So there’s this essay by Christopher Zeischegg aka Danny Wylde. It’s titled On The Moral Imperative To Commodify Our Sexual Suffering and I think there’s some stuff in there I disagree with. I have to say “I think” because it’s a dense essay with a lot of nuance, some of which may be getting past me. What’s more, I haven’t been where Zeischegg has been or done what he’s done. What I have done is worked (in my pasty-faced keyboarding way) in the same porn industry as him, and experienced (right along with him) certain changes in the porn business:

You’ve heard of the website PornHub.com? It’s owned by an international corporation called MindGeek. They used to be called Manwin, when they were developing a strategy to make free-mostly-pirated-porn sites the new normal. Employees were paid to rip DVDs and upload pirated content faster than any porn studio could send out their DMCA notices. MindGeek single-handedly caused the collapse of the pay-for-porn model of business. Kind of like how Napster killed the music industry. Except Napster did its damage and then disappeared. MindGeek went on to buy out every financially gutted porn studio until it resembled a production/distribution monopoly. MindGeek is Brazzers. MindGeek is Elegant Angel. MindGeek is Men.com. MindGeek is PornHub. You get the point.

Zeischegg, who no longer performs in porn after “all the ED drugs had caught up with” him, got a full time job filming and producing the stuff. He became bored, and in describing his boredom, he invokes one of the fears that animates me:

I could say with some certainty – after staring at several hundred hours of content in the absence of arousal – that porn had become boring.

There was flesh and it was fucked. Everyone over the age of 12 could list the ways in which a cock could fill a hole. Pornography was the equivalent of pop music – culturally omnipotent and void of all significance. It was visual mediocrity compounded by such widespread financial collapse that there might never again exist the capitalist incentive for novelty or spectacle.

“…that there might never again exist the capitalist incentive for novelty or spectacle.”

Sit with that thought. Allow it to fill you. Taste it, smell it. Try not to cry. If you love porn, novelty, and spectacle (and I love all three!) it’s pretty depressing, and there’s a lot of evidence loose in the world of 2015 that it might be true.

Zeischegg writes of suffering a severe depression “which may have never waned.” I want to think his depression is talking in the above quote. I want to think that porn as an art form will survive the loss of its status as an industry, and that once the MindGeek monoculture is as forgotten as Myspace, pornographic novelty and spectacle will flourish again, in a dynamic commercial ecosystem of small but creative businesses.

I want to think that. But I haven’t seen all that Zeischegg has seen.

As for the rest of his essay? He’s totally not done. He goes on to discuss in-person sexwork and the pressure it’s under as a business in a world where the decline of sexual shame is putting downward pressure on prices. Example sentence: “There’s Grindr. What’s the incentive to pay a young hustler for a blowjob?” He finishes up with an extended parable (or so I choose to read it) carrying his commodification notions to a logical conclusion that features a proposed partnership with a necromancer for the production of snuff films.

As far as I am concerned, he may have his fun with his necromancer. Or don’t call it fun: call it rather his Swiftian condemnation of the quest for novelty in extreme libertinage, if you choose to read him that way. It’s about the decline of sexual shame where I think we differ. He seems (and I freely admit to the possibility of misunderstanding) to think the decline of sexual shame is a bad thing. He’s regretful that, through writing and advocacy, he “did [his] part to normalize a profession that should have remained in the shadows.” He’s downright derisive about young women willing to make porn for low compensation as a (his scare quotes) “political act”. I can’t tell how much of this is a considered philosophy, versus sour grapes or just sourness in general. But I would argue that making porn and doing in-person sexwork are professions that have benefited from, and will benefit further from, the decline of sexual shame. It’s true that the premium wages they used to command will never come back, except perhaps for narrow specialists; but that’s no bad thing. The high wages were in part compensation for the social condemnation that came with the job. As the condemnation wanes — and it’s still got a long way to go! — it’s only logical that the wages will decline too.

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