Volume 9 Number 2
Contents The Future of Porn...................................4 - 5
Perceptions & Attitudes..................................................... 6 Desensitisation.................................................................. 7
The Fight Against Porn
Violence & Regulation....................................................... 8 Campaigns against Porn................................................... 9
Virtual Reality.................................................................. 11 Haptics.......................................................................12 - 13 Teledildonics.................................................................... 14
The Future of Porn
A Potentially Chilling Tale..........................................15 - 17
The Future of Porn
Mapping the destiny of a controversial industry Written by Joshua Stehr
Already criticised for significantly influencing attitudes towards sex, the porn industry enters a new era enriched with technology that could enable an immersive and interactive experience for consumers. With pornography being blamed for many of societyâ€™s ills, can the industry become more responsible and mould its content into something deemed positive, healthy and even educational for adults and teenagers, or will it transform into the undeterred quest to create hyperrealistic content almost indistinguishable from sexual experiences in real life? This article will discuss the potential futures of pornography and its implication on society.
“...popular sites such as pornhub.com recording 49% of traffic coming via tablets or mobiles.”
The pornography landscape has changed dramatically since the growth of the internet. The main point to note is the increased visibility and accessibility of internet pornography. It has reached a level where anyone, anywhere, with access to an internet connection can view pornographic content, and usually for free. The industry has taken a turn towards a similar model as the music industry, with tube sites coming to the forefront and relying on advertising to make money rather than the traditional paid method. (Löfgren-Mårtenson & Månsson, 2010) People are even beginning to watch it more on their mobile devices, with popular sites such as pornhub.com recording 49% of traffic coming via tablets or mobiles (Pornhub Insights, 2013). Vice
ornography and its effects on its consumers has been a debated topic ever since it was available (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). The era of going to the corner shop and picking up a “dirty mag” is over and now it is available everywhere with fewer stigmas attached to it. Since this change to a more accessible and private consumption of porn has arisen, the debate of whether it is healthy for society has accelerated considerably. On one hand, the overall societal attitude towards pornography is negative and often is regarded as distasteful, especially if you are a female user. This attitude may be attributed to third party opinions of the media that often latch onto stories about its adverse effects, reporting it to be cause of many wrecked marriages, negative changes of gender perceptions and sexual addiction (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). On the other hand, in 21st century, it has become a part of daily life, especially given the easy accessibility to it that the internet provides. It has even been reported that pornography is becoming more social, with new pinterestlike websites such as Pinsex.com arriving on the scene, where people are encouraged to share videos, images and GIFs onto a pinboard (Kagel, 2013). Even though users still interact anonymously, this activity surely shows more acceptance of the medium in mainstream society. In terms of self-perceptions of pornography consumption, people report significantly larger positive than negative effects. This is both overall and in more specific areas such as sex life, life in general and attitudes towards sex. However women do raise concerns about the attitudes toward and perception of the opposite gender. (Men do not voice this same concern and can distinguish the differences between pornographic sex and sexuality experienced in conventional situations and relationships.) However pornography on the internet isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon so whether you are pro or anti-porn, it has now become something that you have to have an opinion on whether you are choosing to use it, or actively trying to avoid it. (Löfgren-Mårtenson & Månsson, 2010)(Hald & Malamuth, 2008) Pornography clearly meets a human need to break out of their sexual loneliness, isolation, and failure to connect sexually with somebody in reality. As with every other basic human need that is inappropriately dealt with, it becomes an opportunity for private enterprise to come in and make money. In the process they begin to shape those needs and desires. (The Price of Pleasure, 2008)
So if consumers are not significantly influenced by it, and it is meeting a human need, what is the problem? 6
“Whether you are pro or antiporn, it has now become something that you have to have an opinion on.” Perceptions & Attitudes
iolent porn is venturing into the mainstream, but is this a problem that has been exaggerated by people keen to regulate it? According to studies, people, even teenagers, can generally distinguish the difference between internet sex and real sex. But there are other issues. For many “critics of pornography they describe the “desensitisation” and greater acceptance of pornography as a result of exposure as one of the most insidious effects of consumption.” (Hald & Malamuth, 2008, p.622). Experts believe that this type of hardcore pornographic will become more common. A huge array of pornographic content is emerging online, some of which venture way beyond my own and many other’s moral environment. Is purely the industry diversifying, to prevent stagnation and repetition? After all there are limits to what the human body can do, so producers of pornography will invent scenes that go beyond many boundaries as a way to keep the audience engaged (Price of Pleasure, 2008), possibly explaining the increase of violence in pornography. Critics will surely be worried that this increased exposure to hardcore porn will lead to desensitisation (Hald & Malamuth, 2008). This argument has often centred on violent video games, such as Grand Theft Auto. People are quick to pin the cause of violent crimes and particularly school shootings to the desensitisation that these games bring. It is true; many offenders will have been exposed to violent material, but correlation does not prove causation. The same attitude has frequently been applied to exposure to hardcore pornography. A common argument for restricting pornography claims that men committing violent acts against women tend to do so after viewing pornography. If this was the case, violent crimes against women must have barely occurred before pornography. Perhaps, it is more likely that those who commit sexual crimes are attracted to pornography. The causation myth, is further disproved by the fact that countries such as the Netherlands and Scandinavia have fewer restrictions on pornography, yet the rate of sexual crimes is lower than the U.S. (White, 2006) It’s true; you cannot assess the potential effects of exposure to hardcore porn without consideration towards the personality characteristics of those who are seeking it out and being aroused by such content (White, 2006).
