opinion

Embracing the Devil

Q. Boyer

I’m not sure precisely when I lost my mind, as the answer changes quite a bit depending on who I ask. What am sure of is that I’ve lost it … because I’m actually beginning to think that severe government intrusion on, and strict regulation of, the adult entertainment industry might just be the only thing that can save the industry from itself.

I know what you’re thinking: “Good Christ this guy needs a shave!”

Given the difficulty of increasing one’s revenue generation in the current market through direct sales of content, and the upper limit of how much you can accomplish strictly by cutting your company’s various costs, the ideal solution is to drive more revenue using the same tools, products and methods that are currently at your disposal.

On top of that obviously true statement, you might also be thinking: “Wait a minute; isn’t this the same guy who has come out against Measure B, 2257 (as currently written, anyway), the idea of making .XXX use mandatory for adult sites, every permutation of the so-called “sin tax” on brick and mortar adult businesses, mandatory age verification protocols for adult websites, and just about every other regulation that has ever been proposed to apply to the adult entertainment industry?

Yeah, you’re thinking of the right guy; long beard, prominent man-boobs, a tendency to alternate between run-on sentences and fatally flawed sentence fragments, despite knowing full-well how to construct a proper sentence. That’s me, all right.

You might assume that my change of heart flows from the horrible recent news that a performer has tested positive for HIV, or that I’ve been won over by the incessant importuning of Michael Whathisface from the AHF, but neither of those things is the source of my philosophic flip-flop.

Maybe it’s the tubes, and I’m hoping that some legislative wand-waving in the halls of Congress will somehow turn back the clock to 2004? Nope, that’s not it either.

As sick, unprincipled and ghoulishly self-interested as it may sound (and as it may be), what has driven this turn of opinion is pure economic analysis. Put another way, I no longer have enough principal to stand on principle!

While I hear that at least some adult companies continue to do quite well these days, the overwhelming majority of the feedback I hear from friends, clients and peers in the industry about the financial health of their companies is negative, and in many cases dire. Traffic is down, conversions continue to slide, piracy is rampant, and the cost of doing business is up almost across the board, from office rents to employee health insurance and all points in between.

As I see it, there’s a very limited number of things that could help turn things around, and every one of those items boils down to two words: “more money.”

Given the difficulty of increasing one’s revenue generation in the current market through direct sales of content, and the upper limit of how much you can accomplish strictly by cutting your company’s various costs, the ideal solution is to drive more revenue using the same tools, products and methods that are currently at your disposal.

How can that be accomplished? In two words, the answer is “artificial scarcity.”

Any fool can see (or should be able to see, at least) that part of the challenge of the modern porn market is that technology has done a number on the barrier to access sexually explicit materials, and that number is two — by which I mean that technology has taken a great big steaming shit on our ability to control the distribution of our products to consumers.

Once upon a time, even consumers residing in the porn-friendliest of jurisdictions had two basic options for acquiring porn: they could buy it if they were old enough to do so, or if they were below the age of majority, they could find porn in the sand-wash behind Pete’s house, which is where Pete kept the copies of Playboy that he pilfered from his father’s sock drawer.

These days, unless one happens to be stuck in a country that takes restricting Internet access extremely seriously, like China or Iran, porn can be found, absolutely free, 24 hours a day, without even getting off their mother’s couch.

Don’t get me wrong; strict regulation of the adult industry can’t really change the fact that there’s a ton of free porn out there (inclusive of at least three quarters of a ton that was produced by people who never intended to give it away), but what regulation might be able to accomplish is to add value to the porn that hasn’t been produced yet.

How would that work? It would start with the industry dropping its opposition to mandatory condom use in porn and instead working hand in glove with the government to establish workplace protocols that satisfy existing and future OSHA regulations.

While we’re at it, in exploring the benefits of cooperating with the government, we’d make a case to the powers that be that while changing practices going forward is good, the broader benefit of condoms-only porn can’t be fully imparted until and unless something is done about all the noncompliant porn that is already out there on the market.

I think you can see where I’m going with this … but then again, I also think that the bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s in my pantry has become sentient, implanted a GPS unit on my car and always knows where I’m going, so I’ll go ahead and spell it out, just in case I’m wrong about having remotely established a Vulcan Mind-Meld with all you XBIZ World readers out there.

Given that so many politicians, academics, members of the clergy, parents and others believe that porn has a “monkey see, monkey do” effect on its viewers, it should be an easy sell to pitch the idea that Free Porn Must be Reined In, and that the way to do it would be for Congress to (a) amend 2257 such that it becomes clearly applicable to user-generated content sites, including tubes, and (b) pass a new law holding that any material to which 2257 applies cannot be displayed to any user without that user satisfying some measure of age verification.

OK, so such a law would probably be unconstitutional; I hear the same is true of wanton spying on American citizens by American intelligence agencies, but apparently that sort of thing goes on all the time these days.

If the Obama Administration can kick the Fourth Amendment to the curb when it so chooses, why not the First, as well? After all, they’d be doing it “for the children!”

The fact that a bunch of online pornographers also happen to benefit from the measure can be one of those better-left-unsaid side effects of federal legislation — sort of like American privacy rights gradually getting categorized as unfortunate by unavoidable collateral damage in the Global War on Terror.

I’m sure there’s a potential downside to this idea (like it being entirely unworkable from both a technical and legal perspective, for example), but at the very least, I think it’s worthy of a petition on petitions.whitehouse.gov, if for no other reason than the prospect of the Administration being forced to consider the notion by virtue of their own rules — so I’ve gone ahead and submitted one.

It’s hard to say whether this URL will still be valid by the time this column goes to print, but should you want to sign my petition to Ban Free Porn on the Internet, you may do so here: http://wh.gov/l4iFr

Whether or not this petition gains steam (unlikely), gets yanked from the White House website (more likely), or is summarily ignored by everyone concerned (infinitely more likely), it’s high time someone took a stand against free porn ... even if that stand is rooted in greed, delusional paranoia and/or pancake syrup.

A 16-year veteran of the online adult entertainment industry and long time XBIZ contributor, Q Boyer provides public relations, publicity, consulting and copywriting services to clients that range from adult website operators to mainstream brick and mortar businesses.

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