Why Porn Is the New Glamour: The Possibility of a Career in the Sex Industry Has Been Embraced by a Generation of Gullible Young Women, Not Just as a Viable Option but a Genuinely Attractive One, Writes Kira Cochrane

By Cochrane, Kira | New Statesman (1996), September 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

Why Porn Is the New Glamour: The Possibility of a Career in the Sex Industry Has Been Embraced by a Generation of Gullible Young Women, Not Just as a Viable Option but a Genuinely Attractive One, Writes Kira Cochrane


Cochrane, Kira, New Statesman (1996)


Way, way back in the mists of time (oh, say, five or six years ago) polls regularly listed the most popular career options for young women as nursing, teaching or, for the particularly exhibitionist, acting. The world turns quickly, though, and this year a survey of a thousand girls between the ages of 15 and 19 found that 63 per cent aspired to be a glamour model, while 25 per cent plumped for lap dancing. Out were the dependability and possible boredom of care work; in were the seedy glamour and possible stardom of the sex industry.

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While these findings at first seemed implausibly extreme, they were quickly backed up by the profiles of this year's Big Brother participants in Britain. It goes without saying that Big Brother contestants are exhibitionists. But where the UK show's first participants, in 2000, aspired to be actors or singers (mooning wistfully about the house with their guitars), this year, six of the eight female housemates expressed an interest in glamour modelling or pornography. (Kinga, one of the two exceptions, inadvertently became a porn star anyway by masturbating with a wine bottle in prime time.) In roughly five years, the possibility of a career in the sex industry, whether hard core or soft core, has been embraced by young women and come to be seen as not just a viable option, but a genuinely attractive one. For people who yearn to be recognised, but have no specific talent (in the same poll, 89 per cent of young women said they would rather be a celebrity than achieve something but lack recognition), the sex industry holds out the olive branch of fame.

The most obvious reason for this change of attitude would seem to be the proliferation of pornography. With hard-core porn easily accessible through the internet (33 per cent of internet users regularly view such material) and also being marketed to mobile phones, porn imagery has inevitably become an established part of our culture. And, with this proliferation, the image of those in has sex industry has changed, too. Although the term "porn star" has been in use for decades, it was not until recently that it actually gained some credence and gloss. Had she been working in the 1970s, for instance, it is probable that a porn actress such as Jenna Jameson would have been known only to a smallish population of men, gaining notoriety--like Linda Lovelace--rather than true fame. With the help of home video, however, plus internet and mobile technology, Jameson has become one of the most (in)famous women in Middle America, her 2004 autobiography staying on the New York Times's bestseller list for a month and a half. Britain offers similar, though slightly tamer, success stories, most notably that of Abi Titmuss. Paradoxically, Titmuss, who began her career as a nurse, came to public attention on the back of rape charges brought against her celebrity boyfriend by another woman. There soon followed tabloid sex revelations. A home-made porn video was stolen from her boyfriend's house and released over the internet. And then Titmuss threw her hat in with the industry. She has since worked variously as a presenter on a porn channel, author of sex fantasies, and the subject of thousands of nude photographs.

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The home for these photos has been the weekly magazines Nuts and Zoo, recent additions to the market, which sell half a million copies between them, primarily to teenage and twenty something men. This underlines another crucial change. As porn imagery has broken into the mainstream, any boundaries to its use in entertainment, advertising and marketing--even when the products are aimed specifically at younger teenagers--have gradually become moot. So, for instance, we see full sex and masturbation on Big Brother, a programme that teachers recognise as "must-see" TV for teens. …

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