March 11, 2015 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Grantland's Molly Lambert visits the Adult Video News awards (SFW if you're worried about images, possibly NSFW if you're worried about text).

(Bonus essay: Rachel R. White for Thought Catalog)
posted by box (23 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
There are people getting very rich in this industry — but it likely isn’t the girl in the booth; and yet, there doesn’t seem to be any stilling the flow of new girls.

The second essay makes the convention sound both fun and sad:

For the most part, the stars look how you’d expect: tiny, uniform in their choice of plastic surgery, hair extensions, and open-toed six-inch heels.

The fans seemed to adhere to their own clichés as well, fanny packs wrapped beneath sagging bellies, and sandals over socks. Every man hid behind his digital SLR camera, with all the charisma of a dead hippopotamus.

I thought it was a really interesting and well-written piece, though by the end I wasn't sure which had more issues, the contemporary porn industry or the writer.

The first piece gets way more into the changing business side of things, which is fascinating in its own right: The broadening of porn reflects the rising acknowledgement of its female audience. More and more porn is being made to appeal to a range of tastes, especially to women.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:47 AM on March 11, 2015

SFW if you're worried about images

The big cartoon that you get when you open the main link is NSFW. Have the mods change your wording?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:02 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I immediately thought of David Foster Wallace's Big Red Son, and was pleasantly amused by the author managing to out-pedant him in a footnote, no less:

David Foster Wallace refers to the then-new Luxor*...

*Wallace calls it a ziggurat, a step pyramid, but’s it’s a true pyramid. The Luxor eventually did build a step pyramid building as an add-on in 2008.

posted by damayanti at 7:04 AM on March 11, 2015 [10 favorites]

Mod note: Cartoon is pretty wee and tame; at the point that someone is leaning in enough to pick out HEY THAT'S PRETTY NSFW stuff from such a busy Where's Waldoesque scene, they're probably gonna be able to tell you're reading about porn anyway, so I think this comes down okay as just forewarned-is-forearmed as is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:07 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Molly Lambert article was fantastic. Well worth the long read. Provided exactly the kind of "fly on the wall" experience an article like this should convey when done well.

As someone who can't figure out exactly how the porn industry makes money in this day and age where free porn tube sites are extremely ubiquitous, I was particularly interested in her discussion with the guy who runs the anti-piracy company focusing on the porn industry. His thoughts echo my own:

“People might have a certain guilt about pirating Guardians of the Galaxy or whatever, but porn — ‘ah, that’s porn,’” Glass says. “It’s considered ‘less than.’

I think he's exactly right. You really can't have a discussion about, for example, downloading music for free without the conversation turning to "That is immoral because you are taking money out of the pocket of/stealing from a struggling, creative artist". I don't know that I've ever heard anyone outside of the industry decry the same thing with porn, even though materially there is no difference. People just don't care as much because (I assume) they don't respect the industry in the same way.
posted by The Gooch at 7:51 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Gooch: "That is immoral because you are taking money out of the pocket of[...]"

Well, porn performers generally wear a lot less pockets, so there's that.

The Grantland article is great stuff, by the way, the way feature articles are meant to be.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The big cartoon that you get when you open the main link is NSFW.

Sorry about that--I just glanced at the cartoon before I made the post, and so I managed to miss the NSFW stuff entirely.

A more careful search shows cartoon people in clown makeup having sex in the bushes, a cartoon dominatrix leading a cartoon man wearing a mask and a leash, cartoon topless starlets posing for photos and cartoon nude hot-tubbers.

Any of those, plus probably the cartoon leather guy, might not be safe at some workplaces.
posted by box at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2015

Not going to look at this at work, but, if you want more Molly Lambert, she's the guest this week on Yo, Is This Racist?, so , if you want to hear her, there you go.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:32 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I point out that the person who thinks they’re getting something for nothing is deluding themselves, as they leave a trail of clicked links behind and free sites trawl users for personal data. Glass agrees. “If you go to a website and everything’s free and you’re like, ‘Well, what is the product here? How are they making money?’ You’re the product. You’re what they’re selling. So all that information,” he says, “is being sold to advertisers.”
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you go to a website and everything’s free and you’re like, ‘Well, what is the product here? How are they making money?’ You’re the product. You’re what they’re selling. So all that information,” he says, “is being sold to advertisers.”

