Yes, Porn Is Kinkier Than It Used to Be. It's Also More Feminist, Varied, and Inclusive

There may be "more rough sex" in today's pornography, but that's because the porn market is more diverse overall.



In Pornocracy: The New Sex Multinationals, a new documentary playing at SXSW, French filmmaker Ovidie argues that the rise of free porn online has ruined the industry, forcing performers into rough and degrading acts in order to stand out and corrupting the sexual expectations of our youth. She blames this development mostly on the folks behind clip sites like XVideos, XHamster, YouPorn, RedTube, and Pornhub—the last three all properties of Luxembroug-based Mindgeek.

"Up until 10 years ago, the industry consisted of a constellation of smaller producers who produced and sold their own content directly on DVD or via VOD," Ovidie told Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast. "Within the past 10 years, the entire industry has been taken over by big tech companies, multinationals managed by businessmen based in tax havens who don't have any real connection to the porn industry. These people are not there on-set during shooting; they have no contact with the workers or the actual production process. What is happening in porn is exactly what's happening in many other sectors: an 'Uberisation' of the workforce, with huge platforms who have no consideration for performers."

But Ovidie—a self-professed "proud femporn director for 17 years, now mainly documentarist"—seems confused about porn's past and way too pessimistic about its future. Yes, the industry has changed, but it was way less rosy to start with than Ovidie portrays it and things are way less dire than she says they are now.

For one thing, porn's yesteryear was hardly filled with non-exploitative, mom-and-pop producers. A core group of directors and producers may have reigned for a while in porn's "golden era," but this was the same time period in which the mafia controlled adult movie theaters and distribution (or later the bootleg videotaping), and female performers were seldom permitted much self-determination. There was little diversity in porn performers' looks, race, or sexuality, and when there was it was often highly stereotypical and exploitative. Whatever degree of mainstreaming or art-washing of porn happened in the 1970s, it didn't much change the inner dynamics of the industry. And by the '80s, the home video industry had seriously hampered production quality and artistic pretenses.

There were certainly non-mainstream adult filmmakers who did diverse, interesting, and non-exploitative work in these earlier eras, but they were just one part of the industry. And yes, later female performers like Jenna Jameson who managed to rise to the top would could command high rates and multi-picture contracts, but there were very few Jenna Jamesons, and still a lot of "extreme" sex acts depicted in porn.

There's no doubt that the rise of the clip-sites, the emergence of the web-camming industry, and the democratization of porn-production tools have changed porn-industry economics over the past decade, and in ways that have not always been good for porn studios and stars. But there are upsides to some of this, too, and the YouPorns of the world aren't quite the pure villains Ovidie makes them out to be. They make money off of traffic, and "the traffic the tubes can direct towards pay [porn] sites means that their relationship has evolved from hostility to close, if grudging, co-operation," the Economist noted in 2015.

What's more, the clip sites have nothing to do with the type of content that gets produced, the atmosphere on porn production sets, or performer pay rates and structures. Ovidie only pins the rise of rough porn on them through the circuitous route of depressed mainstream porn-studio profits leading the launch of new companies (like that cater to more niche markets (such as the BDSM community), or leading to lower performer pay rates that thus lead to women willing to do more "rough" or "extreme" acts to differentiate themselves/make more money.

Beyond that, the rise of "rough porn" is certainly less one-dimensional than Ovidie makes it out to be. Sure, there are predatory sites and producers out there. But a lot of the rougher stuff is made and enjoyed by women. It is fantasy, not some sign of unconscionable patriarchy.

In any event, the ostensible rise of rough porn is just a symptom of a larger truth: that there's more porn of all kinds out there. More female-produced and women-friendly porn. More lesbian porn aimed at lesbians, not straight men. More "radical transgender kink." More political porn parodies. More "amateur" porn studios. More web-camming sites. More web-savvy women making money on their own websites and social media accounts. More virtual reality porn and gadgets. More fetish porn of all sorts. And so on.

This not only means that there's more erotic entertainment out there for a diverse range of tastes, it means we see a much more diverse range of people represented in erotic entertainment. As Cosmopolitan notes, "the public perception of what a porn star looks like is shifting." A busty, blonde white woman who likes men will still do well in today's porn industry, but so can people with a range of body types and sexualities, from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. There's a lot less plastic surgery, a lot less cookie-cutter sex appeal. By many accounts, racism and other forms of discrimination still permeate the porn industry, and this isn't to discount that. But at the very least there's also evidence that representation is getting better.

