A Letter to Max Hardcore

So here I am, on my lunch break, composing an e-mail to Max Hardcore. The bogeyman of porno–the man anti-porn zealots can point to when they’re making their accusations. The guy who just got out from a 30-month stint in a federal penitentiary for disseminating obscenity across state lines. The one who more or less invented the term “skull fuck.” Who gets his actresses to call him “Mister” in knee socks and pigtails, and then, in some cases, syphons his bodily waste into various orifices. That guy.

He and his case have both fascinated and repelled me for years and now that he’s out of jail and filming again, I’m hoping he’ll agree to a live Skype interview in front of an audience during the run of my art show. I want to show a few minutes’ worth of one his movies to the audience, then bring him up on a big screen and ask him some questions before letting the audience ask theirs. Because I think he and what he does and what’s happened to him, for better or worse, is important. But honestly, he freaks me out.

I ran into him last weekend in Vegas at the Adult Entertainment Expo, and did an on-the-spot five-minute interview with him on video. I’d been wondering what it would be like to meet him: everyone I know who knows him assures me he’s a nice guy. Some even call him sweet. He’s certainly well-spoken. When I wrote him a letter in prison, hinting at doing an interview with him about his work, he wrote back a five-page letter on lined notebook paper that he’d turned into stationery. “Max Hardcore,” it said at the top, “America’s Most Infamous Prisoner (TM)”–or something like that. He’d gone into detail about how shocked he’d been when a jury of “his peers” had found him guilty of violating their community standards for obscenity, citing First Amendment issues and the rights of the artist. I discontinued our correspondence after that, less interested in the technicalities by which he was incarcerated and more in why he made the films he made in the first place, but his arguments were valid.

Max may have done some things on camera that I can’t agree with, but so have Eli Roth, Stanley Kubrick, and Michael Bay. The difference is that Max deals with a part of our human nature that we don’t see as fundamentally ok–sexuality–and brings in aspects of one that we love–violence–and mixes them together in a really disturbing way. Is he an artist? I don’t really know about that. But did he deserve to go to jail for making those films? Surely not. Although I don’t like his tropes of violence, feigned rape, dressed-up-to-look-underage girls, etc., I don’t agree that he should have gone to La Tuna for allowing one of his distributors to mail his European (read: much hardcore-er) materials across state lines into a more conservative community (a problem which digital distribution may largely nullify in coming years). The charges for which he served two and a half years were rididuculous; what he really went to jail for was having sex some people didn’t approve of, and filming it. And that’s ridiculous. Nobody forced anybody to watch his movies–except, probably, in court. Nobody has ever filed charges against him for forcing any of his actresses to do anything they didn’t want to. Nobody testified against him in court. He swears up and down that if anyone had a problem on the set of his movies, they stopped filming. The guy didn’t need to do hard time, as far as I’m concerned.

But what I really think is fascinating and important about Max isn’t his martyr status or the freedom of speech issues he represents. It’s what goes on in his brain in the first place. Everyone I know who’s worked with him or known him personally seems to genuinely like him. He’s got a kind smile and an easy-going attitude. Every film he’s made had all the necessary paperwork filled out, the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. He uses only consenting adults on shoots that it’s hard to believe anyone could go into without understanding exactly what they’re in for. But what they’re in for is so far above and beyond the norm, so wildly over the top, so violent and–at least for me, but I realize that this doesn’t apply to many others–upsetting to think about, much less to actually watch, that I can’t help wondering. What goes on in his head? How is such a kind, gentle guy also Max Hardcore? How does the guy who everyone vouches for turn off his sweet demeanor and turn on the degrading language, the water-works that get siphoned into anal cavities, the willingness to skull-fuck someone until she vomits? How does this disconnect happen? Does he really hate women, or does he really love women who like this kind of sex? Is there really a disconnect here or just a love of extreme sex? How does this work?

