Origin of the Behind the Green Door story?
November 9, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

What's the story behind the print version of "Behind the Green Door" that circulated for awhile before the porn film was made?

The wiki page for the 1972 film states that the movie "was adapted from an anonymous short story of the same title, which was circulated by means of numerous carbon copies."

Although there's no source listed on the wiki page for that piece of information, it may come from the 1994 book "Sexing the Millennium", which states that the film was "based on a story that had circulated for many years by means of typed carbon copies, an original underground classic."

I recently stumbled upon what I think is one of those many carbon copies versions (16 one-sided pages) and was just curious about it.

Is it possible to determine the date of this copy? Was there only one version that went around or were there multiple versions? My version has multiple (typewriter) corrections and the first three pages are in all caps. Why didn't someone re-type a nice looking version? Would someone make a bunch of carbon copies and then give them out to many people at work or school or hangouts? Or were people instructed to pick up a copy at an adult bookstore for free? Who originally wrote it? Were there similar stories that were distributed around the same time? If so, why did Behind the Green Door become more popular than other stories? Does "circulated for many years" mean five years, ten years, or ??
posted by 1001 questions to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

It's cataloged in the 1968 work Analytical survey of Anglo-American traditional erotica by Frank A. Hoffman. Google snippet view allows no more than a glimpse:

Behind the Green Door. np, nd 18 pp. Typewritten manuscript. This widely known bit of erotica might be more properly included with manuscript narratives, except for the fact that it is so widespread, in a multiplicity of versions, generally in anthologies or collections, and in addition appears to be most frequently encountered among college students or servicemen.

This book actually has an entire category or section devoted to this samizdata-like pornography.

In Show Business Laid Bare, by Earl Wilson, Marilyn [Chambers, presumably] states, it "is an old pornographic story that's been around for fifty years. It's been passed around on mimeographed sheets, and it's very well known, though nobody can quite be sure who wrote it."

To answer your questions off the cuff, retyping was a big task and, like people who cut and past e-mail today, something that would be avoided if at all possible -- especially because mimeograph equipment tended to be located in institutional or business settings where it would be embarrassing to spend the time to get the presentation right. I would assume distribution was primarily one-to-one. Adult bookstores really hardly existed outside of the largest cities, so this was an early version of the internet. The original authorship has apparently never been determined, or the mere rumor of someone would be enough for the above sources to mention. I would assume that BtGD -- I've never seen the story -- was objectively "better" at communicating a narrative, much like de Sade or Anaïs Nin were. There have been similiar classics of erotica such as The Story of O that remain popular today.

The nature of its underground transmission probably means that most of your questions are simply unanswerable. The only way I imagine that Hoffman's precis could be improved would be if some commentary about it emerged in some private papers.
posted by dhartung at 6:58 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having read a carbon copy or a mimeographed copy of this in the very early 60's I know exactly what you're talking about. IIRC it came from someone in the army. Who had brought it from his post in Virginia to Washington. It was shared with all of my friends, and I believe one of them may have typed up a copy plus carbons to share with others (probably in typing class).
I would tend to think that it originated from author unknown during WW II or thereabouts from the language used. Just a thought.
posted by ptm at 7:58 PM on November 9, 2010

If you're interested in the text of the story itself, a transcription is online here (NSFW).

Some discussion here, including a guy who remembers reading in during the Korean War.
posted by flug at 8:10 PM on November 9, 2010

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