Meanwhile, the shift from a few major porn stars and studios to an industry full of independents and niche purveyors has also provided performers with the opportunity to control their own careers, image, and earning potential in an unprecedented way. After all, the same online forces that allow industries to cannibalize themselves online also democratize entry into and ascent in these industries, and so it goes in porn as much as music, journalism, etc. There may well be more opportunities for enterprising exploiters in porn these days—be they petty "producers" targeting women on Craigslist or Ovidie's "multinationals managed by businessmen based in tax havens"—but there's also way more opportunity for independent, ethical porn to flourish; for niche producers and consumers to find one another; and for anyone with a laptop to launch their own porn career. Or for someone simply looking to make a little extra cash to do so on their own time, from the safety of their own homes.

We shouldn't ignore exploitative practices in the porn industry just because there are more female producers, etc. But greater government regulation of the porn industry—the solution Ovidie calls for—would only serve to stymie these small or solo entrepreneurs and saddle ethical producers with more onerous requirements, while doing nothing to touch the tax-dodging, mystery-shrouded, multinational corporations that Ovidie and Pornocracy fault for the adult-film industry's decline.

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  1. “Yes regrettably, it’s true, standards have fallen in adult entertainment. It’s video, Dude. Now that we’re competing with the amateurs, we can’t afford to invest in little extras like story, production value, feelings.”

    1. +1 Fucking with the Jesus

    2. They hardly ever did. For one thing the kind of girl who is prepared to take a relative stranger inti her plumbing usually can’t act.

      Of course, neither can a good many of the vapid little starlets cluttering up the Silver Screen. And THAT is hardly new, either. People who can actually act aren’t all that common. And the intersection with people who are willing to have explicit sex in gynocological detail is very small indeed.

      1. IMO, People who can actually act a certain way aren’t all that common.

        Pick any sexy starlet from Hollywood’s Golden Age (or not) and you can probably find at least a handful of of women in porn who would shame them on the screen in the bedroom, out of the bedroom, or both.

        I think the notion that acting is something exceptional (or that exceptional acting is massively desirable), is being iteratively disproven by the internet, reality TV, porn…

        1. Have you tried acting? It is definitely not easy. Good actors are hard to find. That is why sex symbols don’t get the starring roles in lead films and fade into obscurity once they hit 30. Think Meghan Fox. She could not act her way out of a wet paper bag.

        2. No, it isn’t. Acting is like any oher art. Most people can draw a little. Most people can pick out some kind of tune on a,keybard. Acting in a way that isn’t cringeworthy is goddamned rare. And You Tube and surreality TV only drive this home. Hard.

      2. For one thing the kind of girl who is prepared to take a relative stranger inti her plumbing usually can’t act.

        You’re neglecting the fact that most “mainstream” Hollywood actresses also had to take relative strangers (producers, directors, agents) into their plumbing to get work. In a much more exploitative way, especially since it’s done in private.

        1. I have a friend who worked as a porn actress back in the 90’s — she never got famous and had a stage name which I won’t tell you. She would tell all of us that anyone who can fake a convincing orgasm 25 times in a room with 10 other people, hot studio lights, and poor ventilation damn well CAN act.

  2. European socialist vermin in black ski masks sticking up their middle fingers at the normals.

    What perfect symbolism for the new and unimproved Reason.

    1. How can we ever hope to improve while you’re still here Mike?

    2. I was amazed that you immediately got “European socialist” from that picture, but then i remembered that you’re an idiot.

      1. You’re amazed by things like the sun rising and setting, cuckaschmuck gay boy.

        1. It’s just a coincidence that cuckaschmuck gay boy was CX’s nickname in college.

          1. Also coincidentally, Insane Block Yomamma was Mikey’s nickname in college, because he kept trying to keep his friends from dating his mom, and his lack of success drove him insane.

      2. Check out the cathedral/palace in the background. There aren’t any of those in the New World. There are a few attempted imitations, but they never get the roof lines right.

        I suppose the two masked twunts. COULD be American tourists, but it seems like a small chance.

