Scott O'Hara - Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane

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Clean-cut All-American boy eager to shock

Oct 18, 2000 (Updated Oct 19, 2000)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Jaunty prose style

Cons:Very self-indulgent and undisciplined construction

I doubt that anyone has characterized Scott O’Hara as reticent since he won "The Biggest Dick in San Francisco" contest in 1983 and parlayed it into a ten-year career of and in porno theaters. Nor would anyone characterize him as inarticulate. Nonetheless, is a farm boy--and not just in origin (in an Oregon valley) with many of the attitudes of the Midwestern gay farmboys interviewed by Will Like Fellows (see my review of Farm Boys at http://www.epinions.com/book-review-46C4-DA2865F-398A57E8-prod1.

He and they tend not to be comfortable in crowds or with gay bantering. "I didn’t understand why all these gorgeous men had to pack themselves into bars when they could do just as much cruising on the street (this still puzzles me)," he recalls very early (p. 8). He is an outdoorsman, especially when it comes to having sex (which is very often in this memoir), and he has the ego strength forged in rural solitude to break formation and march to his own drummer. Later in life, in publishing Steam (1993-95), he endeavored to provide guidance to other aficionados of gay sex outdoors.

His religion (priapism?) differs from that of his parents (who were Free Methodists and John Birch Society members), but he shares their intolerance for others, their nearly Christian Science rejection of medical professionals (including dentists), and what strikes me as an almost Calvinist sense of predestination (in its simplistic "I’m saved, any beliefs other than mine are wrong, and, incidentally, you’re damned" form). Family resources (accumulated in an earlier generation than his parents’: they never held jobs) have made it unnecessary for him to work for a living. He says that "all that they really wanted me to be was a good Christian and a good husband," but, as he recognizes, he was "well prepared by his offbeat parents for a life at the margins of society" (p. 15) -- and for resenting government intrusions interfering with his particular choices of ways to pursue happiness.

He was not at all a "momma’s boy." After years of trying to annoy both of his parents, he eventually came to admire his father, while thinking that "he took those marriage vows a little too seriously. But I guess I shouldn't complain; if they'd divorced when I was a kid, my mom would certainly have gotten custody, and I would have been forced into matricide.... I never felt the slightest friendship or love for her.... I can never remember a time when I felt comfortable around her" (pp. 27, 28, 37).

As soon as he finished high school, he fled (to his sister thirteen years his senior, who lived in Chicago with a leatherdyke who introduced Scott to the leather world and whom he would ill-advisedly marry and expensively divorce after his sister’s suicide). He had a lot of sex, most of it unremunerated. In his view he was making up for what earlier sexual deprivation in the countryside.

On film he strove to be the Pornstar Who Smiles and is obviously enjoying himself and in his writings he has been an advocate for the pleasures of sex, controversially extending to unprotected anal intercourse after going to what he refers to as "the Long Dark Night of the Libido" in Hawai’i in 1983 (p. 120). It should be noted that he wore a warning label--an HIV tattoo and was widely notorious for his explicit statements about being HIV+ and glad not to have to worry about getting infected (p. 201).

The book is not just episodic but choppy. It would have profited by being edited, though the idea of trying to discipline someone so eager to shock is far-fetched. O’Hara provides something of an antidote of mostly pleasant experiences to counterpoise to the maudlin pop psych best-selling biography of someone else who enjoyed the work of getting f__ked on screen, Wonder Bread and Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Steffano, (which I reviewed at http://www.epinions.com/book-review-46C4-DA2865F-398A57E8-prod1).

Alas, too much of Autopornography is genre film memoir (albeit not from mainstream Hollywood productions and costars) and recounting of sexual episodes that I find less compelling or titillating than O’Hara did in writing about them. The book is disappointingly short on any sense of the organization (economic or other) of the porn industry or of the rise and demise of O'Haras magazine ventures, Steam and Wilde.

Much of the book is entertaining. The book provides sex-positive illustrations that you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take (all of) the country out of the boy, a conclusion Farm Boys also suggests.



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