The makers and the making of pornography

Pornography is a thriving professional industry. The Internet has democratized it. But there’s the moral compass…    

Raj Kundra has been in news for all the wrong reasons, to be accused of involvement in production of pornography has moral connotations not just legal and social implications. It’s the worst form of artistic expression, one would argue if there’s anything artistic about it. There are very few notable exceptions who don’t watch or have not watched porn, but producing porn movies is a different ball game. Let’s not get into the moral question, but one thing is for sure–the skeleton is out of the closet.

The other side of the story is that it’s just another profession and handsomely paying one–notwithstanding its share of serious concerns. It was estimated that the porn is a 35 billion-plus industry, and is estimated to have grown by more than 15% in the last year or so. This was when the pandemic  had the rest of the economy in the doldrums. In the live porn segments, all and sundry, people from different walks of life, can play out their fetish of public sex in front of the camera sitting in their living rooms–their audiences spread across the globe. 

The figures are astounding, nearly 100 thousand new models joining Pornhub  in 2019 itself, further the numbers speak for themselves,  42 billion visits, 115 million per day, 39 billion searches and 6.83 million new video uploads in 2019 on Pornhub alone. And if we look at it in terms of storage: 7,23,041 GB transferred per hour, 80,032 visits every minute on Pornhub, 77,861 searches, and 219,985 video views. The Internet has been a big catalyst in democratisation of porn. 

“If the people who participate get a kicked out of performing the most intimate act in public and derive and share the pleasure, they should be allowed to do that,” says Roxy J, a Swiss national who grew up in Western Germany, his father is a small-time porn filmmaker, and Roxy been assisting him in the production process ever since he was 20, that is for the last 15 years now. He was in India for 6 months in 2018 on a nirvana-seeking trip. Speaking on Skype, he explains, “Sexual acts are one of the most basic instincts. So what’s the big deal!” To him, porn is the safety valve of society–vent to pent-up frustrations. “It serves a purpose and therefore is popular.” 

To Roxy zoophilia and pedophilia is a big no. Anything that’s illegal should not be enacted, he’s categorical. Though all his models are in their twenties, some even older, he clarifies, some cultivate very young looks, as if in their mid-teens, have a boyish figure and keep their body hairless like a prepubescent, and then they are filmed having sex with a visually much older woman, and it sells. “Porn is fake and staged and far from reality, but it stirs passion,” he says. 

Pornography has been produced–still pictures and movies–it’s safe to say ever since the camera was invented, before that, in painting and sculpture–there’s a thin line between art, erotica, and porn. A few years ago, Roxy accompanied me to the Sex Museum in Amsterdam, there’s a section on pornography. The country where porn (photography) started was France and then there was no looking back. 

The museum has an admirable collection of artifacts, pictures collected from all over the world, giving a visual history of erotica, and how a rich man’s privilege became more accessible over the last few decades. It’s a mirror of how the taboos were lifted and pornography became mainstream. 

Porn stars are celebrities. The Netflix documentary series on Rocco Siffredi–the Italian adult star who’s on the peak of his career having done 1,300+ pornographic films, is a telling saga of the hard work it takes, like in any other profession, to come out on top, and retain that position for years.  

“I’m not a big fan of porn,” Roxy quips as we walk in the museum, because “I know it’s fake and delusional. But we all need some delusions in our life to make it bearable.” He has been part of porn production for a quarter of his life—started as an assistant who’d hold a light reflector while a group of people were filmed having a steamy orgy. “And when you see it from such close quarters, it loses its appeal,” he says, “The thrill is not sex per se but doing it on camera.” 

But in their personal lives, adult artists can be very secretive. “I don’t know what many of my actors do in their free time. I do know that some of their relatives are not aware of their bona fide profession. Some become so big that it’s no longer possible for them to hide the fact,” explains Roxy. And they are not just adult stars, they are also health freaks, dieticians, thinkers and writers with a mature worldview, have an ideology, and are assertive about leading a life of their choosing.    

Regulation is a must, and that’s not true for just pornography, but all kinds of professional endeavours and areas of work like the telecom sector or the mining or shipping and so on–there’s the rule of law and the societal norms. The very fact that pornography is ‘x-rated’, it’s a forewarning, is not meant for all. 

Issues like violence, objectification of women, and others are there and should be dealt with like anywhere else in the social sphere. No doubt, there’s scope for improvement. But to give a moral judgement on pornography as a profession would be hypocritical, to put it mildly. They serve our needs and make money in the process. Sunny Leone, an Indian Canadian actress and former adult star, puts it perfectly: “I think there is risk in every form of self expression. You are putting yourself out for the world to judge.”  


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