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Screen shot from a film that is part of the historical stag collection of the Kinsey Institute film archive
Screen shot from a film that is part of the historical stag collection of the Kinsey Institute film archive

Stag film or Smokers[1] are terms used to describe a type of pornographic film produced secretly in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Typically, stag films had certain traits. They were brief in duration (about 12 minutes at most), were silent, depicted explicit or graphic sexual behavior intended to appeal to men, and were produced clandestinely due to censorship laws. Stag films were screened for all-male audiences in fraternities or similar locations; observers offered a raucous collective response to the film, exchanging sexual banter and achieving sexual arousal.[2] In Europe, stag films were often screened in brothels.

Film historians[specify] describe stag films as a primitive form of cinema because they were produced by anonymous and amateur male artists who generally failed in achieving narrative coherence and continuity. Today many of these films have been archived by the Kinsey Institute; however, most stag films are in a state of decay and have no copyright, credits, or acknowledged authorship. The stag film era ended due to the beginnings of the sexual revolution in the 1950s, in combination with the new visual technologies of the post-war era, such as 16 mm, 8 mm, and Super 8 film. Scholars at the Kinsey Institute believe there are approximately 2000 films produced between 1915 and 1968.[3]

American stag cinema in general has received scholarly attention first in the mid-seventies by mainstream male scholars, such as in Di Lauro and Gerald Rabkin's Dirty Movies (1976), and more recently by feminist and gay cultural historians, such as in Linda Williams' Hard Core: Power Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (1999) and Thomas Waugh's Homosociality in the Classical American Stag Film: Off-Screen, On-screen (2001).

