opinion

Who Said “Educational” and “Instructional” Had to be Boring?

Dan Cameron

Jessica Drake meets a lot of people — women, men and couples — all interested in better sex. They want to break out of a rut, please their partners and better satisfy themselves. That’s one of the reasons she started her “Guide to Wicked Sex” series — to address the need for modern, pleasure-based sex education.

“Maybe they’ll meet me at a personal appearance or one of my workshops after watching one of the movies, and I’ll hear stories about how they tried something new, a specific technique, and how much it helped them,” says Drake, who over the last year has shot installments on “Anal Play for Men,” “Woman to Woman,” “The Art of Striptease” and “Plus Size Sex.”

The future will drive whether the content is sold on DVDs, or if free content will be able to satisfy the needs of smaller audiences. It is hard to call. But this applies to all content production, really. -Bob Christian, Adam & Eve

“I began the line three years ago and saw it as a ‘hybrid’ type of sex ed. During sex coach training, part of my curriculum has been to research and watch countless instructionals to familiarize myself with the way that our resources have evolved,” she says. “In doing that, I began to sense a need for something a little different. I provide factual information in a lighthearted way, I feature very candid interviews from the performers, demonstrations of techniques, and I conclude each volume with three hardcore sex scenes that can be viewed with or without my narration.”

Drake notes the line also upholds the Wicked Pictures standard of quality that the studio has come to be known for. “I think that it’s a good balance of information and inspiration. Not only have my fans loved them, but I’ve realized that people who may or may not have previously been a consumer of adult movies are drawn to them as a high-quality educational product.”

With the creation of the recent “Art of Striptease,” she included instructional topics that don’t feature hardcore sex — and she will continue to expand the line in other ways.

“Though Wicked is firmly branded as a heterosexual ‘mainstream’ porn company, it’s important to me to expand that to be an even better, more inclusive resource. I recently collaborated with Kelly Shibari to shoot “Plus Size Sex” due to the lack of resources for people of size, and we’re getting such amazing responses from people who can’t wait to see it! The guides have proven to be such a learning, growing experience for me in so many different ways; they’ve quickly become my passion.”

It’s a passion that is spreading through the industry, with many studios taking advantage of the segment’s popularity.

WIDESPREAD PLEASURE

The 2014 XBIZ Award-winner for Specialty Release of the Year went to Marc Dorcel’s “Kama Sutra,” one of many highlights for the company in 2013.

“‘Kama Sutra: The Secrets of Sex’ encountered a warm welcome from the audience. I think that the modern tone that updates this classic, allied to the French director Pascal Lucas’ perversity, really enticed the viewers. Also, as a guide to pleasure, it appeals to couples who seek excitement, but also advice,” says CEO Gregory Dorcel. “I think that our elegance and style allied to our savoir faire as well as our aesthetics and perversion give us a peculiar vision of sex that is recognizable among many. The word ‘Pornochic’, a registered label of Marc Dorcel, synthesizes all this frame of mind and is meant for everybody: men and women.”

Dorcel says their films succeed in part because they are unique, blending luxury and perversion “à la française” and helmed by directors aiming to create arousing scenarios to spice up the viewer’s imagination and sex life.

“Our films bring a unique vision of sex: elegant, classy and elaborated. This is quite an advantage as it makes them stand out. But at the same time, our productions can be far from the desires of the audience seeking pure gonzo and amateur content,” Dorcel says. “Beyond accessing mainstream outlets, our movies are among the only ones to be perverse and hardcore and still attractive to couples, which is one of the main conditions to meet the clientele ready to pay for adult content. The guy that watches porn alone and shamefully will not dare to pay for adult content. Targeting couples is the key.”

Adam & Eve Pictures had six all-original releases in the specialty category last year, including two in the Tristan Taormino series (“Guide to Bondage for Couples” and “Guide to Kinky Sex for Couples”), “Kama Sutra: Ultimate Orgasm Guide” and two titles from Sinclair Institute: “10 Ways to Go Longer & Stronger” and “12 Ways to Boost Your Libido.”

“Adam & Eve customers are a very wide and diverse group of folks,” says Bob Christian, president of AEFC and director of new business development for PHE, Inc. (who has also been in charge of Adam & Eve Pictures since 2001). “So we always try to produce a mix of movie types and genres. While we are most known for features and couple-friendly movies, we really have always produced a little of everything. Well, not everything — but whatever fits both our customers’ desires and our company standards.”

In 2013, the Alexander Institute released the first three DVDs in its same-sex series “Loving Rainbow: Woman to Woman Sensual Massage,” “Woman to Woman Sexual Massage” and “Woman to Woman Erotic Touch for Great Sex.” As in the “Loving Sex” series, the DVDs feature real-life couples in real-life sexual situations, and have unique features like multiple languages and an onscreen sex encyclopedia.

“Our DVDs don’t look or sound like porn DVDs. ‘Loving Sex’ is the world’s largest, most comprehensive sex education series with unique features,” says President Meir Sharony. “Couples of all ages appreciate the quality of our DVDs. They send us letters and emails complimenting our line, and they keep coming back to purchase more titles from our ever-growing range. Currently, in addition to the many sexuality topics we’ve covered, we are concentrating on specific products. One of our next DVDs will spotlight the sexual benefits of the newest, most unique, high-end sex toys available.”

The company just released “Lingerie,” the erotic hit Cinemax series that is now being exclusively distributed on DVD by the Alexander Institute (they also offer “Voyeur” from DirecTV). “Lingerie” features an ensemble cast who design, photograph and model sexy lingerie in New York City’s fashion industry. (Season 2 will be released later in 2014.) Other new releases include “Body-to-Body Nuru Massage” and “Sex Games for Couples.”

