By Aaron Grierson
Entertainment: illegal. Employment: dangerous.
Each of these words has been used to describe the pornography industry. It is one of the longest standing industries and has grown in variety, if not popularity. This is due largely to the advent of the internet, which is connected to essentially everything now. The internet contains extensive archives ranging from the iconic Playboy to videos filmed in a hotel, or even those of a vintage age. Acquisition has become as easy as Google. Traces of billing and shipment have dissipated due largely to purchasing digital videos online, or pirating them for free. For the industry, the ease of accessibility is great. For parents wanting to monitor their teenagers’ use of the internet, perhaps not so much.
Rather than just being an easily available outlet for hormonal teenagers, the internet’s stock of pornography is a goldmine for connoisseurs of a particular artistic medium. This is a bit of a stretch, of course, both for people of strict sensibilities and the general population. This is especially poignant when compared to some of the more outlandish subgenres of pornography. The bulk of the media, when not involving vegetables, household items or animals can be like any other movie, only with fewer clothes. The actors can be just as laughable or convincing as those in Hollywood, as can the sets, make up and any digital effects rendered. However, pornography is far from standard viewing material for the average moviegoer or internet pirate. It can be dirty and downright inappropriate, but before we proceed to thrash pornography for being a manifestation of an abhorrent vice, it is only fair to take a look at the positives, for a full picture.
The most obvious of these is the industry’s lucrativeness. It makes a substantial amount of money for the actors, directors and distributors involved. The steady paycheck is a definite bonus, and a major advantage in the current world economy. The internet is an integral part of this, because distribution – and by extension, income for those involved – is spread more quickly than ever before. Connections are made through billing or even just discovering new material to view and enjoy, much like YouTube’s rating system.
As with any digital attraction, retaining a consumer’s attention is critical to their satisfaction, thereby funding production. This is one of the more virulent features of pornography. Rather like videogames and movies, it’s absolutely everywhere on the internet and is often free to play, despite many streaming websites having a minute cap per viewing session. Limited time aside, pornography can have an effect similar to that of video games . That is, rather than turning them into blood thirsty criminals as angry parents often claim, or people with a chronic urge to engage in rampant sexual activity as one might expect, it does quite the opposite. Studies have shown that in the case of video games, crime rates are actually lower, despite claims that violent video games lead to a penchant for violence outside of the digital world. The same can be said about pornography keeping people entertained for an hour or more at a time. Even if it doesn’t prevent extreme crimes, it does keep the regular urges under control when other outlets, such as an honest partner, are unavailable. It might not be the best of habits, but it beats a heroin addiction by several hundred dollars a month.
At the same time, chafing aside, there are of course many darker, less friendly aspects associated with pornography. Perhaps the most obvious is child pornography. Not to be confused with teenagers emailing dirty photos to a significant other, child pornography isn’t really a public industry so much as a tumour attached to the concept of pornography as a whole. Often, one of the major issues is the violence that enters into the creation. While it has no direct connection with the internet, save perhaps some live feed for sadists, it is of the utmost importance to acknowledge this particular area in pornography and try and prevent it from happening. Ideally, there is a lot of nonviolent photography and filming, but that does not improve the situation by much, nor would it stop the spread. One of the main drawbacks of easy distribution via the internet is that this unclean content can be on thousands of webpages, without anyone really knowing until they happen across it, or read about it in the news.
Distribution made easy by the internet has other problems too. While it may not affect producers in any way other than their income, the sheer amount of pornography can lead to addiction problems. As with other vices such as gambling, this can lead to massive bills and serious money and personal issues. Although there are the safeguards in terms of minute limits on some websites, there are so many sites out there that these limits become nearly inconsequential for the devoted that are willing to scour the internet to fill their cravings. The solution? E-clinic! Or getting unplugged, although this seems impossible given the interconnectedness of the internet with our lives. From social networking right down to satisfying our most primal instincts, the internet has it all. Even a website called Food Porn! (On a side note, this is great to visit if you enjoy cooking or baking, are an artist or just really, really like food).
There are many stereotypes about pornography, the people in it and those that watch it. I can recall my younger days where a good friend of mine was made fun of for watching pornography, despite the fact that no one, perhaps save his parents, knew whether he did or not at the ripe age of thirteen. It’s also unlikely that all actors and actresses are dumb, in fact some of them are not only earning millions but do it through wise and well planned strategies, actors such as Ron Jeremy are a perfect examples. Some are just trying to get through college, to make better of themselves. But these stereotypes can lead to reclusion, self-esteem issues, and other problems. Oftentimes it seems that the solution is to withdraw and inhabit the internet, but the internet is a giant circle of interconnected aspects of life – everyone and everything is touched in some way.
Distasteful as it may seem to some, the pornography industry is eternally alive. The internet is the modern connection from pornography to society, the most up-to-date and likely the one that will last the longest. Despite the common conception that pornography is a bad thing for society, it seems reasonable to estimate that cumulatively, naughty video hosting sites have more hits to date than YouTube will in its lifespan. It is one of the elements that has kept society going forward, through money spent, time wasted and a growing source of jobs despite being more and more removed from the eyes of general society.
Regardless of how inappropriate it can be, pornography is often a risqué form of art using some of the most beautiful and diverse models out there: human beings. Despite the digital connection pornography tends to carry for its viewers, we have to remember that for all our enjoyment or disgust we are watching human beings provide people with a service, and often more than one. This by no means should call for public claims of respect or even endorsement of pornography. Rather, it is more of a call for a mindful middle ground, where two things are different from the current trends. First, that neither viewers or creators are scorned and the employees of the industry have the same safety regulations that other industries do. Second, that children are left out of the aptly named adult film industry. For the pornography industry, the internet has been the next step in what is not so much an evolution as an expansion, a beast we created and struggle to keep in check.