This?week Malleus focuses on the emergence of explicit?sex in two mainstream audio drama serials, (insofar as a mainstream exists in this field), one German, one American.? These productions go way beyond the light eroticism that flits through Tom Lopez’s ouevre or the bawdy puns?of the Firesign Theater.? Now that public radio drama is shifting towards private audio drama, is this new?frankness?a sign of things to come?
This article contains no explicit images – that’s kind of the point – and?isn’t going to offend any rational adult.? I don’t recommend allowing children to read it.?
For most of audio drama?s history sex has barely been mentioned.? Hardly surprising given that audio drama started?out as?radio drama,?broadcast to the general audience of?1940?s and 50?s America.??Not exactly the most artistically liberated period for the airwaves or the country in general:? these were people who felt morally threatened by Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, for goodness’ sake.
I can only think of one simulated sex scene from a drama that aired over public radio ? the Android Sisters? song-story ?Sss-X Minus One? (the title is a play on the?classic 1950?s sci-fi radio show X Minus One) from ZBS productions? 1982 sci-fi serial, Ruby.? This 3-minute scene consisted of the two sisters coyly asking listeners to touch them ?here? and ?there?, then moaning suggestively.? No dirty words, nothing literally described, but the meaning was clear.? And this was of course the punchline ? at the end the sisters reveal that the tale wasn?t about sex at all, but an illustration of how easy it is to use sexual suggestion to plant manipulative images in your head.? The song was a little Zen koan about the nature of advertising.
There are probably a few other exceptions, but by and large audio drama has perforce been a chaste medium.? Not just in ?prudish? America, either:? it?s the same story in Germany, and so far as I?m aware, Britain and Canada.? If the French had had a thriving audio drama culture to go with their cinema and bandes dessin?es I?m sure they would have invented sound effects for bobbing breasts and rising erections.? But since they don?t, they haven?t.?
Nowadays audio drama production has shifted from public broadcasting to private companies in the U.S.A. and some other parts of the world, and with that shift taboos and FCC restrictions have lifted.? Explicit aural sex is beginning to make itself heard in two audio drama markets for the first time at roughly the same time: Germany and the United States.
In Germany the first mainstream audio drama I?m aware of to feature actors simulating sex (mostly heavy breathing, with the sound of clothes tearing) is Don Harris, Psycho-Cop 02:? Der Club der H?llens?hne, released last year.? The sex scene is disturbing not so much for the act itself?as its Oedipal overtones, given that it takes place between the hero and an ageless, mysterious woman who tells him she was ?almost his mother? (she wasn?t and they?re not related, but still).?
Don Harris is the newest creation of author Jason Dark (Helmut Rellergerd), whose John Sinclair: Edition 2000 series has been a cornerstone of the German audio drama revival and is still going strong.? Since Don Harris, like Sinclair, is yet another occult detective in a hoerspiel field overcrowded with them, Dark and Random House have played up the ?mature? angle to set Harris apart and appeal to an older, presumably more sophisticated audience.? With only 2 releases out the series is still quite young, and it remains to be seen if sex scenes will help Don Harris find and keep an audience or not.?
(Dark?s John Sinclair also spawned a lowbrow parody serial rife with sexual puns called Jac Longdong.? Imagine if someone created an audio serial riff on Jack Flanders called, say, Jack Fellatio or something.? Longdong actually precedes Harris, but since it is more about bawdy humor than simulated sex it falls outside of this discussion.? Besides, no force on earth could compel me to listen to a series with that title, much less?analyze it.)
In the US, sex in audio drama remains rare, with one very large exception:? Graphic Audio.?
Graphic Audio puts out a large array of dramatized audiobooks,?most of which fall under the broad category of ?Men?s adventure?:? science fiction, westerns, action, military, espionage, and post-apocalyptic to name a few.? (They’re now starting to release “Women’s adventure” titles like Rogue Angel?and?The Serrano Legacy?with female protagonists as well.)? Some of their series carry a ?Mature? label, and for good reason.? Graphic Audio prides itself on doing unabridged performances of pulpy paperbacks, and when said works contain sex scenes they don?t cut or shy away from them.? When it comes to sex (and violence) Graphic Audio lives up to its name.?
I was surprised by the oral sex scene that popped up in the middle of Deathlands #45:? Starfall, complete with romantic music, explicit narration, moans, and yes, even suggestive sound effects.? That’s right, sound effects.? It?s more than a little amusing to hear Richard Rohan, who has the classic announcer?s voice you?ve heard on countless advertisements, suddenly start describing the state of the hero?s stimulated ?manhood? in his neutral, dulcet tones.? Deathlands releases often have at least one sex scene.? You can hear one of the tamer ones, with Rohan?s narration, here: http://www.graphicaudio.net/p-61-52-zero-city.aspx.
And so far as I know, that?s it.? German and American producers are still testing the waters.? But after years of being banned from the airways, graphic sex is beginning to emerge?in private sector audio dramas as a minor but significant contributing element.?
But does aural sex sell?? I have no idea. Listening to simulated sex does about as much for me as the prospect of watching cartoon characters get it on:? nothing.? Of course, my lack of interest hasn?t stopped a large pornographic animation industry from making a lot of money, so I?m probably not the best person to ask.?
The truth is that if aural sex sells even half as well as its visual counterpart, it’s here to stay.?
Next week:??Before the events of Dracula, did the world’s most notorious vampire save Jonathan Harker’s life?? Malleus takes a close look at Bram Stoker’s little-known prequel to his classic tale, as dramatized by Titania Medien, in a review of Gruselkabinett 16:? Dracula’s Gast.? (Dracula’s Guest, German)
Jack H says
Aural sex has also entered the realm of podcasting. Pendant Audio’s Once Upon a Time in Vegas. Has a very graphic sex scene in episode 3 or 4 but it is important to the story as it is a key moment to one of the characters changes…They do recommend that children don’t listen to it.
I personally don’t mind the aural sex scene as long as is it is an important part of the story. As with the case above.
Chris Dueker says
Interesting. It makes sense that podcasting would experiment with this, since there are no legal prohibitions.
There was a bit of a sex scene in Wormwood’s first season. It was the first time I had come across such a thing in an audio drama and I remember freaking out a bit, but at the same time appreciating how they didn’t take it too far.
I remember that same moment you’re mentioning… I recall feeling it was a bit awkward — fun of them to try, but I’m not sure that it added to the story. Obviously it’s their call on what kind of content they want in the podcast, but as someone who has to keep in mind what the FCC things, any content along those lines makes me cringe a little.
Gosh, they really have subjugated us!
Yeah, I felt that, given the tone they were trying to strike in that show, they probably felt it was almost obligatory to make the attempt. It sort of exposes their TV/film roots though. I haven’t followed though with the second season to see how what they’re up to now.
I’m not any more prurient than the next guy, but ever since reading this post, I’ve had this bizarre curiosity to check out the Graphic Audio production mentioned above. I see their work mentioned from time to time on sffaudio, but I know absolutely nothing of it.