Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography

By Rebecca Whisnant; Christine Stark | Go to book overview

Rebecca Whisnant


Confronting pornography:
Some conceptual basics

Porn takes over

There can be no doubt, at this moment in history, that pornography is a truly massive industry saturating the human community. According to one set of numbers, the US porn industry's revenue went from $7 million in 1972 to $8 billion in 1996 … and then to $12 billion in 2000.1 Now I'm no economist, and I understand about inflation, but even so, it seems to me that a thousandfoldincrease in a particular industry's revenue within 25 years is something that any thinking person has to come to grips with. Something is happening in this culture, and no person's understanding of sexuality or experience of relationships can be unaffected.

The technologies of pornography are ever more dynamic. Obviously, video porn was a huge step up from magazines and even from film. Not only was it cheap to rent and watch in privacy and anonymity, it was also easier and cheaper to make, thus opening up a huge amateur market. In the mid–1990s, Playboy ran a feature story on how to make your own amateur pornography, including tips and tricks on coaxing a reluctant female partner into participating.

Video is now old hat, of course; more recent developments include not only standard-issue web porn, but also elaborate and 'realistic' porn video games, websites where the consumer can cross-index porn stars with the kinds of sexual acts he wants to see them perform, and porn DVDs that enable the viewer to control the action and inject himself into it. One might expect that the advent of the web and internet porn would reduce the market for video porn rentals; instead, the relevant period of time saw rentals multiply nearly tenfold, from 75 million in 1985 to 721 million in 2000.2

Meanwhile, pornography has become so merged with big business that the two are hardly distinguishable. GM (via its subsidiary, DirecTV) now sells more porn films than Larry Flynt (Egan 2000). AT&T offers broadband cable

1 These numbers come from the companion website to a Court TV documentary entitled
Adults Only: The Secret History of the Other Hollywood. See Torn Industry Facts' at
http://www.courttv.com/archive/onair/shows/mugshots/indepth/hollywood/index.html
(last accessed March 18, 2004).

2 See 'Porn Industry Facts,' cited in note 1.

-15-

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