Category Archives: Entertainment

Sex Entertainment Across America: Saluting Tod Hunter

Tod Hunter

Photo courtesy of Tod-Hunter.net

A guy.  There’s always a guy.  The point guy.  The go-to guy.  The guy with the skinny.  The guy behind the scenes who knows where all the skeletons are stashed.  The guy–well, you get the idea.

For the past 20-plus years in the adult entertainment industry, that guy has been Tod Hunter.  Perhaps the name doesn’t strike you along the likes of a Flynt or Hefner, but that shouldn’t diminish his place as a prime mover and shaker in the business.  As one of the industry’s preeminent film critics, his influence–both on producers as well as audiences–is legendary, well earned and merits his place as a key thought leader.

The fact that he’s also an eclectically great guy probably doesn’t hurt either.  Politically, he’s solidly duct-taped to the left wing, but you really have to love a guy who quotes Reagan and Jefferson in support of liberals–and makes sense doing it.  Personally, his lifelong love of show business manifests itself today with his membership in Hollywood’s renowned Magic Castle, where he’s also a docent.  Professionally, his gritty work ethic is balanced by the soul of a poet.

Hunter got his start writing for a popular TV game show and for the L.A. International Film Expo.  In 1997, he came across an Adult Video News (AVN) advertisement seeking film reviewers.  Hunter recalled, “The ad asked, ‘Can you write?’  Check.  ‘Can you meet deadlines?’  Check.  ‘Can you be a smartass?’  Oh yeah.  That’s me.  Actually, I just thought it would be a great gig because it offered an inside look at what goes on in adult entertainment, but it turned into much more.”

What it turned into was becoming a competent, activist voice in an industry poised on the verge of significant change at that time.  With the internet still in its relative infancy and its potential only beginning to emerge, Hunter became a proactive advocate for quality adult entertainment in America, acting as a positive force throughout its integration into the mainstream zeitgeist.  “It’s been an interesting time because the internet has really helped take away a lot of the stigma that used to be there,” he stated.  “It’s much more accepted now.  People know who Ron Jeremy is when he walks down the street.  But it’s also created an entitlement attitude because of the proliferation of free material out there.  It’s just like any other form of art or entertainment.  You get what you pay for and usually the cheaper it is, the crappier it is.”

His eye for quality genuinely set him above the crowd right out of the gate as he went about the business of finding the gems in the pile.  For example, in 1999, he was sorting through a stack of screeners one late night in his office when he came upon a production that had captured little interest entitled, “Double Feature.”  “A bunch of people had passed on this one,” Hunter recounted, “but about 20 minutes into it, I knew it was great.  I was completely blown away by it.”  Double Feature went on to capture 10 awards at the 2000 AVN Awards (the industry’s version of the Oscars) and another at the X-Rated Critics’ Organization Awards that year.  Today the film is widely regarded as a classic.  “I love those kinds of moments where you just know you’re onto something special–where you just want to tell everyone to get their own, this one’s mine!” Hunter related.

We first got to know Tod as he tooled around with us in a massive, golden SUV nicknamed “Vanzilla” during the San Francisco episode of Sex Across America in 2000.  Rather than just review completed screeners like most critics, his approach was to invest the time necessary to see the whole process from start to finish.  He did this to get a better perspective of production challenges, but also to gain a firsthand appreciation of the performers and crew involved.  The result was developing a unique, signature style featuring the ability to remain professionally positioned on the periphery yet able to build a sincere, personal rapport across the board.  In a field where it’s easy (and perhaps even beneficial) to be cynical and jaded, Hunter is one of a kind in the sense that he fully immerses himself until becoming a subject matter expert while maintaining the integrity necessary to critique that subject objectively.

Taking that a step further, he doesn’t limit his engagement to the set or the screening room.  He actively follows his subject wherever it goes and in whatever form it takes.  For example, besides being one of the foremost non-resident connoisseurs of all things adult in Las Vegas, he’s also a ground floor supporter of the long-standing phenomenon known as Porn Star Karaoke (PSK).  Billed as the “Longest running ongoing weekly adult industry event,” PSK has been going for over 10 years and has become a weekly staple every Tuesday night at Sardo’s in Burbank, CA.  “It’s the only ongoing gathering of the adult industry,” Hunter noted, “and it’s a great, fun way to keep up with who and what is going on.”  Keeping up with all of that, especially these days, is a monster task.  He makes it look easy–a trait common among those few who are world-class at what they do.

So, if you’re ever in the Southland and have nothing to do on a Tuesday evening, now you have something to consider–and you might just run into The Guy–the guy with his finger solidly on the pulse of all that’s going on in sex entertainment in America–our good friend, Tod Hunter.

(You can follow Tod through his website at Tod-Hunter.net or on Twitter @TTodHunter)

Celebrating Mapplethorpe

A great new resource capturing the life and work of the late Robert Mapplethorpe was recently unveiled by the art-via-internet access project, Artsy.  At Sex Across America, we are honored to support their mission of helping to make all art accessible to everyone through the web—and in particular by highlighting such an innovative pioneer for both the art world as well as for positive sexuality: Robert Mapplethorpe.

The online Mapplethorpe gallery can be viewed here.  We highly recommend sharing the resource far and wide throughout your social circles. Thank You.

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Think Kink!

