Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Support Your Local Pornographer

This post may get dirty, so discretion is advised.
Pornography is lucrative as any prominent entertainment sector out there. It generates huge profits and employs countless people. Los Angeles, which is the hub of professional pornographic filmmaking, is worth $1 billion (£628 million) to the American economy every year and employs 10,000 people, producing 8% of the all adult films released each year.
The powerhouse that is the LA porn industry outmatches the UK’s entire adult entertainment revenue. The most remarkable differences between American and British pornography industries is that despite the UK having more liberal sensibilities to fornication, hardcore sex videos were banned here until only 12 years ago, which is more than 30 years after America first legalised the sale of non-simulated material.
While the entire American pornography industry can accumulate estimated revenues between $2 billion to $13 billion (£1.2 to £8.2 billion) annually, its fortunes are increasingly under attack from political adversaries, shrinking home entertainment markets, amateur digital competitors and global piracy. The current business model for LA based pornography is increasingly outdated and unsustainable.
Whereas British pornography is defined by its low-level smuttiness, often comprising of pseudo-gonzo scenarios consisting of, for example, unsightly middle-aged men coaxing dour supermarket checkout girls into staged ménage à trios, American pornography prides itself on decent production values and the employment of celebrity porn stars, all of which comes at a cost . A good porn agent will broker up to $2,000 (£1,256) for a sex scene, charging more if his client is required to apply her own makeup before filming and drive herself to set. The typical budget for a professional American hardcore pornography movie is between $50,000 to $300,000 per shoot (£31,000 to £189,000), employing ten to forty people on each production. When we consider that the equivalent international production costs significantly less, and is cheaply distributed, it’s easy to see how badly impacted the American pornography industry is. In fact, things are so bad that according to top porn agent, Mark Spiegler, a female porn star’s yearly average earnings have gone from $100,000 to $50,000 (£63,000 down to £31,000) within the space of a decade. (For educational purposes, Spiegler kindly provided Hollywood Reporter with a breakdown of the current payment scale for an in-demand porn actress, who is paid about $800 for a girl-girl scene, $1,000 for a guy-girl scene, $1,200 or more for anal sex and $4,000 or more for double penetration. For the UK porn pay scale, adjust currency to pound sterling and deflate all fees by 50 %―we come cheap.)
The priggish American Establishment has its talons out, tearing away at an already compromised industry. Last month, 55% of countrywide voters passed a law called ‘Measure B’ that will introduce costly new health permits for all porn films shot within Los Angeles County. The way Measure B is written means that pornography sets will be considered clinical environments, essentially requiring the utilisation of gloves, masks and condoms during sex performances. The eroticisation sought will ultimately be bargained, thus ruining all perceptions of verisimilitude for the viewer. As California and New Hampshire are the only states where pornography shoots are legal, the wiggle room for adult entertainment studios will be severely curtailed.
The quagmire of bureaucracy faced by the Californian porn business will be massively complicated because of these new measures. LA can hardly do with any more of its film industries leaving for new pastures, which the state fears will happen.  The new legal requirements mean producers will have to obtain permits from the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health, in addition to the filming permits already required by FilmL.A. According to preliminary estimates, the county expects the entire program will cost about $300,000 (£189,000) annually. Porn producers will have to foot that bill entirely. The price will be based upon the number of people who purchase these permits, the fewer production companies that get the permit, the higher the cost will be. This means that if fifty permits are issued, the cost per permit would be roughly $11,658 (£7,326).
Pornography is as much of an American institution as apple pie manufacturing, but these new laws will seriously ruin its standing as the world’s biggest adult film industry. Like it or not, it’s an industry that contributes significantly to the American economy and is as essential to the Californian entertainment sector as either Hollywood or Silicon Valley.

But pornography has a chequered image. It flies in the face of feminism and good values, exploiting women for the entertainment of men. (Gay pornography is also a part of the American adult entertainment industry, but its profile is nowhere near as mainstream or profitable.) Just because an industry proves lucrative, that doesn’t mean it should be given free reign, right? After all, all developed societies have placed massive restrictions on the sale of harmful materials like alcohol and tobacco, and those industries survive. With the rampant proliferation of sexual content filtering its way into numerous mediums (from Fifty Shades to Christina Aguilera music videos), government has a duty to make the production and acquisition of pornography hard as possible.
As liberal and progressive the UK appears to be when it comes to sex, it is perhaps the only country in Europe that has more stringent measures in place to restrict the availability of pornography. Unlike in America, where one can easily purchase hardcore videos from some mainstream emporiums (I’ve seen it); Britain restricts sales exclusively to licensed sex shops.  Whereas hardcore pornography can be accessed through reputable hotel chains in the US (I’ve seen it), such material is unlawful to broadcast even on subscriber based UK adult entertainment channels.  In addition, the UK is still the only Member State of the European Union that prohibits private imports of adult pornography by consumers coming from other Member States. Recently, agents of Her Majesty Revenue & Customs seized 96,783 items of pornographic media carried by people travelling into the UK, proving that sex doesn’t sell in every territory.
One realises that this is an extremely prudish and academic account of the pornography trade, but it’s a distillation of what that industry is: a profit-driven business. The best thing about legalising hardcore pornography is that respective countries can monitor and tax it accordingly, but the greater issues concern pornography’s more ethereal possibilities, where videos can be shot, pirated, uploaded and accessed with great ease, ultimately bypassing stringent laws and ending up in places where it shouldn’t.
Governments can make the production processes of porn as complex as they want, but they may be wielding a sledgehammer when what’s required is a scalpel. By identifying sex education deficits in school teaching methods and carnal misperceptions between males and females (primarily in the former), maybe society will be better placed to tackle the grander challenges posed by pornography. The issue isn’t with the availability of pornography as much as it is with the lack of understanding about the subject matter.
In fact, the best antidote is to simply read this post because it manages to make pornography sound utterly unexciting and operational at once. Not an easy thing to pull off.


