Well, well, well. If you need any indication as to how far up Arsehole Street the global economy is, it's this news story about Larry Flynt asking the American government for a hand-out for the Grot industry;
"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind," Flynt said in a statement. People were "too depressed to be sexually active", which was "very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such, but they cannot do without sex."Well, I dunno about the former (and I know the latter is a complete bag of wank), but the issue is worth discussing. Here's my take on it. It's a bit rambly, so be warned.
After working in the business for enough years, I've come to the conclusion that the porn industry is the ultimate triumph of free-market capitalism. Think of this way; about 99% of all straight male pornography is made to be wanked over. But when you strip it down to its basic components, how much does a wank cost? Fuck all. All you need is a cock, a hand, and some sort of a brain to get the two working together and provide some sort of stimulus. When it comes down to it, and if we're totally honest with ourselves, the majority of us don't actually need porn to get a bonk-on, unless we're in a sperm bank.
So how come the porn industry manages to generate over thirteen billion dollars a year for producing things that the vast majority of its audience don't actually need, that the vast majority of us would be mortified to have discovered by others, that makes some of us feel a bit guilty about using, and is an incredibly poor substitute for the real thing? Because, well...that's the way it is, and has always been. Rationality goes right out of the window when the opportunity to see a bit of fanny comes our way.
Problem is, as you've probably noticed on the news, a free market means that people pay for things what they think they're worth, and when times are rough (and it's safe to say that times are as rough as North Korean toilet paper at the moment), they're not very keen on being ripped off. And the Grot business have been the reigning champions of piss-taking for years, because there general uptightness about porn means that the possibilities for scamming are endless.
(There's a great story about one of the top smut pedlars in the UK getting his start by running adverts in magazines selling 20 pictures of women and animals for a tenner, in the days when a tenner was a fuckload of cash. Punters who forked out would then recieve a packages containing ten pictures of women in bikinis, and ten pictures of kittens in wine glasses. Unsurprisingly, no-one wrote letters to the Trading Standards Commission complaining that they hadn't recieved the bestiality photos they ordered.)
The way I see it, you can draw a lot of comparisons between the porn industry and the record business. Both of them play on an outlaw image whilst being run by stuffy old men, both have taken the piss for years (remember when CDs - which are far cheaper to produce than vinyl - were going for £14 each?), and both of them have been bitten in the arse by the internet - sure, the porn industry managed to fend off illegal downloading for a few years longer, but that was only because it took longer for the spods to work out how to throw up video. Just like a teenager can download the entire back catalogue of the Beatles for nothing in the time it would take to play The White Album (skipping Revolution #9, of course), your average punter can download more grot in a day than they would ever purchase in a lifetime.
The moral of the story, dear reader, is simple economics, even for a fiscal div such as I. Yes, Mr Flynt has an extremely valid point, because at the end of the day it's just as much of a business as anything else and it does require an extreme amount of corporate nous to pull it off (seriously, the amount of times I've had people come up to me in the pub, convinced that they can make a fortune from a few Poloroids of their missus with her jubblies out on holiday).
But at the end of the day, if you make a fortune from ripping people off, you can't be surprised when they rip you off the first chance they get. And if you create a multi-billion industry through capitalising on and virtually celebrating an aura of illictness, you can't be that shocked when your audience starts getting at your product through illicit means. I'm pretty sure that even a massive financial crisis won't stop men wanting to glop away like a bastard - they just won't want to pay for it, that's all.