Economics of…pornography

The internet is a beautiful thing. Type into your Google search bar ‘Asian takeaway’ and you will find all kinds of wonderful, often confusing things. Look to buy a copy of ‘Men in Black’, and expect the top search to be ‘Men in Blacks’, a fine compilation of German ebony porn. Sex is sold absolutely everywhere; through advertising, through clothing, but none more so than through the medium of pornography.

Hard-core video pornography really took off in the 1970’s with the invention of accessible VHS, sexually liberated hippies and, perhaps most importantly, the funk guitar. By the end of 1970’s it was estimated that porn was worth little more than $10m in the United States. Forty years later, the porn industry is said to rake in $13bn a year.tissues - YayAdrian

On the outside, we may assume that porn is a simple, easy to understand industry with the only entry requirements being a finely trimmed moustache, a set of surgically altered breasts and an ability to swallow. But in reality, the business is a quite wonderful example of an industry willing to embrace change, something that led to its massive profit boom in the late nineties and its enormous market reach. The internet meant shy, aloof teenagers like myself, could treat our hormonal desires without the embarrassment of visiting a shop, and meant that customers could discover a wider range of products at the click of the mouse (‘you enjoyed Latina maids? Perhaps you’d like Persian housewives?’). Statistics suggest that 72 per cent of companies are investing in new technology, so perhaps it is unsurprising that DVD rentals and purchases decreased from $3.62bn to $1.81bn between 2006 and 2009, whilst the internet saw a growth from $1.8bn to $4.9bn.

But, like the music and film industry before it, pornography is at a crossroads. Porn tycoon, and personal hero, Steven Hirsh claimed that ‘between the DVD sales, the piracy, the free porn online and the economy. I’ve never seen it this bad in 25 years in the business’. Although masturbation is a necessity, paying for porn is not, so the recession inevitably hit the porn industry hard. And when there are so many free websites with the same product why would you dish out a £25-a-month membership fee to Brazzers? In 2009, DVD sales dropped 30 per cent, a fair statistic considering the internet’s transition as the key pornography provider, but pay-per-view also dropped a whopping 50 per cent. Even porn stars have seen a 30 per cent wage drop.

What remains then for the industry? Firstly, the sex thirsty customer base, even if they’re not paying. YouPorn, a free porn streaming website, is the seventeenth most popular website in Germany and receives 13.7m hits a month. A porn film is still made every thirty seconds in the United States, so next time you’re in a lecture just remember that at least eight people have been laid in that time. Our desire for smut is not disappearing and although technology has led to its downfall, it has also further opened moneymaking markets. Between 2008 and 2013 we can expect to see a 75 per cent increase in profits made from handheld devices and the tearing down of virtual walls means that the handful of countries where porn is still illegal could soon be open for business, including China with its six-hundred and fifty million todgers.

Porn is facing a tough time, but by no means does it mean that we will stop peeling the cucumber anytime soon. Just remember that the next time you visit XVideos and watch Japanese fetish, you’re putting another ‘aspiring actress’ out of a job.

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