Gerard Van der Leun on Thu, 30 Apr 1998 21:40:45 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Trouble In Pornutopia

Trouble  in Pornutopia

If you wanted even more proof that nothing makes a 
situation worse than Congress' meddling, you don't have 
to look much further than the boomtown of Pornutopia on 
the World Wide Web. 

Pornutopia is everywhere on the Web these days. 
Pornutopia erupts in the Usenet newsgroups built 
with endless promises and links and "free" image 
files of everything from Kate Moss' left nipple to 
"Goldicocks and the Three Bares." 

Pornutopia surges  in tsunamis of bandwidth and 
rolls over huge amounts of paid corporate "research" time 
from coast to coast. Stock market analysts browsing for 
"Barely Legal Teens" may well miss the essential data that 
tells them a stock-market  crash is about to happen.

Pornutopia erupts  into email in the form of poorly 
Photoshopped attached images of genuine movie stars 
involved in various sexual acts. (I don't know about you 
but I wouldn't want an image of Meg Ryan in the shadow 
of a penis just popping up on my home email viewer.) 

Since the defeat of the ill-conceived Computer 
Decency Act before the Supreme Court last summer, 
Pornutopia has developed faster than a scalded goat. Yup, 
the gold rush is on in Pornutopia as every wannabe 
pornographer in the world slaps up a Web site fed with 
streams of Asian and Swedish and San Fernando Valley 
porn. Graphic, organized into categories, and the one 
burning reason for middle managers locked in their offices 
around the globe to badger the company coffers for faster 
and faster Internet connections. ("Dammit, tell those trolls 
in accounting that I need to seeing streaming videos of 
Debby Doing Dallas and Suburbs right now! I don't care 
how much it costs, just get it done!")

But like every boomtown, Pornutopia is now 
heading for a bust, and not one that is surgically enhanced, 
but one whose title is Chapter 11. You see, the great thing 
about sex on the Net is that it sells (Big surprise, right?). 
In any new medium, one of the first successful areas of 
commerce is sex -- stag films, X-rated video cassettes, 900 
calls. But the bad thing is that sex in a new medium 
initially sells so well that it sucks in the amateurs as well as 
the pros in large numbers. And, like anything else, the 
market for sex on the Web is only so big. If you have a 
million customers and a hundred sites, you've got a 
thriving retail industry. But if you have a million 
customers and a hundred  thousand sites, many sites are 
slated for going out of business sales. 

For thousands of mom -and-pop pornographers 
throughout cyberspace, going out of business is now just a 
matter of time. What once looked like springtime for porn 
on the Net has become, through the very nature of the Net, 
a boneyard of boners. Any casual consumer of porn these 
days can see the signs. One site promises free pictures and 
suddenly, to compete, all the sites offer free pictures. Then 
the middlemen climb aboard and offer pages of hot links 
that advertise the benefits of hundreds of sites all with free 
pictures of week, the day, the hour and, currently, the 
moment. This of course is not enough for the rather finite, 
jaded and easily bored pornhounds of cyberspace. Soon 
there has to be the promise of more e and more bizarre  
images and film clips -- snakes, horses, amputees, the 
same 24 inch silicon penis that had 200,000 miles on it the 
time Marilyn Chambers retired -- anything to entice and 
excite, yet again, those for whom a day without a dildo 
shot is a day without sunshine.

The result is that Pornutopia is less and less like an 
elegant bordello where all desires are catered to and all 
obsessions satisfied, and more and more like a cheap 
carnival freak show or  a small town dirty book store in the 
strip mall right down by the bus station just across from 
the trailer park. Not that there's anything wrong with this, 
but when you get a whole cybercity made of this stuff, 
virtual real estate values tumble.

And so they have. The endless proliferation of 
small time porn palaces has resulted in a price war. What 
started six months ago as a standard price of around $15-
$20 a month for "membership" has now tumbled to $3.95 
for "multiple memberships." In addition, the endless 
networking of banners and blinking images and animated 
gifs of above-average blow jobs by the well-endowed of 
both sexes has gotten so out of hand that, in search of just 
one free image, the hapless porn hound can watch window 
beget window beget window in a seemingly endless circle 
-jerk of titillation until one forgets not only where one is 
but where one came from and watches helplessly as the 
computer wheezes to a halt and crashes into the ground yet 
again. This is an utter and excruciating bore at 
InfoHighway cruising speeds of T1, and must make the 
hapless browser using his or her new 56K modem from a 
home connection want to empty a full clip into the 

The Net result of all these desperate  efforts to corral 
and manipulate those in quest of sex on the Net will be a 
vast die-off of the less well-funded and focused of the sites 
as, at last, even the most optimistic among the amateur 
pornveyors discover that although sex does sell, too much 
cheap sex is just another way of enriching companies like 
Netscape, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft while beggaring 
themselves. Once the die-off is well underway, the current 
rosy predictions for the Web as the way-new medium for 
making money will suffer yet another setback as august 
journals such as the New York Times and the Wall Street 
Journal emit baffled articles  about how not even sex sells 
on the World Wide Web. They'll be wrong, of course, and 
will miss the fact that sex, well done and with a flair for 
what is erotic rather than merely base, will always sell. 

The death of sex on the Net will occur not because of sex 
itself, but because too many monkeys at too many 
keyboards uploaded too many  images that were, in the 
final analysis, always the same. If the pornhounds of 
cyberspace wanted a Pornutopia that was always the same, 
they'd just logoff and go sleep with their wives and 
girlfriends. Which maybe isn't such a bad idea in the first 
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