The Adult Film History Project

Curator's Note

Most of the history of pornography has taken place offline, starting with the printed word, through the earliest stag films into the theatrical era of the 1970s, and finally into the home with VCRs. Almost none of this content is online—and much of it no longer exists. Furthermore, whatever material traces of these films’ context that might have existed - evidence of how these movies were produced, sold, and viewed - are even harder to come by. For scholars and historians interested in the fullest possible understanding of this early era of pornographic film, the research landscape can be extraordinarily daunting. The researcher setting out to work on adult film history often ends their inquiry in frustration, certain that crucial evidence may exist, but barred from accessing it due to expense (given the lucrative collector’s market), scarcity, or geography, as such material is often available only in distant archives.

For all of these reasons, archivist Dan Erdman and I created the Adult Film History Project (AFHP), a crowd-sourced, online repository of adult film-related materials that we hope will remedy at least some of these challenges. We’re not collecting and digitally preserving adult films; rather, this is about the materials around adult film history—the magazines, newsletters, marketing materials, and other ephemera that can help scholars and historians dig out, organize, and write these valuable histories. Best of all: anyone, anywhere can contribute, since this is all hosted online by the Internet Archive. Instructions and guidance can be found on our website.

The magazine cover presented here, with the issue available in full in the archive, is for the summer 1965 issue of Modern Man Quarterly. This selection is indicative of the sorts of things that led us to create this archive, and one of the first pieces we added to it. A precursor to Playboy, Modern Man Quarterly ran from 1951 until the early 1970s, and was a fairly standard soft-core offering. This particular issue featured a look at “nude movies,” offering a snapshot of the pre-hardcore days of sexploitation film. That includes, for example, a brief overview of the 1963 Lee Frost/Bob Cresse film Hollywood’s World of Flesh, an early mondo-style effort ostensibly about the nude film industry. For years this sort of thing would have been impossible for scholars to find—but now, anyone can access it, which is exactly what we hope will occur.

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