*Strong Trigger Warning: This blog contains disturbing written references to sexual abuse and graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
The man who ushered in the widespread acceptance of the hardcore porn genre, Max Hardcore, passed away on Monday, March 27. He was 66 years old. Max, the self-proclaimed founder of “throat f***ing” and other sex acts in porn many would consider criminal, whose real name was Paul F. Little (also known as Paul Steiner), profoundly shaped the landscape of pornography.
Max had a career that spanned several decades and was a porn industry AVN Hall of Fame director and performer who was largely responsible for popularizing abusive, violent porn. He was exposed in Exodus Cry’s documentary series Beyond Fantasy, the last episode of which was released just days before his death. The series uncovers violation, coercion, and abuse in the porn industry.
Porn producer Eric Swiss shared in Beyond Fantasy, “Before Max, pornography was a very tame thing. All pornographers, whether they accept it or not, owe a large part of their craft to what he developed… As pornographers, we stand on the shoulders of the genius of Max Hardcore for what he created.”
“Genius” is not the word that comes to mind when we think of Max Hardcore. “Criminal,” feels much more appropriate. Exodus Cry carries the conviction that many of the sex acts depicted in Max’s videos were acts of sexual assault that would warrant prosecution.
Who Was Max Hardcore?
Max was seemingly an average joe; a middle-aged man with a twangy, Midwestern accent, who liked race cars and rock ‘n roll. In an interview for Beyond Fantasy, he states that he “grew up in a very healthy and nurturing environment. No traumatic events. Parents were together until they died… The worst thing I can remember is getting beat up by a bully.”
He grew up in Wisconsin and began making the move to amateur pornography creation in the early 1990s. Max rose to prominence in 1992 with the release of the film series, “The Anal Adventures of Max Hardcore” and became known for the cowboy hat he wore in every scene. In total, he created more than 500 pornographic films across his career.
Inspired by pornographer John Stagliano, who became famous for pioneering the gonzo porn genre, Hardcore’s films have depicted young women, appearing to be underage, being urinated on, slapped, choked, fisted, and vomiting as they were gagged by his penis or other objects.
What we discovered through our investigation of the porn industry, and our subsequent interviews and investigation into Max, is that he is a man with a deeply sociopathic desire to destroy women. As controversial as his content was, the porn industry acted as a welcoming outlet for his sadistic, violent, and deeply abusive cravings to be satisfied.
His motto was, “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.” And he truly lived by that. In his interview for Beyond Fantasy, he told Director Benjamin Nolot, “If you stay cooperative through the whole scene, then we haven’t pushed you hard enough… I want you to tell me to stop.”
“I push to the maximum, to the absolute limit, and some women I have pushed over the limit…When you’re pushing hard, people are going to suffer, for sure. It’s a great experience to find out what the breaking point of a person is. In my films, I push to the maximum to see how much stuff she can take until she stops and can’t take it anymore.”
Max’s Film-Making Methods and Philosophy
For many porn producers and consumers, Max is viewed as an icon and a hero. To others, he was the worst kind of predator. Max refers to the women in his scenes as “victims” and they all refer to him as “Mister.” He was a man marked by violence who frequently took on roles of power, preying on the vulnerable. It doesn’t take much to look at his scenes and see that they are a form of pseudo-pedophilia. He dressed up the women—often girls who were brand new to the industry—as little girls in schoolgirl skirts, ankle socks, pink ribbons, and pigtails. They skip into their scenes and Max pursues them, abducts them, tortures them, and more or less rapes them.
His motto was, “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.”
Using the term rape can be tricky when referring to the porn industry. Actual depiction of rape may result in an obscenity trial and a prison term for the pornographer. So porn producers, like Max, get around the rape issue by ensuring that at some point they obtained some form of consent. However, as we uncover in Beyond Fantasy, performers are not given the full picture of what will be asked of them in many scenes. They are given as little information as possible. In fact, they are often coerced or defrauded into giving some form of consent.
