Aleks Eror is Highsnobiety’s resident fashion skeptic, Devil’s advocate and purveyor of unpopular opinions. If his abrasive tone sounds familiar, you may have read his argument on why the Air Max 97 should never be re-released, or how fashion encapsulates neoliberalism. In a change of direction, this time he weighs in on a topic dear to him: porn.

It’s said that there’s no such things as a free lunch, but there’s definitely such things as free porn. It’s all over the Internet, practically unavoidable – you’ve probably already seen it – jumping up at you like a Scooby Doo villain from the launching pad of a pop-up window, getting your pulse racing and your adrenal glands pumping as you click furiously to shut it before your mom walks in. With so much free porn sloshing about on the web, the concept of paying for it seems utterly ludicrous to most people; yet like the bottled water industry, which still endures despite the abundance of taps in the developed world, paid porn is plentiful out there, and from my experience, totally worth paying for.

Finding definitive figures on how many people pay for porn and how much they spend on it is difficult to gather due to the puritanical attitudes that our society still has regards sex, despite the sexual revolution being won nearly half a century ago. There’s this misconception that someone must be a pervert if they actively choose to pay for porn because that suggests that porn matters to their lives far more than to the average masturbator. While the latter is generally true, the former certainly isn’t.

People pay for porn for a variety of different reasons: those that frequent cam girls want a personalized experience and a bit of a human connection. Some have a favorite porn star from whom they derive great pleasure and want to pay them as a form of gratitude. There’s obviously older men who aren’t web literate and fund the few brick-and-mortar smut shops that still endure out there in the real world. And while some perverts no doubt pay for porn, not everybody who pays for porn is a pervert – that’s just lazy pop psychology cooked up by the sexually repressed, who’ve always stigmatized those whose kinks deviate from the norm.

My own stroll behind the paywall started innocently enough. While navigating the never-ending maze of tube sites I stumbled across one of them teaser pages connected to porn studio, Evil Angel, which specializes in that raw, aggressive form of gonzo (the unscripted, reality-tinged branch of porn, for those of you unfamiliar with the lingo) that I enjoy so much. My standard 90-second or however-long teaser led to a special offer: three-days of access for a paltry, disposable sum of $2.95 or something like that. I was curious to see if paid sites really offered a better product. And why not? I spend more on lunch every day.

I entered my debit card details, read the fine print that indicated that my subscription would automatically renew as a standard monthly-recurring membership if I didn’t cancel within those three days (which I did straight away, I had already handed over my few dollars, so those 72 hours couldn’t simply be taken away from me) and then…well, to spare you the sticky details, I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth.

Paid porn sites definitely offer a better product. To give you a tangible parallel, it’s like getting your news from the Twitter feed of a random Tweeter that witnessed a newsworthy event, as opposed to a detailed report from the Guardian, or foraging for scraps of half-eaten snacks at an already-exhausted party as opposed to shopping at Whole Foods. The quality is better, the packaging is slicker, the offering is bigger – especially the offering, it’s huge. I’d seen plenty of free offcuts of Evil Angel material, but only once you’ve peered past the paywall can you truly grasp how much porn these studios produce and how much never makes it to the tube sites. Not only that but you can easily locate individual stars, cut straight through to specific acts that tickle your fancy at that particular time, and every single video is in full-length, high-definition. Paid sites offer an assurance, everything is so much smoother. It’s like having a professional live-in chef cook you a scrumptious meal every time you’re hungry rather than fumbling a questionable kebab into your mouth at four in the morning.

Nexofin

After my cut-price teaser trial expired, I took up the same offer with a number of different websites to see if my experience with Evil Angel was an anomaly or the standard. Predictably, my next stop was Brazzers. A couple of others followed, although I can’t recall which ones they were right now, but I do remember that they all had a vastly superior offering to the free sites, a discrepancy that convinced me to return to Evil Angel and sign up for a full membership. Although that decision was predominantly a stylistic one – the gagging, retching, tear-streaked eye shadow, unfiltered close-ups and gasps for air that pepper the studio’s material is simply what I’m into – I have no doubt that paysites offers a better viewer experience to their no-priced competitors.

But beyond a mere return-on-investment, there’s an upside to paid sites that I’m convinced is simply good for your brain. The web’s free porn is largely comprised of short teaser clips, and unless you have particularly short lasting power, this format helps foster shortened attention spans. Viewers rapidly jump between them, a habit that eventually grows into skipping through individual clips, watching only short, several-second bursts of each one. This is part of a wider technologically induced degradation in our focus, one that’s further exasperated by mediums like Twitter and opening countless browser tabs. Every paysite video is presented in full-length, and while you can just easily skip ahead in a half hour-long video as a 30-second clip, I feel that paysites make it easier to discipline yourself, to focus on a single porno in its entirety. It’s a matter of habit and practice, but I’ve found that doing this has boosted my attention span, which has had a beneficial effect on other areas of my life, like my concentration while reading.

Tablet Mag

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly of all, there’s an ethical argument for paying for porn: quite simply, the industry deserves support. Few fields, music and journalism aside, have been so profoundly affected by the digitization of their product. Maybe you don’t see anything wrong with getting free shit off the internet, but let’s look at it from an angle of sustainability.

How can the industry continue to exist if no one is paying for its product? Musicians can still perform live, while writing and publishing an article online is far cheaper than producing a porno, a process that involves cast, crew and equipment for both filming and editing. A single writer can type up an article for a pittance, or even worse, for free (and there are far many out there that do), but pornography has far too many overheads and requires too much collective effort for everyone involved to simply forego payment. And that’s even before you take into account the stigma that’s still attached to working in porn, a stigma that people expect to be compensated for.

As things stand, the future looks bleak. In 1997, famed documentary maker, Louis Theroux, produced his first film on the porn industry, traveling to its LA epicenter to peer inside a world that exists beyond the reach of the public eye. He returned 15 years later to check back on how the industry had adapted to the internet revolution, and what he found was decimation. Countless studios had gone under, actors were earning significantly less, and the whole model that had existed up until 2007 lay in a state of total ruin, all because people refuse to pay for the porn that they so obviously watch. It’s hard to see how the industry can continue to exist in 10 or 15 years time at this rate. It will, but it will be a scaled-back and hollowed-out version of its current self. Like the fabled free lunch, free porn also comes at a price.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

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