Christopher Owens  🔖 with his take on The Sexual Revolutions of Marilyn Chambers.


People are curious about my ability to perform. They don't know what I'm capable of doing. I have to work harder and it's more of a challenge winning people over.

For Marilyn Chambers, at one point the world’s most famous pornographic actress, this determined attitude kept her going through many a tough period. Even when she returned to pornography, she never lost that desire to be a traditional actress. And, since her death in 2009, fascination with her and the ‘porno chic’ culture that she emerged from in the early 70’s has grown dramatically.

It seems odd now, but there was a time whenever films like Deep Throat 🎥Behind the Green Door 🎥 The Devil in Miss Jones were seen as something other than mere pornography. With illusions to Sartre and other highbrow references, these films were screened in mainstream theatres, reviewed by critics and discussed on talk shows.

It was an interesting period, no doubt. And it deserves a much better book than this.

Examining her life, her lovers, her arrests and her films, the book is written in a tone that aims for academic dryness but comes off as deathly dull. The end result is a real slog of a read which is quite a feat considering the subject matter.

There is an awful lot of description of events usually followed by archive quotes or interviews from those who knew her, but it seems that Stearns is (despite his claims) more interested in Marilyn Chambers the porn star as opposed to the person. He informs the reader of certain titbits that would demand further elaboration (such as Marilyn’s claim that she wanted to have sex with her dad) but no such discussions are forthcoming. He seems to assume that giving us a semblance of a backstory, followed by such a quote will allow the reader to join the dots. This tactic is ok when the writing style is much more engaging but when it isn’t, it feels lazy.

Likewise, her abusive marriage to Chuck Trainor is discussed at length but, presumably in an attempt to provide a more three-dimensional view of their relationship, it is told through the eyes of their friends and co-collaborators who, while having no problem detailing the violence inflicted on her, will also point out how they remained friends until his death. While this is undoubtedly true, this is another example of the author failing to offer up theories.

For someone who was keen to break out of the porn ghetto and into the mainstream, Stearns helps to foster this by discussing various scenes from her most famous pornographic movies, whereas her role in David Cronenberg’s amazing 1977 film Rabid is limited to two pages and cries out for further evaluation, especially if you accept Stephen Thrower’s argument that Cronenberg toys with her public persona by placing her character in certain scenarios that are often the beginning of porn films (hitchhiking, entering a cinema alone).

One hell of a missed opportunity.

Jared Stearns, 2024, Pure: The Sexual Revolutions of Marilyn Chambers. Headpress. ISBN-13: 978-1915316196

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

Pure

Christopher Owens  🔖 with his take on The Sexual Revolutions of Marilyn Chambers.


People are curious about my ability to perform. They don't know what I'm capable of doing. I have to work harder and it's more of a challenge winning people over.

For Marilyn Chambers, at one point the world’s most famous pornographic actress, this determined attitude kept her going through many a tough period. Even when she returned to pornography, she never lost that desire to be a traditional actress. And, since her death in 2009, fascination with her and the ‘porno chic’ culture that she emerged from in the early 70’s has grown dramatically.

It seems odd now, but there was a time whenever films like Deep Throat 🎥Behind the Green Door 🎥 The Devil in Miss Jones were seen as something other than mere pornography. With illusions to Sartre and other highbrow references, these films were screened in mainstream theatres, reviewed by critics and discussed on talk shows.

It was an interesting period, no doubt. And it deserves a much better book than this.

Examining her life, her lovers, her arrests and her films, the book is written in a tone that aims for academic dryness but comes off as deathly dull. The end result is a real slog of a read which is quite a feat considering the subject matter.

There is an awful lot of description of events usually followed by archive quotes or interviews from those who knew her, but it seems that Stearns is (despite his claims) more interested in Marilyn Chambers the porn star as opposed to the person. He informs the reader of certain titbits that would demand further elaboration (such as Marilyn’s claim that she wanted to have sex with her dad) but no such discussions are forthcoming. He seems to assume that giving us a semblance of a backstory, followed by such a quote will allow the reader to join the dots. This tactic is ok when the writing style is much more engaging but when it isn’t, it feels lazy.

Likewise, her abusive marriage to Chuck Trainor is discussed at length but, presumably in an attempt to provide a more three-dimensional view of their relationship, it is told through the eyes of their friends and co-collaborators who, while having no problem detailing the violence inflicted on her, will also point out how they remained friends until his death. While this is undoubtedly true, this is another example of the author failing to offer up theories.

For someone who was keen to break out of the porn ghetto and into the mainstream, Stearns helps to foster this by discussing various scenes from her most famous pornographic movies, whereas her role in David Cronenberg’s amazing 1977 film Rabid is limited to two pages and cries out for further evaluation, especially if you accept Stephen Thrower’s argument that Cronenberg toys with her public persona by placing her character in certain scenarios that are often the beginning of porn films (hitchhiking, entering a cinema alone).

One hell of a missed opportunity.

Jared Stearns, 2024, Pure: The Sexual Revolutions of Marilyn Chambers. Headpress. ISBN-13: 978-1915316196

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.

No comments