A quarter century ago, home video virtually killed off celluloid pornography, creating a more open and decentralized porn marketplace. Now another technological revolution is upending the business again:
The Internet was supposed to be a tremendous boon for the pornography industry, creating a global market of images and videos accessible from the privacy of a home computer. For a time it worked, with wider distribution and social acceptance driving a steady increase in sales.
But now the established pornography business is in decline—and the Internet is being held responsible.
The online availability of free or low-cost photos and videos has begun to take a fierce toll on sales of X-rated DVDs. Inexpensive digital technology has paved the way for aspiring amateur pornographers, who are flooding the market, while everyone in the industry is giving away more material to lure paying customers.
And unlike consumers looking for music and other media, viewers of pornography do not seem to mind giving up brand-name producers and performers for anonymous ones, or a well-lighted movie set for a ratty couch at an amateur videographer's house.
Here I'll interrupt The New York Times and indulge in the Annoying Blogger Habit of quoting myself:
The more important effect of home video—and, even more so, of the Internet—has been to create a wide and wild array of market segments, a diversity so dizzying it defies the very idea of a mainstream. A couple decades ago, feminists could argue plausibly that porn was partly responsible for the unrealistic body images they blame for bulimia and anorexia. Today, every conceivable body type has an online community of masturbators devoted to it.
Lower entry barriers mean more niches, ever-stranger diversity, and a certain … I wouldn't call it "realism" or "honesty" (we're talking about pornography, after all) but maybe "authenticity" fits. With free homebrewed erotica on the rise, we're entering the era of vernacular porn.
In 2007, that model with a girl-next-door smile might actually live next door. Also, she might not be a girl at all. Caveat masturbator.