Expanding Markets and Selling Sex


Sex sells. That simple statement has been used throughout the ages to justify lewd advertisements and other forms of communication, whether they are through pictures, videos or other mediums. But while other industries, from cigarette companies to Hollywood, use it passingly to entice people into considering a product they otherwise would not, there is an industry and culture which bases its existence upon this simple fact. That industry is pornography.

A provocative essay I wrote in high school, and touched up for presentation here, that take a look at the porn industry: what makes it tick, how it has innovated and the people involved.

Sex sells. That simple statement has been used throughout the ages to justify lewd advertisements and other forms of communication, whether they are through pictures, videos or other mediums. But while other industries, from cigarette companies to Hollywood, use it passingly to entice people into considering a product they otherwise would not, there is an industry and culture which bases its existence upon this simple fact. That industry is pornography. The goal of any industry is to please its current consumer base while expanding the market. The artificial breast, exotic locales and other features of the pornographic film Pirates exemplify the mind set of the pornographic businessmen, to maximize profits both by pleasing current customers and by toning down the shock that elements of pornography cause so that more people can come to view it as an acceptable medium.

A significant cultural artifact of the pornographic business is the action of embracing new mediums and developing new content deliver systems to their customers. This may not be something as widely associated with pornography as the artificial breast, but it nonetheless still important for the fulfilment of the businessmen’s ideological aims. Easy delivery of content, both cheap and quick, is one of the best ways to satisfy a customer. The pornographic businessmen realized the advantage that new technology, such as the Internet, had over old delivery mechanisms and were some of the first businesses to adopt it. Danni Ashe, founder and CEO of danni’s hard drive, discusses this forward looking approach toward “streaming video technology, hosting technologies, credit card scrubbing technologies, processing, [and] customer service. And all of these things are now working so well that they have value to other companies” (PBS). To this extent, along with the observation that “The porn industry is learning a lesson the music industry refuses to hear: Piracy doesn't have to be a dirty word” (Friess). The pornographic producers realize that it is in their best interest to please their customers and make the process of obtaining and using their product as smooth and easy as possible rather than condemn their forward-looking customers as the music industry has. The industry was also an early adopter of both VHS and DVD, both technologies which went on to become standards used around the world. This adoption of new business practices and technology has allowed the pornographic producers to reach more viewers since they are ready to deliver content on new mediums right as consumers are adopting them. This practice has been confirmed by people noting that “the simple fact is porn is an early adopter of new media. If you're trying to get something established ¼ you're going to privately and secretly hope and pray that the porn industry likes your medium”(Hoffman). This not only allows them to make more money, but it furthers the aim of expanding the industry, since having delivery methods in both the old and new, cutting edge mediums allows for a larger audience to be reached. The industry combines this action, or practice, with several other artifacts, such as artificial breast, to further please the customer and allow for easier access to their products.

An important method the pornographic industry uses to sell sex is the use of artificial breasts to lure in customers while at the same time helping tone down the shock that artificial breast used to cause. In Pirates, a high production pornographic film loosely based on Pirates of the Caribbean, the recent Disney movie, which has a group of pirates sailing the seas in search of treasure while at the same time having sexual intercourse with various people along the way. In the movie many of the females have breasts which are near-perfect with little imperfections. Upon further research it is found that none of the main female actors has a natural pair of breasts, all of them have artificial ones. Jesse Jane, one of the actors, comments in an interview, in response to “real?”, that her breasts are “fake, but they feel natural,” adding that she has had them “for about a year and a half”(Jesse). Her comments, along with the fact that she entered the business around the time she got breast implants, illustrate them as a potent artifact of pornographic culture. Times are changing and those in the business know it, for it would have been rare for a woman to make such a blatant remark about her body several decades ago. The artificial breasts in Pirates, from those of the women being transported in the pirate ship to the second mate, are cultural artifacts due to the special place they hold amongst body parts and their Trojan horse use to bring the more ‘normal aspects’ of pornography into mainstream culture. It may come as a shock to some, artificial breast and pornography, but to the surprise of many, including Pamela Paul, “porn is for everyone; everyone is using pornography”(Phillips 2). It is worth noting that only a couple of decades ago this could not be said, at least not openly and if done so, many would fervently disagree. But the pornographic businessmen’s forward looking approach, constant desire to push cultural boundaries and stay at the edge was one reason “the VHS format won out over Sony's higher‑quality Betamax. Why? Because the adult film industry embraced VHS”(Kohler 1). The businessmen want not only to make money, they want to legitimize their business, and this ideological stance has mostly been successful as “porn is no longer a sideshow to the mainstream like, say, the $600 million Broadway theater industry ‑‑ it is the mainstream” (Bozell 1). Ultimately, though, they want to make money and their attempts to push to the limits of what is acceptable, both in execution and delivery, are means to an end.

