This book is filled with beautifully printed full-page photographs depicting some of the better-known porn stars of the past 30-odd years, however if you are interested in a book ABOUT porn rather than a book OF porn, you will be left disappointed. This is far from a scholarly investigation or a truly historical account of male erotica. The book is divided categorically with certain eras of the genre, but it is far from being developed analytically. Case in point is how the anemic amount of text (which is really half of what it appears to be once you discover that the other half is simply its German translation) is saved for interviews of distinguished directors, yet the questions directed to them are equivalent to "Who is your favorite porn star?" causing it to read more as a superfluous magazine interview than anything else.
From the book's front flap and throughout, the author and his sources repeatedly cite porn as being reflective of society, yet no one bothers to extrapolate how or why this may be the case. Yes, we know that the mustachioed hairy-chested macho man of the seventies gave way to the smooth athletic jock of the eighties, but was this a reflection on the cultural shift of the decade or a reaction to the rise of AIDS? It would have been interesting to note for example, the first film to incorporate safe sex (considering how the gay adult industry led the way in promoting it more than any government agency) or maybe investigating whether porn's mimetic use of popular Hollywood movies is an act of subversion or an attempt at inclusion (porn movie plot lines and fantasy is never covered by the way)? Instead the author glazes over interesting observations and concentrates too much on his biased interpretation. For example, he includes Tom Bianchi's work in the mix. Everyone can agree that Bianchi's photographs are beautifully executed manifestations of male desire, but would one call it pornographic? And if we are to use that broad interpretation wouldn't we also need to look at his equally important and successful peers, such as Christopher Makos, Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber. It could be argued that Weber's image of the an Olympic athlete modeling a pair of white Calvin Klein briefs towering over Times Square did more for male erotic objectification in mainstream culture than all of the porn movies combined.
Of course, I am the first to admit that while perusing through this book and its images, the furthest thing from my mind was wondering what lies behind the popularity and demand of certain porn stars (is it aggressive marketing or synchronistic desire?). However, considering the unified voice in this book in depicting the subject as culturally relevant, one is simply left to wonder whether art is imitating life or is life imitating art? Perhaps porn may forever be relegated to its intended goal but considering how it has been the only true narrative for gay men it would be nice to see someone attempt to treat it as a source of collective self-reflection.