A typical Max Hardcore scene, by all intents and purposes, looks like rape. A girl is pursued and captured. She cringes and cowers; Max yanks her by her hair and slaps her around. But the porn industry and Max himself tell us it is not rape, because he has obtained “consent.” Images battle with words. Turn the sound down, and it is a rape.
Max Hardcore defined his films as “instructional videos” on how to get a young girl to do whatever you want. These videos center on inflicting pain and humiliation on girls who appear to be underage, even pre-pubescent in some cases. He told the Sick & Wrong Podcast, “We’d use tiny little girls, maybe 80 or 90 pounds. If you see a girl who looks like she’s 14 years old and she’s takin’ it up the ass and havin’ a good time, that’s great!”
He added, “In real life, you’re not gonna meet a 12-year-old girl on the street and be f*ckin’ her in a filthy bathroom at the public park. But it can happen with the magic of cinema! When people saw Barbie Angel, Little Cinderella, Catalina, Chloe Adams, et cetera, et cetera, they thought the girls were underage, when in fact, of course, they were not.”
Some journalists have described Hardcore’s work as male revenge, intended not for arousal but rather the complete degradation and breaking of women through intolerable cruelty and aggressive, determined brutality.
David Foster Wallace, author of “Big Red Son,” wrote, “Good old Max Hardcore, for instance, is a total psychopath—that’s part of his on-screen Gonzo persona—but so is the real Max/Paul Steiner.”
Even in his interview for Beyond Fantasy, Max did not conceal his sadistic impulses: “I completely f*cking dominate them and push them down, hold them, put their arms behind their back, pull their hair, spank ‘em and slap ‘em until you finally break ‘em down and leave ‘em in a heap on the floor. And sometimes they break completely and start crying.”
In 2000, Max allowed a British documentary crew to film behind the scenes of a shoot with Felicity, a new performer. What they captured was incredibly heart-wrenching and sickening. She quickly stops the scene in distress, “The things you’re doing to my body and stuff, it’s abusive.” She sobs, “I am not comfortable with it. I hate it… I can’t do it. It’s horrible and I hate it and I want to go home.”
Max responds, “You got responsibilities and people who have responsibilities that are important, they do it, they do their job. They take care of business.”
When she still insists that she doesn’t want to partake in the scene anymore, Max gets cruel stating, “You think the scene is disgusting? You disgust me. You’re a f*cking loser.”
When director Benjamin Nolot questions Max about this particular scene and why he pursued Felicity after she left the scene, Max smiles and laughs. “You can look at that as pressure and trying to coerce her into doing the scene but I look at it as encouragement.”
Max eventually pressured Felicity into continuing with the scene but the documentary crew intervened and she left.
A former porn performer by the name of Julie Meadows said this about working with Max:
“Max was the low point of my career… Also, when I asked over the phone what kind of sex it would be, I was told boy/girl sex. I wasn’t told that it would be about implied pedophilia. I wasn’t told that there might be incest-related dialogue. I wasn’t told a speculum would be involved or extreme face-f*cking.
As he explained the scene, two large men stood behind my seat in his tiny office. If I imagine what another female could possibly feel like in that situation, but with her car blocks away from her and no idea where she is because she was driven to the location and not given the address, I can imagine she’d feel even more vulnerable than I did, and I still felt very vulnerable in the situation.”
I was crying to the point where I’m looking at the cameraman waiting for somebody to stop it. But I’m like if I stop now, I’m not going to get paid.
In a podcast interview with Holly Randall, Briana Banks, a veteran porn star with more than 20 years in the porn industry, describes a traumatizing 6-hour long scene she did with Max Hardcore during which he used personal information against her. Upon meeting, Max was kind and personable, inquiring about her family and personal life. However, he later used that information against her in the scene to further break her.
Once the scene began, Max turned into somebody very different. Banks said, “I was crying to the point where I’m looking at the cameraman waiting for somebody to stop it. But I’m like if I stop now, I’m not going to get paid. All this stuff is going through my head, like how much longer can this really go on for? And this is only 2 hours into it…[Max] didn’t drug me but I wish I had been drugged for that scene.”
