VHS Queens

French filmmaker Yann Gonzalez reminisces about the 1990s straight-porn goddesses who helped him unleash his queer teen passions.

Yann Gonzalez is a filmmaker (Knife+Heart, You and the Night, Ultra Rêve) and a member of the curation panel for the recent addition of adult titles to Letterboxd, which you can read more about here. This article features some colorful language on the topic.

French television began showing porn in the mid-1980s on Canal+, our first encrypted private channel. Canal+ had such a huge impact on us eighties kids. It was like the magical lair of then-pop culture, and a never-ending source of ecstasy for deviant young movie buffs like me.

Recent horror hits were programmed every Saturday night, and cult gems from the likes of Mario Bava, Ishirō Honda, Jean Rollin or Sergio Sollima were championed by the legendary Jean-Pierre Dionnet, who introduced each film with a passionate tone that seemed to put a spell on every doomed spectator who dared to watch his programs.

And, of course, there was the monthly porn that—before the rise of the Internet—was, along with live soccer matches, a guarantee of success for Canal+.

The first X-rated flicks to grace our TV screens were issued from the back catalogs of French producers like Marc Dorcel or Francis Mischkind, who created classics such as La Femme objet, Mes nuits avec Alice, Pénélope, Maud et Richard or Les bas de soie noire. I was too young to catch those films, but when I turned thirteen and the first signs of puberty and sex-frenzy started to erupt, Canal+ was broadcasting a new kind of adult film: the best, most crazy-stylized and most daring straight American porn of that time.

I was lucky that my parents possessed the quite expensive and much envied “decoder” machine, which allowed us to watch Canal+. When I recorded my first porn in secret with our VCR through an excruciating process, my heart was beating like crazy. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. The morning after completing my mission I hid the precious VHS tape in my backpack and arrived proudly at junior high, bragging to all my friends about my exploit.

But when I came back home, alone and ready to enjoy the fruits of my small ruse, the VHS had disappeared: one of my besties, Neil Baille, had stolen it from me. I was so pissed off. So frustrated. And even more disappointed when I finally got it back: the movie, Behind the Green Door: The Sequel, was such a bore—one of the first all-condoms straight porn flicks ever shot, with the lamest cast one could imagine. I was so horny anyways that I came for the first time while watching it. It was on December 23 of 1990 and I couldn’t receive a more thrilling Christmas gift.

Missy Manners and friends in Behind the Green Door: The Sequel (1986).
Missy Manners and friends in Behind the Green Door: The Sequel (1986).

The next films were fortunately something else: the crème de la crème of porn. There was no better sex education for me than watching these films, directed by the likes of John Leslie, Michael Ninn and Andrew Blake. Of course, as a budding gay teen, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the massive cocks of Rocco Siffredi, Peter North, Jon Dough or my favorite hottie, T.T. Boy. I secretly desired those straight guys, but it was their female co-stars who were living this unbridled fuck-rodeo instead of me, and the only way to actually belong to that place was to imagine I was one of them—one of those sex goddesses who shone way brighter than the boys.

They were wild and glamorous vixens; they had the best early-nineties hair and outfits. They were my own pop stars, beautiful and fearless, doing for real what subversive queens like Madonna could only suggest: blurring the lines between vaporous fantasy and voracious raw sex. I worshipped them for their looks, their deadlier-than-the-male attitudes. They were never submissive, or when they seemed like it, there was a flame in their eyes that showed who held the real power of the sex-driven film frames and mise en scène. They were my sisters.

And as guilty and closeted as I had to be in the South of France at a time when being gay was still a curse, Selena, Victoria, Ashlyn, Madison and the others showed me that first sparkle of lust and sexual freedom. A fire was burning deep inside and one day I would be as fierce and proud as my elders.

And so, here are this queer teen’s favorite adult queens from the 1990s. You unleashed my passion; you turned my fears and my shame into dream-like adventures and I could never thank you enough for everything you did for me. I love you girls, wherever you are.

Curse of the Catwoman (1991)

Goddesses: Selena Steele, Raven; Director: John Leslie

Curse of the Catwoman features Selena Steele’s most iconic role. Craving for sex, almost howling at the moon and ripping the bed sheets with her nails as a porn heiress of Cat People’s Simone Simon. If Selena is ferocious here, Raven plays a fascinating and mysterious femme fatale with her stylish back-slicked hair. Both stars make Leslie’s film a riveting classic, the X-rated equivalent of Abel Ferrara’s King of New York with its street girls portrayed as the most dangerous yet glamorous erotic divinities.

House of Dreams (1990)

Goddess: Zara Whites; Director: Andrew Blake

Zara is Dutch but I had to include her on this list since she’s such a gorgeous siren in House of Dreams, a visually exquisite fever dream classic from Andrew Blake (whose Night Trips II is also fantastic). There’s a hazy atmosphere here that is quite unique and every shot is like a time capsule of the late eighties/early nineties, with neon-lit aesthetics that challenge the classiest music videos and fragrance commercials from that era.

The New Barbarians (1990)

Goddess: Victoria Paris; Director: Henri Pachard

The New Barbarians: terrible film about horny cavemen/women, but awesome poster. Plus there’s a magic crystal in it. And I always had a soft spot for Victoria, she seemed like a super-nice girl and I loved her flamboyant blonde hair and her fabulous breasts.

Chameleons (1992)

Goddesses: Ashlyn Gere, Deidre Holland; Director: John Leslie

Chameleons is a great porn rip-off of Tony Scott’s The Hunger where wild brunette Ashlyn Gere and blonde Dutch-born beauty Deidre Holland share the faculty of switching bodies—and genres—while fucking and fighting for power. Watching Deirdre mutating into Rocco Siffredi (a transformation that kills him little by little) through super-cheap but frenetic cross-fading special effects of vibrating heads is still a delight. Plus the phenomenal sexual chemistry between the whole cast is often bewitching. Special mention to the scene where Deirdre is crawling on her knees to go suck Ashlyn’s strap-on dildo.

Latex (1995)

Goddess: Jeanna Fine; Director: Michael Ninn

Jeanna Fine is absolutely brilliant in Latex, probably the most epic work of digital wizard Michael Ninn. First, in a dramatic black-and-white sequence where she gets very emotional because her psychic husband (the late Jon Dough, in his best role) can’t stand mind-reading her sexual fantasies anymore. And then in a demented and masterfully edited sex scene where she’s fucking two long-haired young knights on a dream stage, while Jon is sitting right behind her in a full latex suit, trapped in his own dark nightmares under his face mask. Masterpiece.

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