Wet Dreams: Erotic Film Festivals of the Early 1970s and the Utopian Sexual Public Sphere

By Gorfinkel, Elena | Framework, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Wet Dreams: Erotic Film Festivals of the Early 1970s and the Utopian Sexual Public Sphere


Gorfinkel, Elena, Framework


Film festivals, from their inception and popularization across the world, have been a locus for the formation of communities and cinephile publics, as well as alternative modes of filmic exchange and circulation. Despite the very nature of their transitory existence and ephemerality, film festivals as cultural events are receiving growing scholarly attention. As of yet, the studies of film festivals currently available have taken on specific national and urban locations, geographies, moments in time, and cultural identities.1 What makes the documentation of film festivals a difficult task is the complexity and multiplicity of the phenomena as well as the rapid proliferation of festivals across the globe in recent years. As a scan of any city's film festival calendar today attests, these events often engage with niche or specialty subjects and cater to specialized audiences. They are often focalized around cinematic works from a particular nation, belonging to specific genres, moving image media, or modes of production, expressive of sexual orientations or identity categories, or devoted to issues of local or political interest.2 Looking back at a moment in which the festival format was a relatively fresh and novel means for celebrating film work, and in which the notion of the niche-market festival was still developing, could thus provide directives both for research into the history of festival culture as well as in film history of the early 1970s more broadly.

As such, I will offer a micro-history of a set of events that led to the rise of erotic film festivals in New York, San Francisco, and Amsterdam in the early 1970s. In this essay, I will locate this hybrid reception sphere within the history of the sexual revolution and the development of publicly screened hardcore pornography, as well as within the contexts of broader public debates around the liberalization of screen permissiveness. I will also map out the emergence of the erotic film festival as a site for taste formation and erotic consumption across different modes of film production such as the sexploitation film, the experimental film, the independent film, and the hardcore pornographic feature. Exemplary of a moment in which the furor over sexuality and sexual explicitness in film had reached a fever pitch, this case study looks at the ways that these festivals mobilized a discourse of sexual liberation alongside a rhetoric of aesthetic innovation, positioning themselves outside of the market of the more mundane porn shops and storefront theaters selling a seedier version of sex to an older generation of "skin flick" consumers. The promotion and execution of the International Erotic Film Festival in San Francisco (which premiered in December 1970) and the New York Erotic Film Festival (which began in December 1971), and their European progenitor, the Wet Dream Film Festival in Amsterdam (November 1970), offers a historical site for the exploration of the terms and conventions of erotic taste cultures as they were imbricated with the refinement and construction of cinephile practices in urban locales.3

But first it is important to ask, why put on an erotic film festival, and why at this particular time and in these particular places? From a contemporary vantage point, we have grown accustomed to the plethora of film festivals which have expanded and spanned the globalized world in recent years, and the notion of an erotic film festival, in and of itself, is not a controversial or new one.4 Yet considering the historical moment of the early 1970s, the materialization of erotic film festivals represented a shift in the conceptualization of sexuality in film, in the larger film culture, and in the public sphere more broadly. While the concept of the film festival was a relatively new one to American culture, with the earliest festivals emerging in Columbus and San Francisco in the 1950s, it was further institutionalized in the 1960s by me New York Film Festival, which embraced the appreciation of the cinema as an art form and built upon a vibrant cinephile culture already in play in New York at me time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Wet Dreams: Erotic Film Festivals of the Early 1970s and the Utopian Sexual Public Sphere
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.