I seriously doubt the pay sites are any different in this regard. I mean, in addition to grabbing all the same information as the free sites, the pay sites (if you actually buy a membership) also have your name, billing information, probably a phone number and address, and can probably run a credit check on you. And I doubt they're going to ignore a profit stream like selling all that info.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2015

It feels as if this article gets written every year or two for a venue like grantland—when someone shared this on facebook, I actually thought it was a two-year-old n+1 piece (that I won't link since I don't want to search for it on my work computerapparatus). And then there was a more recent profile of Deen.
posted by kenko at 10:54 AM on March 11, 2015

People really click on a link for a story about the porn awards at work and then complain that it's NSFW?

Gee golly gosh I wonder if this article about the porn industry awards might be safe for my OH NO IT'S NOT.

(great article!)
posted by xmutex at 10:55 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

ALSO, I learned (indirectly) from this article that there's a porn parody of Archer, which, I mean, that's a little on the nose, isn't it? Kind of too too?
posted by kenko at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2015

Let's be blunt and admit that, for at least some of us, the main purpose of the article is in noting names and descriptions of performers that we haven't heard of.

Also: at the point that someone is leaning in enough to pick out HEY THAT'S PRETTY NSFW stuff from such a busy Where's Waldoesque scene

More like "Where's Dildo", amirite?

I'll show myself out
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2015

Heck, the most recent episode of Archer was halfway there.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, three articles in two years about the porn industry is obviously too much. Anyway, what's the alternative? Reporting from on set?
posted by dhartung at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2015

dhartung, I said "I feel as if this article gets written every year or two" to indicate that they are, or seem to me to be, much of a muchness. It's not just "oh, this topic again?"; it's oh, "this article again".

Anyway, I wasn't complaining quite as much as you seem to think I was. This article is fine by me. One just gets a bit of deja vu, is all.
posted by kenko at 3:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, darkpriest has had an Ask thread up on and off for years. I think he was on his second or third thread when I joined back in like 2006.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:54 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having said the above, I did in fact find Carter Cruise's tumblr (NSFW, although the proportion of very thoughtful and frank responses to questions vs. nudie pics is pretty high), and she had this to say WRT why, even though porn is OK, it's not a great place to learn about sex):
Imagine, for a moment, that people grew up hearing about cars, but no one told them anything about their proper use, or how they should be driven. After years of being teased with the idea of how exciting a car is, yet not allowed to learn about them and how they supposed to work, they consume massive amounts of The Fast & Furious movies. You give that person a car, what do you think is going to happen? Probably nothing good or safe.

Obviously, people watch Fast & Furious all the time and it doesn’t make everyone a fucking maniac on the road. We understand that it is fantastical entertainment, an exaggeration of reality. We are also educated on how to drive properly and given examples and training on how to do so safely.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:53 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

She's also saying that the vast majority of people actually aren't devolving into maniacs due to exposure to porn. People understand the difference between F&F and actual driving. People understand the difference between porn and real life. Of course there really are dangerous drivers, just as there are also of course also real life sex criminals (or other people who have an unhealthy relationship to sex), but there is no evidence to show that the mere existence of porn causes people in general to lose their minds.

Sidenote: I always find it funny that Charles Keating types are always sniffing about the influence of filthy, violent porn. These people live in a universe in which people slavishly follow the media they enjoy - but always the bad media. For some reason, they imagine that exposure to hardcore BDSM produces morons who cannot help but emulate it, and yet they never contemplate why, even within their own narrative, other forms of porn have not generated their own copycats. Nobody ever imagines that masses of people have been brainwashed by Met-Art, etc. into constantly gallivanting naked on rocky promontories.

