From Issue 2.5 - March/April 1996
Hey, I came of age in the '70s. I chanted the slogans. I would have burned my bra if I'd owned one. And I learned all about the wealthy, exploitive pornographers who were smoking fat, smelly, phallic Havana cigars paid for with the obscene profits they'd squeezed out of the bodies of innocent young women.
Well, now it's the '90s, and I am a pornographer -- at least by the standards of much of America -- and so are most of my friends. And nobody has offered me a Havana cigar in ages. In fact, most of the people I know who work as sex writers, artists, publishers, and performers need to scrimp for a few days to manage a pack of Camels. If sex sells, who's buying? And why aren't they buying from us?
Virtually everyone I know has at least dipped a toe into creating or producing sexually oriented materials. Some of us are writers, some are photographers, some are artists, some are videographers, some are performers, some are publishers, and some are distributors. Our financial statuses range from marginally comfortable to just-this-side-of-homeless.
I used to think that this was because we were producing a new kind of erotica, a kind that respects its customers and focuses on their brains as well as their gonads. This helped me feel better about my perennial brokeness, but was otherwise a straw man. Since then, I've met some of the folks who produce traditional porn, and they're doing a bit better, but not much. One friend who works in that field says the exception is the friendly fellows who produce the 25-cent-a-peek peep show machines -- he says they are raking in the bucks. Well, I'm glad someone is!
Aside from our subject matter, in fact, most of the people I know who do what we'll call "sexual communications" have the same concerns as their analogs in the straight world. Writers bitch about insensitive editors and slow or nonexistent royalty checks. Artists are tortured by inadequate fees and by art directors who reject their most sensitive and heartfelt work in favor of commercial dreck. Performers put in days under hot lights and nights carrying hot trays of restaurant food. Publishers writhe in the twin grip of spiraling paper costs and punishing distributor discounts. And so on.
I think sexual communicators can take their place alongside childcare workers as people who provide the world with a critically necessary service in spite of disdain and indifference -- often from those who use our services the most. We're not unionized. We're not subsidized. We're usually not even too well organized. We're just sitting here exercising our imaginations, libidos, and creativity to help make people smarter and happier about sex.
And now, our "friends" in Washington are raising the ante even higher, trying to prevent us from utilizing important new electronic media to transmit our messages or sell our products. In other words, we're no longer just broke -- we're broke and criminal. (I think I liked the drug counterculture better; it may have suffered under absurd lawmaking, but at least it paid pretty well.)
Before this country gets sane again, we may see a few of our leading sexual communicators take the same risk their predecessors did a generation or two ago -- the risk of winding up behind bars. Why, then, do we do it? Clue: it ain't for the money, honey! Many of us left well-paying professions -- my last job, in an ad agency, paid about three times what I make right now -- to spread the smutty word. We may do it because, sometime in our pasts, we were helped to feel less isolated and miserable by a well-written porn story or how-to article. We may do it because we're dedicated to the radical position that sex is a positive influence on the universe and that pleasure is good for people. We may do it because it's fun and satisfying in a way that meter-reading or taxi-driving or code-writing usually isn't. Or we may do it because it gets us laid a lot. But whatever our own personal reasons, we are doing it -- and we aren't getting rich from it.
So the next time you bitch about the cost of your favorite skin
magazine, or that how-to book you've been wanting, or the videotape
that's going to get you off countless times in the next couple of
weeks, keep in mind what it is you're really buying: a reduction in
shame, an increase in sexual skill, and the life-enhancing gift of
arousal and orgasm. Cheap for what you're getting, right?
Lady Green is the author of The Sexually Dominant Woman: A Workbook for Nervous Beginners and the co-author of The Bottoming Book: Or, How To Get Terrible Things Done To You By Wonderful People (under the name Catherine A. Liszt). She also publishes a newsletter and teaches classes for novice dominant women and their partners. For a catalog please send a self-addressed stamped envelope to 3739 Balboa Ave. #195, San Francisco, CA 94121, or send her e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.