The Bonham Centre’s Sexual Representation Collection presents “Complex Pleasures: Selections from the Erotic Film Collection,” on exhibit from August 11 – September 30, 2022 at Bissell Building, 5th Floor, 140 St. George Street.
Curated by Camille Intson and Maggie Macdonald, the exhibit features selections from one of Canada’s largest peepshow and erotic film collections, spanning the entire pre-home video era, now available for research at the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. Donated by media archivist Albert Steg and the George Eastman Museum, The Erotic Film Collection consists of a diverse range of hardcore and softcore pornographic film and ephemera, including 1,824 8mm films, 863 16mm films, 203 super8 reels, 302 paper pamphlets, 20 books, 7 card decks, 1 box of peepshow stills, and 1 box of assorted correspondence.
Highlights from the collection include two prints of El satario, the world’s oldest extant pornographic film, silent era stag films, pre-war hardcore films, coin-op peepshow films, and films from Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the United States, and Canada. The collection includes examples of the major modes of pornographic film production, exhibition, and distribution of the era, including peepshow films, (originally) illicit stag films, feature-length films shown at grindhouses, and mass-produced, commercially sold 8mm films aimed at the home market. Documenting the transformation of sexual mores throughout the 20th century, the collection charts the entire evolution of the peepshow format from its “softcore” roots to “hardcore” genre. The collection also traces the history of stag film from its professional and semi-professional 35mm origins to amateur and prosumer 16mm formats. The preservation of such a wide range of ephemeral, amateur, and orphan histories enables researchers to better understand the history of film and media, sex work, gender, race, pleasure, sexuality, media consumption, and global sexual commerce.