It reminds me of the musician who said, during the 1980s "hidden Satanic messages" nonsense, "if I could, and was going to, embed subliminal messages in my music, it would just be 'buy more records.'"

It's such a narcissistic viewpoint. The moralist lives in a fantasy in which the masses are helplessly led astray by those messages which the moralist disapproves of. The moralist's concerns are the world's concerns. The masses would never stoop so low as to be led around by messages which the moralist doesn't care about - after all, the masses only exist so that the moralist may have an opinion on them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:19 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

This was a good article. It fits into an established genre, but it does its job well. It also serves as a good response to David Foster Wallace's essay on the same subject.

These two paragraphs struck me:
Everything changed when porn went digital. Observers, including Fishbein, place the exact date of the crisis as 2007, two years after YouTube debuted, when tube technology was harnessed to make porn clips easily available for free online. “AVN grew every year from the year I started it until about 2006 or 2007,” Fishbein says. “Right around the same time that free content became prevalent, my video customers started to see huge declines in sales and started cutting their advertising budget.” In Fishbein’s view, free Internet porn had aesthetic as well as financial consequences. Narrative pornography lost ground to the revival of an older form of pornography, called loops — 8 millimeter shorts intended for home use. They “literally walk in, they get naked, and start having sex. And there’s nothing, no romance, no seduction, no foreplay, they just have sex. And you know, that’s what you get on the Internet."
St. James is drawn to porn that involves relationships. “I do feel like the narrative is important,” she says. “Even if they’re watching Naughty America, they’re like, ‘I want to believe that that was his teacher!’ Because it is just like, a dick in a pussy is not that exciting to me, but their relationship and the reason they’re having sex is what’s hot to me. The guys seldom get the attention. I’m a woman. I want to see their faces too.”
I'm in my mid-20s. I started watching "proper" porn, as opposed to movies on Cinemax, around the time Fishbein says AVN began to decline, but I agree with him and St. James about what makes a porn scene appealing. I find scenes without set-ups to be either bland or intensely alienating. Bang Bus or Backroom Casting Couch-type scenarios are even worse, though. I don't fantasize about having sex with a woman in front of an opinionated camera crew. I don't fantasize about coercing a woman using fake industry credentials into having sex with me. There needs to be a better relationship than that. It's good to hear that some people in the industry are trying to make more of that kind of scene.

But the fantasized relationships on offer on a site like Naughty America, which has been my standby for many years, no longer really satisfy. As the article says near the end:
Las Vegas is built around servicing immediate urges, but when your immediate urges can be so easily serviced, they weaken. You lose your desire when you can have anything. I think about this later when a male friend mentions that he doesn’t think he’s ever seen the same girl in a porn video twice. It hadn’t occurred to me that other people might not be interested in the personalities of the performers. Much like Las Vegas restaurants, tube sites offer almost too much choice. It’s all so … available.
As I said, I've used online porn since adolescence. I dislike the habit and wish I could get rid of it. I've tried, but I've never managed it. It seems unhealthy and shameful, particularly in someone who has never even kissed a woman. Unlike Lambert's friend, I've rewatched favorite scenes many times, but eventually boredom sets in, and you no longer want to watch two strangers fuck in an office waiting room, or a man and a woman cheat on their spouses who are right downstairs, or a coed seduce her roommate's boyfriend, and disgust rises in your throat and you close the window and you shut your laptop and you try to imagine two people who make each other happy.
posted by The Man Who Wore the Sock at 8:59 PM on March 11, 2015

It reminds me of the musician who said, during the 1980s "hidden Satanic messages" nonsense, "if I could, and was going to, embed subliminal messages in my music, it would just be 'buy more records.'"

Rob Halford of Judas Priest, IIRC, in response to a lawsuit from the parents of teens who killed themselves allegedly because of a Priest record that contained the message "do it".
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:58 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

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