YouTube Encyclopedic

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Yes, Dad, yes. You're coming this month? Dad, you really don't need to worry about money. Leave that to me. Alright then. Oh God! You guys asked the cook to make mash again! You know mash gives me warts. And tomorrow I need to get my photo taken for the matrimony websites. Look at this. One wart. Two warts. Three warts. 'n' warts. My face is so full of warts, I have more wart than face.! Hey! What's all this now? I got my bonus, guys. Bonus! Let me go first, man. I have work to do. Open up, dude! Hard work, boys. There's just one thing missing. Now you feel like a million bucks, don't you? They always do this, man. This one's for me too? Vicky, have you started dabbling in gambling again? Oh hello! My bro doesn't get into all that crap. I think it's dowry. It's my bonus. Success. This is just the beginning, boys. Brother... How did you get here? Maybe you should learn to answer your phone. And if we don't get the money by 1 in the afternoon, my brother-in-law himself will turn up. To get the money out of you. Alright? Got it? I get it! I get it! 2 lakhs? I need 3 lakhs more. I was working out! I have to look slim today. Ha! You're just jealous. Look at this. Another gambler got caught. Such a nasty activity! God knows why they do it. What's so nasty about it? I mean...some people might be compelled to do it. Gambling isn't a sin, after all. Why are you defending it so much? Do you gamble too? What? Me? Gamble? I was just saying. About other people. And what's wrong with your voice? It's the pickle, man. You've made it so well! I mean, you should totally be a chef, dude! Why aren't you going to the office? Don't you have to go today? My Dad is coming today, remember? For Barbie's admission. So I'm making some spicy potatoes for him. Your Dad is coming? Today? Yeah, today. And if we don't get the money by 1 in the afternoon, my brother-in-law himself will turn up. INC One sec. Click me. Don't act like a INC in the morning. Hello? Behave yourself. We're super rich people now. We have a lot of money now. So behave. Tell him, Vicky. I'm going to need some of that money back, guys. Money? I knew it! I knew this motherfucker is betting on matches again! You'll never improve! Oh man! You fucking gambler! No wonder these shoes have been biting me. Hey! Bloody gambler! That's why they hit Aunty. They're covered in sin, after all. Remember he was watching that film the other day? Jannat? Look at him. He's styled his hair like Emraan Hashmi... Relax, man! It's nothing like that. Relax? How much money do you need? 10,000? 20,000? 30,000? 3 lakhs! Put it on speaker. Bro? Put it on speaker! Hello? Bro! I called to remind you. Brother Pyaare wants Rs. 5 lakhs in cash by 1 pm. Or else... You must have read the paper today. Okay, bye. Brother Pyaare INC Bye, brother. God has given us everything, man. Such a luxurious flat! Such a great car. Such great friends. Oh man! I hate you for this, man. I hate you! Look, bro, I don't know how, but nothing should go down in front of my father. But something will go down, dude. Look around. All the banks are shut. Where will we get the money from? And that monster will be here soon! Oh God! Even Dad isn't answering the phone now. Someone please give me some cash! Hello? Bro, you have cash? Grow some on trees, man! Please bro, give us some, just for today. Vicky, don't you have any cash at all? I have around Rs. 20,000. How much do you have, Harpal? I just had the Rs. 2 lakhs I'd saved for my father's car. And I deposited it in the bank anyway. And you know all the banks are shut. Here. This is Rs. 80,000. I'd been keeping it for Barbie's admission. But it doesn't matter. First things first. We'll take it as it comes. I'll return this. It's a quarter to one. When is Uncle coming? Dad? Around 3:30 pm. Da...Da...Dad? Dad? Hello, Uncle. Dad, how are you so early... Spicy potatoes! My son is as talented as most daughters! Live long and be happy. Hello, Uncle. Should I switch on the AC, Dad? Yeah, why not? I'll just get some water first. Yeah, we'll get some water. He's gone to get some water. So, Uncle... how are you? How was your journey, Uncle? How's's your job there? Back in the village? You're the head of the village, right? Yes, I am. I am the head.'s your justice-mongering going? I like this job. I'd like to become a judge someday. So. Pretty big mansion we have here. Do you see? See those lights? Hello! Yeah, hello. Actually, it's a no-smoking zone in here, but... Brother Pyaare, what I was saying was... Today the banks are shut, so... Oh, the banks are shut? Now what? Dad? So, you... ...can you take the money tomorrow? Absolutely, it's not a problem at all. Thank you, brother. Thank you so much. You're my little bro, man. No big deal. Alright, bye. What happened? It's all sorted, man. Nothing to worry about. I've spoken to him. Who the hell... Just a sec. Virat? What did I tell you? What are you doing on the pitch? Hey! Just a sec, Uncle. You need to get out, man. Hold this. Who the hell are you? Who the hell are you, man? I'm the one who can knock off the stumps without a ball. Vicky! Come out here! Brother! Actually, today... Apologies won't cut it. Where were you for the last five days? Gaggu's Dad is here. So what should I do? Uncle, this guy's my childhood friend. Pyaare. I'm your brother-in-law, mate. We're not friends! He got offended because I didn't take his calls. He's ending a childhood friendship over that. Hang on, wait up. Just wait a minute. He doesn't look like your childhood friend to me. Tell me this. Were you already five years old when you were born? Hey, you! No, please. Hey! Uncle... I'm telling you. Uh...tell him, Gaggu. Uh...tell him, Harpal. Actually...Uncle... The thing is, Pyaare was quite weak at academics when he was a kid. And by the time Vicky reached fifth standard, it was Pyaare's fifth year there. So that's how they became childhood friends. But tell me this. Who are these randos? Them...Uncle... let me tell you. Tell him, Gaggu. You tell him. Dear God! Dear God! Oh dear God! God? Oh dear God! Yes, Uncle. Dear God! Dear and God. These guys used to work with my Dad at the restaurant. When I was a kid, I had no friends at school. So? These guys accepted me, and we've been together since. We're childhood friends too. But tell me this. Why are they all here? What, Sir? I mean, why are those guys with him? Oh, come on, Uncle! I...I mean... ...let me explain. 