Beyond Sex 69

By Oliver Carter on June 1st, 2019

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of pornography in Denmark. On the 30th May, 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legally permit the sale of hardcore images. The rest of the world watched on with interest, as newspapers and filmmakers covered the Beyond 69 Sex Fair that took place in Copenhagen. Sponsored by a large scale pornography producer, Otto Tjerrild, the Sex Fair celebrated this change in law, with over 49,000 people visiting. Though most of the exhibitors were from Denmark, businesses from Sweden and the United Kingdom were present, finally being able emerge from the clandestine world in which they previously operated.

In the UK, despite it being illegal to sell anything more than pin-up photographs and nudie films in the 1960s, there was a flourishing trade in far stronger material ‘under the counter’ in Soho’s bookshops. Some of those postcard-sized pictures and 8mm films found their way to Denmark from the middle of the 1960s onwards, at the same time that pioneers such as Ole Ege, Leo Madsen and others were laying the foundations for their national business. Even before Denmark’s internationally famous Color Climax brand appeared, films with the Climax Original label were being smuggled across the North Sea from British ports; and when Denmark legalised pornography, some British porn producers relocated to Denmark.

It was a two-way trade, with Danish produced films and magazines smuggled to London, sometimes concealed in cargoes of Danish bacon and other commercial goods. In Soho, corrupt police officers allowed the illicit trade to continue in exchange for lavish gifts and regular payments from the pornographers. Danish 8mm pornography was in such high demand in the United Kingdom that several British labels presented themselves as Scandinavian, even though they were made in London and all the wording on the boxes was in English!

With funding provided by the British Academy, researcher Dr Oliver Carter, is visiting Copenhagen to uncover the secretive story of the trade in pornography between Copenhagen and London. He is hoping to make contact with people who were involved in the pornography business, in any capacity, from working in shops to production, from the 1960s to the 1980s, or who might have memories of its early days.

On Sunday 9 June 2019 at 16:15 at Cinemateket, Dr. Oliver Carter will be joined by academics, historians and guests from the pornography business to reflect on the development of the Danish porn business, and its relationship with the United Kingdom. The event will feature rare video of the Sex 69 fair and Copenhagen’s sex shops shot in 1969 and the early 1970s, as well as footage taken from British television that illustrates the panic caused by Denmark’s decision to decriminalise pornography.

His guests include:

• Mariah Larsson, Professor of Film Studies at Linnaeus University, and author of the book The Swedish Porn Scene: Exhibition Contexts, 8mm Pornography and the Sex Film.

• Christian Isak Thorsen, Lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, and author of the article Sex and Pornography in Danish Feature Films of the 1970s.

• Nicolas Barbano, Danish film maker, and Danish pornography historian.