In 1971, pornography was legalized in Sweden. The legal freedom was unprecedented and would only last until the early 1980s, when new laws regulating “pornographic performance”, “sexual violence” and child pornography were implemented. During the 1970s, pornography to a large extent took place in public, influencing public, urban space and, especially in the larger Swedish cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö, marked the cityscape.
Already in the 1960s, so called sex shops (marketing softcore magazines, pornographic literature, condoms and sexual paraphernalia) had come into existence and clandestine sex clubs offered entertainment in the form of strip shows, live shows and film screenings. From sometime in the mid-sixties and on, the shops and the clubs were an expanding business, and from 1971 they could operate openly and with hardcore material (which before had been sold “under the counter”). In Malmö, there were between 1971 and 1975 approximately thirty such establishments in a city with a population of only 265 000. Together with the city’s porn cinema, Spegeln, where feature length porn films were exhibited with shorts in a non-stop programme, these places provided important viewing contexts for pornographic films, screening 8mm- and 16mm-films either to an audience or in private booths. Furthermore, regular cinemas showed 35mm, feature length films with sexual content – sex educational films, sex comedies, social problem films, sex documentaries, softcore and sometimes also hardcore films.
In a recently finished research project, I have mapped out exhibition contexts for pornographic films in the city of Malmö in the 1970s. In this paper, I will describe these various context and the implications of them for their possible customer group/audience. With particular focus on the stores and clubs, one question is how pornography – and other sexual entertainment and merchandise – was consumed at the time. This includes an exploration of different motives for visiting these establishments. Furthermore, I will discuss what effects the public display of pornography had on what might be described as a negotiation of public, sexual space. The police, the social authorities, and, eventually, the women’s movement sought to thwart the activities going on and later laws are one consequence of this struggle.
Drawing on film studies as well as sociology, sexuality studies and urban studies, the paper charts a geographical space and a particular time period as well as contributes to a regional understanding of pornographic film within national and transnational film history.