Breasts sell, their in advertisements and television shows, but few industries capitalize on them monetarily as pornography. Unlike, say, the stomach, which like the stripes on the flag is not fully identified as a unified whole, the breasts are like the union on the flag, which is often identified with the navy, in that they can stand alone themselves and carry much significance. Large, youthful breasts connote fertility and induce lust in the opposite sex. In this context the sign can clearly, like the vagina, stand on its own as a cultural artifact, since you need only to show the artificial breasts for a person to understand that this is pornography. Natural breasts are usually par the course in television shows or in real life. In pornography the opposite is true, as one reviewer of pornographic movies duly notes a girl “show[ed] off a rare set of natural breasts”(Pirates). It is evident from this that artificial breasts are associated with pornography, since seeing natural breasts comes as a shock. It would be akin to a football team without muscular players. Due to this, not only do the artificial breasts present in Pirates hold a widely shared meaning in popular culture, that of porn stars and selling sex, but they also identify a particular group of people, in this case those focused on capturing and packaging sexual content, as they are the ones who portray such images to the larger world. It is due to this perception in popular culture that the pornographic industry has continued to use this cultural artifact, much as Coca-Cola continues to use the same red can, because people see it and identify it with a particular culture, in order to have customers easily identify what they are buying and entice them with promises of more. The businessmen have nurtured this promise by having the majority of their actors to have artificially enhanced bodies, which appeals to the customers who will then buy their products. It is through this method and the continued use of this cultural artifact, the artificial breasts, that the pornographic businessmen are able to stay focused on their objective of providing the customer with the product they want to buy and in doing so maximizing their profits.

The exaggerated orgasm is a hallmark of pornography, they are a major feature used to sell the product to a populace who rarely take part in such an event while also, much like artificial breast, slowly toning down the shock they used to cause. A person giving advice to a man about helping his girlfriend reach an orgasm notes that the high expectations “may also be from watching porn films, where female models are shown having screaming orgasms from intercourse”(infosex). The ability of people to casually refer to a feature of a specific industry as if it is a well-known fact, points to both what the industry is known for, in this case porn and overwrought orgasms, and that it has become mainstream enough to be referred to in such a manner, one of the goals pornographic businessmen pursue. In Pirates, various characters have sexual intercourse, all the while making excessive amounts of noise, at times even when they are not being penetrated. There are times during the sexual intercourse when the camera is far away yet the screams and moans still come through loud and clear. In response to a rather heated scene, a review of the film notes, “this kind of energy is something [she] has been giving us more often lately and it really makes her fun to watch” (Pirates). The reviewer, also a customer, is pleased by the energy that one of the actors in particular has been putting into her scenes. It is worth noting that the actor in question, Devon, also has artificially enhanced breasts, while the reviewer also notes, “Female looks: A” for a rating (Pirates). Again the artificial breasts play an important role in that they enhance the looks of the females who are reaching these fake and exaggerated orgasms. The fact that one of the features to be noted in a movie is the “kind of energy” put into a sex scene illustrates the purpose of continued use of such a cultural artifact by the businessmen. The reviewer thinks that Devon is “fun to watch,” which indicates that he is a satisfied customer and will in the future buy more products by that company or with that particular actor in it, much like those who consider Arsenal FC or Barcelona FC enjoyable to watch continue to buy tickets to their games. Because part of the pornographic businessmen’s ideology is to sell sex to a customer, building trust and a track record of quality experiences and entertainment is key, especially for major companies in the industry. It is to be noted, especially for people who think the real reason for the exaggerated orgasms is because the actors love doing it, that, as Sal Santoro so aptly put it, “at the end of the day they have jobs to do” (Harris). This statement is illustrates the mind set of the businessmen in the industry as well, some may think that they hold some special mind set, that they view their line of work as morally reprehensible but necessary to make money, yet the opposite seems true. As Bill Asher, president of Vivid Entertainment Group, an adult‑video production company, put it, “adult entertainment again is just distribution. Can I get the product to the consumer?” (PBS). Many other producers and owners, such as Danni Ashe and Jim Coles, view adult entertainment as a legitimate business and it is why they are continuously striving to make pornography mainstream and accepted, and the numbers seem to be supporting them. The exaggerated orgasm is something that has become more accepted in popular culture, mostly due to the efforts of the pornographic producers seeking to make more money by exposing their product to a larger audience.

The perfect body, unblemished and tailored to cry out “more” is an artifact of the pornographic industry, for the customer does not want to buy a movie with normal people, for that would not satisfy their wants. Pirates contains many actors who are beautiful and whose skin is smooth, their artificial breast completing the look, since they don’t sag as normal breasts do as women grow older. Naomi Wolf comments on this phenomena, and reveals why it is a staple of the pornographic business in the process, when she states,

“For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification? [...] Today, real naked women are just bad porn”(Wolf 1).

