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Did Someone Order a Pizza?

A history (though no, not an oral one) of pornography's most persistent narrative cliche

It's Delivery Week here at Eater, five glorious days celebrating staying put and having your food (and in the case of this story, perhaps a little bit more) brought right to your door.

A note: Many of the links in this story are not safe for work. The ones that direct to actual porn say "NSFW," but depending on the open-mindedness of your HR department, you might want to exercise caution with the ones that don't, too.

Part 1: Order for delivery, please

"Let's go deliver this big sausage pizza," the man says. He looks like he's in his early twenties, with a close-cropped haircut, khakis, and a frat-boy sneer, like a cleaner-cut version of a young Dave Grohl. He arrives at the house, pizza box in hand. The door is opened by a dark-haired girl in a pastel pink top and tight jeans. "What's up with the camera?" she asks. A reasonable question, considering she doesn't appear to have had the chance to sign any sort of image release form.

"It's a customer service training video," the guy says.

"Okay, did you get my cheese pizza?" she asks.

"Cheese pizza. You ordered a sausage, right?" he says.

"I hate sausage," she responds.

Apparently, she doesn't hate it that much. About 30 seconds later, the man opens the lid of his box to reveal a pizza, his erect penis poking out of a hole cut in the center. Rather than slamming the door in his face, calling the police or, at the very least, the man's supervisor, as most customers ordering a pizza would likely do, the woman doesn't miss a beat. She immediately starts fellating him, enthusiastically bobbing up and down on his member. The man looks right at the camera, and winks.

Part 2: A large cheese pizza to go

The scene above is the opening of a clip from Big Sausage Pizza, a pornographic vignette franchise that was produced from 2003 to 2006. The series contains about 20 installments, each of which adheres to the same narrative structure: A lecherous young man arrives with a pizza box for a bored, scantily dressed client, only to reveal that he doesn't have her original order — that in fact, he's bearing a big sausage pizza, thus kicking off about 45 minutes of hardcore, pizza-pun-laden boinking.

Even if you know absolutely nothing about porn, you're familiar with the storyline: the lusty pizza delivery guy, called upon by a horny housewife to deliver a pizza, who ends up delivering a whole lot more. The cliche is so ubiquitous that it's become a part of mainstream culture, referenced in everything from niche comedy like Tim and Eric! Awesome Show Great Job to network TV like Smallville, where it showed up in an episode that culminates in the hapless pizza delivery boy being devoured by a pack of lesbian vampires.

In its way, the pizza delivery guy has become a cultural shorthand for the lazy plot devices of the adult movie industry. When pressed, most porn directors will admit that the scenario is exactly that: simply a matter of convenience, an easy way to get two people together for some good old-fashioned doin' it. It's a narrative construction that's "synonymous with porn the same way that gerbils are synonymous with Richard Gere," said adult film director Jacky St. James, referencing a popular (albeit unverified) legend about the Pretty Woman actor's sexual proclivities.

"The only explanation I can give is that it was potentially a very easy setup without much forethought needed," St. James continued. Feminist porn filmmaker Erika Lust, who included a pizza delivery scene in her movie The Good Girl, agrees that part of the allure of the scenario is its utilitarian simplicity: "From a production perspective, it is very easy and cheap, as you only need one set: a room. It can be the kitchen or the living room, no more complications."

Part 3: Extra pepperoni, extra sausage

The pizza delivery narrative is "actually a relatively new thing" in the many-thousand-year-long history of pornography, according to Joe Rubin, a co-founder of independent film preservation and distribution company Vinegar Syndrome, which specializes in cult films, including vintage pornography. He explains that in the history of erotica, the conceit of a delivery person showing up at a woman's door and exchanging goods for sex is less than a century old. The trope's roots were established, in pornographic "stag films" — short amateur clips that portrayed hardcore sex — in the first few decades of the twentieth century. These silent films, or "loops," were often about 10 to 15 minutes long, and offered little by way of rich narrative structure or character development. The plots were largely comedic, punctuated by slapstick humor and ribald, Borscht Belt-esque jokes.

"The whole reason we did the pizza boy plot was that we had an Italian restaurant available to us to shoot in."

Stag filmmakers often faced a problem: They needed to come up with a compelling reason for the two people in front of the camera to have sex, that wouldn't take too much time to establish. "Their idea of a plot was to get the couple together as fast as possible and into the sex," porn filmmaker Carter Stevens told me. "So delivery boys, plumbers, and pool boys were a much-used trope."

To further heighten the erotic stakes, the male characters were usually poor or working-class, while the female characters were much wealthier. "It was a way for two otherwise unrelated people to meet and engage in sex," Rubin explained. "Some aspect of sexuality or eroticism could be brought out in a mundane, often absurd way. Why else would a lonely housewife or maid be meeting some strange man?"

