Perceptions and Policy

Stephen Yagielowicz
As part of my daily routine, I spend a lot of time looking over various technologies, techniques and topics of discussion that impact the online adult entertainment industry — studying the evolution of trends and the factors that influence them and the issues that have, in turn, been influenced by them.

One of these issues is the public's perception of the adult industry and those that work within it — a public that includes policy analysts and lawmakers.

The realities of the marketplace make clear that prohibition is not a solution to the "problem" of web porn, since online access to adult entertainment is perpetually assured, given the core nature of the Internet itself — which was designed to withstand nuclear holocaust and still get a message through — even if that message is intended for adults.

Thus, policy advocates, activists and lawmakers must come to adopt a more sophisticated approach to dealing with the broader issues of adult content, the foundation of which is a balanced understanding of the overall market and its participants.

The market for adult media is far too large, and the consequences for not fostering a safe and profitable environment for legitimate companies to operate in, far too severe, to not seek a meaningful balance of interests that would appease all but the most extreme of zealots on either side of the debate between total censorship and unrestricted access.

With this in mind and with an acute awareness of the growing reach of XBIZ and its role in this debate, I try to respond to all of the requests that I receive for comments in the hope of adding at least one more perspective to what is often a one-sided discussion.

As such, I replied to a request from a young lady at an American university who said she was preparing a presentation on "the pornography industry."

Although I felt the tone of her questions indicated a level of anti-industry bias, and I was quite limited in time, I thought her questions were interesting, and I wanted to give her an alternative viewpoint; so I provided the following brief perspective for her presentation — and for those she would be presenting it to.

1) Do you think the pornography industry has any industry problems? If so, what are they?

Many of the problems plaguing the adult entertainment industry today are the same problems the mainstream entertainment media industry is grappling with, including content piracy and perceptive devaluation where folks are expecting media for free — coupled with the overall decline in consumer spending due to general economic malaise and the increasing levels of censorship currently being imposed globally, which is limiting the growth and sustainability of some major markets — like China and Utah.

2) Do you think that the intimacy and sexual acts are becoming increasingly explicit?

Absolutely. It's a matter of satisfying massive consumer demand, micro-niche targeting and the result of a hyper-competitive environment. Whether or not it's a matter of good taste is up to the observer — as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

3) Do you feel like they (sexual acts in pornography) have all pushed the envelope and cannot become any worse?

"Worse" is a subjective term. My personal preferences are amazingly "vanilla" — especially in context of the infinite variety of erotic material that I have come across both personally and professionally — but this exposure has taught me that the range of sexual expression is as diverse as the individuals making that expression. Sex and its depictions involve the whole range of human emotions — and just as emotions and the personalities behind them can sometimes be aberrant, so too may be their depictions. While I really don't understand the desirability of much of the material I've seen, I don't understand how people can eat broccoli either — it's all a matter of personal preference and personality.

4) If implemented in the pornography industry, would a censorship/rating system work? Why or why not, what are your reasons?

Responsible adult website operators already use the Restricted To Adults (RTA) website labeling system to prevent access by minors and those unauthorized or unwilling to view adult entertainment materials. Developed in response to Congressional demands by the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, this industry self-regulation mechanism is currently protecting millions of legitimate adult entertainment web pages from those who shouldn't be viewing them.

Compulsory adoption of RTA or any other regimen is only as good as the laws that govern it and the reach of the jurisdiction attempting to enforce it; and frankly, most adult material — and oftentimes, the most "offensive" — comes from overseas due to the obscenity laws currently in effect domestically. The global nature of commerce and the Internet, however, eliminate the possibility of truly effective policing. It really is as simple as, to paraphrase the NRA, "When pornography is outlawed, only outlaws will make porn."

Domestic prohibition is also counterproductive in that it creates a vacuum in to which the lowest common denominator can seek a foothold. Without the imposition of a Chinese-style firewall against foreign websites, U.S. customers will look to other porn providers — in jurisdictions where this material will remain perfectly legal (or ignored).

Consumer demand simply will not be squelched, and supporting the growth of legitimate operators elevates the entire playing field. Las Vegas is a great example, where the mob-driven properties gave way to the legitimate mega corporations. And you can bet that if gambling were to be outlawed in Sin City, the mob would have a poker room open within the hour…

5) If a rating system was in place, do you believe it would prevent lawsuits against the pornography industry? Why or why not?

Lawsuits are driven by greed and/or the furtherance of an agenda — neither situation changes whether a rating system is in place or not. Also, the use of a rating system only begs lawsuits over the minutiae of its implementation.

6) What is your expertise and/or experience in the pornography industry?

I have been an adult webmaster since 1994, and I am the managing editor of XBIZ World Magazine, the industry's leading trade journal.

7) What is your definition of obscenity vs. pornography?

That's an easy one: obscenity denotes material that is illegal under Miller — while pornography is constitutionally protected expression typically composed of erotic art.


I wished the young lady good luck with her presentation and never heard back from her.

Perhaps she didn't expect a response from "the pornography industry" or perhaps she didn't like the response she got. Perhaps my reply email was eaten by her spam filter.

Regardless of the circumstances, it behooves legitimate operators to address questions and concerns about our industry and to always put their best foot forward. Today's tough economic times are weeding out the deadwood. And despite the gloom of some of the more pessimistic short-term forecasts, there is a bright future for adult if we can protect what we have — and try to educate those who would blindly seek to take it from us.