Pornography in Denmark

I went out with Rick, Charlotte, her brother Robert, and Laurie last week and saw “Pornography in Denmark”. It was pretty awesome from several angles: historical, sociologically, and hey porn is pretty much always awesome.

Short form: there were laws against hardcore porn for pleasure but an exemption for documentaries. Exploit the loophole. Make money. Change attitudes and laws about porn in America. Win.

Yes, it’s a real documentary. The most striking moment for me was watching a couple going at it and hearing the narrator list off the prices of myriad pornographic literature. The intention was clear from a documentarian’s viewpoint, “See this? This is big business. We should have this in the US.” But I was a bit distracted to listen to the prices. ;-)

Here is the (fascinating) handout we got before the film:

The film you will see tonight completely changed the exhibition of sexually-oriented films in San Francisco. It was the first film containing hardcore sex to be shown publicly here. From this point forward interest dwindled in softcore sexploitation, and dozens of theaters jumped on the hardcore bandwagon (including the Roxie in the Mission).

It’s worth noting that this is an artifact, and not fine art. lt was made by a 34-year-old Alex de Renzy, at the world’s first sex trade show in Copenhagen. Because the film is constructed as a documentary, de Renzy was able to include hardcore material being presented at the convention. He could then argue that the footage was justified within the context of a documentary about censorship and pornography, but was not pornography itself.

He began showing it at his own theater, The Screening Room, at 220 Jones Street, where he had been presenting softcore pictures since 1967 (most of which he made himself). The film cost de Renzy $15,000 to make. It sold $25,000 worth of tickets in its first week, and is said to have gone on to gross over 2 million. The Screening Room was raided dozens of times by the police, but de Renzy was never successfully convicted of anything.

He went on to become a hugely successful pornographer, directing several films which are considered classics of the genre, including Pretty Peaches, Babyface and Femmes de Sade. He introduced at least three actresses who went on to become icons of adult cinema; Desiree Cousteau, Annette Haven and Aunt Peg (Juliet Anderson) – who was a longtime volunteer here at YBCA until her death last year.

After these “golden age” classics, in his later years de Renzy churned out well over one hundred shot-on-video, anal sex oriented quickies under the pseudonym Rex Borsky. He died in June of 2001.

“Smut Capital of America: San Francisco’s Sex Cinema Revolution” film series continues through August 25. Visit for film descriptions and program details.
Program notes by Joel Shepard, YBCA Film/Video Curator


You missed this movie in this YBCA series but there are several more to see! The series ends this month so click and see some culturally relevant and historically important smut this month!

There are a few more films coming up as part of the series. Go see them.

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