1. Vicky and Pyaare are childhood friends. Yeah. 2. Dear, God, and I are childhood friends. Yeah. And 3. Vicky and I are childhood friends! So? Put 1, 2, and 3 together. We're all childhood friends. We're all friends here, all of us. We're all childhood friends! Enough! Friends it seems! Do you have to have your entire conversation standing here? Go, Gaggu. Serve food for everybody. Today we're all going to sit and eat together. Hello? In my house, nobody's going to make a sound while we're eating. Put that down! My Dad says the same thing. Nobody should utter a word. Hum Paanch! Uncle, I'm done. Vicky... Can you show me the kitchen? I'm done too. Brother... Sorry we had to do a bit of an act... Is it out? Yeah, it's out. So...we'll get you the money anyhow. But it'll be a bit of... A bit of what? A bit of what, my childhood best friend? Should we play a Test Match? How long have you been hanging up on me? Bro, bro, bro. We're very sorry. Gaggu's Dad turned up, that's why we couldn't pay you. Why didn't you think about that before gambling, Daler Mehndi? Bro! Please stop, bro. You keep quiet! Not a single sound! You talk. Sir, we have Rs. 1 lakh. I've been calling you for a week. I want it now. Now means right now. Bro, bro. We had the money, bro. Where did it run off to? It didn't. Gaggu's father had water in his lungs. So we had to get him operated upon. So sorry, bro. No, bro, please, no. Please stop. Bro, bro, we got him new lungs, bro. You take me for a fool? He's just testing out his new lungs, I swear. Please bro, please, please. Don't tell my Dad anything, he won't be able to take it. Please don't tell my father anything. Please don't tell my father anything. When will you pay me? Tomorrow. Tomorrow, for sure. Tomorrow, bro. Tomorrow means... ...tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. Got it? Tomorrow, yes. Quiet. You ain't lying. Come, let me say goodbye to Uncle. Yeah? Let's go. Yo! Is he your father-in-law? No, right? So get up! Alright, Uncle. We're leaving now. I'll be back tomorrow. I'll drop by to see you again. Goodbye. And... go easy on the hookah. Don't damage your new lungs. Come on guys, let's go. Hey wait up! I must say, you turned out to be a half-baked gambler. You're leaving without your money. Brother Pyaare! Dad...Dad, how did you find out? I will settle these accounts with you. Come. So, Brother Pyaare. Are you ready? Let's begin, Uncle. Son of a gambler! He's gambli... Dad, you're playing cards? Son... You just watch your Dad! Come on, Uncle. Enjoy the show! One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. I'm going to take your TV today, Uncle. See your cards We haven't even finished paying for that. God please save us. Move Show. Nine. Ten. Eleven. We lost, man. King. King. And this one... the third King. You know what's so great about a lucky break? What? You only get one. Show. Queen. King. Ace. INC Look. Queen. A second Queen. Do I need to show you the third card? Here. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! No, no, no. Let's see how the next one goes. This time there's a condition. Double or nothing. Agreed. That's enough, Dad. No, no, no. You keep playing. You're on a lucky streak, Uncle. Keep playing. Uncle's on a roll, man. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Hang on. Bet first. Place your bet first. Move That's all? Dad... Show. 2 lakhs. That money... He had the money! I didn't remember I had it! There's no need for that. It's double now. This is expensive. Come on, Uncle. Show. Show. No! We'll do it together. Alright. Agreed. Seven. Ace. Shit! Yes! Ei...eight. A second Ace. Nine. Nine. Nine? Nine money... My money! My money! Fuck yourselves! My money's gone. Uncle, these coins amount to... four lakhs. Four from the Dad. Five from the sons. That's a total of... 10 lakhs. T...ten? Ten! That's final! Alright? See you tomorrow at 1, Uncle. Hey, you! Wait up! Dad will pay him, don't worry. Dad... Give the kids a little time, man. Give them a week, at least. Why are you panicking, son? I've asked him for a week's time, he'll grant it. Yes, Dad. Whatever you say. Look, Uncle. We have a business to run. We take our trade seriously. So, tomorrow... ...means... Ouch! No, no, no! ...tomorrow! Alright? I shouldn't have to come here. We'll give it. Let's go, boys. We'll give it. Just chill, chill! Just chill! Dad, what have you done? What's the big deal? Why are you losing your shit? You win some, you lose some. You need to have a sporting spirit. So. I'll take my leave too. My train is due soon. Yeah? And listen! Get your sister Barbie's admission sorted. Don't forget! Because in today's times, it's very important to get women educated. Understood? Remember that. And stop with the gambling! I'm leaving. I'll get it, Dad. Drop me till the gate. Yes, Dad. What a motherfucker! You're the motherfucker! You had the money, asshole! The world is full of motherfuckers, man.



