wire cutters. In answer to the obvious question, surviving patients most often report that their sexual urges had become a source of intolerable conflict and anxiety. The desire for perfect release and the real-world impossibility of perfect, whenever-you-want-it release had together produced a tension they could no longer stand.

It is to the thirty-plus testosteronically afflicted males whose cases have been documented in the past two years that your correspondents wish to dedicate this article. And to those tormented souls considering autocastration in 1998, we wish to say: “Stop! Stay your hand! Hold off with those kitchen utensils and/or wire cutters!” Because we believe we may have found an alternative.

Every January, the least pretentious city in America hosts the Annual AVN Awards. The AVN stands for Adult Video News, which is sort of the Variety of the US porn industry. This thick, beautifully designed magazine costs $7.95 per issue, is about 80 percent ads, and is clearly targeted at adult-video retailers. Its circulation is appr. forty thousand.

Though the sublime vagaries of entertainment accounting are legendary, it is universally acknowledged that the US adult-film industry, at $3.5-4 billion in annual sales, rentals, cable charges, and video-masturbation-booth revenues, is an even larger and more efficient moneymaking machine than legitimate mainstream American cinema (the latter’s annual gross commonly estimated at $2-2.5 billion). The US adult industry is centered in LA’s San Fernando Valley, just over the mountains from Hollywood.[1]

Some insiders like to refer to the adult industry as Hollywood’s Evil Twin, others as the mainstream’s Big Red Son.

It is no accident that Adult Video News – a slick, expensive periodical whose articles are really more like infomercials – and its yearly Awards both came into being in 1982. The early ’80s, after all, saw the genesis of VCRs and home-video rentals, which have done for the adult industry pretty much what TV did for pro football.

From the 12/11/97 press release issued by AVN (visitable also at www.avn.com)

The nominations for the 15th Annual AVN Awards were announced today[2]: this year’s awards show, commemorating AVN‘s 15th anniversary, celebrates “History.”[sic]

Awards will be presented in a record 106 categories over a two-night period.

The adult industry released nearly 8,000 adult releases [sic] in 1997, including over 4,000 “new” releases (non-compilation). AVN reviewed every new release in every categroy [sic] this past year, logging over 30,000 sex scenes.[3]

By comparison, last year there were approximately 375 films eligible for the Academy Awards that these voters [sic – meaning different voters from the AVN voters, presumably] were required to see. AVN had to watch more than 10 times the amount of releases in order to develop these nominations [usage and repetition sic, though 4,000 divided by 375 is indeed over 10].

From the acceptance speech of Mr. Tom Byron, Saturday, 10 January 1998, Caesars Forum ballroom, Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino complex, Las Vegas NV, upon winning AVN‘s 1998 Male Performer of the Year Award (and with no little feeling): “I want to thank every beautiful woman I ever put my cock inside.” [Laughter, cheers, ovation.]

From the acceptance speech of Ms. Jeanna Fine, ibid., upon winning AVN‘s 1998 Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in Rob Black’s Miscreants: “Jesus, which one is this for, Miscreants? Jesus, that’s another one where I read the script and said ‘Oh shit, I am going to go to hell. [Laughter, cheers.] But that’s okay, ’cause all my friends‘ll be there too!” [Huge wave of laughter, cheers, applause.]

From the inter-Award banter of Mr. Bobby Slayton, professional comedian and master of ceremonies for the 1997 AVN Awards: “I know I’m looking good, though, like younger, ’cause I started using this special Grecian Formula – every time I find a gray hair, I fuck my wife in the ass. [No laughter, scattered groans.] Fuck you. That’s a great joke. Fuck you.”

