Skip to content


Of Sex Work, Censorship & George Bernard Shaw

Thanks to Lynn’s article about the history of stag films, I was able to find this fabulous bit by George Bernard Shaw. It’s from his “Author’s Apology”, a rather heated preface to one of his plays, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the third play in Shaw’s Plays Unpleasant. Mrs. Warren’s Profession was most definitely about sex — and taboo sex at that, including the title character being a sex worker (prostitute and madam).

[A]n unwritten but perfectly well understood regulation that members of Mrs Warren’s profession shall be tolerated on the stage only when they are beautiful, exquisitely dressed, and sumptuously lodged and fed; also that they shall, at the end of the play, die of consumption to the sympathetic tears of the whole audience, or step into the next room to commit suicide, or at least be turned out by their protectors and passed on to be “redeemed” by old and faithful lovers who have adored them in spite of their levities.

[Sound at all familiar? Echos (or foreshadowing) of  The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, right?]

While Mrs. Warren’s Profession was written in 1894, Shaw’s “apology” was written in 1902 — because fear and censorship regarding the issue of prostitution (and incest) resulted in a delay “of only eight years” in performance of the play.  And the result is that so much of Shaw’s “apology” is actually an attack on censorship. You can — and should — read the whole thing, as well as the play itself.

MrsWarrensProfession

Of additional interest is Shaw’s reason for writing the play itself. According to The Cambridge Companion to Victorian and Edwardian Theatre, Shaw wrote Mrs. Warren’s Profession in order to “draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together.”

In his author’s apology, Shaw explains in more detail:

Naturally, the poorer girls in the gallery will believe in the beauty, in the exquisite dresses, and the luxurious living, and will see that there is no real necessity for the consumption, the suicide, or the ejectment: mere pious forms, all of them, to save the Censor’s face. Even if these purely official catastrophes carried any conviction, the majority of English girls remain so poor, so dependent, so well aware that the drudgeries of such honest work as is within their reach are likely enough to lead them eventually to lung disease, premature death, and domestic desertion or brutality, that they would still see reason to prefer the primrose path to the strait path of virtue, since both, vice at worst and virtue at best, lead to the same end in poverty and overwork. It is true that the Board School mistress will tell you that only girls of a certain kind will reason in this way. But alas! that certain kind turns out on inquiry to be simply the pretty, dainty kind: that is, the only kind that gets the chance of acting on such reasoning. Read the first report of the Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes [Bluebook C 4402, 8d., 1889]; read the Report on Home Industries (sacred word, Home!) issued by the Women’s Industrial Council [Home Industries of Women in London, 1897, 1s., 12 Buckingham Street, W. C.]; and ask yourself whether, if the lot in life therein described were your lot in life, you would not prefer the lot of Cleopatra, of Theodora, of the Lady of the Camellias, of Mrs Tanqueray, of Zaza, of Iris. If you can go deep enough into things to be able to say no, how many ignorant half-starved girls will believe you are speaking sincerely? To them the lot of Iris is heavenly in comparison with their own. Yet our King, like his predecessors, says to the dramatist, “Thus, and thus only, shall you present Mrs Warren’s profession on the stage, or you shall starve. Witness Shaw, who told the untempting truth about it, and whom We, by the Grace of God, accordingly disallow and suppress, and do what in Us lies to silence.” Fortunately, Shaw cannot be silenced. “The harlot’s cry from street to street” is louder than the voices of all the kings. I am not dependent on the theatre, and cannot be starved into making my play a standing advertisement of the attractive side of Mrs Warren’s business.

