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Eros Unbound: Pornography and the Internet

Date & Time:
15:00:00 - 16:30:00,
Thursday 26 October, 2006


Noel Coward thought pornography was ‘terribly, terribly boring’. Many Americans evidently disagree, judging by the billions of dollars spent annually on pornographic goods and services and the countless hours devoted to myriad forms of non-commercial cyber-sexual activity. Despite the dubiety of the revenue claims made by and about the adult entertainment industry, and despite the general difficulty of gathering reliable data on Web use, there is little doubt that the Internet, with its global reach and massive bandwidth, has transformed the market for pornographic goods and services, in terms of scale, scope and structure. It has also facilitated a variety of personal experimentation, exploration, exhibitionism and remote sexual interaction that is without precedent.

In this talk, I:

  • Provide some historical background on representations of sexuality in everyday life

  • Describe the gradual emergence of mass markets for pornography

  • Acknowledge the mutual shaping of pornography and technology

  • Summarize recent cycles of media substitution as they affect the market for, and public attitudes towards, pornography

I also identify a number of trends that are contributing to the progressive ‘sexualization of the public sphere, including:

  • The democratization of pornography production

  • The domestication of pornography consumption

  • The development of next generation interactive technologies

I review some of the frequently invoked statistics on the dimensions of the adult market and its constituent parts and also examine the pyramid-like structure of the industry, the diversity of established firms and new entrants, and the factors that confer competitive advantage (e.g., brand salience, proprietary digital asset base, access to capital, innovation capacity). To illustrate some of my general points I describe the organizational and financial structures of a number of publicly traded and other adult entertainment companies which are perceived to be technological pacesetters.

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  • Name: Professor Blaise Cronin
  • Affiliation: Rudy Professor of Information Science at Indiana University
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