Max Hardcore’s Criminal History
Max Hardcore faced several charges during his time in the porn industry. Unfortunately, true justice never seemed to be achieved other than a short stint in jail. He was indicted on five counts of transporting obscene matter by use of an interactive computer service and five counts of mailing obscene matter. The indictment alleged that through MaxWorld, Max distributed films that met the U.S. Supreme Court’s standards of obscenity, through the U.S. mail, to an address located in the Middle District of Florida.
In June of 2008, Max was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 46 months in prison. His websites were confiscated by the government, and he was fined a total of $87,500.
Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material
In 1998, just 6 years after Max’s first breakout film, he was charged by the city of Los Angeles with child pornography and the distribution of obscenity. In his film Max Extreme 4, an actress who was over age 18 was portrayed as an underage character.
However, in 2002, just before this case was finally brought to trial, the U.S. Supreme Court determined, in the infamous Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition case, that the statute prohibiting adults from portraying an underage character was unconstitutional. Based on this ruling, the child pornography charges against Max Hardcore were dismissed. The misdemeanor charge of distribution of obscenity was retained, but a jury failed to reach a verdict.
In our interview with Max in Beyond Fantasy, “Barely Legal,” Max admits, “I costume the girls to look like this emerging teen. It’s an indeterminate age between twelve and twenty.”
Hicks v. Max Hardcore
On May 7, 2014, adult film performer Alaina Hicks (stage name Bonnie Rotten) sued Hardcore and two of his companies, Film West Production and Maxhardcoretv.com, claiming that video stills and a scene she shot with him, when she was only 19, were made available to the public without her consent.
Two months later, Hardcore filed a retaliatory suit against Hicks, claiming that she was attempting to repudiate a 2012 agreement giving him permission to use her performance in F*** Puppets 2, which he acted in and produced. He claimed that Hicks received “a substantial benefit” from appearing in the film.
The case was eventually dismissed and the terms and details of the stipulation/agreement were not made public.
In an interview on the TT Boy TV podcast, hosted by fellow pornographic performer Phillip Troy Rivera, Hardcore recounted the story of an actress he referred to as “Olivia,” (we can surmise he is referring to Hicks) who planned to sue him over an appearance in one of his films. He said, “She didn’t like the way she was portrayed. I’m throat-f***ing her and she’s vomiting. So she was gonna sue me. I write her a check, I think it was for fifteen thousand, and the problem goes away. A check . . . it’s a disappearing device.”
Max Hardcore Leaves Behind a Legacy of Abuse, Trauma and Coercion
Since Max’s recent death, droves of men, both participants in porn and purveyors of it, took to social media to celebrate his life and contribution to the porn industry. But one look at Max’s legacy, and we can’t help but wonder what it is that they are celebrating… the humiliation, degradation and horrific abuse of women? The coercion? The pedophilic themes in his videos?
To celebrate Max Hardcore’s legacy is to celebrate the hatred of women, rape and sexual assault. Instead, we ought to mourn the hundreds, if not thousands of women abused by this man throughout his career in porn.
We spent a good deal of time examining Max’s influence on the porn industry in our third episode of Beyond Fantasy, “Hardcore.” You can watch the whole series for free on YouTube. In addition to interviews with porn industry professionals, the series includes graphic descriptions of what happens on porn sets, short clips from porn scenes (we’ve blurred all nudity), and it comes with a strong trigger warning.
This episode in the series boldly exposes violent abuse porn, content which is creeping onto screens in virtually every household with an internet connection. Yes, this is a disturbing subject. But until we as a society see it for what it is and call out the blatant injustice, the abuse will continue.
Exodus Cry has been actively working with women who have been assaulted or sexually exploited in the creation of pornography, including victims of Max Hardcore. Despite the fact that these women have essentially been through hell and back, they are finding healing and building beautiful new lives. Thanks to the generosity of amazing partners, we have been able to provide survivors with life-changing, specialized trauma-informed therapy from some of the nation’s top trauma therapists.
You can help play an important part in bringing restoration and new life to victims of sexual exploitation and abusive porn by donating here.