Forget about smelling the eau-de-dog-shit on the guy beside you. Forget glaring at the jerk playing My Baby Takes the Morning Train at full blast on his iPod. You can even forget about that bastard who screams into his cell phone as though the rest of the SkyTrain cares what he thinks about his new shoes.
Today’s patrons of the proletariat chariot are just as likely to focus their anxiety on public masturbators.
The line between public and private was further erased with last year’s release of the video iPod. Almost immediately, a new cottage industry of portable porn has sprung up online, which allows users to download short erotic films onto mobile devices. It might just change the way admirers of smut think about, and consume, their beloved imagery.
The shift began, of course, with the internet itself. Jim Deva, of Little Sister’s Bookstore, says online access to porn has significantly hampered sales of hard copy videos. “It’s a dying thing; there’s no doubt about it. It started four years ago,” he says. “People are just regrouping and trying to get involved in the online thing now. I don’t think there’s any way of fighting that.”
And retailers of hardcopy porn aren’t the only ones being forced to reinvent themselves. File swapping sites have put pressure on lawmakers and video producers alike to reconsider the finer points of intellectual property.
Todd Klink, owner of Mayhem North, produces his own porn and sells both DVDs and streaming video through his website. “Why bother trying to contain it?” he asks. “There’s going to be leakage [of online porn]. Information wants to be free. It’s the job of the artist to get as much money as they can.”
For Klink, the current file sharing debate surrounding porn (which has been exacerbated by new iPod video technology) is akin to debates that plagued the music industry recently. “Record companies could have made so much money,” he says, “if they’d gotten into MP3 sales like Apple has, instead of fighting it.”
Michael Taylor runs Rabbits Reviews, a website devoted to reviewing porn and linking customers to niche markets. He says DVD-oriented porn companies only began allowing websites to be built using their videos in the past three years. “These video companies were sitting on so much content, worth so much money, but they were the last to get on board with the internet.”
The money mainstream multi-national corporations, such as cable companies and credit companies are raking in, means that porn itself has become a distinctly mainstream interest in the global marketplace. “Porn is as mainstream as you can get right now,” says Taylor. “It’s a $13-billion industry-it’s bigger than movies. A lot of people are paying, a lot are watching. The way that VHS affected pornography doesn’t come close to how the internet has changed things.”
And yet Taylor predicts this is just the beginning. The video iPod phenomenon has not yet hit its stride and, when it does, porn is going to be a lot more public than it’s ever been before.
Klink has his doubts, however, as to how pod-porn will pan out in reality. “It’s become cool to download stuff onto iPods and share them with your friends,” he concedes, “but bottom line: you watch porn to jerk off, and it’s kinda hard to imagine sitting on a train with your iPod, jerking off. I just mean, from a jerking perspective, it’s not practical.”
But Taylor takes a more philosophical approach: “Awareness and exposure increases people’s openness to it. If you’re prejudiced, chances are you haven’t had much contact with what you’re prejudiced against.” For Taylor, then, mobile porn brings smut out of the closet and forces controversial materials into the daylight. What’s more, “technology has brought isolated people together-no matter what kinky fetish I have, chances are there’s thousands of other people around the world like me.” Here’s hoping.
Gadget bloggers have been speculating for months now about the next generation of iPods-a four-inch colour screen built to sync with a new iTunes website that will supply users with full-length movies. Someday soon, porn aficionados may be unabashedly watching their porn on screens so large that fellow bus-riders won’t be able to avert their eyes fast enough. The question is: will they want to?