  1. You were off to a great start but lost me half way through... To comment on the insane law though it's clear if they start making condoms mandatory in porn that alone would make it go somewhere else, and if it becomes mandatory everywhere it'll go underground for sure, and guess what happens then? Standards and quality go down with the lack of regulation people won't get tested as much if at all and profits will almost completely disappear. As if they weren't already dropping disturbingly fast. I remember back when a girl girl scene paid 500$ and was worth more than a guy girl scene... Moving to government, in US it needs to cut back on how invasive it is on peoples personal lives and focus more on corporations as well as having more consideration to the industries they regulate on the manner in which they do it. It wouldn't hurt for them to also consider the meaning of freedom when they pass laws like this.

  2. America has gone legislation crazy and California is always on the leading edge of any American trend. They want to change whatever laws currently exist, no matter what they are about, and flip them on their heads. So now that their new even higher corporate and income taxes are driving more industries out of the state, they go and hit the porn industry, too. It's insane and stupid. The mainstream film industry is already filming as much as possible in Vancouver, BC, Canada because it is cheaper than California and the people and environment are just as beautiful. California has made another in a long line of huge mistakes.

  3. I had just blogged about porn myself, after having read Vapid Vixen's post regarding porn. I had no idea the major porn stars made so little money. I even asked in my blog post why the women feel the need to tour the country doing shows at local strip clubs for extra cash. Now I know. They aren't paid nearly as well as I thought they were. And believe me, $100,000 in California isn't much to live on. $50,000 annually is near-poverty in that state, especially if they live anywhere near LA, which they must if they work there. Wow! Now I feel sorry for them. Before I had thought at least they were rich.

  4. This post was actually very interesting. I "knew" about the changes that voters insisted on last month, and I say that in quotations because I never really thought about what that would mean to the industry. It's going to be very fascinating (and worrisome) to see the direction maintream porn will take now. Issuing the condoms and whatnot is pretty much a death sentence for them, you're right.

    Apparently I've been oblivious to a lot, because I didn't realize the movie industry in general was dissipating in Los Angeles. Hollywood no longer means Hollywood anymore, eh?

  5. what would America do without porn?!?!?

  6. Ah, porn.

    I find it very interesting that it is the condom that many fear will destroy the porn industry (and by "condom" I mean health regulations"). I don't think that will be the case.
    Violence is what makes the porn industry, not the reckless abandon of STD protection.

    The more extreme, shocking and/or violent the a sexual act, the higher the pay. Movies in typical Hollywood come with a standard G-NC17 rating; however, at this time I am not aware of any such standardization of rating for pornography. Yes there is the X rating, but that seems to be a blanket rating for any explicit sex scene, not a rating based on sounds, realistic violence, or gore.

    I cannot liken apple pie to the confused, dark, and borderline molestation of humanity that I find pornography to be. Freedom to view, speak and behave as one wills is indeed all American, however the violence, abuse and entitlement that comes with the porn industry itself I find absurd. In traditional Hollywood if an actor is to perform a dangerous scene, s/he has options: a professional stunt double, training in preparation for the scene, etc. If a woman is expected to do double, or triple penetration, or do a fisting scene is she awarded a professional stunt double?

    When Hollywood has violent scenes in its movies, they are felt. Meaning the viewer is more aware of what is being portrayed. I am more inclined to say that when violence happens under the cloak of providing sexual entertainment, it goes almost unacknowledged. But it is violence nonetheless. In the case of pornography, the violence can go unregulated.

    The slogan of Prop B "Protect the freedom of choice" is insulting. As a woman I am insulted that this proposition would in any way try and associate itself to that of a woman's choice to choose to carry a pregnancy to term. Yes both deal the with body, but the two in my mind couldn't be any further from the east from the west as far as "choices" go.

    Mr. Memphis above has stated that he "feels sorry" for porn actors as a result of this article. I don't. As he said in his own blog post, these actors of acting and participating in these films of their own free will. (Well, at least most of them are. With the vast availability of pornography on the internet, it is almost guaranteed that underage, unwilling participants have their own porn "videos" available for view as well.) Just because the porn industry is part of the underbelly of the American lifestyle, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be subject to health regulations like all other businesses.

    Thought provoking post.

  7. I've never heard of Measure B before. I must've missed it on the news. Interesting post. I thought porn stars made more than that.

  8. Yeah the law and it's weird crap does change things, not always for the better, actually usually not as is the case, but porn will come no matter what.

  9. It will survive because it's needed in a weird way!