Stag film

Stag film or Smokers[1] are terms used to describe a type of pornographic film produced secretly in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Typically, stag films had certain traits. They were brief in duration (about 12 minutes at most), were silent, depicted explicit or graphic sexual behavior intended to appeal to men, and were produced clandestinely due to censorship laws. Stag films were screened for all-male audiences in fraternities or similar locations; observers offered a raucous collective response to the film, exchanging sexual banter and achieving sexual arousal.[2] In Europe, stag films were often screened in brothels.

Film historians describe stag films as a primitive form of cinema because they were produced by anonymous and amateur male artists who generally failed in achieving narrative coherence and continuity. Today many of these films have been archived by the Kinsey Institute; however, most stag films are in a state of decay and have no copyright, credits, or acknowledged authorship. The stag film era ended due to the beginnings of the sexual revolution in the 1950s, in combination with the new visual technologies of the post-war era, such as 16 mm, 8 mm, and Super 8 film. Scholars at the Kinsey Institute believe there are approximately 2000 films produced between 1915 and 1968.[3]

American stag cinema in general has received scholarly attention first in the mid-seventies by mainstream male scholars, such as in Di Lauro and Gerald Rabkin's Dirty Movies (1976), and more recently by feminist and gay cultural historians, such as in Linda Williams' Hard Core: Power Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (1999) and Thomas Waugh's Homosociality in the Classical American Stag Film: Off-Screen, On-screen (2001).

Screen Shot of a Stag Film in the Kinsey Institute Film Archive
Screen shot from a film that is part of the historical stag collection of the Kinsey Institute film archive


Vintage pornographic 16mm film labels D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.
Labels from vintage 16 mm stag films cans.

Before the age of internet pornography and a general acceptance of the production of pornography, porn was an underground phenomenon. Stag films, also known as blue movies, were made by men for men. The projections of such films were itinerant and were secret exhibitions in brothels or smoker houses. Stag films were an entirely clandestine phenomenon; not until the "porn chic" era of the 1970s would sexually explicit cinema gain any recognition or discussion in mainstream society. Unlike today, the on-screen display of satisfaction, such as male or female orgasm, was not a convention of stag cinema. Instead there was what Linda Williams called the "meat shot",[4] which was a closeup, hardcore depiction of genital intercourse. As there are no direct quotes or oral histories by participants in this underground cinema, film scholars understand what they know of these stag films mainly through written accounts. Stag films persisted for such a great length of time, as Williams argues, simply because they were cut off from more public expressions of sexuality.[5]

The German film In The Evening, the Argentinian film El Satario and the American film A Free Ride (or A Grass Sandwich), produced between the years 1907 and 1915, are three of the earliest hardcore pornographic films that have been collected at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.[6]

Study and analysis

Feminist critiques

Patriarchal Culture

Small Gauge Film Reel & Can Archive D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C. (11)
An example of a decaying 16 mm stag film can.

According to Williams, the American stag film demonstrates the obsession of patriarchal culture in a desperate search for what film scholar Linda Williams calls "the unknowable 'truth' of sex".[7] In her chapter on the stag film, Williams focuses on highlighting the anonymous male filmmakers' obsession with the unknown wonder of female sexuality. Williams also argues that a female point-of-view is rarely shown within the stag film genre, resulting in the female body becoming an object. However, in her analysis she does take into account the flickers of female sexuality and points out that sexuality is not problematized, unlike 1970s hardcore pornography.

Early critics of the genre, Di Lauro and Rabkin, argued that the male performers in stag films are also objectified and that they are even less humanized than the women who are the focus of attention because "as performers [men] are not visible in their full humanity."[8] Williams describes this defense of pornography as sounding familiar saying "like most such defenses, it ignores the larger power structure in which the presumably equalized dehumanization and objectification occur." [9] Drawing from art critic John Berger's studies on traditions in European art of oil paintings of nudes, Williams argues that the real subject of stag films is in the eye of the beholder. The point of view always comes from the phallus in stag film, Williams contends, making the predominant address to men only, and Williams argues that is where the power lies. Moreover, it is argued, there are detectable misogynist elements established early in this genre which inflect the more idealizing and fetishizing representations of female genitalia. The act of collectively getting together to get aroused at the spectacles of these hard core representations of sexual acts, is what film theorist Thomas Waugh describes as "re-enacting some of the basic structural dynamics of the patriarchy, namely, the male exchange in women, in this case the exchange in fantasies and images of women".[10]