It would be foolish and unjustifiable to ignore violence in pornography. This is a major argument for the U.K government policy to force stronger regulation of explicit online material. Desensitisation
-- Violence & Regulation
The fight against porn
“because this violence is sexualised it renders it invisible”
n regular society such violence would not be tolerated, but because this violence is ‘sexualised’ it renders the violence invisible. (The Price of Pleasure, 2008) There are still many women (and men) going into the adult industry and being awfully exploited. Such stories were told in Channel 4’s documentary “Date My Pornstar”, where three porn addicts visited Los Angeles to meet their favourite pornstars and experienced firsthand how the industry really works. During the trip they met up with a young former pornstar who described taking painkillers in order to perform anal sex scenes, as well the numerous sexually transmitted diseases she caught whilst in the business. All these false pretences she had going into the industry, such as having a strict retirement age and a set of moral boundaries were all a distant optimism in reality. To stay in the industry girls are pressured into performing scenes they would have never considered, because if not someone younger and more willing will always be there to take their place. The oldest of the 3 porn addicts, Jonathan, 40, who previously had no sympathy for these young “consenting adults”, even changed his mind about the industry after exposure such a reality. Such exploitation should force regulation of the industry. But regulation is harder than most people who are anti-porn believe. The lines are blurred. It is a subjective topic that means pornography is difficult to define. Even with strict criteria, there are many examples which could be debated. There are a huge number of factors that influence people’s perceptions of obscenity and what is considered pornographic, such as age, gender, culture etc. The main focus of regulation aims towards harm to children and harm to women, but even with defined criteria there are always examples of material that could go either way. For example, in Australia, naked breasts have been banned from magazines and billboards, yet in many parts of Europe, this is not considered offensive. There are several films in which women are objectified or mistreated, such as Repulsion where a woman is forced to have sexual intercourse and even enjoy rape, but in the context of the whole film this could be accepted because as a whole it is worthy of artistic merit. (White, 2008) Furthermore, there are quite frankly laughable situations where regulation doesn’t work. Under the government pornography filters applied in Britain, websites supplying sexual education, sexual health information and treatment for porn addiction have been blocked by the regulations (Reuters, 2013).
-- campaigns against porn
“If the harm caused by regulating sexually explicit Internet materials is less than the harm these materials produce, they should be regulated in the interests of utility.”
ot only can people easily navigate around the filters, it is impossible to take a middle ground with internet regulation. Either ban nothing or censor everything. I doubt many people would be too happy about this new dawn of erotic prohibition, especially if it were to follow China’s extreme measures and control all material published online. The benefits of the internet are too high to risk taking such a stance. White’s statement in Virtually Obscene: The Case for an Uncensored Internet specifies that “If the harm caused by regulating sexually explicit Internet materials is less than the harm these materials produce, they should be regulated in the interests of utility.” (p.66) Unfortunately there are few examples of material that could 100% fall under this umbrella. For the most part in the U.K people continue to access the internet freely. But with all this material available what influence is it having on society and their perceptions of sex.
Despite the unproven theory of violence being caused by hardcore pornography, people are without a doubt influenced by what they view in pornography. The common examples include the apparent result that “teenagers who watched pornography were more likely to engage in anal sex that those not exposed” (Löfgren-Mårtenson & Månsson, 2010, p.569) and the young women’s admittance to being influenced by the physical ideals that are displayed in pornography, such as the importance of shaving one’s genitals. Campaigners like Cindy Gallop are lobbying to dispel the myths of what is considered “normal” during sex. Unlike most porn activists, she is does not display a bias for or against the material, except that it creates the perception that all sex should happen as you see it on the screen. On her website makelovenotporn.com comparisons are made between the porn world and the real world, but she makes no qualms that some women will enjoy sexual activities that are common in the porn world. However, it informs people of their sexual choices and it should all derive from your own preferences to maintain healthy sexual relationships. There is no denial that pornography is a source of information, especially for young people, who don’t have much experience it can become a tool for education. Although in many cases it is judged to be a very exaggerated and false version of sex, some aspects can be perceived as reliable. With both this falsity and the violence the main cause of criticism, there is a strong argument to push for change and with the emergence of certain technology that may strongly influence the porn industry this may be the first opportunity to do so. I believe that we have the opportunity to mould it into more beneficial or appropriate to society. By adhering to the convention of supply and demand, if we demand it, the industry will supply it, and thus change can be made.