Here I must guard myself against a misunderstanding. It is not the fault of their authors that the long string of wanton’s tragedies, from Antony and Cleopatra to Iris, are snares to poor girls, and are objected to on that account by many earnest men and women who consider Mrs Warren’s Profession an excellent sermon. Mr Pinero is in no way bound to suppress the fact that his Iris is a person to be envied by millions of better women. If he made his play false to life by inventing fictitious disadvantages for her, he would be acting as unscrupulously as any tract writer. If society chooses to provide for its Irises better than for its working women, it must not expect honest playwrights to manufacture spurious evidence to save its credit. The mischief lies in the deliberate suppression of the other side of the case: the refusal to allow Mrs Warren to expose the drudgery and repulsiveness of plying for hire among coarse, tedious drunkards; the determination not to let the Parisian girl in Brieux’s Les Avaries come on the stage and drive into people’s minds what her diseases mean for her and for themselves. All that, says the King’s Reader in effect, is horrifying, loathsome.

Precisely: what does he expect it to be? would he have us represent it as beautiful and gratifying? The answer to this question, I fear, must be a blunt Yes; for it seems impossible to root out of an Englishman’s mind the notion that vice is delightful, and that abstention from it is privation. At all events, as long as the tempting side of it is kept towards the public, and softened by plenty of sentiment and sympathy, it is welcomed by our Censor, whereas the slightest attempt to place it in the light of the policeman’s lantern or the Salvation Army shelter is checkmated at once as not merely disgusting, but, if you please, unnecessary.

Everybody will, I hope, admit that this state of things is intolerable; that the subject of Mrs Warren’s profession must be either tapu altogether, or else exhibited with the warning side as freely displayed as the tempting side. But many persons will vote for a complete tapu, and an impartial sweep from the boards of Mrs Warren and Gretchen and the rest; in short, for banishing the sexual instincts from the stage altogether.

I find all this fascinating.

antique shaw warrens professionI especially enjoy reading and rereading Shaw’s “apology”. Each time I read it, something new pops out and stuns me with its brilliance. …Or makes me want to research more.

However, if you prefer a condensed, Cliff Notes version or summation…

In Incest and the Trafficking of Women in Mrs. Warren’s Profession: “It Runs in the Family”, Petra Dierkes-Thrun boils it down most succinctly:

Instead of unequivocally condemning the individual figure of the prostitute as a scapegoat for moral hypocrisy and sexual promiscuity, the play critiqued the ideological and economic system that produced her, attacking the problematic double standard of male privilege and the deeply entrenched objectification of women, which Shaw saw pervading all levels of Victorian society down to its most basic nuclear element, the family.

The very real economic component of gender disparity, of how male privilege affects women, continues to be heard in serious talks about modern sex work and feminism today. The issue of censorship limiting discussions of the same — as well as discussions and depictions of truth, sexuality, and other taboos — also continues. *sigh*

As the McCarter Theatre notes that “despite great advances in women’s rights and labor conditions, the issues raised in Mrs. Warren’s Profession remain pertinent.” Luckily, the play continues to be revived and put into stage productions; when you get the chance, see it.

PS The McCarter Theatre link also has an excellent timeline of the theatrical production of the play.

Image Credits: Antique newspaper clipping via Green Room Chatter; antique bound version of play via Brown University.

Posted in Plays, Prositution, Sex History, Sexism.

Tagged with , , , , , .


What I’ve Been Reading & Looking At

classic-loren-mansfieldSophia Loren explains the look she gave Jayne Mansfield in this iconic pic. (Note how Eonline blurs even the suggestion of a dreaded nipple!)

Defiant burlesque legends. Amen!

Gloria Steinem’s Pop Art Protests.

Original paintings by LeRoy Neiman created for Caesars Palace go up for auction. (Circa 1980s.)

Bacchus ponders this dynamic nude duo. Ideas?

Playboy bunnies from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s on “Meeting the Male Gaze Then — and Now.”

Posted in Art, Babes, Magazines, Photographs, Sex History.

Tagged with , , , , .


Erotic Netsuke Auction Buyers Beware?

Darryl writes in about some Netsuke up for auction:

Hey, SPS, I found a few naughty Netsuke up for auction and I can’t believe the auction estimates are $10-$20 — I’m guessing they are fakes. But I’m also freaked out that they are not able to ship to California… Is that because there would be legal action against fakes in Cali?

