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In the 21st century, porn is an economic and cultural engine unto itself, exerting its influence in the market, the bedroom, and our technological world. It is sex education for this generation. And it is readily accessible, for free, 24/7 via the internet.

While porn may be one of the oldest iterations of human culture, it is not immune to the rise of free (and/or pirated) content. In this multi-part series, we’re looking at the ways the internet has changed pornography: how it’s affecting performers, aesthetics, technology, and us.

In this segment, we look at how the content and form of porn has changed because of the internet. Read last week’s segment on the rise of VR porn here.

The internet has changed more than just the economics of porn: it’s also changed the form. While amateur porn has been around since polaroids and camcorders first allowed people to record their own images without involving a third party, webcams and home internet connections have made it even easier for average people to record and share their sexual exploits. Basically, the internet did to porn what it did to music with bedroom producers: shifted the balance of production power and consumer tastes in the process.

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First: what is amateur porn? The hallmarks, besides the non-professional performers, are a lack of plotline, scripted dialogue, costumes, but with a representation of a more authentic sexual experience.

At first, ‘amateur’ meant regular people filming themselves having sex; no porn stars. As tube sites began to receive more and more user-submitted amateur content in the 2000s, porn producers took note of the popularity of short, candid clips and wanted in on the act.

Today, if you search for ‘amateur porn’, you’ll find a mix of genuine amateurs recording from home and professionals recreating the amateur aesthetic (the latter is technically known as ‘reality porn’).

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At the same time as amateur porn was taking off, its close cousin, gonzo porn, was also emerging in the mainstream porn world. Gonzo takes its namesake from Hunter S. Thompson’s concept of gonzo journalism and places the filmmaker as an acknowledged participant in the scene.

You’ll usually find a male performer holding the camera and filming from their POV in an attempt to bring the viewer into the action. Like amateur porn, gonzo favors the short form and eschews plots, costumes, and scripts.

Amateur and gonzo stand in stark contrast to the cheesy narratives of porn’s VHS days and they now dominate the tube sites. That’s not to say that feature-length films are completely dead, though.

Issue #3 of @amerikarate is out with my butt on it!

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Parody porn – everything from series spoofs like Ten Inch Mutant Ninja Turtles and Big Bang Theory to Shaving Ryan’s Privates – combine mockery of pop culture phenomenons with boning.

The first porn parodies stretch back to the 1970s and ’80s but lay dormant for several decades before a minor renaissance in the late 2000s, propelled by hipster culture’s undying love for pastiche and irony (any other reasons for its popularity we can mention here?).

For contemporary casts of mainstream movies and TV shows, it can be a benchmark of success to have a porn parody made of your project (Anna Paquin reportedly gifted the entire cast and crew copies of True Blood’s porn clone).

Some producers of parody porn note that it’s less likely to be pirated than short-form clips and may develop into a solid revenue source for the industry if the pendulum of consumer preference swings back toward higher production values.

May the Fourth Be With You . . . And Also With You! #maythe4th #maythe4thbewithyou #maythefourthbewithyou #starwars

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The niche market of parody porn aside, the old-school narrative of the pizza delivery boy arriving at the doorstep of a lonely housewife, with his delivery of extra sausage, is an increasing rarity on tube sites.

Our constantly-wired brains, accustomed to jumping from clip to clip, don’t have the attention span to watch 60 minutes of one story. As one head of production says, “a lot of today’s porn is geared to a younger mentality that just wants hard-pounding sex.” And who wants to wait for a full length movie to load?

Like so many elements of human behavior, the internet is changing the literal way in which we consume porn. All of which is to say that feature-length porn films – and the production companies that were built on that format – are molding themselves to the particular conditions of the internet, and our brains (and libidos) are following suit.

In the next part of this series, we’ll look at the concept of “ethical porn” in a cash-strapped marketplace that’s increasingly saturated by content and driven by short attention spans. Stay tuned.

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