Cindy Gallop: Founder of ‘MakeLoveNotPorn’
The implications of virtual and haptic technologies
“Our customers want to get as close to reality as they can get, without reality getting in the way.” 10
In 2013, we saw our first trailer for a Google Glass porn video (Ha, 2013) and porn company, Naughty America announced their plans to shoot videos in 4K (Ultra HD), saying that “Our customers want to get as close to reality as they can get, without reality getting in the way.” (Drummond, 2014). Much like we’ve seen with the rise in violent pornography, this industry will stop at nothing to appeal to users, and there are many applications of both existing and new technology that could not only allow more diversification, but the potential for more far greater realism.
If this trend continues, and the porn industry strives for hyper-realism, what are the implications for us?
he first part to creating something closer to reality may come from a virtual experience. Games such as Skyrim and Final Fantasy already show us the true quality of computer generated characters and in some cases the animations can be practically indistinguishable from real humans (Infinite Realities, 2013). Games like Mass Effect offer the ability to customise avatars very accurately, whether you choose to model it on your own appearance or that of someone you know. (Hawksley-Walker, 2013) Viewing videos on a screen will always cause some filtering of the realism. Devices such as the Oculus Rift go some ways to overcome this barrier. This is the next-generation virtual reality headset, which in its current stage of development has mainly been used for immersive gaming applications; however it is easy to imagine its potential applications in the pornographic industry (Yearle, 2013). This technology will provide a more interactive experience, but of course it still doesnâ€™t reach the` level of realism that would convert people to computer generated material.
Oculus Rift: Virtual Reality Headset
This is where the second piece of puzzle is introduced: A multisensory internet. Vice
ne of the big disadvantages of pornography is that it is limited to only visual feedback only. Could this change in the future? Adrian Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University London and director of the Mixed Reality Lab at the National University of Singapore has been experimenting with the possibility of transmitting smells, tastes, and tactile sensations over the internet. He is striving for an invention that could see a total paradigm shift of the internet that we can comprehend today. His current prototypes include: -- a device that connects to a Smartphone and shoots out a given person’s scent when they send you a message. -- a small plastic and silicone gadget with a pressure sensor and a moveable peg in the middle that is essentially a long-distance-kissing machine: you make out with the device and your tongue and lip movements travel over the internet to your partner’s identical device—and vice versa (Volpicelli, 2013). These inventions may be in their early development, but just their existance is enough to envisage the possibilities this technology could have. Transmitting tactile and kinesthetic outputs via the internet could be important in the sex industry. Utilisation of the technology has already been conceived by Durex, with Fundawear: the underwear fitted with electronic pulses that allow users to stimulate each other by remote (Berkowitz, 2013). This haptic technology has been developed to already astounding levels, this idea of bringing the ability to touch or feel someone via the internet could become a reality sooner than you think. The company, Pacinian, uses a method where a coating can be applied to more or less any surface to give it electrostatic properties (Vance, 2011). A similar company Senseg is developing technology that simulate textures on a screen, using it for retail applications where you can feel products on the screen before you buy them (Awada, 2012). Perhaps the most influential company in haptics thus far is a start-up Tactus Technology. “In basic terms, Tactus would sandwich liquid or gas between two surfaces and use a mechanism to expand and contract the surfaces, creating buttons, knobs, and other shapes.” (Vance, 2011)
It is almost unbelievable to think that all this development is happening now. What on earth does the future hold? 12
Dr. Gabriel Robles-De-La-Torre, founder of the International Society for Haptics, predicted a list of applications such a technology could have, such as collaborative manufacturing where products are tactilely formed online, virtual gaming where you can simulate a real challenge online, and even medical applications where students can simulate surgery and learn how to handle organs without having to test on living patients (Shacklett, 2008). With such trust potentially being put into the ability of haptic technology to simulate reality, it is easy to predict the porn industry investing in it.
The idea of â€œteledildonicsâ€?, electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to enable the user to reach orgasm, has been around for at least a decade, but until now it has only been a dream of sci-fi proportions. Commercial products are coming to fruition, like the Fundawear mentioned previously and Elaico. The Elaico device allows you to pleasure your partner over Skype with the use of a simple controller to apply varying bursts of vibration. This concept was born out of a need to retain intimacy in long-distance relationships, but you could easily see something similar being used in the porn industry (Schiller, 2013). Fantasy isnâ€™t going to cease in the future, and more realistic engagement and immersion into the scene will surely be welcomed by both producers and consumers of the content.