The auction items Darryl is asking about are part of an “Estate Auction Co.” auction at Live Auctioneers (here and here).

erotic Netsuke chinese

Chinese Carved Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

I’m not an expert in Netsuke, but as they are a Japanese art form, the very fact that these are stated as Chinese is an indication that they are modern works. (They also state that they are signed pieces, which may even rule out reproductions of antique pieces; though the artists’ names are not provided.) That does not mean they are fake though. The tradition of the Netsuke art form continues and the word “fake” should only be used to describe pieces being sold as something they are not. In the case of these two erotic Netsuke, stating they are Chinese and not Japanese (if not much else) would clear the auction company of claims of passing them off as authentic, antique, or otherwise valuable Netsuke pieces. In fact, they don’t even use the word “Netsuke”; perhaps that is to rule out any confusion.

The company also has other Netsuke offerings (here and here) they state are signed Japanese pieces, which are also sexual.

Japanese Carved Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

Japanese Ivory Erotic Couple Netsuke Signed

In these cases, they are described as Netsuke — but no age is given and the auction estimates are only $20-$40. Again, this indicates to me that they are not being sold as authentic items hundreds of years old.

As for the “Shipping to California is Not Available”, this is due to the little erotic carvings being made from ivory; California as a zero-tolerance policy on the sale of ivory. It doesn’t matter how old or new the pieces are, if sale and/or importation was legal, or even the type of ivory (say from from mammoth ivory), California just doesn’t allow it.

(In terms of buying fakes, your protection lies within your consumer powers, i.e. credit card or other payment option, the auction house itself, your local consumer protection office, and even the post office.)

Posted in Art, Collecting, Other Objects.

Tagged with , , , , .


How Your Parents Did It

There’s a cute little vintage amateur porn video showing a couple from the 50s or 60s making out. There’s lots of kissing, and when it comes time for second base, she removes her bra beneath her top. Yes, there’s the formulaic cock sucking before the fucking; but first she undoes his pants while they are seated on the sofa. It’s all quite quaint and graphic at the same time.

Posted in Films, Sex History.

Tagged with , , , , , .


The Obligatory Nude Witch For Halloween

Olga Solarics, from the Manassé Foto-Salon in Vienna, 1922.

Vintage HALLOWEEN Photo 1920s

There’s a Tumblr site devoted to the salon with quite a collection of photos.

Olga Solarics (1896-1969) and her husband Adorja’n von Wlassics (1893-1946) ran the Manasse’ Foto-Salon in Vienna from 1922-1938. Olga seems to have been the one interested in the photographic nude. She (or they) exhibited at the 1st International Salon of Nude Photography in Paris in 1933.

Posted in Photographers, Photographs.

Tagged with , , , , .


Vintage Celebrity Photographs Auction

A collection of vintage (and some more contemporary) celebrity photographs called the “Paris Collection” will be up for auction on October 28, 2014. This is but a sampling. You can bid online via Live Auctioneers here.

Tom Kelley David Bowie

Michel Comte  Mimi Rogers

Bert Stern Liz Taylor

bert stern Lindsay Lohan

Bert Stern Marilyn Monroe

Douglas Kirkland Marilyn Monroe, lifetime

Leonard de Raemy Gérard Depardieu

Douglas Kirkland Brigitte Bardot

Tony Frank Tina Turner and Ike

Jean Pierre Fizet  Jane Birkin

Tony Grylla Sammy Davis

Posted in Events, Photographs.

Tagged with , , , .


Helen Mirren Has Always Been Sexy

Helen Mirren and James Mason in Age of Consent (1969). Via; via.

helen mirren strips

nude helen mirren

age of consent 1969

nude in the water

topless helen mirren

helen mirren wiggles

helen mirren splashes in the water

swimming nude

mirren nude on beach

nude model helen mirren

Posted in Films, Sex History.

