The Adult Biz and Physical Cosmology

Q. Boyer

At some point in your youth, someone introduced you for the first time to the idea of the constantly expanding universe. Depending on the context of your introduction, it might have included analogies involving rubber bands and/or raisin cakes, and probably at least one reference to a “Big Bang.”

Unlike the sort of big bangs distributed by the adult industry, this particular big bang (theoretically, at least) jettisoned primordial flotsam in every direction, forming the basis of our physical universe – as well as the basis for at least one trite sitcom revolving around stereotypical nerds.

Where the Internet’s key contribution to the expansion of the industry was once the sheer size of its potential market, the “democratizing” effect of the web and other digital technologies is now expanding porn’s cultural and demographic horizons in whole new directions.

At any rate, one of the inevitable questions one addresses when discussing the expanding nature of the universe is whether this constant expansion must necessarily continue, or if at some point the raisin cake will collapse back in on itself, so to speak, with devastating consequences for the intergalactic real estate market.

The advent of the Internet and the greater digital age was something of a big bang event for the adult entertainment industry – not that it created the industry obviously, since the industry preexists the Internet by decades, but in terms of introducing a rapid, almost uncontainable expansion of the industry.

Concerns about the web’s potential negative impact on the industry are not new. I heard them expressed at the very first meetings I attended with various “old school” content producers back in the late 90s. The revenue rush that followed quickly made their reticence moot, however; before you knew it, the online sector was producing so much profit, companies were compelled to start using it as a distribution platform, or leave an awful lot of money on the table for no good reason.

More recently, the ubiquity of tube sites and free content has left a lot of people in the industry wondering if the Porn Universe might be “closed,” to use another term of physical cosmology. Understandably, they have come to resent same sort of technologies and platforms which once powered porn’s expansion, during the web sector’s glory days.

I’ve noticed something interesting in recent months, though, which makes me think the adult industry might be on the cusp of turning another corner, once again driven by the Internet and digital consumer technology.

Where the Internet’s key contribution to the expansion of the industry was once the sheer size of its potential market, the “democratizing” effect of the web and other digital technologies is now expanding porn’s cultural and demographic horizons in whole new directions.

More and more, I’m reading about women like Vex Ashley (recently profiled by Elle magazine) and Andre Shakti (interviewed at length by Cosmopolitan) and their contributions to the industry. I’m hearing about the growing popularity of feminist porn, indie porn and “alt” porn of all varieties. Where these very terms once were met with skeptical smirks by industry insiders, it’s becoming increasingly clear real and viable audiences have developed, and continue to grow.

Now, to be clear, the success of new and different forms of adult entertainment may do nothing to boost the bottom lines for many studios and companies, and as new genres, producers and performers gain popularity, their piracy headaches will likely grow, as well.

This brings me (admittedly oddly and with a great deal of stretching) back to the raisin cake analogy.

In the context of physical cosmology, the raisin cake is used to demonstrate how it’s possible for galaxies to be moving in all directions and getting further away from each other at the same time (more or less; actually it’s primarily used as a visualization tool when discussing the Hubble constant, but this is XBIZ, not The Journal of Physical Cosmology, so cut me some freakin’ slack).

In the context of my increasingly tortured analogy, the porn industry version of the raisin cake might represent fractured growth, but it’s still growth. This is something which can be hard to accept if you operate adult properties or brands which generate revenue at a fraction of their prior peak:

The industry can contract in microcosm, while simultaneously continuing to grow in macrocosm.

Without realizing it, some of us have come to think long-running adult companies somehow have a right to prosper by virtue of their legacy, their history. When this doesn’t happen, there’s a reflexive tendency to assume that as the Big Players go, so goes the entire industry.

In other words, we expect the industry’s Big Players to be like the galaxies represented by the raisins at the outermost portion of the cosmic raisin cake: Always moving faster than the younger ones which followed them.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things work with respect to the economic physics of the Porn Universe. Merely being present for the big bang of the digital age didn’t magically imbue any of us with an inexhaustible supply of market momentum. Like it or not, we have to keep feeding fuel to the engines on our own, somehow.

What we can count on, I believe, is the industry’s aggregate growth will continue. Along the way, the nature, character and face of the industry probably will change, and individual market niches will rise and fall in profitability, but grow the industry will — in all sorts of directions we can’t yet anticipate.

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.