Labels from vintage 16 mm stag films cans.
Labels from vintage 16 mm stag films cans.

Before the age of internet pornography and a general acceptance of the production of pornography, porn was an underground phenomenon. Stag films, also known as blue movies, were made by men for men. The projections of such films were itinerant and were secret exhibitions in brothels or smoker houses. Stag films were an entirely clandestine phenomenon; not until the "porn chic" era of the 1970s would sexually explicit cinema gain any recognition or discussion in mainstream society. Unlike today, the on-screen display of satisfaction, such as male or female orgasm, was not a convention of stag cinema. Instead there was what Linda Williams called the "meat shot",[4] which was a closeup, hardcore depiction of genital intercourse. As there are no direct quotes or oral histories by participants in this underground cinema, film scholars understand what they know of these stag films mainly through written accounts. Stag films persisted for such a great length of time, as Williams argues, simply because they were cut off from more public expressions of sexuality.[5]

The German film In The Evening, the Argentinian film El Satario and the American film A Free Ride (or A Grass Sandwich), produced between the years 1907 and 1915, are three of the earliest hardcore pornographic films that have been collected at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.[6]

Study and analysis

Feminist critiques

Patriarchal Culture

An example of a decaying 16 mm stag film can.
An example of a decaying 16 mm stag film can.

According to Williams, the American stag film demonstrates the obsession of patriarchal culture in a desperate search for what film scholar Linda Williams calls "the unknowable 'truth' of sex".[7] In her chapter on the stag film, Williams focuses on highlighting the anonymous male filmmakers' obsession with the unknown wonder of female sexuality. Williams also argues that a female point-of-view is rarely shown within the stag film genre, resulting in the female body becoming an object. However, in her analysis she does take into account the flickers of female sexuality and points out that sexuality is not problematized, unlike 1970s hardcore pornography.

Early critics of the genre, Di Lauro and Rabkin, argued that the male performers in stag films are also objectified and that they are even less humanized than the women who are the focus of attention because "as performers [men] are not visible in their full humanity."[8] Williams describes this defense of pornography as sounding familiar saying "like most such defenses, it ignores the larger power structure in which the presumably equalized dehumanization and objectification occur." [9] Drawing from art critic John Berger's studies on traditions in European art of oil paintings of nudes, Williams argues that the real subject of stag films is in the eye of the beholder. The point of view always comes from the phallus in stag film, Williams contends, making the predominant address to men only, and Williams argues that is where the power lies. Moreover, it is argued, there are detectable misogynist elements established early in this genre which inflect the more idealizing and fetishizing representations of female genitalia. The act of collectively getting together to get aroused at the spectacles of these hard core representations of sexual acts, is what film theorist Thomas Waugh describes as "re-enacting some of the basic structural dynamics of the patriarchy, namely, the male exchange in women, in this case the exchange in fantasies and images of women".[10]


