As argued previously in Shiver me Timber: Animating Gay Porn (Part 1) animated pornography, such as Pirate’s Booty (dir/Wendy Crawford, 2009) and Tales from the gods (dir/Wendy Crawford, 2010) allows a visual representation of sex that is arguably more real than live action sex. This conclusion follows from Linda Williams’ (1989) principle of “maximum visibility”, Richard Dyer’s (1994:49) assertion that pornography is exciting on the level of taboo and sexual excitement, and the ability of animation to do both simultaneously. This post continues to respond to the question: Why pornography as animation, and specifically why gay pornography?

Thomas Waugh in 1985 writes on Men’s Pornography Gay vs. Straight (republished in 1992) that the gay movement was making claims to space in the sociocultural context, and one of the manifestations of these claims is discernable in pornography. Waugh notes (1992:313,314) that claims were being made to three types of space: private space, e.g. the bedroom; ghettoized space, e.g. gay bars and clubs, those spaces recognizable as set aside for gays and lesbians[1]; and finally public space, obvious spaces in the public eye where ideally sexuality[2] could be displayed without fear of being stigmatized or criminalized. When Waugh was writing, his assertion was that public space was still to be claimed. Waugh says:

“Ghettoised spaces… are more like enclaves of self defense and accommodation… our pornography… reflects the recognition of this insufficiency. Our greatest visibility may be in the ghetto, but our fantasies and our everyday lives are elsewhere” (1992:313,314).

Waugh’s analysis suggests that at the time (the 1980’s and early 1990’s) gay porn tended to fantasize the act of sex less in private and ghetto spaces (e.g. the bedroom and the gay bar) and more in public spaces (e.g. airplane toilets, train stations, parks or hotel rooms), both projecting the gay body into those spaces to colonize them visually, but also to present a reality for the audience to colonize those spaces ideologically. It may seem extreme to use sex, such an intimate act, as the vehicle to colonize a public space, but there are two possible considerations. Firstly gay porn at the time was the most accessible and arguably the most produced visual narrative that included gay stories and gay sex. It’s only with the rise of New Queer Cinema in the early 1990’s that a continuous stream of narratives appear where gay and lesbian characters and relationships are represented as normal (including having sex and being intimate); and secondly, using such an intimate act shows the intensity of the desire to make an impact on those spaces and in the minds of their audience.

Waugh is writing post Stonewall, but still 30 years ago. Contemporaneously, popular culture icons like Ellen Degeneres and her coming out, and highly successful television series such as Will and Grace (KoMut Entertainment, 1998 – 2006)[3], have radically changed the spaces claimed by queer[4] identities and there is therefore obviously a difference when comparing spaces that have been colonized both visually and ideologically at present to earlier decades. I would suggest that whereas in the 1980’s public spaces were the fantasized spaces as the early gay movement disputed its place in the larger socio-cultural context, by the 2010s, the fantasized spaces have changed as the public spaces in reality become colonized, both physically and ideologically, and there is space to explore fantasy spaces as a fantasized space.

As the titles of the films chosen for this discussion suggest, Pirate’s Booty is set in the world of swashbuckling and buccaneers, while Tales from the Gods illustrates sexual fantasies set in the mythical milieus of the gods of antiquity. Animation allows for the logical evolution of gay pornography, from revolutionary device colonizing social and ideological public space, to fantasy space to explore other aspects of gay sex, sexuality and sexual boundaries.

Reference list:

Dyer, Richard (1994) Idol thoughts, orgasm and self reflexivity in gay porn in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 36 no. 1 Blackwell Publishing pp. 48 – 62

Williams, Linda (1989) Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible” University of California Press, California

Waugh, Thomas (1985 and 1992) Men’s Pornography Gay vs. Straight in Out in Culture Gay, Lesbian and Queer essays on popular culture (1995) Creekmur, Corey, K. and Doty, Alexander (Eds.) London:Cassell pp. 307 – 327

[1] This section of the discussion is framed in Waugh’s terms from the 1990s perspective, so additional divisions within the simple gay and lesbian label had not yet evolved to include bi-sexual, transgendered, intersexed, and etc. as is now the case when writing on the subject of sexuality.

[2] Importantly here reference is made to visual displays of sexuality and not visual displays of sex, i.e. in the case of the former, kissing, hugging or holding hands between same sex partners or couples, as opposed to the latter, namely public displays of the sex act.

[3] Listed are only two of a multitude of important and influential personalities and moments in the liberation of the queer image and queer culture since Stonewall, 1969.

[4] Here preference is for the more contemporary, all encompassing terminology (see note 1 above) for all aspects of an alternative lifestyle.


Adam de Beer is Head of Academics and Head of Department: Animation and Visual Effects at the SAE Institute South Africa (Pty) Ltd, in Cape Town, South Africa. His research studies the intersection of television, gender (sexuality), and animation while developing an understanding of animation as transgression and manifestation of a social need to violate and thereby interrogate aspects of contemporary heteronormativity. This blog post was originally presented as a thought piece on 9 July 2010, at the 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference: Animation Evolution (9 – 11 July 2010), Edinburgh College for Art, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. A shorter version was presented on 28 October 2010, at the annual Current Research in the Humanities Conference (28 – 29 October 2010), University of Cape Town (UCT).