opinion

Porn, the Indicator Industry

Tom Hymes
The obvious has once again bludgeoned me, to wit, the bulimic cycle applies to financial health as well. It also is a natural process, this pendulum swing between acute surfeit and scarcity, so one would be forgiven for thinking we should have a handle on the problem by now, but sadly and weirdly, we do not. People seem to be losing rather than refining the ability to learn from their mistakes, and instead are developing a sort of collective Alzheimer's. I include myself as a victim of the malady. I've been bingeing and purging like a mad person, and yesterday mistook my wife for a hat.

While it's understandable in an environment of uncertainty that a sense of unease should take root, it is tenfold true for the adult entertainment business, and everybody knows it. People take it as a given that sex always sells. But the really crazy thing about society's relationship with commercial pornography is the sense of warped jealousy it has for the industry and its minions because of its perceived economic advantage. It's true that there are few, if any, adult businesses or businessmen, no matter how successful they may be, that have earned the professional respect of your average Joe the MBA, but the greater truth is the extent to which those same MBA, and everyone else, all the way down to Joe The Plumber, resent that advantage.

Still, there's a sort of blind faith that at least there is one bastion of commerce that truly is immune from the ravaging forces of the marketplace, and that is the purveyance of sex. At least there used to be. Over the past year or so there have been constant smatterings of news items, blog postings and edgy articles in places like Wired and The Wall Street Journal that have breathlessly heralded the end of porn's defiant dominance. With glee, I might add. Abandoning all pretense to journalistic ambivalence, as if such a thing would even be desirable when reporting on the flesh trade, even the most veteran scribes can't suppress the opportunity to delight in the prospect of porn's potential demise.

I think some of those commentators indulge the idea because they don't really believe it is possible that any force on earth can rip the revenues from the hide of the sex industry, any more than they used to think the same about the housing industry. But the big news of the other day had a very interesting ripple effect in this very area. I'm talking about the big bailout news, the Joe Francis and Larry Flynt co-gambit to wrangle $5 billion from the federal government. Blindingly infallible, if obvious, as a PR stunt that someone was going to have to do, the oddly clumsy manner in which it was carried out did not stop it from taking on a serious life of its own.

It's not that people don't see through the scheme of a porn bailout pr stunt, and either do or don't appreciate it on that pure level. It's that the stunt is speaking a different story to them that its authors could have ever intended. Whether it is true or not doesn't matter, for the idea itself is resonating strongly with a much larger narrative about our sense of security. If the pornographers need a bailout, we are really in the shitter. Or phrased something like that.

And then there is the extent to which the industry really could catch a break, not for the millionaires but for all the average Joes. They really are hurting badly.

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