Voyeurism is an obvious theme and main fixture in the codes and conventions of stag cinema. Williams argues that many stag films, including Am Abend and A Free Ride, "incorporate voyeurism into their narratives as strategies both for arousing their characters and for matching the character's "look" with that of the spectator in their beginning sequences."[11] She describes this as a way for the spectator to identify with the male who looks at the female's body within the unfolding narrative. William's theory on the discourse of the stag film is that "it oscillates between the impossible direct relation between a spectator and the exhibitionist object he watches in close-up and the ideal voyeurism of a spectator who observes a sexual event in which a surrogate male acts for him."[12]

Queer theory


Professor Thomas Waugh[13] wrote about stag films in the context of homosociality (i.e., same-sex relationships that are not sexual or romantic). He argues that this phenomenon ultimately succeeds in illuminating masculinity through the "symbolic phallus".[14] In his essay, Waugh argues that "the stag films, both on-screen and off-screen, are tenaciously engaged with the homosocial core of masculinity as constructed within American society."[15] Waugh points to the fact that in most cases, these anonymous male artists during the heyday of the stag film avoid showing male organs on-screen, yet off-screen is an all-male audiences with only male organs. In their history of the stag film, Di Lauro and Rabkin (1976) nostalgically speak of the stag film as a platform for social bonding and camaraderie between males. Both Williams and Waugh agree that there is a pressing need for the viewer to identify with the other men in the audience, to prove his masculinity through bonding with other male viewers, in order to escape the homosexual undertone of enjoying watching other men's penis'. Waugh would argue that this mentality and this corpus of underground erotic film "exposes the spectrum of male sociality, the experience of having a penis, and being white during the first two-thirds of the 20th century."[16] According to Waugh, stag culture was an arena in which homosocial behaviour reinforced masculinity in men's sexual desires in American pop culture. Although, Waugh also contends that there are a few subversions in this dynamic and describes one film, the cartoon Buried Treasure (c. 1928), as an "overt interrogation of masculinity."[15] Lastly, Waugh suggests that this behaviour is shaped by censorship, but also shame and disavowal.[14]


  • Le Coucher de la Mariée (Bedtime for the Bride or The Bridegroom's Dilemma), France, 1896
  • A Free Ride, USA, 1917–19
  • Am Abend, Germany, 1910
  • El Satario, Argentina, 1907–15
  • Getting His Goat, USA, 1923
  • Casting Couch, USA, 1924
  • La Maîtresse du Capitaine des Meydeux (The Exclusive Sailor), France, 1924
  • Le Ménage moderne du Madame Butterfly, France, 1925
  • Forbidden Daughters, USA, 1927
  • Hollywood Script Girl, USA, 1928
  • Le Pompier des Folies Bergères, France, 1928
  • Uncle Si and the Sirens, USA, c. 1928
  • Buried Treasure', USA, c. 1930
  • The Hypnotist, USA, c. 1930s
  • Surprise of a Knight, USA, c. 1930
  • Fun and Frolic in the Photographer's Studio, USA, c. 1940s
  • While the Cat's Away, USA, c. 1950s
  • A Late Visitor, AMG, USA, c. 1959

See also


  1. ^ Blue Memories Parts 1 & 2 (1984 Betamax, VHS versions) narrated by Jim Holliday
  2. ^ Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (PDF). p. 58. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Film Archive". The Kinsey Institute. Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  4. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 73, 1999.
  5. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 84, 1999.
  6. ^ Janet Staiger, Bad women: regulating sexuality in early American cinema, U of Minnesota Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-8166-2625-0, p.15
  7. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 60, 1999.
  8. ^ Di Lauro, Al; Rabkin, Gerald (1976). Dirty Movies.
  9. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 59, 1999.
  10. ^ Waugh, Thomas (2001). Homosociality in the Classical American Stag Film: Off-Screen, On-Screen.
  11. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 68, 1999.
  12. ^ Williams, Linda. pp. 80, 1999.
  13. ^ "Dr. Thomas Waugh, PhD".
  14. ^ a b Waugh, Thomas. pp. 276, 2001.
  15. ^ a b Waugh, Thomas. pp. 277, 2001.
  16. ^ Waugh, Thomas. pp. 278, 2001.

Further reading

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