Life

Has Porn “Jumped The Shark”?

While porn will likely never cease to exist, has the industry “jumped the shark”? Since all objective data would indicate it’s more popular than ever, a more subjective look at the industry tells a different story. If you examine the business, the culture and its pervasiveness among millennials, I think it’s clear porn is currently mid-air in jumping the shark.

The Business.

It’s still true that people working in porn, either behind the scenes or as performers, are mostly shunned by the mainstream. However, at least there has been a movement to refer to performers as “sex workers” versus the more salacious “porn stars.” Because the barrier to entry in this industry is so low, it’s a short ride from high school graduate to sex worker Almost anyone can pick up a camera or phone, shoot a porn, and distribute it. That’s not necessarily a good thing.  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

From a purely business standpoint, the sheer volume of porn lowers the dollar value of the product (though whether porn has any intrinsic value is another discussion). And if you don’t desire to shoot porn, you can build a website, download clips from other sites, post them, and sell advertising on your site. Right or wrong (but mostly wrong), no royalties or ad revenue is being shared with the creators or performers of the content you pinched. The podcast The Butterfly Effect points out that this problem is so pervasive that most content creators or copyright owners don’t bother pursuing any recourse.

Often these actors and creators generate revenue by creating EXTREMELY niche porn, as in porn requested by, paid for, and made for one person. For example, maybe it’s just a naked woman eating a candy bar. Hey, if that’s your thing and you want to toss out a few shekels for that, good on you.

While you can shoot a video or build a site, the likelihood of making any money, even though present, is slim. The market is saturated but the cold hard truth is that the porn industry, both paid sites and free, is dominated by one company, MindGeek. I’m confident that whatever your “thing” is (provided it’s legal) AND you’ve looked at porn online, you’ve visited one of their sites. They’re behind the popular sharing sites such as YouPorn, RedTube, Pornhub and the content creators Reality Kings, Brazzers, Sean Cody, etc. Ringing any bells?

In 2011, using $362 million dollars of private equity money, MindGeek (then called Manwin) went on a buying spree to consolidate the porn industry. Mission accomplished. Just like their mainstream counterparts Comcast and the newly ratified AT&T/Time Warner, MindGeek owns both content creation and distribution. The business of porn has more in common with Fortune 500 companies than the formerly imagined seedy porn producer.

The Culture.

Of course, porn has never been considered high-brow, but it has always been part of the zeitgeist. And over the last 50 years, porn has driven advances that have helped re-define our culture. With the early adoption of VHS as its format of choice and its early foray onto the internet, porn helped create tectonic shifts in media and entertainment.

What’s next? If we consider that trend, the next stop is VR (virtual reality). I still think VR is cost prohibitive across the board and believe VR will go the way of 3-D. However, let’s be honest, we don’t need to see the “money shot” in either 3-D or VR any more than we need to see a VR Steve Harvey.

The content of porn hasn’t really changed. You can create new storylines and shoot POV (point of view) porn, but there are only so many orifices on the human body and only so many ways they can be filled (although there seems to be no shortage of what they can be filled with). Excluding Two Girls, One Cup, you can create niche market porn, but it will never make its way outside of the niche.

The crossover list of performers who have made the jump from porn to mainstream is, even under favorable consideration, minuscule. The entertainment world and the culture can be placed into two camps, porn and non-porn… and seldom tween the two shall meet.

There is just nowhere else to go—porn’s impact on culture has expired.

The Millennials.

This now coveted demographic has never known a world without porn. When I grew up, porn was Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler. You’d never go to that part of town that had the store with the “other” magazines. And movies? While every city had a red-light theater of some kind, you always knew it was for derelicts and perverts,so you never went. Porn had a very seedy stink to it that you learned at a young age to not get on you. Now? Not so much.

Because of the access, I’ve seen porn discussed as openly as football scores. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Is there an argument for the normalization of porn? Sure, but by its very nature, porn presents a distorted view on sex. If you’ve grown up thinking that every girl neither has nor wants pubic hair, you need to get out more. If you’ve grown up thinking that a girl who shows up at your house wants to get laid, you don’t have a grasp on the human dynamic. And if you’ve grown up thinking that women love giving blow jobs, you’ve never dated a woman. For many who grew up with porn, this is the new normal. What’s normal in porn is simply not normal in life. I’m not sure this is the right type of normalization.

At the end of the day, the business has become commodified by one company, MindGeek. Whatever impact porn had on culture is gone. A distorted at best and malformed at worst understanding of sex leads me to think that porn has jumped the shark. Put another way, we’ve reached peak porn.