Tagged with , , .


It’s Like Magic Mushrooms, Only More Graphic Sexually (Vintage German Porn)

Usually, I don’t find there to be a language barrier in porn. But…

Well, just watch this:

Via Herzog, which claims to be “the one and only original source for the famous Heidi Porn movies from the 70s and 80s.”

The Scottish Mc Fizz has left the building! He searches for a special kind of herb that will help him out of his misery. As soon as the little village finds out the villagers turn out to be very keen to promote this plant and it’s healthy effects!

Whether this herb is like those mushrooms I did in the 1980s, or it’s a fabled male potency thing, the sex is on. German Fly, perhaps?

I am fascinated.

Discovered via.

PS Interestingly, if you do a Google image search for this image, you get World Cup images.

magic potent mushroom herbs for sex

Posted in Films, Sex History.

Tagged with , , , , .


Amis Amiss?

New York Magazine recently provided a little graphic based on data about the sleeping patterns of “geniuses” (The data came from Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey.) We’re supposed to be shocked by how much creative types sleep — but I’m completely tossed by seeing Kingsley Amis on the list! Then again, I only know him from what I’d call “pulp novels”; That Uncertain Feeling (aka Only Two Can Play), which I liked very much, and I Like It Here, which I liked not-so-much.

140609sleep_970

Posted in Artists, Authors, Books, Notes.

Tagged with , , .


In EROS Magazine, July 1980

CR/LF of Sex Is AS Red-Blooded Thing wrote this for Peek-A-Boob, then when he revamped the site a few years ago, this post somehow was cut. I’m pleased to republish it as a guest post here because I think it’s quite insightful. (If you would like to guest here, contact me.)

eros july 1980EROS magazine shows it’s genes, hearkening towards 1970s Penthouse style, and adequately fits the “men’s lifestyle porn” of that period. The articles are few and short, easy to read — while the photos are edgy and much more titillating than a Playboy ‘centerfold’ style of photo galleries.

This issue, July 1980, is barely one hundred pages long, with quite a few being pictures.

Advertisements do dominate many pages; nearly all are for other adult products, probably due to the smaller size & scope of the magazine. Many of the ads even bring a blush to my face, despite having been hardened by the so-called rampant sexuality they say we’re exposed to today. The acts described — golden showers, hot ‘lessies’, group come, sucking cheerleaders — rival the nastiest keywords in today’s adult websites. One indicator of age reveals itself in the adult films: there’s not a video tape among them. All movies are described as 8mm — either standard or Super8 — and many of the sellers offer free ‘viewers’ with purchase.

1980s bondage film ad

There are very few color ads, and most are plain black-and-white ads that might be seen in the backs of most magazines…although the items sold here are significantly different than anything you’d find in Popular Mechanics.

vintage sex doll ad

The magazine starts with four or five pages of ‘sexy news,’ a few pictures of body paint, some product recommendations, in a column called “Foreplay”. The “Letters” section is about what you’d expect: thanks for good photos, “real” stories of sexual exploits, and funny stories. Near the end is a feature called “Beaver Patrol,” publishing nude photos of readers along with a description of their favorite sex acts. The common theme between the three is the sexist attitude towards women. A news article about sex in the military labels the women as ‘nymphos,’ one of the letters describes a woman being forced into being a sex-slave for her infidelity, and the reader photo descriptions are distinctively lewd…but who’s complaining? That’s what these magazines are for, right? If Stuff magazine would show more tits, it’d be a comparable magazine in terms of sexualizing women with a faint haze of misogyny around the edges.

