Doyoulikeporn?!

Prologue

It’s 11 o’clock on a Monday morning in Zurich. I’ve come to number 111 in the Langstrasse to be greeted by a warm smile at the box office and
a polite exchange of small talk with the friendly lady behind the counter. My contact arrives and we enter the building, passing by a man waiting at the door and inhaling forcefully on his cigarette.

Uneasily, he gives me the once over as we pass.
And then we’re inside. The back rows are occupied by several men
leaning back into their red leather seats. Their hands move rhythmically, hidden by the darkness. Although the heavy breathing is discernible in this corner of the room, the load groans coming from the front are the more dominant. We sit down – so I can briefly get a better impression of the room. On the big screen in front of us, a woman is jacking off three men at the same time; behind me some men are masturbating; and I’m sitting next to the CEO of Switzerland’s largest porn production company. Welcome to the sex cinema! Or more fitting: welcome to my book project: “Doyoulikeporn?!”

Naively and without all too much experience of the world of porn, I decided in fall 2007 that porn movies would be perfect topic for my thesis. And it was worth it. Several absurd situations, plenty of amazing and thoroughly interesting people, and insights from completely different perspectives made the creative process of this book a valuable and rewarding experience for me.

At the beginning, I wanted to find out why pornography is still such a
taboo. That’s the one question I can’t answer to this day. But, for that, I found out other answers to many other questions.

6 Chapters

The book spans an arc from the production side of things to the consumer. The aim of the project was to examine porn from a new
perspective. Most of the people know what porn movies are, some also watch it, but questions like how it all began, how they’ve changed, what you need to be a “pornstar”, how much you earn and all the information behind the scene, hardly anybody knows. And that’s what I tried to find.
Obviously, research was paramount, meaning I had to watch lots of different films and often found myself sitting in front of my monitor in a tracksuit at 9 a.m. making screenshots of people moaning and coming. However, these images aren’t necessarily easy to find in the book. My goal was not to show any pornographic content, as one might expect. The images are literally hidden in the pages of the book, locked away where readers can only catch a glimpse. Or, if the pages are torn apart, at which the point the readers have chosen to come out of the closet as far as their interests are concerned.
However, as far as I am aware, to this day, none of the pages have
been torn apart.

To start off with, the differences between erotic, sex and porn films had been explained. Several of the people who took part in my online survey considered themselves porn aficionados, simply because they had seen Emmanuelle parts 1 to 6. But real porno movies and big classics are “Deep throat” and “Die Beichte der Josefine Mutzenbacher” of the 1970s. They were worth looking at in greater detail. I can only recommend watching these films; they are extremely entertaining, and you can hardly see anything because of all the hair in the way.
I delved further into the history of porn from the 1970s until today.
Unfortunately, hardly any literature is available on the topic; very little has been annotated. It seems all the more incredible, then, that in the 1970s sex cinemas were sold out for days on end. Actors were treated as stars, maximum exposure was written in capitals. How the porn industry morphed over the years into the mainstream industry of today, orrelates with the changes of society, the interests and above all with changes in technology.

One particularlystriking example was the introduction of video tape – with which the porn industry consolidated its role as a technological pioneer. Film no longer needed to be developed; cassettes could easily be copied directly. And large-scale production lines were made much simpler. In
1977, the world’s first porn was released on videotape, one year before the first Hollywood blockbuster. At a time when video playback machines were still new and expensive, Sony’s Betamax technology and its  ne-hour tapes competed against JVC’s VHS format, which could fit whole feature-length films. The porn industry chose VHS, which was cheaper, but of inferior quality in comparison to Betamax. A little later, we all had VHS video recorders in our living rooms. And it’s of little or no wonder to hear that in prude, puritan America, the porn industry makes more per year than all of Hollywood.

In the next step, the film I used as a representative example (“Viennese” by Renee Pornero, 2007) provided another small highlight in my research, as the budget overview afforded me insight into what sorts of food our sexually active friends consume during shoots. Fast food from McDonalds seems to have definitive aphrodisiac effects. A script with a plot that completely leaves out any mention of sex scenes was another one of the more absurd features I came across. After all, isn’t sexual intercourse anything but a sideline? Depending on the director, scenes are improvised directly on set. However, as I wanted to compare this film’s sex scenes, I developed the “X codes”, an encoded list of items describing who was in which position in each scene. The individual positions were also coded and then placed in sequence in a time code model of the scenes.

In the next chapter, interviews with self-proclaimed porno punk Peter
Preissle were just as insightful and exciting as with actors like Will
Steiger (who admires the German actor Til Schweiger) and the actress
Louisa Lamour, who listed her dog and “fucking” as her hobbies. And to
round the whole thing off with one of the most important elements in
the porn food chain, I conducted an anonymous survey of 132 of my
fellow human beings on their porn film habits. Their answers obviously depended on their age, but it was still interesting to find out, that 35 % of them had seen their first porn movie before they reached the age of 15. Surprisingly, 79 % affirmed to stand by in public watching porn movies. And someone considered people who watch porn regularly as not being satisfied in their sexual life.

Doyoulikeporn?!

Do I like porn? I couldn’t really tell. “Like” probably isn’t quite the right term. What I discovered about the industry definitely changed my opinion – for the better. Some of the moments that changed my view included my visit to the Extasia erotic industry trade fair and its amusing visitors, who go there to finally show their nasty side in public. Several visits to see Magmafilm and talks with Peter Preissle, CEO of Switzerland’s largest porn production company, and the premier of the movie “Viennese” at a porn cinema in Zurich were also somehow inspiring. But a house call with a porn actor, complete with tea and cookies and an acting offer in his amateur film were one of the highlights besides the sex cinema and the audience there.

I often asked myself how to react to what I was seeing. As I stood in
front of the red couch (look at my book cover) in the Magmafilm office and found out what sorts of action it had seen for casting purposes, I had the choice of either feeling disgusted or amused. In this business it’s important, however, not to take things too seriously. I began to see the business for what it is: a dream factory. At the end of the day, all we’re being sold is human being’s fantasies. One can get as upset as one wants about the tastelessness and senselessness of porn films. At the end of the day, however, all they do is show what at least a part of our society wants to see. The number of films on offer may be incredibly large, but demand doesn’t lag too far behind supply.

Nowadays, porn has become part of everyday life. There seems to be
some kind of unwritten rule that it is still a subject that doesn’t merit open discussion. It was this discrepancy between great interest on the one hand and the shame of standing by one’s needs and desires that I experienced first-hand with this book. Several people who had never spoken to me before suddenly felt a great urge to discuss the topic with me. But without trying to show too much interest – or knowledge for that matter. And that I soon had “Porno Steffi” as a nickname at school didn’t really come as much of a surprise in the end…

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