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?
8 thoughts on “A Letter to Max Hardcore”
>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.
My thoughts exactly Lynsey. Extremely well written. After reading your take, I became envious of your pen. Keep it up.
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!
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.
One exception doesn’t make the rule: it confirms it. May Ling Su is an exception, not the norm.
If one woman enjoyed worked with him, it doesn’t erase the fact that hundreds were scarred by the abuse carried on in his sets. Max has explored the gray areas of “legality” and “oral/verbal negotiation”, and he explored the fact that pornstars tend not to be the best people to stand for their own interests (specially when they’re still new to the industry). Numerous times, in his movies, pornstars are clearly distressed beyond dramatic acting (miles beyond that) and stating they had enough, even attempting to stop and leave the scene themselves, and end up being pushed in front of the cameras and repeatedly told “You’ve agreed to this. You have to do this.”. In fact, a lot of these times, you see the scene being cut because the pornstar got off camera and had to be coerced into finishing the job (being threatened of not getting paid or being promised that the scene is just about to end in a few minutes (which ends up turning out to be a lie): usually a mixture of these two). If all the girls who worked with Max were there on their own free will, knowing his work and to what extents the scenes would go, then I would not have a problem with that. I (like the vast majority of Max’s critics) understand that adults are allowed to make decisions for themselves. But, as an adults myself, I also understand the types of subtle yet powerful manipulaltion, coercion and abuse-of-power dynamics that scenarios that Max’s productions create. People are responsible for their decisions as long as they’re properly and fairly informed before taking them, and as long as the boundaries of those decisions are respected (which Max – save very rare exceptions – didn’t). The crew and agents that tricked/pressured pornstars/sex workers to make scenes with Max are as much to blame (if not more) than Max himself (e.g. see the interviews of the ones like Felicity or Briana Banks (with Holly Randall), and think about the myriad others who have never spoken out (though many did, and it’s not difficult to find interviews where pornstars mention the terrible experience of working with Max – not knowing him before taking the job)). For some years, Max just happened to be the most notorious link of an abusive branch of porn. There were porn agents and crews all invested in this abusive genre. He should be in jails for straight up contract breach, abuse of power, coercion, drugging sub-contractors (which invalidates “consent” in the first place), and straight up rape: yes, even prostitutes may be raped on the job. Were these girls in a mental, social and financial position to do so (i.e. financially non-depedent on porn). these charges would have been brought on him. He, like so many social predators, prowled on a vulnerable group (legally vulnerable, as much as emotional and socially vulnerable), which was the sole reason he got away with all the very mensurable and long-lasting mental suffering he truly caused to his victims. Technical legalities and cultural prejudices were actually on his side. A jury would never backup a pornstar and a signed contract loosely defining payment for “sex on camera” would be enough to abstain Max for any legal wrong doing (even though there were all kinds of psychological trauma being inflicted due to specific sexual/humiliation acts not being explicitly discussed beforehand, and then carried on by means of coercion whenever necessary – not to mention the copious amount of times where girls were merely acquiescing with the whole thing, being struck by unexpected sexual violence in front of a “professional” crew).
And, to finish on a clear note: one thing is a consensual sado-masochistic/humiliation/role-play act filmed on camera; another completely different thing, are poorly negotiated contracts gone (very) wrong (which, unfortunately, was the case of the majority of Max’s videos).
You (the author of the article, Lynsey) are not being reasonable, or neutral in your opinion. You’re basically letting Max and a very non-representative co-worker (a complete outlier in her opinion), stand for the whole case against him – which is as biased an analysis as one can get.
The problem most people have with Max is not rooted in a “knee-jerk reaction” to obscenity at all; it’s rooted in our understanding of the predatory exploration Max enjoyed in the poorly legislated and practically non-supervised environment of sex work. Even a prostitute may be raped during a professional activity for which she received payment for (namely, when boundaries are not being set/respected by at least one of the parties). And certainly many were at the hands of Max and his crew.
If you search competently enough – and in a non-biased way -, you’ll find LOTS of pornstars talking about the trauma of working with Max, and the mental scars it left on them. Many, many more will never speak about it as they prefer to repress the memories associated with it and pretend it never happened (witch well-expresses the level of “f*cked up” we’re talking about here). Furthermore, even more women will never have the opportunity (due to lack of mean or the attention) to speak up. So, the positive perspective you highlight in your reply is an oddity, not a pattern. This May Ling Su was already curious about Max’s work before meeting him, and she was married to someone who enjoyed Max’s type of content (so there could be a predisposition for this kind of sex and/or male temperament). Ultimately, she even actively and spontaneously sought work with Max. It doesn’t outweigh the numerous others who suffered real abuse from him.. the vast majority were “raped during sex work”… that’s why they would never stand a chance in court… the grey boundaries of “consent”, “sex work” and “breach of consent during sex” would always play on Max’s favor. Or so they expected (the women, the agents, Max and his crew).
For your information, consider the complex coercive, manipulative environment of Max’s productions show in the video of the following link: https://efukt.com/20935_Anatomy_Of_A_Max_Hardcore_Scene.html?tos=accept. Everyone there pressuring the girl to submit to the scene on the basis of “discovering (and even pushing) the women’s limits” (meaning (importantly), the contract doesn’t stipulate what’s going to happen during the scene) Consider the girl’s situation “I have to do it […] otherwise, I’ll have a plane ticket out of England” (she clearly needs the money); Her pimp telling outright to the camera he’s gonna get “angry” if she leaves mid-scene. Even so, she stops the scene. Then, is coerced to keep at it and play along. In this an environment and conditions, no proper consent may be given or taken. Many, many Max’s videos have sudden cuts, due to girls being distressed. They were in similar situations as the one shown in this video.
What appears to me is that you either a) are not familiar with Max’s unedited work (you only have seen a couple of heavily edited videos, and formed an opinion based on those heavily cut and edited versions), or b) you’re assuming (in a prejudiced manner) that people are simply overreacting to Max’s work’s unusual levels of obscenity and notoriety… most likely, a mixture of these two (a and b).
P.S. – Max was abusive both in Europe and America (and Asia, as well). The thing is, in the States, the abusive parts were not shown on commercialized videos. But not being seen, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
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.
Man. Some of you are dumb. Welcome to the movie factory. Everything you see is fake. Any time you think someone is getting raped it’s called ‘acting’ all his videos have two different behind the scenes.. one of them will make it look obvious that Max is a rapist. But if you watch the other one, the real one, you will see Max and these laughing and joking and being normal people to each other in between takes.