Nothing Censored, Nothing Gained: The Queer Circulation and Policing of Exploitation Films in California, 1960 to 1979

Finley Freibert
Visual Studies
UC Irvine

This dissertation argues that the links between queer history and exploitation film history extend beyond geographic proximity. In the period 1960-1979, the exploitation film industry embraced lucrative, but sexually transgressive content that positioned the industry as “deviant” from the postwar norms of heterosexual consumer culture. This dissertation demonstrates that queer audiences and spaces contributed significantly to the economic viability of the exploitation film industry during this period. Despite their origins in the exploitation industry’s profit motives, queer-oriented industry practices, whether intentionally or not, facilitated a form of public queer visibility. Moving beyond representational approaches to the exploitation film, the study’s examination of production, distribution, and exhibition foregrounds the policing of queer markets. This policing strove to curtail queer collective space-claiming at exhibition sites, the increased visibility of queerness in film marketing, and theatergoing practices that flouted heteronormative standards of moviegoing conduct. Ultimately, the regulation and policing of California’s adult media industries in the 1960s and 1970s negatively impacted the niche media, spaces, and consumption sites that had energized the formation of marginal, queer audiences in this crucial period of film history.