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25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom review

25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom book cover image

Book review – Alan Moore’s 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom

– by Shawn Conner

In 2006, Lost Girls was published. Something of a milestone, it was the first work of committed pornography by popular comics writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing). Clearly, spending years on the thing – an excerpt first appeared in 1991—has left the controversial author/magician (no, really) with more to say on the subject. (Check out our history of sex in comics, with a few quote from Moore himself.)

25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom (Abrams, hardcover) is Moore’s polemic/history of porn, basically from the first man to sculpt a naked female figure out of rock up to and including today’s hugely profitable and systematic adult film industry.

In some ways, it can’t help but be self-serving: the hidden message is that Moore knows the good from the bad, that Lost Girls is, because of its artistic ambition, clearly a work of social significance that also happens to include every position and several taboos available to the author’s imagination, while the latest Sasha Grey cum-athon is a sign of the end-times.

“Convict pornography for convict populations shuffling through life’s mess-hall, without any other options than the slop they’re given,” he calls the culture of freely available Internet porn. And this: “Pornography as we conceive of it today… isn’t art, cannot be openly admired or discussed, and serves only to convince us of our isolation, to increase our sense that we are in our secret and most intimate desires alone save for the reeking company of other sweaty, masturbating perverts and social inadequates.” Pornography as Moore conceives of it today, at any rate.

Lost Girls art Melinda Gebbie

Melinda Gebbie art from Alan Moore's Lost Girls.

But Moore doesn’t make a very strong argument. Surely there is good and bad in everything, and though excellent in many respects, Lost Girls (never mind The Story of O or the delicate line art of Aubrey Beardsley, championed here) is not the be-all and end-all of sexually explicit material. After awhile Moore comes off as hectoring and self-righteous, and unproven statements like, “As a culture, we are more intensely sexualized and stimulated than we’ve ever been before, and from the rising rate of sex crime it appears that we’re not dealing with it very well” do more to weaken his argument than strengthen it.

However, there are some really nice dirty pics included in this slim, elegant volume. More interesting than a historical overview or an attack on the billion-dollar porn industry would have been Moore’s thoughts on, say, the Richard Kern photos included within, or Vanessa Beecroft’s VB45 (2001).

Vanessa Beecroft's VB45 photo

Vanessa Beecroft's VB45, a photo included in Alan Moore's 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom.

Maybe Moore is right, and “the erotic” needs to be “elevated from her current status as a hooker everyone keeps chained up in their cellar but nobody talks about… back to her previous position as a goddess.” But 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom is a very small step towards unlocking the shackles.

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