  3. For one thing, porn’s yesteryear was hardly filled with non-exploitative, mom-and-pop producers.

    au contraire

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever been so simultaneously curious and afraid to click a link…

  4. “Yes, Porn Is Weirder Than It Used to Be”

    Not to brag, but I’ve been ahead of the curve on this one.

    1. Let me guess, the doctors say there’s nothing they can do for your curve?

      1. Some ladies like the curve.

        1. +1 Peyronie’s disease

    2. No. Weird porn is easier to find than it used to be. There may also be more of it available at one time, since porn sites acuumulate material to an extent that porn shops couldn’t.

  5. Independent Ethical Porn was my nickname in college.

    1. Huh. Small world.

      1. BEAM, what are you doing still hanging around here? Come over to the Dark Side, the Canadians have the run of the place and we’re even enforcing CANCON standards!

        1. Well that explains why the comment section has gone downhill.

  6. Yes, Porn Is Weirder Than It Used to Be. It’s Also More Feminist, Varied, and Inclusive


    Hmm, ok, I’ll actually read this article.

    1. That doesn’t mean you get to be in it Paul.

        1. Is there much of a market for solo male porn?

      1. You just try and stop him, Hugh.

  7. Looks like the 1% are keeping porn stars from rising up and gettin’ theirs just like the rest of America.

    RESIST my naked brothers and sisters…RESIST!

    Now, excuse me, but I need a good spanking from a midget.

    1. [josh’s search for “resist good spanking from midget” returns 17,099,201 results on YouPorn]

      1. 17,099,202. Booyah!

  8. What is happening in porn is exactly what’s happening in many other sectors: an ‘Uberisation’ of the workforce, with huge platforms who have no consideration for performers.”

    Look, if Porn can become part of the “sharing economy”, I’ll quit my day job.

    1. I call it “the giggety economy.”

      1. Going… going…gone! Over the fence!

    2. Using the Uber analogy would mean you’re sharing your wife, not yourself.

  9. ?but there’s also way more opportunity for independent, ethical porn to flourish

    Ethical porn? Sounds lame. Beyond snuff and kiddie porn, it’s pretty much all ethically neutral. So when you say “ethical porn”, it makes me think there must be some Title IX compliant HR personnel on set to reestablish affirmative consent for each and every thrust. Oh yeah and condoms. Gross.

    1. Next SXSW panel: Sustainable Porn: Sex Going Green

      1. If it’s green, you should probably get a doctor to look at it.

  10. We shouldn’t ignore exploitative practices in the porn industry just because there are more female producers, etc. But greater government regulation of the porn industry?the solution Ovidie calls for

    I’m wondering if there’s a kind of Godwin’s law for SXSW panels. The longer a panel goes on, the more likely the call for increased government regulation and oversight.

  11. More political porn parodies.

    This is an argument against porn diversity, not in favour of it.

  12. An assemblage of women out there are clearly inculcated with a staggering lack of awareness about some of their gender’s more esoteric proclivities.

    Luckily for steamy bent women nearest the carnal edges ENB lurks under silken sheets shimmering with cast moonlight and candle beam scribbling her bewitching suppositions through lace and crux decussata.

  13. What porn category, then, is libertarianism?
    I’m thinking “gaping.”

    1. You’re really shitty at pretending to be a libertarian.

    2. It’s all the categories, dumbass.

      Now, where is my SSBBW, clown porn, ass to mouth orgy video?

    3. Anal, because that’s what we believe the government is doing to us when they collect taxes

    4. Masturbation.

  14. Channel 4 in the UK did a piece on “Kinky Britain” (kinky porn in the UK) last year:…../62970-001

    And traditional gender roles are now transgressive: “1950s Household” is a well-recognized kink.

  15. Only 44 comments on a porn thread?

    Who are you guys and what have you done with the real HyR commenters?

    1. Too busy watching porn. Libertarian 5 minutes.

  16. “Tax haven” is just a word for a country who has low taxes you don’t approve of and wish they were taxing people more.

    What a load of shit.

  17. One day, if I happen to get a boner ever again, I’m going to watch some porn. I’d opt for a hooker, but I don’t want to lose the window of opportunity.

  18. A lot of talk about “diversity” there.

    If the “diversity” fetishists are doing to porn what they’ve done to every other area of life they’ve touched, I want nothing to do with it.

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