CSUN is located in the heart of the Porn Valley. The tale has been told in movies such as ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Wonderland,’ but what might be surprising to many students is the amount of literature the Oviatt Library has about human sexuality, which may be the second largest private collection on human sexuality compared to gold mines like the Kinsey Institute.
‘When it was first here, the topic was very unique,’ said Tony Gardner, 65, curator for 23 years at the library’s Special Collections, which houses sex and gender books donated by Vern and Bonnie Bullough.
‘You’ll find these type of collections in big research places now, because gender study is such a recognized field.’
The Bullough collection is located in a sequestered, humidity-controlled section in the library’s west wing in the Tseng Gallery. Security clearance is required to gain access to this massive and diverse collection, but even then, only researchers with specific requests can read one of the books’mdash;after signing a contract, of course.
The strongest characteristic of the collection is its broad coverage of various subject matter, ranging from pedophilia, prostitution and nursing to transvestites, gay rights movements and porn star pictorials. It is as worldly as the erudite Professor Bullough once was.
One of his many accomplishments, which ties into the human sexuality book and film collection at UCLA, is the success of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organizations.’
This includes ONE, Incorporated Bullough’s tie to UCLA. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1959, and being fully submersed into gender and nursing studies, Bullough began writing about homosexuality and became part of a flourishing gay rights organization called ONE, Inc., which published a magazine and collected gay-related materials.
Bullough first became interested in sex around 1945, when he was going to high school in Salt Lake City, according to Gwen Brewer, 80, Bullough’s widow.
‘ Bullough was dating a woman whose mother was a lesbian, and he would often hang out with the couple. Bullough, who was not exposed to homosexuality in the past, was fascinated by the partners’ records of the Salt Lake lesbian community.
‘He was not a homosexual,’ explained Brewer, a retired CSUN professor, and president of Friends of the Library.
‘ ‘(People) often asked him to do things because he was neutral.’ ONE, Inc. now has the world’s largest research library and archive devoted to LGBT issues.
Accessible through the UCLA Film ‘amp; Television Archive in a sunless area of Powell Library are over 1,500 films and 3,000 videos of LGBT and fetish subject matter donated by ONE, Inc. in early 2007. The majority of the collection is stored away and preserved at the UCLA campus, at the UC Southern Regional Library facility, which, upon request, can be retrieved for patrons.
The dungeon-esque area of the library stores a select amount of other films and DVDs, which reaches upwards of tens of thousands.
Mark Quigley, manager of the archive research and study center, mentioned how all moving images have, historically, been endangered by individuals who don’t know how to properly preserve them, which often leads to the disposal of them. This space in Powell Library acts as a sanctuary for all movies (even ‘Top Gun’ laser discs).
‘We’re often the last stop before the landfill,’ joked Quigley.
The ONE, Inc. donation came two years after Outfest’mdash;an organization that for 25 years, created a community between LGBT filmmakers and audiences’mdash;teamed with UCLA Film ‘amp; Television. Together they created the Outfest Legacy Project, the world’s largest publicly accessible collection of LGBT films, which reaches over 3,300 titles.
Quigley allowed me to screen a series of shorts made in the late 1970s by Pat Rocco, one of the first gay filmmakers. I watched this in the media lab, a gray-carpeted tomb with machinery circa 1986. Under the catalog description it says: ‘Probably male homosexual erotic films.’
It opens in grainy black and white. A man is skinny-dipping, and when he comes out to oil himself in the backyard sun, you can see the Navy tattoos on his arms.
After some conversing with an intruding stranger, the camera zooms in on Navy Boy’s erection, and he’s invited the peeping Tom to his bed.
The rest of the shorts continue in such a way’mdash;meet, talk, screw’mdash;but the picture quality improves from black and white, to murky hues to the likes of your parents’ prom pictures.
These films are part of UCLA to serve the public, and it’s important to mention it’s not all erotica. There’s a significant cultural value have cultural value here, no matter what your orientation, it’s important to cherish human desire.
‘Sex is,’ Gardner paused, crosses his arms with hand on chin, ‘Everybody thinks about it’hellip; At least some time of the day.’