This is what I want to find out. It’s deeply interesting. But it’s also scary. In Max Hardcore I see some of the things that porn gets blamed for and shunned over, the things that your mother fears when she tells you not to look at dirty movies. But I also see our neverending worship of the morbidly fascinating–the rubbernecking at the train crash. Whatever’s going on behind his blue eyes is, maybe reassuringly and maybe terrifyingly, universal. I don’t want to judge Max in front of an audience, because I don’t think I’m qualified to judge something that interests us all. I don’t want to hold him up as an example of “what’s wrong with the world” or any such silliness. I don’t want to say that what he does and did is right or wrong. I just want, like everyone else, to understand it.

So. How do I start this e-mail?

5 thoughts on “A Letter to Max Hardcore

  1. fnmpfn says:

    >right. so this kind of touches another spot on the body of the subject i raised with you in a private message: i.e. stuff people don't want to talk about. the whole business of part of someone wanting to do something and another part doesn't, the tension itself is attractive. for an interviewer professional you will have to figure out ways of getting to the fault line of an issue, the other side of the thing that your subject wants to propagandize about. there is always the inner grandmother going "oh, my" while the action is itself going on. can you find his inner maiden aunt? or, conversely, can you find your inner mean little boy who kicks cats, always thinking "i'll show them." the other side of everything.

  2. Michael Mack J.r. says:

    My thoughts exactly Lynsey. Extremely well written. After reading your take, I became envious of your pen. Keep it up.

  3. that is just wow. YIKES! says:

    This is crazy, you did not do enough research into what you thinking you are talking about. You are a skilled writer, but I don’t think you meant to give this guy the “hey, he ain’t so bad” pat on the back and then write he is an okay guy. Watch his movies. Watch a few of them. Watch him clearly rape these “stupid cunts” while saying “look at the camera, say hi daddy” and “you always let a guy you just meet fuck you in the ass like this?” He is not acting or saying lines to his co-actor. He is raping this clueless girl and telling her he is doing it and its so fucking horny to watch because it is real. That is whats crazy. That is what you missed. That is everything about this…the fucking guy is horny and found a way to legally rape girls as horny as any man has ever been allowed to do and he really fucked up a lot of people in the head in a bad way. Fucking guy never gets what he dishes out. You certainly did not help the balance of things. Go watch his videos, go watch them and tell me you were fine with what you had said previously. Shame on you. harumph!

    1. Lynsey G says:

      I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about Max Hardcore, and I have watched some of his content, much to my dismay. I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that the stuff he made (makes? I’m pretty sure he’s out of the game now) is objectionable to many—myself included. He spent nearly two years in federal prison for the content he made, and that’s quite a bit of him getting what he dished out.

      But a knee-jerk reaction to what’s being presented on our screens doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. I invite you to read and watch the following work I’ve done on him in the past:

      An interview with a performer who worked with him:

      A video of me reading an in-depth exploration of my feelings on the topic from my book:

      My initial letter to and response from Max:

      Of the above, I think the interview with May Ling Su is the most important piece of the puzzle. She told me that she truly enjoyed the experience, that she was very turned on by the way he operated, and that she found him to be a total gentleman. What was presented to the viewer after editing was very far from the experience she had. Of course, that’s just one person’s experience and can’t speak for everyone. I am certain that others didn’t go into it with their eyes that wide open and had worse experiences on set. Still, though, her experience IS valid and should be taken seriously. What we see in a finished product doesn’t tell the whole story.

  4. Booker Forte says:

    This is bullshit. He’s evil. Just charming like most are. And he’s got you. Nobody complained rape bc he paid them 10x their normal scene as hush money. He knows he’s a fucked up human being and he knows women are shallow enough to accept his offers. He has definitely done things that are rape offenses and false imprisonments as well as bribes.

    7 men surrounding you on a set(filming) , they see your pain and anguish and they’re so jaded they don’t care but the starlet is begging on the inside of her soul for him to stop… A few enjoyed but most didn’t and he paid 10x more for their scene. He lived in the Grey area of conversation and used it to get away with insane acts the sex workers never agreed to.


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