The future of porn A Potentially Chilling Tale If all these pieces of the technological puzzle are put together logically, we could potentially experience pornography that is hugely engaging, immersive and blurring the boundaries between itself and reality (Cha et al., 2009). By combining 3D modelling, interaction using multi-sensory platforms (especially haptics), and immersion using devices like the Oculus Rift, you could envision a big shift in porn consumption, from largely passive, to something active. David Yearle constructs a chilling scenario where you could create a hyper realistic avatar based solely around someone that you know in real life, and proceed to interact with them (all be it still virtually) in “almost any imaginable way”, including sexual intercourse. Not only is this technically feasible, it would seem like a lucrative opportunity for the porn industry. Pornographic producers of would no longer need to employ physical pornstars. On the one hand it would be damaging to the current crop of actors and actresses in the industry who would be made redundant, and as seen in the documentary, After Porn Ends, would have difficulties integrating back into society. However it would cease the frequently seen exploitation of these people, and prevent such a future for other young “budding pornstars”. Which can only be seen positively right? The implications on society could be far more threatening for
a number of reasons. Currently people’s self perceptions of porn consumption claim that they can distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy. Despite many fears that people are highly sexually influenced by pornography this has largely remained unproven. In a theoretical sense, if virtual reality and a multi sensory internet can create
history repeating itself, Sony changed its stance to allow adult movies to be licensed on Blu-Ray. Speculation suggest this was to to compete against its rival HD DVD; learning from its mistake with Betamax. The company took the moral high ground Betamax and in the end, lost out to JVC’s VHS. Despite arguably more influential limitations to the product, Sony’s
“ We could potentially experience pornography that is hugely engaging, immersive and blurring the boundaries between itself and reality.” extremely realistic experiences in both an aesthetic and sensory way, will consumers still have enough information to truly distinguish the differences? With a generation that has been desensitised to hardcore pornography, and is actively searching for it online, will people demand a similar service, available to them with the implementation of this new technology? Rationally thinking, if they are doing it now, what is to stop future behaviour? They will probably less sensitivity having experienced it as a “cultural norm” for many years longer. In this future, society will be revisiting old ground, where the companies developing the technology will be responsible for regulation. In 2007, to avoid
decision to inhibit pornography content on Betamax tapes was perhaps the final nail in the coffin. This is Google’s current stance with Google Glass. Their current policy bans any sexually explicit material, and thus saw the first porn app, released on adult app store, MiKandi, prohibited. But as with any brand competition, other companies will seek to allow such content to differentiate them in the market. It is inevitable that porn will continue to exist in the future, and as legislation is only ever a reactionary measure it is up to companies to take responsibility for where it is heading. It is unlikely that all companies will regulate the technology to feature no explicit material and I believe this would be a detriment
to society. Not fulfilling the technology’s full potential, that can provide a great source of education and life improvement. However, they could take a stance that prevents people using this technology for engaging in violent “virtual sex”, the type of regulation that the U.K. government is campaigning for. The difference here is that the current internet is already saturated with masses of material that could be deemed offensive. However, this new platform for interacting with porn is still in its infancy and could be moulded in a way that is beneficial for society. Thinking optimistically it could change people’s perceptions towards sex, their attitudes of the opposite sex, and form a more positive moral compass. Oppositely, judging by past company decisions, we could speculate that there will be those that are led solely by increasing profit margins regardless of the social impact, implying that regulations on technology will be relaxed for the purpose of engaging more customers. As consumers, we are not powerless to how the future is formed. By adhering to the supply and demand approach we can force companies into providing what we want as a society. For real control of the situation, we must demand what we believe is right. This may mean a shift in attitude towards pornography. Current consumers of this material are the ones in control of the market as they bring in the profit. They perceive it as a positive medium, and thus what they demand is what is produced. To campaign effectively against more hardcore pornography we
must actively consume or at least rally for material that is more aligned to real life cultural ideals. This format would see no gender exploited or reduced to a sex object, and violence and sexual crimes would be unacceptable.
We must demand a more responsible alternative within the same industry, because it is not going anywhere. The porn industry could certainly shift towards a highly market led model where consumers will be given unlimited freedom to virtually explore their sexual desires. The platform could essentially provide the user a customisable surrogate body to experiment on. In this hyperrealistic and immersive content, the transition between a virtual reality and reality could potentially become blurrier. With current media, people are able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, but in this future the differences will be minute. Critics of present day pornography already claim that consumers of the material are sexually influenced by it, but the way people acted in this virtual world could be easily transferred into the real world. I believe that despite its efforts, true human intimacy will be too difficult to replicate, and so long as it is devoid of emotion, it will not destroy people’s perceptions of real life sex.
A Potentially Chilling tale
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