The CSUN Special Collections is like the neighborhood house that gets few visitors, but the ones who come are pampered. Often a patron will request a book on sex, and leave having glanced at cartloads of periodicals.
‘People come from all over to work on the collection,’ Gardner said. And why shouldn’t they; the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection has over 5,400 items.
Behind the locked door, the room is at a chill 67 degrees and Gardner has laid out a stack of books on a metallic cart. He picked up one on prostitution by William Acton that once was part of Charles Dickens’ library. The pages are gray and stiff with fading details like a dead body.
The next book is called ‘Die Transvestiten,’ and it’s the first book on transvestites, written in German in 1910.
‘The author, Magnus Hirschfield,’ Gardner explained, ‘Had nearly his whole library destroyed during the Nazi book burning.’
He continued going through the selection: ‘The Freaks of Fashion,’ depicts how corsets evolved through remote periods; ‘The Tropic of Cancer,’ a banned edition that was smuggled throughout the U.S. and even led to Supreme Court cases; ‘Just Like the Flowers, Dear,’ an under-the-counter book owned by Samuel Roth, who redefined what constitutes as obscene material unprotected by the First Amendment.
‘(Bullough’s) expertise was in different areas at different times,’ Gardner said about the ranging diversity of topics, and the mass accumulation of items.
While he taught history at multiple universities, including CSUN, from 1959 to 1980, Bullough spent his time writing about various subjects pertaining to human sexuality.
‘He was a very fast writer,’ Brewer echoed of Bullough, who would hammer out essays and books sometimes on a weekly basis. ‘He would wake up and respond to over 80 emails a day, and then continue writing.’
In 1981, after establishing himself in gender study circles, Bullough earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Cal State University, Long Beach.
‘It was funny because one of the required books he was reading was by him,’ said Brewer.
And there, in stacks bunched together like drupelets, is a medical book from 1584 written in Latin’mdash;the oldest book on campus. It talks about various venereal diseases, and it records the first known account of syphilis.
Sadly, it didn’t garner attention as much as Madonna’s aluminum-covered, coffee table ‘Sex’ book, which Gardner said is probably the most popular book in the collection. ‘People were lining up to see it.’
The latest addition to the human sexuality collection was a donation from the Homosexual Information Center a faction branched off from ONE, Inc., begun in 1968.
The HIC is overflowing with historic materials, of which there are over 4,000 that Gardner has been cataloguing since receiving it in summer 2007.
‘ ‘I’d like to do another ‘Treasures of the Bullough Exhibit’ because it has grown so much since we acquired it in 1973,’ Gardner said.
I can’t think of a better way to personify a historian than through the
books collected over a lifetime.
A person can change America’s outlook in so many ways, because of cavaliers like Bullough, more people are able to come out of the closet easier.
Recommendations from the Bullough stash:
‘Science in the Bedroom: A History of Sex Research’
by Vern L. Bullough
From ancient Greece, to the profound sexologist Alfred Kinsey, sex and its assumptions have been debated, refuted, and debated again. Being the notorious history buff Bullough was, he’s captured numerous voices that shaped what we know about sex today.
‘XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits’ photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
This portfolio tastefully succeeds in painting people as they are’mdash;human. The photographer juxtaposes porn stars as fully clothed and then entirely nude. Its detailed craft spawned a HBO documentary on how the shots were created.
‘Just Like the Flowers, Dear’ by Robert B. Donnelly
Plate 28 in this humorous, informative sex book released in 1932 has human heads poking from an Egyptian Lilly with the caption, ‘Who says flowers have no maternal love?’ It’s a good example, considering this book was banned in America, of how the First Amendment has evolved. (It’s like a children’s book.)
‘Sex (book)’ from Madonna
A silver baggy is imprinted with Madonna’s face. Another little baggy includes a copy of her album ‘Erotic’. The book is the better of the two, in that it brought sex to the coffee table with bondage, anilingus, and other fetishisms.
A weekly magazine begun in 1968 that celebrated the outrage caused by its lurid, tabloid articles and photos that pushed close to the edges of protected speech. The pages are frail and smell like an attic, but they provide a fair glance into the porn mainstream of back-in-the-day.