Steven Toushin: The GAYVN Awards Speech

Bijou Video's Steven Toushin, whose recent autobiography, The Destruction of the Moral Fabric of America, is the central textbook of a current De Paul University course ("The Institutionalization of Human Sexuality"), was given a GAYVN Lifetime Achievement Award at the February 24, 2007, GAYVN Awards in San Francisco.

Toushin's stirring acceptance speech was enthusiastically received and frequently applauded. So many Awards attendees have asked for a copy of the speech that is publishing it here.

What follows is the complete text of Steven Toushin's GAYVN Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech:

Thank you for this award.

Not many of you know me or have ever heard of me. To many of you, the history of porn started the day you got involved in the porn business, but we're actually in the fourth decade of X-rated films that started in 1970.

I started showing gay softcore films in 1968: The Queen, Song of the Loon, and Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures. Flaming Creatures was my first obscenity arrest. I've had 21 obscenity arrests, 35 arrests total, and my companies have had over 200 busts.

I don't know how many of you know the names of Monroe Bealer (Century Theater, Jaguar Films), Shan Sales (Knob Hill Theater), Larry Nelson (Le Salon), Bill Perry (Big Top Theater, P.M Productions). These men took arrests for their businesses and a few of them, like Larry and Bill, went to prison. Marty over at Raging Stallion kept Le Salon open while Larry and Rowland were in federal prison for three and a half years.

Then there were the filmmakers and studios: Jack Deveau (Hand in Hand), Al Parker and Fred Halsted who were porn stars and also created their own production companies. Chuck Holmes (Falcon), Larry Ginsberg (who directed under the name of Mark Reynolds and owned TCS, Trademark Studios).

The Directors of that era: Steve Scott, Peter De Rome, Terry LaGrand and Roger Earl (Marathon Films), J. Brian, along with Tom DeSimone, Joe Gage, and Wakefield Poole, who are already in the GAYVN hall of fame.

And, of course, porn stars like Jack Wrangler, Richard Locke, Roger, Casey Donovan, Peter Berlin, and Chris Burns.

What did all of these porn men have in common? What brought them into this "immoral" business? It couldn't have been only money. So what was it?

These men were nonconformists, rebellious individuals who needed to create their own rules for their own world, the world of sexuality. The world of gay porn gave meaning to their lives.

These men were and are America's true modern-day cowboys. Gay sexuality wasn't Hollywood's image of rebellion. But what does Hollywood know?  Hollywood just creates acceptable images of rebellion. These men were unacceptable; they were the real honest-to-goodness fucking rebels.

To these men, gay films were sexual art, a coming out, and a celebration of gay sexuality. To be gay is to be proud.  These men marched to their own beat. They also understood that gay sexuality was sexual politics, which meant that gay porn could get you busted. Getting busted wasn't just a threat; it was a reality. It happened. It rarely happened to the filmmakers or actors, but it did happen to the movie theaters, bookstores, distributors and a few mail order companies.

In those days, getting busted was the cost of doing business.

The first generation of X-rated movies played only at theaters in the major cities around the country. The second generation of X-rated movies was the video era, which opened the floodgates of sexuality across America. Gay sex was out of the closet; and gay porn found its way into 90% of all gay homes.

During the same time as the video revolution, AIDS came into the lives of gay men, and many died. I lost many friends and employees; and the adult industry lost a wealth of creative and talented men. 

The positive side effect of this tragic disease was that it sped up the sexual revolution. It put gay sex, condoms, and porn on the front pages of every newspaper in this country. And for the first time, gay sex was openly discussed on the floor of the United States Congress. This open discussion of homosexuality outraged the Jerry Falwells of this world.

The gay adult industry was different than the straight adult industry. Gay sex was sexual politics in its purest sense. Every gay company, gay filmmaker, and gay actor was an activist of the highest order. Most of them, like many of you today, didn't see the larger picture. That picture is the politics of porn, which is the politics of sex, and every one of you here tonight is pissing off a lot of fucking people.

You, as well as the gay pornographers of the past, are activists of the highest order.

Gay films, starting with the very first X-rated film, have been the unspoken, unheralded leader in the evolution of gay rights, in the social acceptance of gay men in America, the changing of laws, and in pushing gay society out of the closet around the world. The gay adult film industry doesn't realize the importance of gay porn in society. In one respect, it has reduced the negative self-image that many gay men had of themselves, and it has also desensitized the general public about gay sex.

Secondly, gay films have a profound effect on gay men coming out. 

With the initial conflict of sexual identity and the feelings of disappointing father, mother, and family, gay men now have a positive image of healthy sexuality, brought to the forefront by gay adult films. The films you make let gay men know that they're normal and healthy, that being gay makes you slightly different only in the bedroom, but it does not hinder your ability to love and to be loved by another person, to be a good son, a good person, and a good American.

Most gay men involved in gay liberation — the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, The Human Rights Campaign Fund, and other such groups — all came out watching gay films. Most people don't know that Steve Endean, founder of the Human Rights Campaign Fund and the Fairness Fund, came to gay mail order companies like Bijou for our mailing lists to get his message out to gay America.

Steve camped out in my office for years when he was in Chicago. He also made me pay for ads in the Advocate for his courses. Yes, gay porn companies were there for gay rights from the beginning. 

The gay adult film industry unashamedly brings the essence of homosexuality into the public arena, into every country and every neighborhood around the world.

Gay films gave gay men the ability to accept themselves by giving them a healthy sexual identity. Gay films are in the forefront of gay liberation.

All of you in the gay adult industry are the unsung heroes to millions of gay men.

Gay adult films have also had a profound effect in fueling the evolution of gay characters and gay-themed shows on television and in the movies. Just to name a few: "Will and Grace," "Queer as Folk," "The L Word," and Brokeback Mountain.

As far as I'm concerned, every one of you working in the gay porn industry is one of god's chosen people; and you are doing god's work. I know this for a fact; I'm Jewish.

I thank you and applaud you all. 

Steven Toushin