Porn is a changing industry – we must keep up

Alice Gormley 26 June 2012

From Louis Theroux’s documentary investigating the death of the porn industry, to the shenanigans-with-a-story-line philosophized by Alain de Botton, the sale of sex is increasingly filling our newspapers, and beyond Page 3.

The internet is flexing its muscles, technology is spreading its tentacles, and producers are scratching their chins; concomitantly, the production of porn is undergoing an evolution. For one, there’s more of it. More and more, initiated couples are engaging in the phenomenon of uploading their videos on adult sites, diluting the industry’s professionalism.

The popularisation of iPads and eBooks has prompted interest in the discreet enjoyment of the emergent genre ‘romantica’; publisher of erotica Brenda Knight has commented that Kindles, iPads and Nooks are ‘the ultimate brown paper wrapper’. The sudden success of novel Fifty Shades of Grey is testimony to the impact of technology upon the production of porn and erotica, The Guardian reporting it to be the fastest selling eBook in the history of the Random House Group in the UK.

But it is not just the scale and medium of production that are changing; what constitutes, and what should constitute porn, is a topic for debate too. While laddish-ly animated Guardian blogger Martin Robbins warns that lad’s mags, tabloids and the porn industry comprise a dodgy barometer of 21st century ‘sexiness’, Alain de Botton has mused over a potential new direction for the sauce on our computer screens. ‘Ideally, porn would excite our lust in contexts which also presented other, elevated sides of human nature – in which people were being witty…showing kindness, working hard or being clever’, de Botton has commented; however, lost in philosophy, de Botton has arguably neglected the seedy truth that porn’s attraction is rooted in its abnormality, in its breaking of social taboos.

Spokeswomen for various feminist organizations have long had something to contribute to the debate. Anna Span, crowned Best Director by the UK Adult Film & Television Awards (UKAFTA) urges women to “try to stop thinking in terms of how you appear to men and try to explore what turns you on, truly”; she has endeavoured to incorporate this into the porn she produces. EL James, aforementioned author of Fifty Shades of Grey’ has been described as the ‘acceptable face of saucy fiction’, enabling women to enjoy erotica shamelessly.

So what effect has the rise in porn’s production, and its arguable re-conceptualisation, had on our consumption of it? The explosion of available adult footage has brought issues of responsibility to the fore. Indeed, with the Internet facilitating the accessibility of porn, its demographic has expanded dramatically to encompass a younger audience. One woman has recently recounted the harrowing transformation of her ‘beautiful’ 11 year old son into a ‘hollow, self-hating shell’ as his addiction to online porn spiralled out of control. David Cameron has, if a little hopelessly, proposed an opt-in plan with the effect that internet users will be made to opt in if they wish to view pornography online. Director of Big Brother Watch Nick Pickles, however, hit back at the initiative with the view that the state “should not decide what we do and don’t see online.” His attitude is echoed by those with an even greater stake in the debate – online providers, anxious of the impact such measures would have upon their profits, have responded heatedly. But reluctance is not only mercenary: many commentators have remarked that reduced accessibility to porn excuses parents from parenting. Charles Author commented in The Guardian that allowing children access to the internet in their bedrooms is “like telling them not to socialise with you,” adding “it’s by socialisation that we work out what we do and don’t accept as sensual, and sexual, and pornographic (and where the line lies).”

There is some truth in this. The internet has diversified, even redefined, the porn industry, and revolutionised its accessibility. Adult material is being produced at an unprecedented rate, in innumerable guises. Fighting technological phenomena with technological phenomena can only result in a pyrrhic victory; production has gained an unstoppable momentum, so consumers must become more responsible.

Alice Gormley