As the century progressed, the professions at the center of these ring-the-doorbell films evolved accordingly. In the 1950s and ‘60s, door-to-door salesmen were a popular character choice, particularly if they were selling items that could be interpreted as vaguely sexual — women's underwear, for instance, or hair-dryers that doubled as dildos.

The pizza delivery boy made an occasional appearance in 8mm loops throughout the 1970s, according to Jeff Vanzetti, who runs the Internet Adult Film Database (IAFD), which is basically the IMDB of porn. But it wasn't until 1975, fourteen years after a fledgling pizza delivery chain called DomiNick's launched its pioneering pizza delivery service (and ten years after it renamed itself Domino's), that one of the first instances of the pizza delivery boy trope surfaced in a feature pornographic film.

Carter Stevens' Hot Oven, a slapstick comedy featuring commercial actor-turned-porn-star Eric Edwards, told the story of a lothario who makes a bet that he can "make it" (1970s parlance for fucking) with all of his female customers in a two-week period. According to Stevens, the film's plot was a result of pure logistical convenience. "The whole reason we did the pizza boy plot was that we had an Italian restaurant that was available to us to shoot in," he told me. "So we wrote the script around the location."

At the time, Stevens didn't think there was anything particularly revolutionary or subversive about Hot Oven. "It was just another fuck film," he said when we spoke, shrugging it off. But the movie was made during what's considered to be the golden age of porn, an era when adult films were taken seriously as an art form — even Jacqueline Onassis admitted to having seen Deep Throat — and filmmakers were focusing more on plot and character development than ever before. No longer was it okay for two characters to meet up and start immediately 69ing without pretense; porn directors like Stevens were making full-length slapstick comedy films, and the pizza delivery trope provided ample opportunity for creative sexual scenarios (not to mention puns).

Ordering an extra-large pie for de­li­very was one of the very few ways to sum­mon a stran­ger to your home.

A few years after Stevens released Hot Oven, filmmaker Bob Chinn upped the ante with Hot and Saucy Pizza Girls, a higher-budget and arguably more sophisticated take on the motif. In Chinn's vision, the traditional genders of the delivery person and the recipient are reversed, with legendary stars Desiree Cousteau and Candida Royalle as participants in a pizza delivery girl prostitution ring, led by pimp-cum-pizzeria owner John Holmes. In the movie, pizza toppings are used as code for various sex acts: bell peppers represent lesbian sex, for instance, while "extra cheese, hold the anchovies" is code for a man performing cunnilingus.

With women in the sexually predatory role and a subplot concerning a rivalry with a fried chicken restaurant chain, Pizza Girls was slightly more tongue-in-cheek than Hot Oven. The film "plays with the absurdity of delivery men and service providers offering sex," Rubin said. It's a classic satire, turning the already-established trope into "something self-aware, while still relying on it." Chinn told me he came up with the plot for the film after his then-girlfriend gave him the idea for the basic premise. "I thought it was a novel concept that had never been used in adult films before, and that it had some serious potential," he said. The side plot concerning a character known as the San Francisco "chicken rapist," who abducts the pizza delivery girls throughout the film, has aged less elegantly than the central conceit; nonetheless, the film is considered a Golden Age classic.

Part 4: Hold the anchovies

In the wake of the high-concept narratives of the 1970's, the 80's brought a technological innovation that permanently changed the way audiences would consume porn: the VCR, and more specifically, the fast-forwarding function. Not only could porn viewers watch their favorite skin flicks in the privacy of their homes, they could also skip past the dialogue and the narrative setups to get right to the naughty parts. This led to the rise of porn compilation tapes, and films that focused more on hardcore sex and less on character development, such as 1985's Pizza Boy: He Delivers, directed by gay porn legend William Higgins. "I think most gay guys, at least back in those days, fantasized about having encounters with pizza delivery boys," Higgins told me. "Seemed like a good idea to memorialize it on film."

Unlike the complex story underscoring Pizza Girls, Higgins' Pizza Boy: He Delivers is relatively lacking in anything resembling plot or dialogue, and the pizza delivery boy in question (played by the cherubic David Ashfield) doesn't have any apparent motive for screwing his comely customers. Despite the film's narrative shortcomings, it's worth noting that Pizza Boy: He Delivers does feature one of the lengthier scenes of actual pizza-making in the history of pornography, not to mention actual shots of the pizza itself — a departure from films like Hot Oven, where barely a single slice makes an appearance.

"I think most gay guys, at least back in those days, fantasized about having encounters with pizza delivery boys."

The 1980s were likely the apex of the pizza delivery trope's popularity, said Rubin, its adult-film popularity coinciding with the rise of pizza delivery itself as a social phenomenon. "In the early to mid '80s, with the proliferation of VCRs and cable television, the pizza delivery fad as part of American youth culture and suburban youth culture came into its earliest point of popularity," he said, adding that for teenage viewers, "the relatability of the pizza delivery boy trope was probably very nice."

