Porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography
Porn.Com: Making Sense of Online Pornography
Edited by Feona Attwood
Peter Lang Publishing
$29.65, 304 pp.
Last month, blogger and indie online porn director Furry Girl wrote a blog post in which she asks why the porn industry focuses almost entirely on companies that make physical DVDs and ignores Internet porn. I’ve been sitting with this question for a bit, so it was perfect timing for me to review Porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography.
Porn.com is a collection of articles edited by Feona Attwood about different facets of the online porn world and as someone who’s pretty familiar with the industry, I have to say that the various writers really seem to know their subject. I think that’s worth starting with because I’ve read plenty of articles about porn that make it quite clear that the authors simply don’t know what they’re talking about or are making generalizations based on limited experience. Porn.com is quite a refreshing change in that regard.
At the same time, it is definitely written in that classic academic style and while I occasionally enjoy geeking out in that world, it does make it a rather dry read. It sometimes seems to me as if some writers use that sort of language in order to give some validity to a topic that generally doesn’t get a lot of critical focus, or to make it seem as if their interest is entirely “scientific” rather than personal. As I read each article, I started to wonder what sorts of porn these folks like to watch and what made them decide to write their respective articles.
One of the best things about this book is that each of the chapters focuses on a different aspect of the online porn world. Concerns about child porn? Check. The impact of shifts in technology? Check. Altporn? Check. Repackaging of content and blooper scenes? Check. Shock porn and humilitainment? Check. Plus, issues of piracy, the growth of authentic dyke porn as a genre, written porn and other topics also get plenty of attention. I’m more aware of the scale and scope of porn than most people and I have to say that there were some topics that I simply hadn’t thought of. I’m pretty sure that as much as you know about online porn, there’s going to be something in this book that is new to you. There’s plenty of thought-provoking stuff here and it’s all offered in a balanced, non-judgmental, and non-stereotypical way.
Having said all that, there are some topics that are missing from this book. I’d be curious to read more about the relationships that people have to online porn. One example: a couple of years ago, I was at a seminar at the Adult Entertainment Expo and one of the speakers said that on their site (which featured pay-per-minute porn), the average time that viewers were logged in was less than 10 minutes. It was pretty clear that viewers wanted to get off as quickly as possible in order to spend less, which is pretty similar to what happens on pay-per-minute phone sex lines or peep shows like the Lusty Lady. I’m rather curious to know what the viewing patterns are on subscription sites that don’t charge per minute and I wonder how those different viewing patterns influence how people feel about what they watch.
I’d also like to see more work done that discusses the effect that porn has on people’s sexual relationships. We hear quite a bit about the negative impact and I’m quite sure that much of that is true for many people. But we don’t hear as much from the people who watch porn and never have problems. After all, there’s no money to be made by setting up a clinic or writing books for people who don’t have problems. And of course, lots of people are hesitant to publicly talk about their porn viewing outside of the cycle of confession and redemption that characterizes much of the discussion of the problems of porn. From what I’ve seen, there’s not much research about people who have positive relationships with porn and I think that’s a missing piece of the puzzle.
Perhaps it’s not really fair of me to critique Porn.com for its lack of research when it’s not meant to be a collection of research articles. After all, most of the porn debates are based on anecdotes, personal opinions, and academic theory rather than the lived experiences of porn performers, producers, or viewers, so this book fits right in. And unlike some of the other voices in those discussions, the articles in this book are quite balanced, neither villifying nor whitewashing the topic. As long as you can enjoy the academic-speak, if you’re interested in learning about porn, it’s well worth a read.