There aren’t many pariahs left in this world as we have become inured to just about everything the world has to offer. In spite of being able to accept nearly everything else under the sun, people who make their living having sex in front of cameras are still looked upon as if they crawled out from under a rock. In spite of it’s the proliferation throughout the Internet and elsewhere, most producers and suppliers of pornography are looked upon as being only a step removed from white slavery.
In fact the antipathy towards the business is so universal that it comes in for equal bashing from those on both extremities of the political spectrum. It may be for different reasons, but both the religious right and the radical left condemn pornography and pornographers out of hand. While the one claims it’s because they don’t like the way women are depicted, and the other because they don’t like sex, the end result is the same.
North America and sex have always had a strange relationship in that, while people don’t see anything wrong with depicting a person literally being eaten alive on a movie screen, two people having sex is enough to send half the continent into a state of shock. The sad truth is that for too many people who think sex equals sin have made something that should be a pleasurable experience into something they feel they have to be ashamed of.
In spite of that, or maybe because of that (I’ll leave that to the psychologists and social workers to figure out), there’s always been a big demand for pornography in our society. From the dirty postcards of the early part of the twentieth century to the web sites and DVDs of today, the stuff wouldn’t be made if there weren’t people willing to pay for it. Who are the people willing to appear in the movies and pose for the pictures? Are they somebody’s innocent son or daughter whose morals were corrupted by evil people leading them astray, or even worse, addicting them to drugs so they would do anything for their next fix?
In all likelihood it’s none of the above, as drugs are usually a detriment to performance. The mainstream adult film industry doesn’t need to coerce people into taking part in their movies, as there are always more than enough people willing and able to choose from. If that’s the case, it must mean, horror of horrors, these people want to be doing what they’re doing. Working from that premise, William Walsh has created what he calls a documentary novel that traces the life and career of leading man, Wax Williams, from his childhood days in Ampersand, California to when he throws in the towel and retires from the world of adult films.
Without Wax, published by Casperian Books, is more than simply a linear biography of Wax. Walsh has structured the book like a movie, complete with talking head interviews, flashbacks, and cut-away shots to reflect a character’s thoughts. Interspersed within the “footage” about the life of Wax are various small vignettes, profiles of Wax’s fans. As a type of piece de resistance, he has also included a script from Wax’s first feature, which might be short on dialogue but long on the inventive stage directions unique to an adult film.
Wax hadn’t set out to be a porn star. At one point during high school it looked like he had a chance of having a decent career in baseball — at least triple A, if not the majors — if only he hadn’t had that additional growth spurt. As a child Wax was a slow developer; slow to the point that his parents were concerned enough to send him to a doctor who claimed he had come up with a way to increase a young man’s size so he’d have no cause ever to be embarrassed again. The so-called doctor’s treatment turned out to include a combination of growth hormones, steroids, exercise, and a stretching devise.
While there’s no doubt the procedure was effective, Wax went from being a 98-pound weakling in his first year of high school to being a star third baseman in only two years. It soon became apparent that his extra length was a hindrance when it came to running the bases and playing the field. As one of the directors he worked with commented when asked about Wax, there aren’t many other lines of work, aside from the adult film industry, where his specific enhancement could be parlayed into a career, so becoming a porn star was pretty much a no-brainer.
Through interviews with co-performers and technical folk Wax worked with, we learn that while there are other equally well-endowed performers in the adult film business (nobody in the book refers to it as pornography), Wax had a boy-next-door quality that endeared him to women and made him far less threatening to men. It was this combination that quickly made him a star in the adult business and allowed his management to market a whole range of “Wax Williams” sex toys.
Walsh has been very careful to write Without Wax in a manner that appears to be faithful to the documentary ideal of objectivity. I was forced to remind myself, every so often, that in fact this was a work of fiction no matter how it looked. Even though it appears the characters are being presented in a non-objective manner, and that the author has no opinion one way or another, Walsh has written each one of them with intent and purpose. We’re supposed to feel like we are making up our own minds about circumstances and people, when of course he’s guiding us by having created everything we read.
The result of this is that he forces us to look honestly at our own opinions and reactions to pornography. By creating the illusion of a documentary, the reader feels he or she is “allowed” to be reading material that they probably wouldn’t read under normal circumstances. Periodically he deliberately shatters that illusion by including elements that sound like they come directly from an “adult movie,” and forces you to realize you’ve been reading pornography, not a report on it.
It doesn’t stop it from being a good book, and you realize you want to read the book to its finish because you’ve been enjoying it. What does that say about pornography and what does that say about you? If you’re honest with yourself, this book will make you reconsider any of your conceptions about pornography and about the adult film business.
This is a well-written and thoughtful book about a subject that most people have a knee jerk reaction to. William Walsh’s Without Wax, even though it’s a work of fiction, is probably the most honest book you’ll find written about pornography today. If you’re willing to be as honest with yourself as the book is, you might just find yourself thinking about the adult film industry in a different light than you did before.