Voyeurism is an obvious theme and main fixture in the codes and conventions of stag cinema. Williams argues that many stag films, including Am Abend and A Free Ride, "incorporate voyeurism into their narratives as strategies both for arousing their characters and for matching the character's "look" with that of the spectator in their beginning sequences."[11] She describes this as a way for the spectator to identify with the male who looks at the female's body within the unfolding narrative. William's theory on the discourse of the stag film is that "it oscillates between the impossible direct relation between a spectator and the exhibitionist object he watches in close-up and the ideal voyeurism of a spectator who observes a sexual event in which a surrogate male acts for him."[12]

Queer theory


Professor Thomas Waugh[13] wrote about stag films in the context of homosociality (i.e., same-sex relationships that are not sexual or romantic). He argues that this phenomenon ultimately succeeds in illuminating masculinity through the "symbolic phallus".[14] In his essay, Waugh argues that "the stag films, both on-screen and off-screen, are tenaciously engaged with the homosocial core of masculinity as constructed within American society."[15] Waugh points to the fact that in most cases, these anonymous male artists during the heyday of the stag film avoid showing male organs on-screen, yet off-screen is an all-male audiences with only male organs. In their history of the stag film, Di Lauro and Rabkin (1976) nostalgically speak of the stag film as a platform for social bonding and camaraderie between males. Both Williams and Waugh agree that there is a pressing need for the viewer to identify with the other men in the audience, to prove his masculinity through bonding with other male viewers, in order to escape the homosexual undertone of enjoying watching other men's penis'. Waugh would argue that this mentality and this corpus of underground erotic film "exposes the spectrum of male sociality, the experience of having a penis, and being white during the first two-thirds of the 20th century."[16] According to Waugh, stag culture was an arena in which homosocial behaviour reinforced masculinity in men's sexual desires in American pop culture. Although, Waugh also contends that there are a few subversions in this dynamic and describes one film, the cartoon Buried Treasure (c. 1928), as an "overt interrogation of masculinity."[15] Lastly, Waugh suggests that this behaviour is shaped by censorship, but also shame and disavowal.[14]


  • Le Coucher de la Mariée (Bedtime for the Bride or The Bridegroom's Dilemma), France, 1896
  • A Free Ride, USA, 1917–19
  • Am Abend, Germany, 1910
  • El Satario, Argentina, 1907–15
  • Getting His Goat, USA, 1923
  • Casting Couch, USA, 1924
  • La Maîtresse du Capitaine des Meydeux (The Exclusive Sailor), France, 1924
  • Le Ménage moderne du Madame Butterfly, France, 1925
  • Forbidden Daughters, USA, 1927
  • Hollywood Script Girl, USA, 1928
  • Le Pompier des Folies Bergères, France, 1928
  • Uncle Si and the Sirens, USA, c. 1928
  • Buried Treasure', USA, c. 1930
  • The Hypnotist, USA, c. 1930s
  • Surprise of a Knight, USA, c. 1930
  • Fun and Frolic in the Photographer's Studio, USA, c. 1940s
  • While the Cat's Away, USA, c. 1950s
  • A Late Visitor, AMG, USA, c. 1959

See also


  1. ^ Blue Memories Parts 1 & 2 (1984 Betamax, VHS versions) narrated by Jim Holliday
  2. ^ Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (PDF). p. 58. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Film Archive". The Kinsey Institute. Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  4. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 73, 1999.
  5. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 84, 1999.
  6. ^ Janet Staiger, Bad women: regulating sexuality in early American cinema, U of Minnesota Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-8166-2625-0, p.15
  7. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 60, 1999.
  8. ^ Di Lauro, Al; Rabkin, Gerald (1976). Dirty Movies.
  9. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 59, 1999.
  10. ^ Waugh, Thomas (2001). Homosociality in the Classical American Stag Film: Off-Screen, On-Screen.
  11. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 68, 1999.
  12. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 80, 1999.
  13. ^ "Dr. Thomas Waugh, PhD".
  14. ^ a b Waugh, Thomas. pp. 276, 2001.
  15. ^ a b Waugh, Thomas. pp. 277, 2001.
  16. ^ Waugh, Thomas. pp. 278, 2001.

Further reading

A Free Ride

A Free Ride, also known as A Grass Sandwich, is a stag film of the silent era that is considered to be the earliest extant American hardcore pornographic movie. It depicts a motorist who picks up two women from the roadside and later engages in several sex acts with them. Although most scholars consider A Free Ride a 1915 film, some sources claim that it was produced later. The film's director used a pseudonym and the cast remained anonymous. The filming location is not known, although it may have been produced in New Jersey. Two contradictory theories have emerged regarding the identities of the cast: some sources suggest they were people with low social status, but others assert the opposite. The Kinsey Institute has a print of the film in its collection. A Free Ride was screened at the inauguration of the Museum of Sex. In 2004, Lisa Oppenheim, a New York-based artist, remade the film.

