Pleasing Over-40 Consumers

Remember when adult movies actually told stories, when porn actresses displayed breasts made entirely of human tissue and were allowed to have more than 10 percent body fat? Remember when the photography left more to the imagination than your average OB-GYN exam?

You do?

Dude, you're old.

From what some retailers and producers are saying, consumers of adult videos may be displaying something of a generation gap in their viewing preferences. In broad strokes, people at midlife and older are more likely to favor movies that treat the on-screen talent as characters (albeit characters having lots of hot sex) and present more natural-looking women and men. Many younger folks are more interested in the acts themselves, enjoy watching a wider range of sex acts and demand more "perfect" bodies on screen.

"The older consumers prefer stories," Bob B, vice-president of Dane Entertainment, told XBIZ. "Sex is sex, but it is a turn on to see how these young ladies happen to be in the situations they are in."

Bob B added that Dane is doing well with story-driven videos.

Steve Marowitz, whose New York-based Vxpix sells videos of classic adult films that first ran in theaters from the late 1960s to early 1980s, concurs, saying that most of his customer base is over 40.

"People who like our movies are people who were in their early 20s when the pictures were in theaters," he said. Vxpix's classic films not only have stories, they meld mainstream genres like comedy and mystery with the sexual content.

Retailer Sid Grief, owner of the AAA News chain in Austin, Texas, said he still sells a lot of classic videos from companies like Vivid, Wicked, and Adam & Eve, plus Swedish erotica, to "guys reliving their 20s."

'I still prefer plot-driven videos when I can find them," said porn blogger Tod Hunter, who's old enough to remember the golden age of Pussycat Theaters. Hunter added that even back in the day, "if they showed a movie that was made up of hacked-together sex scenes, I felt cheated."

In Ventura, Calif., retailer Daryl Jenkins, owner of A View to Video, asserted that retailers are losing the older audience.

"We're chasing off as many customers as we're bringing in," he told XBIZ, adding that he keeps 5,000 classic titles in stock out of a total inventory of 23,000 and does good business with them.

Besides looking for stories, Jenkins said, older heterosexual customers are interested in old-fashioned, one guy on one gal, straight-ahead fucking.

They're turned off by gaping orifices and don't find men jacking off particularly stimulating, even (or perhaps especially) onto a woman.

"It may turn somebody on to watch two guys shove their cocks up some girl's ass, but it leaves me cold," Hunter said.

The relative conservatism among many older consumers may be rooted not only in nostalgia for the tamer porn movies of their youth but by their current lifestyles.

"They're often watching with their wives," said longtime actress Lynn LeMay, who opened a new production company, Lemayzing Enterprises, last fall.

"They're mostly married, they live at home, and this is their special little treat."

"If you're shopping with your wife, you're not gonna be shopping for something with double-anal penetration." And that's not just because they're catering to the wives' sensibilities; it's also about what consumers are used to in the sack. "Their wives have never given them anal in their lives," Jenkins said. "They may fantasize, but they don't want to see a whole video of nothing but anal."

Marowitz agreed. "Older people like things more subtle," he said. "They go with what they know" and consider the more out-there stuff to be "intimidating." The younger generation, he said, "is more hip to experimentation." Marowitz said the younger consumer is drawn to splashy box covers and enjoys a hip-hop soundtrack.

The younger guys also don't need plot or character in their adult content, many preferring unadulterated action; they're the ones who grew up with porn and are happy with all-sex videos catering to specific niches.

"They're balls-to-the-wall, fuck the talking, how much can I see?" LeMay said.

They don't relate to videos like LeMay's "Malibu Moms" line, which put men and women of various ages in sexual situations. LeMay said she once cast a young guy in a film and told him, "You're rich, you're home for the day, what would you wear?"

"He didn't know what I was talking about," she said.

Grief said his younger customers know what they want when they come in — usually high-end gonzo product like that of Red Light District. They're niche-oriented but really a pretty diverse group.

"There's no telling what floats someone's boat," he said.

Fewer young men are coming into his stores for porn, Grief said, because they can download what they want from the Internet. In response, he said, he's started to offer product catering to the Internet crowd: discs featuring two to four hours of content resourced from Internet sites that are much cheaper than the sites' pay-per-view fees.

Grief also makes a point of hiring young clerks so he can pick their brains, and he consults younger customers about their preferences.

'Alot of young guys like the amateur style, like 'Girls Gone Wild,'" Marowitz said, and also favor the "hot contract stars." They also go for point-of-view shots and highly toned girls with no body fat, he said.

By contrast, he said, older consumers complain about the plastic-looking augmented breasts and shaved pubes of contemporary actresses.

"It might be harder to fantasize about something that didn't exist when they were young," Marowitz said.

LeMay said mature women also like a more natural look. "They want a man who could be the handsome next-door neighbor — guys who look like guys they could be married to," she said.

They aren't that interested in videos featuring very young men, she added. "Nothing makes a woman feel older than a cute, young boy," LeMay said. "You want to look, but you don't really want one of those guys."

Interestingly, LeMay said, men in their 40s and older don't buy videos featuring very young actresses. "A lot of guys say, 'It's like seeing my kids,'" she said.

Not everybody sees a generation gap in adult video preferences. "Men from 18- 80 mostly respond to similar sexual stimuli: hot-looking women engaged in hot sex," blogger James "Jimmy D" DiGiorgio told XBIZ. "Basically, [older viewers] get off on the same things that younger viewers get off on."

He does see a difference, however, in how older and younger audiences perceive adult entertainment. Younger people, DiGiorgio said, don't see porn as anything special.

"Porn is like visual Muzak to them," DiGiorgio said. "It's the sexual equivalent of white noise. It can play in the background and the viewer might or might not pay much attention to it. I don't think many of them really consider the differences in skill and production value that might set one production apart from another."

On the other hand, DiGiorgio said, "older viewers still remember when there was a taboo that went along with pornography. It was more sinful, illicit and something of a vice. For those reasons, it probably was and is more exciting and stimulating, and perhaps [that] means older viewers are more discriminating in their tastes."

If there is a generation gap in adult, two marketing ideas transcend it. One is that producers and sellers have to be attuned to their customers, young or not so young. "Unless you're listening to your market, you don't know what they want," LeMay said.

The other is that superior content sells across all media and demographics, which means "classic" adult movies that are still selling today have withstood a test of time that, to use an image of Hunter's, "50 guys jerking off onto a girl's bare torso" hasn't.

"If it's good," Grief said, "it will sell forever."

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