The Pornography Industry

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In terms of methods of production, methods of distribution, and methods of ultimate sale to consumers, the pornography industry itself must be distinguished from the outlets for some degree of sexual explicitness discussed in the previous section. The true pornography industry is quite simply different from and separate from the industry that publishes "men's" magazines, the industry that offers some degree of sexually oriented material on broadcast and cable television, and the mainstream motion picture industry. In some rare instances there may be some linkages between the two, but in general little more than confusion is served by concentrating on these linkages rather than on the major differences.

The Production of Films, Video Tapes, and Magazines

There can be little doubt that there has within the last ten to twenty years been a dramatic increase in the size of the industry producing the kinds of sexually explicit materials that would generally be conceded to be pornographic. One consequence of this is that the industry is not as clandestine as it was in earlier years. Nevertheless, when this industry is compared to the kinds of industries that produce more mainstream materials, it is still the case that the production of pornographic materials is a practice and a business that remains substantially "underground."

Approximately eighty percent of the American production of this type of motion picture and video tape takes place in and around Los Angeles, California. In part this is a consequence of the location there of technical personnel, such as camera operators, who either are, have been, or wish to be employed in the mainstream motion picture industry. Indeed, this description applies as well to many of the performers in these films, although, unlike technical personnel, the likelihood of a performer who is involved in pornographic materials simultaneously or eventually working in the mainstream motion picture industry is minuscule.

Production of these materials tends to be done on a rather limited budget, usually in temporary locations such as motel rooms or rented houses, and usually in quite a short period of time. Often not only the premises, but the photographic equipment as well, is rented for only the limited time necessary to make the film. It is not uncommon for producer, director, and scriptwriter to be the same person. In many cases the performers are secured through one of a number of agents who specialize in securing performers for highly sexually explicit films. Although there is virtually no overlap between this industry and the mainstream film industry, the method of securing performers for films is largely similar, with agents providing producers with books describing various performers, and with producers often interviewing a number of possible performers before selecting the ones to be used.

As this Report is being written, the technological nature of the industry is in the midst of transition from photographic motion pictures to video tape. The proliferation of the home video tape recorder is in many respects transforming the industry, and in addition the process of producing a video tape tends to be more efficient and less expensive than the process of producing a photographic motion picture. With respect to aspects of production that are not technical, however, this technological development has had little effect on the production side of the industry.

The production of the standard variety of pornographic magazine, the kind likely to be sold in an "adults only" establishment for a rather high price, is in many respects similar to the production of pornographic motion pictures and video tapes. The process again operates in a partially clandestine manner, although it is much more likely here that the production and distribution processes will be combined. When this is the case taking the photographs, assembling them with some amount of textual material, and physically manufacturing the magazine will all take place at the same location.

With respect to the business of producing pornographic paperback books containing nothing but text, the writing, production, and distribution processes are again likely to be combined. Although independent authors are occasionally used, more common is the use of a full-time staff of authors, employed by the producer to write this kind of book at a rapid rate.

Porn Studies > Meese Report Table of Contents

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