Photo credit: FallenAngelTV.com

Photo credit: FallenAngelTV.com

(1/1/16)  It wasn’t really all that long ago that kink was considered uber-taboo.  Fortunately though, the masses appear to be finally waking up and smelling the 21st century.  What was once strictly confined behind tightly sealed doors or within close-knit underground communities has garnered much more sunlight in recent years and even become rather fashionable.

To be sure, kinky lifestyles are nothing new, but there does seem to be a new, more positive trend emerging when it comes to exploring them.  With the advent of the interwebs, access to lifestyle information became much easier.  Additionally, for those trying to keep their exploration under the radar, the anonymity offered on the net afforded reasonably safe access.  The flipside, however, is that it also enabled a lot of misinformation and, in many cases, unnecessary confusion.  That said, the upside is that more and more people feel less alone and isolated in discovering and acknowledging their feelings and sexuality.

While there are way too many factors to list involved with how things got from there to here, suffice it to say that various forms of media played a large role.  In the 80s and 90s, authors such as Anne Rice, John Warren, Jay Wiseman, Jon Jacobs, Will and Gloria Brame, Philip Miller and Molly Devon were instrumental in capturing a wide range of concepts and making them understandable to the masses while pioneering filmmakers such as Bruce Seven, Ernest Greene and Luc Wylder (who directed the widely acclaimed The Master’s Choice series) helped pave the way with kink-lifestyle portrayals on the screen.  As these efforts gained increasing interest, more widespread attention built through such mainstream projects as 9 1/2 weeks, The Story of O, Secretary and Stanley Kubrick’s epic, Eyes Wide Shut among others, culminating with the recent 50 Shades frenzy.  Whether reality or fantasy based, as these works expanded imagination and understanding, they inspired a new generation with willingness and confidence to push their own perceived boundaries in safe and fun ways.

Ironically, with all of the wonderful information out there now, the trick today when you think kink is that there’s no singularly universal way to go about it.  Even the word itself means something different to different people.  Therein lies the beauty–and the challenge.  Pushing yourself to find the unique things that really turn you on beyond the common and mundane is a highly personal and intimate experience–and one that’s unique to each person.  As long as the activities involved are among consenting adults and reasonable precautions are employed to ensure that no harm occurs, just be yourself and resist any temptation to have to justify yourself.  It’s your life and you have every right to seek out experiences that bring you joy and fulfillment in whatever way works best for you.  People, being funny animals, tend to prefer putting things (and occasionally, other people, for that matter) into neat little categorized bins, but that’s counterproductive for both creativity and confidence.  Forget the labels.  They’re generally useful as a common frame of reference in communicating, but beyond that, they belong on jars, not on people.

So, confidently shake off the imagined shackles of Boringville and start heading towards the growing understanding–and acceptance–found on the road to Kinkytown.  The time has never been better to Think Kink.

Erotica Today: It Aint Your Grandma’s Romance Novel

(5/26/14)  Art and publishing trends are really no different than those for style and fashion in the sense that they’re usually ever-moving targets that are often influenced by whatever’s the flavor of the day in the media, among celebrities or the prevailing technology at the moment.  It’s the nature of the beast, fueling entire industries focused on market analysis and data crunching in order to predict–and perhaps even set–whatever wave is coming next.  The irony of it all is that the so-called “trend experts” are usually wrong and most waves are only identified in the crystal optics of hindsight, often influenced by some unforeseen confluence of unrelated aspects.  In a way, it’s good that logical algorithms cannot precisely account for the unpredictability of what a multitude of humans will choose to care about (or not) on any given day.  While it thwarts a foolproof formula for what will cause something to go viral, it at least keeps us one step ahead of becoming one with a hive mind.  Perhaps it’s a small step in the grand scheme, but an important one nonetheless.

In any event, hitting that moving target is not nearly as easy as most would have you believe.  Take trends in published erotica, for example.  While there’s much to be said of general market predictions in the 21st Century’s inaugural decade, few (if any) envisioned that women would be driving the major economic growth areas.  It may have been a reasonable presumption to think otherwise, but ultimately the miss was based on flawed thinking and incomplete information.  For one thing, it seemed a bit unlikely fifteen years ago that extreme elements of the genre would become more accepted in the mainstream so quickly.  Additionally, a key missing ingredient back then was a viable e-reader.  Ubiquitous today and getting better all the time, it really hadn’t hit its stride before Y2K, so it likely didn’t factor at all when many were trying to discern what the erotica market might look like in the years just ahead.

While women have historically outnumbered men in favoring written forms of erotica over image-based, it’s only been a short time where the difficulty (and perhaps, perceived embarrassment) of locating and purchasing intriguing (and increasingly, more risqué) fare has been mitigated by electronic means.  As convenient and generally anonymous personal device technology advanced since the millennial turn, many women have taken full advantage, passing up any potential “risk” of being discovered by local busy-bodies hovering in “that” section of a bookstore and opting to point, click, plug and play instead.  Through virtual systems, supply is significantly increased, access is now much easier and, in many cases, much less expensive; three economic factors leading to exponentially greater consumption–by mostly women.

Since the “50 Shades” phenomenon hit just a couple of years ago, many publishers have not only  reported a steady stream of new erotica titles being submitted, but also a distinct movement towards more explicit content.  Couple that to recent survey data compiled by Pew Research indicating that women outnumber men in recreational reading along with figures showing “Romance and Erotica” currently as the most popular e-reader genre and it’s pretty easy to see where this is all going.

Well, that is, unless the target moves in yet another unpredictable way again.

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