Perversion for Profit
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Perversion for Profit is a 1965 propaganda film financed by Charles Keating and narrated by George Putnam. A vehement diatribe against pornography, the film attempts to link explicit portrayals of human sexuality to the subversion of American civilization, and briefly draws a parallel between pornography and the Communist conspiracy. The film is in the public domain, and it has become a popular download from the Prelinger Archives. Perversion for Profit illustrates its claims with still images taken from various soft core pornography magazines of the period, though with some portions of human anatomy obscured by colored rectangles.
To bolster his position, Putnam makes several references to "Dr. Sorokin, the renowned Harvard sociologist". This individual is Pitirim Sorokin, a Russian-American who founded Harvard's Sociology department and served as the American Sociological Association's 55th president.
In an article discussing the Prelinger Archives for the San Francisco Chronicle, Peter L. Stein observes that the film has gained a different sort of utility than its producers intended:
- ...as the parade of girlie magazine covers, men's physique pictorials and campy S&M leaflets continues, the film betrays a kind of prurience the filmmakers could hardly have intended. What results is a remarkable visual record of midcentury underground literature and sexual appetites, and a gloss on the values of the society that condemned them.
At the time the Chronicle article was written, Perversion was the Archive's second most popular download, superseded only by Duck and Cover. Ephemeral film scholar Rick Prelinger, founder of the Archive, views the popularity of such films as a sign the "unofficial evidence of everyday life" has become more interesting than "'official' documents from Washington or New York".
In 2004, a Prelinger Archive user going by the pseudonym "Trafalgar" produced a remix, in which short clips from the film are rearranged to make a pro-pornography advocacy video. Trafalgar's remix, entitled Come Join the Fun!, is available from the Internet Archive's open-source movie collection. The electronica band 3kStatic sampled audio from the original Perversion film for the title track of their 2005 album Perversion: for Profit.
- "Now, you might ask yourself, why this sudden concern? Pornography and sex deviation have always been with mankind. This is true. But now, consider another fact. Never in the history of the world have the merchants of obscenity, the teachers of unnatural sex acts, had available to them the modern facilities for disseminating this filth. High-speed presses, rapid transportation, mass distribution. All have combined to put the vilest obscenity within reach of every man, woman and child in the country." —George Putnam, narrator.
- "This same type of rot and decay caused sixteen of the nineteen major civilizations to vanish from the earth. Magnificent Egypt, classical Greece, imperial Rome, all crumbled away. Not because of the strength of the aggressor, but because of moral decay from within. But we are in a unique position to cure our own ills. Our Constitution was written by men who put their trust in God, and founded a government based in His laws. These laws are on our side. We have a constitutional guarantee of protection against obscenity. And in this day especially we must seek to deliver ourselves from this twisting, torturing evil. We must save our nation from decay, and deliver our children from the horrors of perversion. We must make our land, the land of the free, a safe home. Oh God, deliver us Americans from evil." —George Putnam, narrator (closing words).
- "This moral decay weakens our resistance to the onslaught of the communist masters of deceit." —George Putnam, narrator
- Whitney Strub (2006). Perversion for Profit: Citizens for Decent Literature and the Arousal of an Antiporn Public in the 1960s. Journal of the History of Sexuality 15(2): 258–291. link (password required)