Bobby Slayton, a gravelly-voiced Dice Clay knockoff who kept introducing every female performer as “the woman I’m going to cut my dick off for,” and who astounded all the marginal print journalists in attendance with both his unfunniness and his resemblance to every apartment-complex coke dealer we’d ever met, is mercifully absent from the 1998 Awards gala. The ’98 emcee is one Robert Schimmel, alumnus of In Living Color and a Howard Stern regular. Schimmel looks like a depraved, deeply tan Wallace Shawn and is no less coarse than B. Slayton but a lot better. He does a pantomime of someone attempting intercourse with a Love Doll he’s been too lazy to blow up all the way. He contrasts the woeful paucity of his own ejaculate with the concussive orgasms of certain well-known male performers,[4] comparing these men’s ejaculations to automatic lawn sprinklers and doing an eerie sonic impression of same. All of 1998’s marginal print journalists are together at Table 189 at the very back of the ballroom. Most of these reporters are from the sorts of men’s magazines that sit shrink-wrapped behind the cash registers of convenience stores, and they are a worldly and jaded crew indeed, but Schimmel gets a couple of them – whose noms de guerre are Harold Hecuba and Dick Filth – laughing so uproariously that people at the Anabolic Video table nearby keep looking over in annoyance. At one point during a routine on premature ejaculation, Dick Filth actually chokes on a California roll.

But all this is Saturday night, the main event. And there are a whole lot of festivities preceding Saturday’s climax.

The adult industry is vulgar. Would anyone disagree? One of the AVN Awards’ categories is “Best Anal Themed Feature”; another is “Best Overall Marketing Campaign – Company Image.” Irresistible, a 1983 winner in several categories, has been spelled Irresistable in Adult Video News for fifteen straight years. The industry’s not only vulgar, it’s predictably vulgar. All the clichés are true. The typical porn producer really is the ugly little man with a bad toupee and a pinkie-ring the size of a Rolaids. The typical porn director really is the guy who uses the word class as a noun to mean refinement. The typical porn starlet really is the lady in Lycra eveningwear with tattoos all down her arms who’s both smoking and chewing gum while telling journalists how grateful she is to Wadcutter Productions Ltd. for footing her breast-enlargement bill. And meaning it. The whole AVN Awards weekend comprises what Mr. Dick Filth calls an Irony-Free Zone.

But of course we should keep in mind that vulgar has many dictionary definitions and that only a couple of these have to do with lewdness or bad taste. At root, vulgar just means popular on a mass scale. It is the semantic opposite of pretentious or snobby. It is humility with a comb-over. It is Nielsen ratings and Barnum’s axiom and the real bottom line. It is big, big business.

Thirty-four-year-old porn actor Cal Jammer killed himself in 1995. Starlets Shauna Grant, Nancy Kelly, Alex Jordan, and Savannah have all killed themselves in the last decade. Savannah and Jordan received AVN‘s Best New Starlet awards in 1991 and 1992, respectively. Savannah killed herself after getting mildly disfigured in a car accident. Alex Jordan is famous for having addressed her suicide note to her pet bird. Crewman and performer Israel Gonzalez killed himself at a porn company warehouse in 1997.

David Foster Wallace
Big Red Son (1998)
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (2005)

Painting by Albert Bierstadt: Old Faithful (1881)

1 One porn production company, Caballero Home Video, has its headquarters in a big Van Nuys duplex whose othe half is the soundstage for Beverly Hills 90210.

2 The passive mood here’s a bit disingenuous – the release itself is announcing them.

3 At, say, an average of ninety minutes per movie, this means that some person or persons put in 1.4 years of nonstop, continuous porn viewing. Hence your correspondents’ alternative for U.S. males so tortured by carnal desire that they are tempted to auto-neuter: volunteer as a judge for the AVN Awards and spend 1.4 years gazing without rest at the latest in adult video. We guarantee that you will never thereafter want to see, hear, engage in, or even think about human sexuality ever again. Trust us on this. All five marginal (and male) print journalists assigned to cover the 1998 AVN Awards concur: even just watching the dozen or so “big” or “high-profile” adult releases of the past year – Bad Wives, Zazel, A Week and a Half in the Life of a Prostitute, Miscreants, New Wave Hookers 5, Seduce & Destroy, Buttman in Barcelona, Gluteus to the Maximus – fried everyone’s glandular circuit board. By the end of the Awards weekend, none of us were even having normal biological first-thing-in-the-morning or jouncy-bus-ride-between-hotels erections; and when approached even innocently by members of the opposite sex, we all now recoiled as from a hot flame (which made our party a kind of strange and challenging breakfast gig, according to our Sunday-A.M. waitress).

4 Mr. Peter North, in particular, delivers what seem more like mortar rounds than bio-emissions.

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