Sex drives the growth of internet technology

Porn Studies > Porn in the News


Easy to understand why India is witnessing a porn revolution right now. It is just catching up with the world in its obsession with all things triple X. New porn videos, new porn MMS clips and new porn Internet films of Indian celebs should hardly be a cause for alarm. Because even as India is doing it now, the rest of the world has been there, done that many years ago.

In fact, in the US, porn is a legalised industry where the backstreet sex shops and dirty old men in macs have been replaced by hi-tech studios which churn out almost 11,000 titles every year. Says Paul Fishbein, president, Adult Video News, the industry's trade publication, there are well over 800 million rentals of adult videotapes and DVDs in video stores across the US along with 200 adult entertainment companies. The industry also has its own major stars, like Jenna Jameson, a teen beauty queen, turned showgirl, turned porn actress. "The way I look at it is, this is kind of an art to me. I'm performing. I'm not doing it for the gratification of another man. I'm doing it because this is my job and I'm entertaining the masses. So it's just like being Julia Roberts, but just a little bit further, one step further," she says in her autobiography. The porn industry has always had two interesting 'engines' to drive it onto the next level. First, the growth in the porn market has always been technology-driven and second, its glamour is celebrity-driven. As Alyque Padamsee, adman, points out: "Regular porn is so easily available on the Net, it has become jaded. So to innovate and titillate some more, triple X has been replaced by triple star. Young people guzzle it because they get a kick out of it. For them, it's a high because it's the last secret revealed. Their idol has no more secrets!" Hence the emergence of a new name -- Riya, Mallika, Preity, Manisha -- on the morphed smut trade. For a nation that has always been star-struck and donned the celebrity goggles, this new mania is easy to explain. In fact, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt sees this as a perverted manifestation of our yen for fantasy. "Our society has often put the faces of gods on individuals to make them larger-thanlife. What we are seeing today is a perverted version of this practice," he says.

And it is technology that is making it possible. According to Fred Lane, author of Obscene Profits: The Entrepreneurs Of Pornography In the Cyber Age, pornography has helped drive early sales and the development of most new entertainment technologies for the past 25 years -- providing software for the latest gadgets, and a reason to buy them. Type the word 'sex' into an Internet search engine like Google and you will get 180 million hits. According to Robert Weiss, Sexual Recovery Institute, sex is the Number 1 searched for topic on the Internet. That's the reason why trade experts have hailed cyber porn as the only "recession-proof" business in the world; the only business to have come out unscathed from the dotcom bubble burst.

But it isn't just the Internet alone, porn has driven the growth of a gamut of technologies. As Eric White, CEO of Virtual Reality Innovations, says, "Where there is sex and tech, there are sales." If the Online Computer Library Centre's annual review lists 80,000 major adult websites which generate profits of more than $1 billion, then today, it's the mobile communications revolution which is being led by the booming sex industry.

"Suddenly, everyone in mobile communications wants to know what the sex trade -- or 'adult entertainment' as they call it -- can do for them," says Ben Wood, of Gartner, a Surreybased IT research and consultancy firm. As one senior industry figure put it: "For years, it has been a dirty secret that one of the key drivers of new consumer technology is sex, pornography. The need to make 3G technology work -- and work fast -- is exposing that secret." Analysts estimate that demand for sex services delivered via cellphones could be worth as much as 1 billion a year in the UK by 2005.

Experts feel porn and technology work together so well because each meets the needs of the other. Some of the strongest demands for new technology come from porn 'manufacturers' because each hi-tech leap forward helps them get over the one big problem their industry faces -- the shame factor. Porn started in cinemas -- very public. It then moved into video stores -- more discreet. DVDs and digital TV took it direct into the home. And the Internet means you can get it anytime, anywhere. The more private it becomes, the more comfortable consumers feel, particularly women.

As Malcolm Hutty, General Director of the Campaign against Censorship of the Internet, in Britain, says: "People want porn, but they want it in the comfort of their own home, not seedy backstreet cinemas or sex-shops, and they don't want anyone else to know about it. Technology helps bring it straight to you. Each advance seems to bring you closer to the fantasy, and guarantee more privacy."

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Porn Studies > Porn in the News

Copyright 2005