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BFI Film Classics, Bloomsbury, London.

Forthcoming in Spring 2025


Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

312 pp.

The untold story of the American sexploitation film—a major development in screen sex in the decade before “porno chic,” Lewd Looks recovers a lost chapter in the history of independent cinema and American culture. 

Read the introduction here

Reviewed in: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, New Review of Film and Television, GLQ:A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Jump Cut,  Journal of the History of Sexuality, Film Quarterly, Film International, Cineaste, Choice, Popmatters, Screening Sex, Synoptique

Reviews & endorsements:

"Sex sells, but it also speaks, and few have listened more attentively than Elena Gorfinkel. In Lewd Looks, she untangles the dense, complicated looking relations of the sexploitation film cycle that most have brushed off as a speed bump on the race to hardcore, revealing it instead as a staging of the fundamental American ambivalence and anxiety regarding sex. Full of recovered moments of previously-lost film history and piercing analytical insights, this brilliant book peers avidly into the cinematic gutter, seeing the truths of our culture floating there."

— Whitney Strub, author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

"Groundbreaking and exquisitely presented. With a fearless dedication to archival research, Elena Gorfinkel forges an original research trajectory that can be productively extended to other under-researched media forms as well as mainstream media."— Constance Penley, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Lewd Looks is at once enlightening and fascinating." —


"Lewd Looks usefully leans into the contradictions of censorship and gender representation that extend beyond the tease of sexploitation into the hypervisible world of pornography today." — Film Quarterly


"Gorfinkel's book, while it focuses on the 1960s, feels relevant to the experience of being a woman in 2018." —Cineaste

"Elena Gorfinkel’s Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s is an important entry into the porn studies field not only for its robust scholarship but also for its call to arms. The reluctance to address sexually explicit, simulated films is a limitation to porn studies as a whole in as much as excluding the study of softcore provides an incomplete picture of pornographic media over the decades."— New Review of Film and Television

"Lewd Looks brings a feminist perspective to this cultural history, from investigations of female erotic looking and erotic spectacle to women's labor, female audiences, and questions of modern womanhood. Rather than a knee-jerk condemnation of the spectacularization of women's bodies, Gorfinkel displays a genuine interest in the films, allowing her to discover the more complex cultural work they were doing and take seriously the labor of the women who worked both in front of and behind the camera … Lewd Looks has laid a crucial foundation for scholarship on American sexploitation cinema, as well as legal and cultural negotiations over sex and obscenity in the 1960s. Extensive research allows Gorfinkel to describe this complex cultural terrain with new detail and accuracy while also pointing to the ways these films shift our understandings of film form, spectatorship, and sexual representation. The book will be of great interest to scholars, instructors, and students of gender and sexuality in media, film history, and American cultural studies." — Journal of Cinema and Media Studies


"Elena Gorfinkel’s astonishing book Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s seeks, in part, to drain some of the historical chauvinism out of the notion that viewers of 1960s sexploitation films were naïve explorers who had to settle for implicit images before the explosion of hardcore pornography marked by the popularity of Deep Throat in 1972. At once a reception study, an industry analysis, a history, and a series of textual analyses, Lewd Looks lends sexploitation the kind of thick description the genre has so sorely lacked in film scholarship".— JUMP CUT

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Global Cinema Networks 

edited with Tami Williams

New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2018. 284 pp.

Global Cinema Networks investigates the evolving aesthetic forms, technological conditions, and social impacts of cinema in the 21st century. Contributors excavate sites of global filmmaking amidst new modes of circulation and aesthetic convergence.   

Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image 

edited with John David Rhodes

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Taking Place argues that the relation between geographical location and the moving image is fundamental and that place grounds our experience of film and media. 

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