Am Abend

Am Abend ("In the Evening") is an early twentieth century, classic German stag film which was made in 1910. Along with the Argentinian film El Satario (c. 1907–15) and the American film A Free Ride or A Grass Sandwich (c. 1915–17), it is one of the earliest hardcore pornographic films, produced between the years 1907 and 1915, that have been collected at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

Arline Hunter

Arline Hunter (born December 16, 1931) is an American actress and model. She is perhaps best known as Playboy's Playmate of the Month for August 1954. Her centerfold was the first not to be purchased from the John Baumgarth Co. by Hugh Hefner, and was instead photographed by Ed DeLong, who went on to become one of the more prolific Playboy photographers in the 1960s.

Cartoon pornography

Cartoon pornography is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional cartoon characters in erotic or sexual situations. Animated cartoon pornography or erotic animation is a subset of the larger field of adult animation, not all of which is sexually explicit.

Because historically most cartoons have been produced for child and all-ages audiences, cartoon pornography has sometimes been subject to criticism and extra scrutiny compared to live-action erotic films or photographs. It is somewhat common in Japan, where it is part of a genre of entertainment commonly referred to outside of Japan as hentai.

Gay pornography

Gay pornography is the representation of sexual activity between males. Its primary goal is sexual arousal in its audience. Softcore gay pornography also exists; it at one time constituted the genre, and may be produced as beefcake pornography for heterosexual female and homosexual male consumption.Although pornography has usually focused on heterosexuality due to the prevalence of the heterosexual orientation, homoerotic art and artifacts have a long history as well, reaching back to Greek antiquity. Every medium has been used to represent sexual acts between men. However, gay pornography in contemporary mass media is mostly concentrated in the making of home videos (including DVDs), cable broadcast and emerging video on demand and wireless markets, as well as images and movies for viewing on the Internet. (For printed gay erotica, see gay pulp fiction).

Hardcore pornography

Hardcore pornography, or hardcore porn, is still photography or video footage that contains explicit forms of pornography, most commonly including depictions of sexual acts such as vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, fingering, anilingus, ejaculation, and fetish play. Hardcore pornography usually takes the form of photographs, often displayed in magazines or on the Internet, or films and cartoons. Since the 1990s it has been distributed widely over the Internet, making it more widely available than ever before.

Hollywood Erotic Museum

The Hollywood Erotic Museum was an adults-only museum located on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California specializing in sexual history in Hollywood. It closed down in mid-2006 due to lack of business.

The museum featured many different items, including original etchings by Pablo Picasso as well as a legendary stag film dating back to 1948 that is allegedly of Marilyn Monroe having sex with an unnamed man. The video owned by the museum is the only known copy in existence. Also in their permanent collection, contemporary erotic art by such artists as Julian Murphy and Tom of Finland.

Inserts (film)

Inserts is a 1975 British drama film written and directed by John Byrum while he was in his twenties, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Jessica Harper, Bob Hoskins and Veronica Cartwright. The film was originally rated X but later re-rated as NC-17 in 1996.

The plot concerns actors and directors in the early 1930s who were unable to make the transition from silent films to talkies, and thus turned to making pornography. The film's title takes its name from the double meaning that "insert" both refers to a film technique and sexual intercourse. Inserts was filmed like a one-act stage play on one set and filmed entirely in real time.

Pete the Tramp

Pete the Tramp was an American comic strip by Clarence D. Russell (1895–1963) which was distributed by King Features Syndicate for more than three decades. Howard Eugene Wilson, in the Harvard Educational Review, described the strip's title character as "a hobo with a gentleman's instincts."Russell studied at the Chicago Art Institute and then began working as a freelance artist. During World War I, he went overseas with the American Expeditionary Force. When he returned to America in 1920, he worked for several New York newspapers while also contributing to Judge.

Pornographic film

Pornographic films, or sex films, are films that present sexually explicit subject matter in order to arouse and satisfy the viewer. Pornographic films present sexual fantasies and usually include erotically stimulating material such as nudity and depictions of sexual intercourse. A distinction is sometimes made between "erotic" films and "pornographic" films on the basis that the latter contain more explicit sexuality, and focus more on arousal than storytelling, but the distinction is highly subjective.

Pornographic films are produced and distributed on a variety of media, depending on demand and the technology available, including traditional film stock in various formats, video for home viewing, DVDs, Internet download, cable TV and other media. Today, pornographic films can be sold or rented on DVD, shown through Internet streaming and special channels and pay-per-view on cable and satellite, and in rapidly disappearing adult theaters. They are generally not permitted to be shown in mainstream cinemas or on free-to-air television.

