The Changing Porn Industry

“Lights. Camera. Action.” by Katrina Forrester. The New Yorker, 8/26/2016.

In the 1950s, we snuck off to the TROC burlesque. We secretly passed around “art” magazines of nude models posed in dark, empty studios, with their pubic hair crudely airbrushed out and their thigh folds penciled back in—in the wrong place at the wrong angle, as if they were meant to look crude. We searched Mickey Spillane books for the good parts.  Our interests were no different from any other adolescent boy, anywhere in the world, before or since.  Only the details were unique to our time and place.

Then along came Playboy that changed everything. The models were no longer in convoluted poses, gazing abstractly into the distance or looking modestly down. The stark-naked Playboy models looked you directly in the eye and even smiled like you were welcome friends. They were sitting at a desk, or on a playground swing, places you could relate to. The photography was top-quality, and none of the models had dirty feet.

At first, their pose hid their pubic hair, but after a few years, it suddenly appeared. Playboy was forced to follow the more liberal photos shown in Penthouse, a British magazine, when it was introduced to America in 1969.

(At first, in my adolescence, porn had my full attention, mostly out of curiosity. Even as porn became more and more explicit, my growing maturity and knowledge made it less and less of an obsession.)

In few years more, Playboy spawned many imitators, like Hustler, who went further, but porn began to resemble gynecological textbooks. What should be magical became gross and unsanitary. They reached the limit of what there was to show, and the excitement was gone. Microscopically close, the female anatomy does not look all that inviting.

Still later, the live action of video became more desirable than a static photo in a magazine could ever be. We now had adult film theaters popping up in the seeder parts of town, and peep shows with individual booths that ran a loop of film in a slot machine, and DVD stores having  curtained-off back rooms with a big sign, “Adults Only.”

Today, porn is available anytime, anywhere, to anyone with an Internet connection, (like your grandchildren) all for free. How can anyone make money from something that is widely available and free? That’s what the porn industry would like to know. The number of views are huge, but no one has figured how this can be monetized to match anything near its popularity.

(When, in 1991, the actor portraying Pee Wee Herman ruined his career by getting arrested in an adult theater for . . . ahem . . . adding to his pleasure, porn was already available on the Internet and DVDs, and we wondered why he did it in a public theater rather than at home.)

  • In 2014, just one site, Pornhub, had 78 billion views. (For those interested in doing their own research, others are Xhamster, YouPorn, RedTube, and XVideos.  The sites are well-behaved.  Browse privately and  they will not leave malware on your computer or later flood you with unwanted email and advertisements.)
  • Seventy percent of American Internet porn access occurs during the 9 to 5 workday, suggesting many at work are not working.  (Or, perhaps they are house husbands passing the time while their wives are at work.  More research is needed.)
  • The many Internet porn sites are effectively a monopoly owned by just one company: MindGeek. Their CEO was a German named Fabian Thylmann who earned a hundred million dollars a year until he recently sold the company. Never heard of him? Today’s porn executives stay quietly in the background. The flamboyant Larry Flynts are gone.
  • Any couple in the world (Porn is not just an American phenomenon.) with a simple video camera can make a professional quality porn clip. Point-of-view clips are popular because an amateur couple can make the video themselves without even hiring a photographer, then sell it for a few bucks to an online publisher.  Los Angles still issues porn-shoot permits, but they dropped 95% between 2012 and 2015.
  • A common fantasy in porn is an active woman performing on a passive man.  This new role must be the dream of many modern men.
  • The professional porn stars of just a few years ago are gone, done in by hordes of amateurs. In 2012, a reported salary ranged from $800 for a lesbian scene to $4,000 for double penetration (ouch!). Salaries are probably much less now, and falling rapidly because of competition from amateurs. Professional performers have to pay their own expenses, such as travel and grooming. Disease tests alone can run $200 a month. Some states require the use of condoms, but videographers just move to other states or simply ignore the regulations which are rarely enforced.  Amateurs simply film their normal activities in their own bedrooms with their significant other.
  • Hard core porn is defined as showing penetration.  No penetration, not hard core, no matter what else is shown.
  • Any casual observer would think a lot of sex harms women’s vision, so many wear glasses.  But they are worn for eye protection, not for vision.
  • Much of porn blatantly portrays abuse and denigration of women. Anti-porn organizations say this provokes violence against women. Pro-porn organizations say they actually decrease violence against women by providing a fantasy outlet. Both sides quote their own surveys to back up their positions.

RWalck@Verizon.net

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About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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