Saturday, February 27, 2016


It is hard to defend the porn industry as it exists, and I certainly would throw in with those who advocate individuals quit porn. However, I am not generally a consumer activist. To me, pornography is simply a good habit for an individual to break. I could almost expect some period of porn curiosity to be indicative of healthy sexual development, particularly in young teenagers. The caveat attached to almost is that the standards of pornography are not static, I personally feel the on camera misogyny has increased over my lifetime of pornography consumption.

I got told by a friend that some study had found that close to 100% of pornographic video depicted some form of violence against women. I would refute that from personal experience, but only if using a narrow definition of 'violence' include spitting (even for lubrication purposes) and manhandling and yeah, pretty much 100%. It would still be very high if you narrowed the definition to include violence that appears part of 'rough play' because even as play, it doesn't matter, you are depicting violence.

But consumer activism I reject, also an end goal of eradicating the supply of pornographic content seems unfeasible and impractical. Addressing the existing problems of the porn industry, is going to be really difficult one way or another. Consider by analogy the problem of music piracy, I don't believe that abolishing digital theft is ever going to be feasible. Providing legal alternatives to piracy like iTunes thru to Spotify style streaming services are not ideal but are going to be similar forms of solutions to those that are the problems of the porn industry.

For example the post-porn pornstar career. As far as I can discern as an observer, the biggest improvements made regarding the negative legacy of being a porn star, have been in de-stigmatizing the adult industry. (a process that comes with it's own new problems). But I'm sure I'm repeating myself blog wise, but for me the porn industry calls into question the entire concept of consent. Putting on my economist hat (for illustrative purposes, economists should generally not be listened to) trying to figure out the wage at which a young actress should book a shoot at is quite a difficult undertaking.

You'd need to consider your industry appropriate working lifespan, and then forecast your post working income requirements. Also your medical expenses given a calculation of the occupational risks. Potentially you could offset this by the expected value of fringe benefits derived from your celebrity - basically your ability to profit from your fan base. Reducing the stigma of being a pornstar may for example increase the expected wages earned in your post-porn career, meaning that pornstars of the future may accept less wages. Then you would have to figure out the supply and demand premiums of specific acts you are agreeing to in shoots.

I would extend full credit that most young actresses intuitively understand that work as a porn actress should be compensated at much higher rates than work as a waiter. But as an economist my suspicion is that earning $1500 for a days work as an 18 year old, is actually not much money. But I have no idea how much money for a shoot is enough to compensate an individual for the costs/risks of doing that shoot. I sincerely doubt an 18 year old (or 17 year old making bookings for their 18th birthday) is capable of figuring out these complex equations.

And that's just the money, economists in reality simply assume that the market has determined the most efficient wage that all the rational individuals mutually consent to. We as a species though, are all afflicted with a really poor ability at 'affect forecasting' or predicting future emotional states. It's why we believe our new car will make everything better forever, but after two weeks we stop noticing any of the differences between it and the old one. Or why so many marriages end in divorces. It's also how a lot of young girls sign up to star in porn, and 6 years later are anti-porn advocates. Mainly though, to me it throws a cloud over the concept of 'consent' because it fundamentally questions whether an individual knows how the decision they are making is going to affect them emotionally for the rest of their life.

Here is a string of spaghetti I will throw at the wall as a suggested fix. Make the porn industry, or agents, cover the healthcare costs of the actors and actresses they employ including mental health cover for up to 10 years post their retirement from the industry. Or if not outright, at least the health insurance. The target being not just to improve the welfare of those working in front of camera, but to erect a cost to exploitation. At the moment an agent can recruit a large number of vulnerable teenagers, book them solid until they are used up or burnt out, at little to no cost. They can treat their talent like light bulbs.

Better yet, utilise the same accreditation/regulation scheme for mental health as they do sexual health. I would suggest, have a mandatory requirement that all adult industry actors complete 6 months to a year of psychotherapy before they can shoot. And similar to sexual health, if an actor is found by their therapist to be a sadist or self-destructive etc. It should disqualify them from shooting just as syphilis would.

Consider the current industry. Somebody of age and that can prove a clean bill of sexual health can book a shoot for tomorrow to star in a 'gang-bang' scene. That means it is an open avenue to people who are vulnerable because of finances and also vulnerable due to trauma or mental health issues. That many adult actors have histories of abuse I don't doubt. But again as the stigma reduces I find it increasingly possible that more women may enter the industry with no history of abuse. Here is one of the points where I find Anti-porn campaigns make a common tactical error, they will have former industry members report that 'almost all' actresses and actors have histories of abuse, and 'almost all' are often high and dissociated during their shoots.

