By C. Harold Pierce
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ts beginnings trace back to side street theaters that guys ducked into looking to get in and get off. But it has progressed faster than almost any industry in the nation.
In many ways, porn has driven the rapid acceleration of technology. Pornographers pumped money into the industry, leading to mainstream advancements like streaming videos and online payment systems.
“Where are the virtual reality glasses, where’s the Oculus Rift, and where’s your Google Glass? Where’s that happening? You don’t see that in the pornographic world and if you do, it’s really on the mom and pop level or literally in somebody’s basement,” said Damon Brown, author of Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture. “Innovations are still happening, but you’re seeing it on the indie level … you don’t see those efforts coming from the major players in the pornographic industry.”
During porn’s golden age, its popularity drove consumers to choose the VCR format over Betamax. About 75 percent of video sales were pornographic, and the Sony-owned company would not publish adult films. The VCR won out.
Beyond that, the Internet flourished because of the adult-film industry’s influence.
[quote]“Porn comes in and gives people the motivation to master a new technology. It tends to create the initial market that then allows that technology to open into the mainstream,” said Patchen Barss, author of The Erotic Engine.[/quote]
About 69 percent of money exchanged on the Internet in 2000 involved porn, according to Barss’ research.
It’s no secret that Americans hide their pornographic consumption habits. That same yearning for privacy drove the creation of online payment systems. Before that, subscribers would get billed by mail, leaving a paper trail of their indiscretions for their wives and girlfriends to find.
Netflix consumers have porn to thank, too. Pioneering smut site Danni’s Harddrive was among the first to use streaming videos, delivering electric sex gleaming through computer monitors without the inconvenience of long download times and the risk of viruses.
And that Skype conversation you had with your folks last night? Chalk it up to skin flicks. Long before webcams’ popularity boomed, porn was using them for interactive chat sessions with its biggest stars.
[quote]“There are so many terrible aspects to the pornography industry that people are unwilling to acknowledge it has contributed to anything in technological advance,” Barss said.[/quote]
But lately, the roughly $3 billion industry has been slowing down innovation and focusing on standardizing products.
Its latest lesser-known advances, including Real Touch and Fleshlight, were sponsored by indie outfits. The two X-Rated film companions simulate the feel of a woman. Real Touch even has a USB cable and syncs up with videos to maximize pleasure.
Porn has led the industry with so many now common advancements that a non-sleazy application for Real Touch actually seems fathomable.
It’s just a matter of time before smut peddlers find another technology to conquer and share. With the level of detachment porn creates while striving for something tactile, the virtual reality helmet Oculus Rift could be it. The product is still in development, but if pornographers find ways to capitalize on it, that could change.
“When new technologies come along that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar, I have little doubt that pornography will wield that kind of influence again,” Barss said.