Films with risqué content have been produced since the invention of the motion picture in the 1880s. Production of such films was profitable, and a number of producers began to specialize in their production. However, various groups within society considered such depictions immoral, labelling them pornographic, and attempting to have them suppressed under obscenity laws, with varying degrees of success. Such films continued to be produced but could only be distributed by underground channels. Because the viewing of such films carried a social stigma, they were viewed at brothels, adult movie theaters, stag parties, at home, in private clubs and also at night cinemas. Only in the 1970s, during the Golden Age of Porn, were pornographic films semi-legitimized; and by the 1980s, pornography on home video achieved wider distribution. The rise of the Internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s similarly changed the way pornographic films were distributed and furthermore, complicating the censorship regimes around the world and the legal prosecution of obscenity.

Scum of the Earth!

Scum of the Earth! (also known as Sam Flynn) is a 1963 American exploitation film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and produced by David F. Friedman. It is credited as being the first film in the "roughie" genre.

Smart Alec (1951 film)

Smart Alec, aka Smart Aleck, is a 1951 pornographic film. The X-rated silent short, which is no more than 20 minutes in length and was filmed in black-and-white, was one of the most famous and widely circulated of the early underground pornographic era. It has been called "iconographic", "the best known of all American stag films", and the "apogee of the American stag tradition".

The leading actress, then known as Juanita Slusher, a buxom young woman of age 16 who appeared substantially older, later went on to fame as the stripper Candy Barr. Barr was working as a prostitute at the time, and was forced to feature in the film by one of her clients. At the time there was a rumour that the man was Gary Crosby, son of Bing Crosby. It was shot in a Dallas hotel, which was the setting for several other pornographic shorts of the period. Other sources, such as the Internet Movie Database, report that the stag film was shot in San Antonio and the young Juanita was inveigled into appearing in it by a patron of a Dallas strip club where she worked as a cigarette girl and had sex with generous tippers.Barr herself told a men’s magazine that she made the stag film because she was broke and hungry. “I went to the address a friend gave me. The man behind the desk looked me over. He told me I had a great figure. Then he explained he wanted me to act in a risqué film. Then he opened his wallet and counted a bunch of ten-dollar bills. He counted them out on the desk before me, one by one. The purse I clutched in my hands contained exactly seven cents. I made the film."The film led to Barr being called "the first porn star". With Barr's cooperation the FBI subsequently prosecuted the producer for exploitation of a minor. Barr later sued Playboy magazine when it printed a still from the film. Luke Ford, the gossip columnist who wrote A History of X: 100 Years of Sex in Film, said of the stag film "It ruined her life. She regretted it all her days."“Only when my hunger was gone could I think straight. But I was still too young to understand fully just what I had done," Barr told the men's magazine. "I’m still sick with shame over what I did, but when you’re (young) and all alone and your insides are crying for food, you can’t always figure out right from wrong.” The film is included in many compilations of historic pornographic films. Smart Alec was among the films featured in Alex De Renzy's A History of the Blue Movie in 1970. It was later made available on video under the title Smokers of the Past, Vol. 1.


Smoker is a noun derived from smoke and may have the following specialized meanings:

Someone who smokes tobacco or cannabis, cigarette substitutes, or various other drugs

Smoking (cooking), smoker, an apparatus for smoking (cooking technique)

Bee smoker, a tool used in beekeeping

A Stag film

Stag (film)

Stag is a 1997 American thriller film, directed by Gavin Wilding, made for HBO and later released theatrically after drawing large ratings. Stag features an ensemble cast including Ben Gazzara, Andrew McCarthy, Taylor Dayne, Mario Van Peebles, Lawrence Leritz, William McNamara, John Henson, Kevin Dillon, and Jerry Stiller. It was produced by Lions Gate Entertainment.

The Stag (film)

The Stag (known as The Bachelor Weekend in some regions) is a 2013 Irish film directed by John Butler in his feature début and written by Butler and Peter McDonald.

The Surprise of a Knight

The Surprise of a Knight is a gay, hardcore pornographic film from the United States. Most likely released in 1929, it is notable for being the earliest known American pornographic film to depict exclusively homosexual intercourse.

The Virgin with the Hot Pants

The Virgin with the Hot Pants is a 1924 American stag film. Danuta Zadworna-Fjellestad and film scholar Linda Williams put the production date of this film at 1923–1924. It is the first known pornographic film to use animated cartoons.

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