I just had the absolute pleasure of watching Suburban Dykes (1990) starring Nina Hartley, Pepper, and Sharon Mitchell. It was a pleasure because it took me back to my teen years when I watched porn on VHS (yes, I’m #GenerationX). Assume that the rest of this writing has the intonation of *insert 40-something accent* “Back in MY day…” Well, let me tell you about the magic of 80s/90s porn. I grew up in Detroit and had a long distance love for California. It seemed like a magical place and all of the porn I watched felt like field trips to the golden state. Porn from that era often felt (feels) like a group of friends, who thoroughly enjoy fucking each other, got together at a house in California and once the camera crew was set up, they did just that. I have a special place in my heart for 80s/90s porn. If you want to witness some of this magic, watch Suburban Dykes by Fatale Media.
Some of the things that may come to mind when you imagine watching porn from that era is (brown chicken, brown cow) music during the sexual play. Something that sets SD apart is that the only time music is presented is to transition the scene, sort of like an energy shift. Once the screen begins to heat up, the music leaves us alone to enjoy the sounds of the actors. Make no mistake, those sounds don’t feel like acting and they become a soundtrack of their own. This choice by Fatale Media makes the viewer feel like a fly on the wall. It was SO MUCH hotter to watch this bathed only in orgasmic sounds from these women.
The narrative was crafted in such a way that helped the viewer care about every scene. In an attempt to avoid “Lesbian bed death syndrome”, Nina and Pepper reach out to the Butch of their phone sex dreams. This is where the story gets hottest. If you want to learn why Nina Hartley is a fucking legend, just watch her on screen. Nina Hartley’s on-screen charisma is unparalleled and I’ve been watching her since my teens. Something I found brilliant about Sharon Mitchell’s role in SD was how their* character was inviting instead of invasive. I encourage you to watch (and re-watch) the scene when they first arrive. They were not aggressive, they were assertive and I found it easy to understand their appeal. Everything about Sharon made me say yes.
SD had some components that we don’t always see in porn today, but was important commentary for 1990. There was a rapid-fire safer sex proclamation (not really a conversation) about bodily fluid exchange and AIDS awareness. A clear statement of boundaries around sexual health didn’t slow down the pacing of SD nor did it “break the mood”. (People who are reluctant to have these conversations should take note.)
Watching and reviewing this for Porn Club has been a joy. I would re-watch Suburban Dykes. I’d even order the DVD and invite friends over to watch it. I hope everyone gets a chance to watch porn where the cast looks like they enjoy fucking each other. Porn gives us fuel for our fantasies, it’s entertainment. But, SD was socially conscious fantasy fuel that focused on the pleasures of a loving couple. If there were an epilogue, I’d bet that Nina and Pepper never experienced Lesbian bed death syndrome.
*-I don’t know Sharon’s pronouns, so I’ve decided to use they lest I misgender them.