The storyline stayed strong into the 1990s, including making the leap from mainstream porn to niche fetish films. Perhaps unsurprisingly, MFX Media, the distribution company behind 2 Girls 1 Cup, dabbled in the trope with one of its scat films, Scat Pizza: 1st Time of Fefe, which this reporter wasn't brave enough to watch. Yet, like many mainstream cultural perceptions of pornography, the lascivious pizza delivery boy isn't quite as ubiquitous as is the cliche itself: According to the IAFD, there were only about 70 feature films with the word "pizza" in the title produced between 1980 and 2016. (Though according to data exclusively shared with Eater from Pornhub Insights, there are nearly 2000 Pornhub clips with the word "pizza" in the title, and people search the site for "pizza delivery" nearly 500,000 times per month.)

This disparity is something that sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, who analyzes porn stereotypes in her book Exposure, compares to the relationship between sex films and funk music: Although neither pizza delivery nor funk actually shows up often enough in the history of porn film to be statistically significant, they're both so essential to the mainstream cultural conception of the industry that they have become our idea of what porn actually is. "But pizza delivery is common in daily life," Tibbals pointed out to me in an email. "Which then allows an anchor point for a porn novice or casual viewer to associate with the genre."

Rubin's view of the matter is similar. "People glom onto the stuff that is most relatable to them," he said. "So what became their nostalgia, and their idea of what these movies were, became co-opted into pop culture as an idea of what porn was."

Part 5: Ring the doorbell when you arrive

The pizza delivery trope still exists today, though it often appears in a more subverted, gonzo form. In her 2004 film The Good Girl, Erika Lust depicts a woman fantasizing about having sex with a pizza delivery boy — a scene that's preceded by one where the character and her friend discuss how ludicrous the scenario actually is. Lust, whose work focuses on depicting sexual pleasure from a female vantage point, explained to me that she wanted to take the "classic, absurd" pizza delivery boy cliche, "and turn it into a really sweet, exciting, and arousing film, leading to really hot sex."

In its way, the pizza delivery guy has become a cultural shorthand for the lazy plot devices of the adult movie industry.

The trope has even taken the leap into cam performance — women who perform virtual sex acts in real-time online. Some performers have been known to order pizzas during their shows in order to entice delivery boys to join the fun, often with awkward results, as epitomized by a viral clip [NSFW] in which a naked performer interacts with a horny Domino's delivery guy. (No sex actually takes place, though the delivery man certainly tries his damnedest, following the woman around her apartment and creepily demanding a hug.)

In an industry constantly trying to up the ante, the straightforwardness of a randy pizza delivery boy now seems almost laughably quaint. (Forget putting your dick through a pizza pie — today, porn with a food angle is more likely to involve performers eating omelets made of semen [NSFW, obviously].) The appeal of a guy at your door bearing a flat cardboard box with a surprise inside hearkens back to a pre-internet era where ordering an extra-large pie for delivery was one of the very few ways to summon a stranger to your home. Today, thanks to Tinder, Grindr, and Craigslist, summoning up a sex partner doesn't need to hide behind the guise of ordering dinner.

Nevertheless, the ringing doorbell of the pizza guy still holds a prominent place in our cultural consciousness. "Its actual presence is so universal," Tibbals said of the phenomenon. "Pizza delivery transcends gender, sexuality, workspace, social class, and time/era." Chinn sees something similarly all-embracing in the narrative: "Two of our most basic needs are food and sex: we think of and sometimes fantasize about both," he said. "In my opinion, pizza is sort of a sexy form of food. The desire to eat it is sometimes impulsive. Combine this with the possibility of impulsive sex with the pizza delivery person, and you've got a winning combination for porn."

But, like most outlandish porn plots — and despite numerous Reddit threads and Penthouse letters asserting real-life manifestations of the legend — the answer to the question of whether unanticipated sex with the pizza boy ever happens when the cameras aren't rolling is: No, probably not. "That certainly never happened to me, nor did I hear about it happening to any of my coworkers, or friends that delivered for other pizzerias," said a friend of mine who spent a year delivering pies in Long Island. "The day-to-day is pretty boring. It's a lot of taking orders, making change, driving around, cleaning dishes, mopping floors."

So if you fire up your Domino's app, order a pizza and, in the special requests field, specifically ask for extra pepperoni and extra sausage with a winky face for good measure — well, sorry, horny housewives, but extra pepperoni and extra sausage is probably all you're gonna get.

EJ Dickson is a New York City-based writer and editor who has been published in the New York Times, GQ, Broadly, Vice, and the Awl, among others.
Angie Wang is an illustrator and cartoonist based in Los Angeles.
Edited by Helen Rosner

Read more from Eater's Delivery Week:
True Confessions from the Front Lines of Online Delivery
When Restaurants Ditch the Dining Room
What America Orders for Delivery
Where Are the Pizza Delivery Drones?

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