Disposable Passions: Vintage Pornography and the Material Legacies of Adult Cinema (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016)

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From early twentieth-century stag films to 1960s sexploitation pictures to the boom in 1970s “porno chic,” adult cinema's vintage forms are now being reappraised by a new generation of historians, fans, preservationists, and home video entrepreneurs--all of whom depend on and help shape the archive of film history. But what is the present-day allure of these artifacts that have since become eroticized more for their “pastness” than the explicit acts they show? And what are the political implications of recovering these rare but still-visceral films from a less “enlightened,” pre-feminist past? Drawing on media industry analysis, archival theory, and interviews with adult video personnel, David Church argues that vintage pornography retains its retrospective fascination precisely because these culturally denigrated texts have been so poorly preserved on political and aesthetic grounds. Through these films' ongoing moves from cultural emergence to concealment to rediscovery, the archive itself performs a “striptease,” permitting tangible contact with these corporeally stimulating forms at a moment when the overall physicality of media objects is undergoing rapid transformation. Disposable Passions explores the historiographic lessons that vintage pornography can teach us about which materials our society chooses to keep, and how a long-neglected genre is primed for serious rediscovery as more than mere autoerotic fodder.



Chapter 1: Eroticizing the Degraded Past: Stag Films, Cinephilia, and the Marketing of Necro-Erotic Desire

Chapter 2: Ephemerality Between Fantasy and Reality: Sexploitation, Fan Magazines, and the Adults-Only Film and Publishing Industries

Chapter 3: "Whatever Happened to Gigi Darlene?" Object Lessons for a Disappearing and Reappearing Corpus

Chapter 4: Preservational Ethics, Cultural Distinctions, and Vintage Pornoisseurship in the Internet Age



"Church plants a beautifully researched, deeply thought analysis that goes beyond the somewhat niche field of porn studies to offer larger claims about the eroticization of historicity itself. This is truly cultural studies at its finest, an endlessly inventive book bursting with sophisticated ideas while somehow even managing to be a fun read. [...] He is a scholar uniquely attuned to pleasures—of the text, of short tangents, of pointed barbs at stuffy cinephiles and collectors with reactionary sexual politics, but ultimately of the ways we bury our complicated desires for the past in the only thing that could make them seem simple: smut. Disposable Passions is a necessary intervention and a sheer delight."


Disposable Passions' greatest strength is that it offers an incredibly supple framework for understanding not only our historical connection to erotic media but also our erotic connections to historic media … [it] will no doubt become a foundational text in a number of disciplines, including affect theory, pornography studies, media studies, fan studies and archive studies. It is, on all accounts, a highly stimulating and nimbly argued book that deserves the critical attention it is sure to garner.”

--Screening Sex

“This is one of the most unique approaches to porn studies that I've ever encountered, and surely a blueprint for how film history will have to evolve into the future.”

--Porno Cultures podcast

Disposable Passions is an absolute must read for every porn studies scholar. Church's meticulous and accurate research dives deep, and fills a gaping hole in seX film history.”

--Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D.

“As the study of pornographies continues to grow and develop it is especially good to see new approaches to vintage adult film. David Church's book is a fascinating dissection of the appeal of vintage porn and what this can tell us about cult film, fandom, and porn archives.”

--Prof. Feona Attwood, Middlesex University


National Adult Movie Club membership card, a short-lived initiative (ca. 1973-77) to link multiple adult theaters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey. See more info here.