Sharony adds they are also pioneering promo DVDs offered in combination with (or featuring) adult toys, games and other products: “Endless Shades of Great Sex” is a bondage guide for lovers that taps into the current fascination with light BDSM and features accessories from the Sex & Mischief line; while Sex Games for Couples shows attractive couples playing adult board games from Creative Conceptions and using the games as inspiration to indulge in new sexual experiences and fantasies.

They also will soon release the next three DVDs in the “Loving Rainbow” line: “Man to Man Sensual Massage,” “Man to Man Sexual Massage” and “Man to Man Body-to-Body Nuru Massage.” The Alexander Institute is also delving further into packaging its DVDs as combos with books, toys, lubes and massage oils, an area Sharony says has been very successful.

“We don’t fit with adult films. We offer an alternative. With the availability of so many adult films online, we believe that marketing DVDs and other adult accessories together allows us to create a new niche. In these DVDs you get hot couples, you get sex and you also get exposure for new sex items in a non-threatening way that encourages viewers to purchase and try items that they might not otherwise buy,” Sharony says.

“Going into a sex shop or even into an online sex store is still intimidating for some. There is such a multitude of sex toys and accessories available that some couples don’t know where to start. Watching real sex scenes where lovers incorporate and enjoy these items, and not just ‘how-to’ videos, is an area where we think we can provide a much-needed product. Our DVDs provide a catalyst for couples who want to improve their communication and sexuality.”

REACHING THE CUSTOMER

Bob Christian at Adam & Eve Pictures concurs that specialty films occupy niches — and niche marketing is essential.

“The total audience size may be smaller, but that audience is generally made of well-informed buyers,” he says. “The future will drive whether the content is sold on DVDs, or if free content will be able to satisfy the needs of smaller audiences. It is hard to call. But this applies to all content production, really. The difference may be that plot-driven features may be much more conducive to monetization over specialty content that might be delivered in seven-minute clips. We think sex-ed is a specialty niche that is growing and is best served in ways other than quick clips.”

In general for DVD, Christian says that 2014 has actually outperformed 2013 — small but real sales increases in dollars and units. In terms of specialty in 2014, they don’t have a lot to compare to. Adam & Eve plans 2014 releases of original creampie, Asian, bondage and sex-ed titles, as well as comps in the creampie, squirting and fetish-boots area.

“The unique challenge is to produce movies that really reach the customer for that niche in the right way — the way to really turn them on, or to really educate them. People think differently, and you really need to use experts in each specialty area to do a good job of making content that is meaningful,” says Christian, adding that specialty features can fulfill whatever the customers’ needs are. “But all content is trying to satisfy customers, so that doesn’t mean so much. I guess that the key is that the audience is smaller, which is why this is called ‘specialty’. I think that with the exception of educational sex-ed movies, it is harder — not easier — to gain mainstream acceptance.”

RISING TO THE CHALLENGES

For Jessica Drake, the scariest part of creating her “Guide to Wicked Sex” series was shooting the first one.

“I shot ‘Fellatio’ in a day … a very long day!” she says. “I had a very specific idea and vision in my head about the way it should look and feel, and I continually obsessed about everything. When my editor gave me the first screener, I was terrified. Would this work? Could I capture chemistry and authentic sex while teaching and inspiring? I found that I could. As I watched that screener, breathing a sigh of relief, I knew I was doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Today, she says that the biggest challenge is finding the perfect cast and continuing to pick the best topics. The benefits are many, and seeing the final product is very fulfilling, she says. “I don’t think that these can really be lumped in with adult content, though if the hardcore scenes were introduced independently apart from the instructional body of the project, people would love them.”

Drake says that while she appreciates that it’s easier for some specialty titles to gain more crossover into mainstream outlets, “it’s also somewhat disheartening to realize that these are somehow more accepted because they’re educational. Often, because they can be marketed towards women and couples, they’re not immediately seen as sex for entertainment — even though they encompass that as well. I do appreciate the fact that due to the softer, gentler packaging, some people who are reluctant to watch a hardcore adult movie will look at them, become curious and buy them. Those are usually the people who benefit from them the most.”

Sharony says that a challenge they face at the Alexander Institute is to create the right mix of information and erotica.

“Studies show sexuality videos improve communication and sexual pleasure, and we strive to make an important contribution in this area. A great benefit is the positive feedback we get from couples and singles of all ages who respond to our DVDs in a way that they don’t respond to porn,” he says. “With our promo DVDs, we have to be careful that we’re shooting a hot, sexy, helpful DVD, and not just a product placement scene or a boring ‘how-to’ video. We know that the world-renowned sex therapists, educators and best-selling authors who have helped develop our erotic and informative series over the years gives us an advantage there.”

Drake notes that while specialty films are quite different, in many ways they are the same as more mainstream industry offerings.

“Obviously here, the primary purpose is to educate, but it’s also my intent to arouse and inspire. The tone is a bit more serious, but at the same time, lively and sexy. As far as marketing, it was important to build a brand within a brand, to accentuate and enhance Wicked’s reputation. I wanted packaging that would stand out, while also being a good representation of the actual product inside. I’m very pleased so far,” she says.

“Educational products have always had a place in the vast galaxy of adult films, but perhaps today they occupy a slightly bigger corner. Over the years, with the emergence of higher end boutique retail outlets, I think they’ve become more popular — no longer just on the bottom shelf, but now being cross-promoted with toys, lube and other products. The same goes for online stores and in-home parties.”

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