The articles are actually much better written than the ‘shorts’. The first is an interview with a male escort, describing how he does his work, and how he deals with the perils of male prostitution. The article doesn’t reveal anything new about the high-priced escort industry, but the male point of view is refreshing. A nice change from the misogynistic tone of the arousing news is an article on women in the military, written by April Blackwood. The three-page opinion piece is surprisingly positive towards women soldiers, both as a large component of the military and in combat duties. The final piece is an expose on the “killer drug” of the period: Angel Dust, or PCP. While the article does do a good job of explaining the dangers and affects of PCP, it delves into explicit erotic ramblings about sexual scenes caused by PCP use, which are neither effective nor arousing…which may be the point.

eros 80s death dust

Surprisingly thorough is a review of the pornographic film “Education of the Baroness,” showing such depth as to describe a very loose and specious connection to Harold Pinter’s work The Servant. Owing it’s description to the appreciation of porno chic in the seventies, the writer, Rex Underwood, gives the film a complete working over, from complimenting the acting abilities of the performers and describing food inserted into a woman’s cunt, all in the same sentence.

The magazine has a number of erotica pieces of varying length. The first, a regular column called “Kinky Street,” is a short, barely two pages, voyeurism erotica piece. The end indicates it was reader-submitted, and asks for people with ‘bizarre freaky sexual’ experiences should write their stories and send them in. This is followed by an article of compiled sexual fantasies, each being only a few paragraphs long, from both men and women. Wet Satin, by Sylvia Francis, is a story about a young man with a panty fetish, ranging from being turned on by his mother’s panties as a child, through the undergarments of his sexual conquests, to wearing panties himself. An interesting read, it dwells significantly on kinky sex (during period, oral sex in public, BDSM, and his fascination with his mother), but it moves quickly and isn’t difficult to read.

There are six different photo spreads; four of individual women posing, one of a man and a woman, and a pseudo-lesbian set. The first, titled “11” (Bo Derek, meet your competition, according to the table of contents, alluding to the movie 10), is five poolside photos of a short-haired blonde, who also appears on the back cover.

vintage eros magazine

“Cherry Bomb” is nine photos of a brown-haired woman posing with Fourth Of July themed cake and balloons, and in lingerie on a bed. “Poster Pet Jane” is Eros’ version of the centerfold, appearing at the middle of the magazine so a two-page photo could be removed and posted on a wall. Her eight photos are credited to “RDR Productions”.

The last solo spread is of a long-haired woman in the desert, called “Bake Off”. Her photos are credited to Leverett Bradley. Around half of the photos are accompanied by witty comments, ranging from “Now that’s what I call America the Beautiful” for a Cherry Bomb photo to a complete limerick:

A sex-starved young waitress from Frisco,
Whose cookie was not a Nabisco,
Would warm up her oven
With fingertip lovin’,
And then she’d start cookin’ with Crisco.

cherry bomb eros magazine 1980

The man-on-woman sexual scenes are par for the non-XXX magazines, showing nothing but a limp penis and a number of suggestive poses. Nothing remarkable. The lesbians, however, are far less lesbian than just missing the penis altogether.

vintage interracial lesbians in eros magazine

If all lesbians were made so by a lack of available penises, the world might be a much different place. No, the magazine and the photos are clearly for the benefit of horny men, as the unintentionally humorous captions demonstrate. It starts with the cut-and-dried statement, “I wish you were a man,” continuing with “I wish I had low slung balls for you to suck on,” and ending with “I wish I could screw you till you begged me to stop.” Finding out that your friend wishes she had a huge black cock to fuck your little blonde cunt with might be disturbing to most women, but, again, giving men the opportunity to project their own image onto either woman is what sold the photos, not the burgeoning lesbian market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unfortunately, none of the models — except the centerfold “Jane” — are credited, possibly because they were purchased from photographers rather than photographed by staff. In fact, the magazine’s masthead lists no photographers, save an ‘art director’. None of the authors show up in the masthead as regular employees, and given their alias-sounding names it’s likely that they were independent writers whose works were purchased for the magazine.

Posted in Advertising, Lesbian, Magazines, Sex History, Sexism.

Tagged with , , , , , , .