I read a news article the other day that questioned the "legitimacy" of the online porn business, and it started me thinking about the meaning of the word ‘legitimate,’ the validity of the author’s statements, and the value that mainstream society places on "legitimacy."
The article in question, "How Big Is Porn?" by Dan Ackman (which ran last year at Forbes.com), carefully examined the overall size of the adult entertainment market, and compared it to various ‘legitimate’ sectors of the overall entertainment industry. While I agreed with most of the findings presented in this article, I could not help but notice the repeated use of the "L word" – 6 times by my count.
The stratification of market segments based upon a politically correct perception of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is not unique to this article, but reflects a feeling that everyone involved in our business has encountered at one time or another: that we as an industry are somehow less relevant (at best), and in some cases, downright ‘evil’ in comparison to the more ‘mainstream’ world.
This is something that I personally find difficult to come to terms with, as it is a judgment call all too often made by the same hypocrites who fuel our billion-dollar industry. We are marginalized and even vilified for providing pleasure and entertainment by the same people who look the other way when "big business" blows holes in the earth’s ozone layer and poisons the air we breathe, and the water we drink - yet those companies are considered ‘legitimate’ while we are seen as ‘illegitimate’ because we (gasp!) dare to display beautiful men and women in the way that God created them. Something is VERY wrong here, but I digress…
The Meaning of the Word "Legitimate"
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, defines "legitimate" as:
1. Being in compliance with the law; lawful: a legitimate business.
2. Being in accordance with established or accepted patterns and standards: legitimate advertising practices.
3. Based on logical reasoning; reasonable: a legitimate solution to the problem.
4. Authentic; genuine: a legitimate complaint.
5. Born of legally married parents: legitimate issue.
6. Of, relating to, or ruling by hereditary right: a legitimate monarch.
7. Of or relating to drama of high professional quality that excludes burlesque, vaudeville, and some forms of musical comedy: the legitimate theater.
Let’s take a closer look at these seven definitions and see how they apply to the adult entertainment business:
1. Being in compliance with the law; lawful: While there are many people who (for a variety of reasons) would like to see pornography outlawed, the fact remains that there are indeed many businesses that provide sexually oriented materials to consenting adults, and that willingly do so within the confines of the law.
2. Being in accordance with established or accepted patterns and standards: Whether or not they are actually ‘accepted’ is today’s topic of debate, but the practice of providing adults with erotica predates Guttenberg, and as such should be considered "established."
3. Based on logical reasoning; reasonable: while I cannot easily relate ‘logical reasoning’ to pornography, the assumption that people will be interested in, and wish to learn more about, the most beautiful, spiritual, natural, and personal act that two people can engage in is reasonable, and for many, this interest is expressed in their exploration of pornography.
4. Authentic; genuine: while the subject of how "Authentic or genuine" porn is can be debated when much of the material features silicon enhanced, cookie-cutter "Barbie Dolls" wearing a fake cum-encrusted smile, an equal or greater amount of content (such as amateur erotica) features models who are as ‘real’ as it gets! ‘Cartoon’ representations of fairies being violated by demons are one example of how pornography can fall under the definition of ‘burlesque’ – and therefore be considered ‘illegitimate.’
5. Born of legally married parents: well, you’ve likely got many of us with that one, but all kidding aside, this definition, as well as no. 6, "Of, relating to, or ruling by hereditary right" is inapplicable to the business.
7. Of or relating to drama of high professional quality that excludes burlesque, vaudeville, and some forms of musical comedy: Finally, this definition does exclude a large amount of popular pornography from being considered ‘legitimate’ due to it’s lighthearted and trivial nature. ‘Cartoon’ representations of fairies being violated by demons are one easy example of how pornography can fall under the definition of ‘burlesque’ – and therefore be considered ‘illegitimate.’ Other forms of pornography, however, such as fine-art erotica, and even hardcore, but accurately depicted intercourse (what is more dramatic than real sex?), could also be considered as being ‘legitimate’ under this definition.
So there you have it: out of 7 authoritative definitions for the word ‘legitimate,’ 5 can be directly applied to pornography, and when objectively evaluated, most impartial people would have to conclude that yes, indeed, pornography is legitimate, and so too (by extension) is the business of providing it... Now don't you feel better? ~ Stephen