By Zach Schepis
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
“I never doubt the existence of God.”
Believe it or not, but porn subscription rates are higher in states where the majority of residents agree with the above statement.
Pious porn lovers aren’t the only subscribers: rates also rise in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality. The same is true where defense of marriage amendments have been adopted. In these 27 states there are 11 percent more porn subscribers than in other states throughout the rest of the country.
What gives? Since when have sexually conservative ideologies become synonymous with adult entertainment?
Harvard Economics Professor Benjamin Edelman reported these findings, among others, in his article “Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?” recently published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. In an age where virtually any form of media is available online for free consumption, Edelman sought to investigate how many people still opt to pay for their pleasure.
To do this, Edelman observed subscriptions to a top-10 seller of online adult entertainment. He compared ZIP codes tied to all credit card subscriptions between 2006 and 2008; noting where the highest concentrations of subscribers were located.
In case you were wondering, it turns out Utah takes home the smutty cake. According to the study, there are 5.47 users per 1,000 home broadband users. Mississippi was a close second in the running.
“Looking at the relative popularity of online adult entertainment among Utah customers,” he said in a recent interview with Deseret News, “one possibility is that Utah consumers find it difficult to obtain their desired adult entertainment through retail purchases… As a result, Utah residents may be buying online (hence appearing in my dataset), whereas people elsewhere buy retail (hence not in my dataset).”
There are other reasons, naturally. Users tend to favor high-speed data transfers with the capability of downloading videos as quickly as possible.
But this still doesn’t explain why conservative consumers account for the majority of pornographic subscription services.
“The forbidden is really tempting,” University of Utah Sociology Professor Theresa A. Martinez told Lee Davidson, a reporter for Deseret News. “Where you have a culture that is known for family values, morality and apple pie, you will also have curiosity and interest in the forbidden.”
Davidson conducted an exercise in 2007 which discovered that Utahns were more likely to search for words such as “naked girls” and “pornography” than other states, and in some instances even the world. The words “Jesus,” “Mormon,” and “Mitt Romney” also topped the list.
“When you have extreme light, or people trying to do good things, you often also find the opposite in extreme,” Steve Pumphrey told the local news. Pumphrey is the director of LifeSTAR, a Utah-based company that counsels sex addicts.
While Utah may take the cherry (no pun intended) for the highest percentage nation-wide of pornography subscribers, these very same subscription services are drawing increased attention from a wider audience. No matter how studies come to discover and classify subscription porn enthusiasts, the fact remains the same: their forces are strong, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Despite the ease of accessibility that causes some viewers to gravitate towards free sites, paid subscription services remain a viable competition. New advancements in technology allow for a convenience not before possible, and perhaps more importantly, provide increased identity discretion.
The Roku is a streaming player with built in wireless that allows customers to access Netflix and VideoBox, along with other subscription services. Members can utilize the ChannelStore to access adult channels, which can be inputted manually through an account.
Roku, however, does not acknowledge these private channels. In a press statement they wrote:
“Roku does not review or approve private channels. So why would a developer choose to release a channel as a private channel instead of submitting it to the Roku Channel Store? The content could contain content not appropriate for the store. An adult-oriented channel is a good example of a channel that Roku would not publish publicly.”
It becomes apparent that, although Roku wants to protect its image, it is also still interested in hosting pornographic content because there is a clear demand to fulfill for subscription services. With the privacy of the audience in mind, accessing these channels can be done through a discreet icon set to a desired access control.
Some porn enthusiasts will pay the extra mile to enjoy their favorite entertainment on a television from the comfort of their sofa, especially when they don’t need to worry about unsuspecting family members stumbling upon anything too revealing in the channel directory.
Another eccentric, yet effective, example is the website Naughty Americans, which will accept gift cards in exchange for full access to their network of websites. They accept cards from retail outlets including Starbucks, Target, Macy’s, and Home Depot. According to the site, a $15 card earns someone a 16- day subscription, while a $100 card grants a 344- day membership.
“Nothing says America like the freedom of choice,” Naughty America founder Andreas Hronopoulos said in a release. “This is a great deal for the holidays. Instead of using a gift card for a $5 coffee, you’re getting a porn subscription.”
If users are so widespread, then why isn’t there a Netflix of porn?
Let’s face it. Mainstream video spaces can attribute a great deal of their success towards word of mouth and friends recommending services through expansive outlets like social media. This is much less likely to be the case with adult content, which is very often a private matter for most.
Furthermore, without the coffers that made Netflix possible in the first place, such a site would need an alternative source of funding. Netflix raked in billions of dollars through renting DVDs, which provided them more than ample resources to take care of content licensing. Most online adult companies only have a fraction of the massive budget that made Netflix possible in the first place. Adult content providers such as FyreTV end up selling studio-specific subscriptions rather than one all-encompassing, flat-fee catalogue a la Netflix. Nobody yet has been able to line up all of the studios.
Enter Skweezme (think The Who’s “Squeezebox,” only kinkier), which is an online subscription service attempting to be the “Netflix of porn.” The video on demand service was launched at the end of January, and according to co-founder Michael Kulich, it will convince people to give up their free porn in favor of paying for it.
Skweezme offers 24 hours of access for a mere $.99, and provides a variety of featured studios and channels. While previous attempts to start this kind of service have failed miserably due to studio reluctancy to sign on, these very same studios are now coming around.
It has become clear that if sites like Skweezme don’t take the game back, then the adult film industry could very well perish. Free sites such as Pornhub, Redtube, and Tube8, among countless others have severely hindered an industry that was once flourishing. Furthermore, online piracy has almost completely obliterated pornographic DVD sales. Then the recession hit, which according to estimates, ran over 80 percent of porn companies out of business.
Studios are beginning to line up for sites like Skweezme, hoping to plug the leaks in their wallets. They also realize that if something isn’t done, and fast, then porn subscriptions will soon become a wet dream of the past.
“The consumer mentality right now is that free porn is just a God-given right, and they don’t look at the production line,” Kulich said in a recent press release.
“What they don’t realize is that if everyone just watches for free, there’s gonna be no new content, and everyone’s gonna be watching the same clips over and over for the next 20 years.”