Doubt is all that's sufficient to change the viewing experience, and I personally feel it would be much more effective if former adult-industry anti-porn campaigners spoke exclusively for themselves. That one self-medicating former abuse victim can enter the industry substantiates a problem that needs addressing, it is not a stronger argument to generalize.

I feel even with non-nude modelling careers, it would be interesting to see a study that tried to identify from the photo output at what point the models start depending on cocaine to perform their job. Prior to quitting porn myself, I feel there were a few actresses where I could see written into their facial features a dependency on some drug of choice.

Thus the current industry has a current solution to the problems that arise from affect forecasting leading young people into consenting to unforeseen costs. Self-medication through drugs. There's an interview with former porn actress Jessie Rogers that is actually not good enough to embed here, largely because the interviewer did more talking than asking. But she did make some succinct illuminating statements. The first being that to earn the kind of money touted by the craigslist ad she responded to an actress would more or less have to book shoots every day of the month. Also that that was only possible with an agent, however the agent would take a cut of your fees, meaning the figure was still inflated (yet, that inflated figure was used to recruit her into the industry). The second major point was that she was still paying medical bills from her brief time as an adult actress.

Thus despite the high wages, given the equally high workload, the high incidence of medical expenses (in the US's admittedly terrible health care system) meant that she acquired debt rather than savings as a result of her work in the industry.

My hypothetical reforms, would no doubt drastically change all the equations currently used in the industry. However being that they represent drastic changes, they are highly unlikely to be adopted, and they still have limitations.

Though an advocate of psychotherapy, I would earnestly say, it is pretty ineffective. Where it is of great effect, is in making salient our issues rather than resolving them or relieving them. To me there is a huge difference between being an alcoholic and not being aware that your are and being an alcoholic and being aware that you are one.

Also, such reforms inevitable create demands for workarounds to reduce costs. Thus maybe you wind up with a sudden influx of 'specialist' psychologists, that are great at doing bullshit sessions and signing off on forms for a small fee. In much the same way that Australia's permanent visa requirements fertilised the ground for a bunch of bullshit 'schools' to certify people in whatever helped them land a visa at exploitation prices.

The thing is, the current porn industry is problematic and unethical in practice. I can't jump on bandwagons such as 'all porn is rape' and many anti-porn arguments to me seem so fallacious as to be counterproductive. I also simply believe that the demand is clearly there, and attempts to eradicate such an industry no matter how better off we'd all be in its absence are unlikely to succeed. Or by comparison, as likely to succeed as the war on drugs.

Thus we are left with moving porn to ethical porn, and I'd rather see this achieved through top-down regulation rather than grass roots consumer activism. Simply because consumer activism is where you drive demand for vague and poorly defined non-legally binding terms like 'certified organic'. I know there are production houses engaged voluntarily in making ethical porn. I do not personally know enough to vouch for it having produced many successful prototypes.

But just because ethical porn may not exist, and the industry does not produce it, doesn't mean it can't exist and can't be produced by an industry. The challenge is in finding means to enforce ethical standards on producers in a manner that is more appealing than ignoring those standards, or going black-market. In other words its shifting costs around, to create an ethical practice and incentivise ethical behavior, without threatening profits sufficiently that the industry collapses.

For example, assuming you like me feel moving the cost of injury to the actors off the actors themselves and onto the production companies is a step towards ethical porn, say California introduces this as a legal requirement but Florida does not. Adoption of this standard will eat into the bottom line of the production companies, they then need to decide to pay the cost of being ethical or paying the cost of relocating to Miami. I would dare say you are comparing some relatively negligible one of cost of relocation, vs a not insignificant ongoing cost. And the US is fucked because State rights mean it's hard to get a coast to coast regulation on a non-constitutional issue.

Having said that, I believe it to be the best way to address the problems inherent to the porn industry.

As for 'consumer activism' I'm never going to believe in having conversations to try and mobilise bazillions of nodes in a network of consumers to all switch off a product as the best and most effecient way to address real world problems. What I can say is that any individual is simply intrinsically better off without porn in their life. It is a behavioral addiction, and the adverse effects are in my own case quite noticeable. By contrast quitting porn (insofar as one can in the western media culture) has had quite noticeable benefits. I'd recommend it.