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Porn 2.0

Aymar Jean Christian September 22, 2008 uncategorized 4 Comments

Porn 2.0

By Aymar Jean Christian

Talking about porn is like talking about money. In America, it just isn’t done. So it’s a special day in life of every boy—and some girls’—when one day a friend pulls you aside and asks: “have you heard of XTube?”

Or YouPorn, YouPornGay, RedTube, Pornotube, Pornhub, Megarotic, Spankwire, TNAFlix, even DList, well, you get the idea.

What are these sites? If you don’t have friends like mine, then maybe you haven’t heard of the newest wave in porn, or Porn 2.0 as it’s being called. It’s YouTube but hardcore, Vimeo uncensored, and it’s become extraordinarily popular. Some of the sites attract about as many monthly viewers as popular news sites like WashingtonPost.com, and by my count the top six sites get as many eyes as CNN.com (27 million), though far less than the smut-free YouTube (75 million). That’s pretty impressive for a bunch of sites that have few outlets for advertising. Most people find out about them during indecent conversations with friends or lovers, samizdat-style, the same way porn’s been historically disseminated.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been living in a cave. These sites aren’t that new. They started getting noticed in the second half of 2006, according to Fleshbot, who’s been documenting the trend with diligence. They grew quickly in 2007. Now in 2008 it seems like it’s past the trend stage and become a staple of porn consumption.

XTube is, in my view, the best of the sites, even though it’s not the most popular. It is the perfect synthesis of what the Internet means today: connecting with others, generating your own material and, in some cases, profiting off that material. Of the top 25 XTube videos viewed recently, only three were clearly “industry” porn, the rest were uploaded by less (financially) endowed individuals. The top five videos have gathered a collective 25 million views, and only one of those was professional. Amateur porn has been around since the home video, but until now most of it has been confined to industrious entrepreneurs with lots of time to market and distribute. Now distribution is easier, the audience bigger and more eager to watch. Amateurs can actually sell their videos online for a few bucks on XTube. Those homemade sex tapes have become a business venture.

That’s because today—correct me if I’m wrong—people are yearning for authentic, sincere experiences. XTube allows people to create profiles, make friends, comment on videos, and subscribe to channels just like YouTube. And most comments are celebratory, a pat on the back for someone else’s good fuck. Sure, production quality isn’t always fantastic, and while some of the most popular videos on XTube will never win awards, they are visceral and raw (yes, very often not “safe” in the traditional sense). Some are sloppy—in real life things don’t always slip in as easily as with professionals! Most of the sets are dull—no posh couches and fantastic lighting. But you get the sense that the aches and groans are genuine, and that makes it hot.

Of course part of the appeal is that it’s fast. Remember the days of getting porn off P2P networks like KaZaA? Waiting 30 minutes for a download could really kill a hankering. No longer. Porn 2.0 sites promise thrills in seconds.

One of the greatest pleasures, besides the obvious one, of these sites is the chance to encounter something new. XTube has a fairly open door policy. There are fat people, ethnic people, old people, fisters, gay people, bi people, ugly people, hot people, S&M people, self-suck fetishists, dildo-play lovers, etc. all one site. Community sites like Ning, which hosts all sorts of communities have flourished by offering people with specific tastes a venue to share videos. (A large part of Ning’s four million regular viewers partake in porn). Porn on the web used to be quite segregated. If you wanted interracial porn you went to this or that site, straight porn at this site, twinks at this site, silver daddies at another one. But many of those sites dump short clips of their videos onto porn 2.0 portals like Redtube and YouPorn. The industry does it for promotion, to drive subscriptions. But for cheap people like myself, a 30-second to one-minute clip is all that’s necessary! You know what I’m saying!

All these sites constitute a profound development in the history of film and porn. Yes, porn is still, mostly, a solitary act, but these sites tell us that we all like sex—all sorts of us—and it’s all okay. It connects us through intimate networks. In the early 20th century, porn entrepreneurs would travel from town to town with a projector, round up interested men, and they would watch it together. Things have come full circle, and we’re all watching each other get off. It’s time to be honest about it.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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