But why is this? And how have beautiful and well-formed women come to be a cultural artifact of the pornographic industry? As has been stated before, the culture of the industry is to satisfy the customer, they want to create a product that will sell to the most people. While most people are attracted to others who do not live up to this model standard, if the pornographic industry attempted to satisfy every customer’s quirks instead of just “tailor[ing] [it] to the consumer’s least specification,” then they would overextend themselves and minimize profits, hardly the aim of their producers (Wolf 1). Naomi’s comment aptly shows that perfect bodies that are “utterly submissive” are a request feature of pornography and something which are both readily identified with the industry and have formed a widely shared meaning. In Pirates the women are ‘perfect’, with their artificial breast and their dramatic orgasms, and they are exactly what the consumer wants. Their artificial breasts serve to reach that perfection that men imagine of women while their orgasms are another fantasy that many hold, to be able to reach that state of utter bliss. This is perfection in that most people are unable to reach such a state, consistently, and it further shows how the industry’s mind set is to sell something the consumer cannot get in their ordinary lives but can have here, if only for a price.

Unusual places to engage in sexual activity is a staple of the pornographic industry as well, since it allows them to sell to the customer a chance to experience exotic events they would not otherwise be able to participate in. A scene in Pirates contains two of the characters having sexual intercourse while in a burning building that is about to collapse. It would not be dangerous to say that most people do not experience such an event in their lifetime, either because they are not daring enough or they see the risk outweighing the reward (they are sane). But much like the bullet time gun fights in The Matrix, which few, if any, have experienced, the thought of doing such an action in real life is exciting to those customers. The pornographic industry would not go through the trouble of setting up such exotic scenarios if it could not profit from them. They know, much like the artificial breast, with their dangers and other problems, that the effort will pay off with increased sales, they are, as Wolf put it, “tailored to the consumer’s [. . .] specification” (Wolf 1). But these scenes are not only present to satisfy the customer, the businessmen also want to push cultural boundaries, to make mainstream “the lesbian scene, the ejaculate‑in‑the‑face scene”(Wolf 1). The care with which the producers take to shock and awe is not just for the arousal of their potential customers. People come to associate wild, outlandish and taboo behaviour with pornography, and slowly that behaviour, much like Rock & Roll before, becomes mainstream and accepted. It is to the point that Wolf can acknowledge, “I am 40, and mine is the last female generation to experience that sense of sexual confidence and security in what we had to offer.” It is crucial, though, that the previous aspect of the pornographic industry is noted, for it shows that this culture is not just sex driven people hoping to cash in on their sexual adventures, they are a business looking to maximize profits by providing a product that will sell. By identifying themselves as the home of outrageous locales and te resulting sex scenes, they are able have the wider culture identify such scenarios with them and therefore cause those people to come to the pornographic industry when they want to satisfy that want. After all, most industries want to brand themselves as a place to go when the consumer wants a certain product, in this case the pornographic industry uses its artifacts, from artificial breast to exotic locales, to sell a product that the consumer feels is worth his money and time to spend on.

The businessmen and women who run the pornography industry are market savvy individuals who aim to maximize their profits through several avenues. Embracing new mediums, artificial breast, hyperbolic orgasms and enhanced bodies - all these are readily identified with the pornographic producers and their aims. But while it at first appears that their only goal is to make easy cash, it becomes apparent that they also want to legitimize their trade by slowly integrating aspects of pornography, and at times the industry as a whole, into mainstream culture. Once this is accomplished, they hope, much like Rock and Roll, that their line of business will not longer carry an aura of shame about it and not only will the stigma be lifted, but they will gain more customers as a result. In mainstream culture today pornography still carries various negative connotations, the hope of those making the products in the industry is that one day this will change and when it does, they can capitalize on it as well.

Works Cited

  1. “Jesse Jane Interview .“ RogReviews.com. January 2003. Source
  2. Wolf, Naomi. “The Porn Myth.” New York. 20 October 2003. Source
  3. “Pirates Review.” RogReviews.com. 3 October 2006. Source
  4. Harris, Dana. “'Pirates' pic unbuckled”. Variety 14 September 2005. Source
  5. Philips, Rebecca. “How Porn Destroys Lives”. beliefnet. 15 October 2005. Source
  6. Kohler, Chris. “Call It the PlayStation Porn‑Able”. Wired 8 June 2005. Source
  7. Bozell, L. Brent III. “Mainstream Media Doing Its Best to Legitimize Citizens of Pornville ‑ acceptance of pornography ‑ Brief Article”. BNET. 25 June 2001. Source
  8. infosex. “I have brought her to an orgasm for the first time”. Inforsex.com. 29 April 2008. Source
  9. PBS. “Interview Bill Asher”. PBS.org. July 2001. Source
  10. Friess, Steve. “Porn Strategy: Share and Snare”. Wired. 23 January 2003. Source
  11. C. Chmielewski, Dawn and Hoffman, Claire. “Porn Industry Again at the Tech Forefront”. Los Angeles Times 19 April 2006. Source

bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

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