THIS SLIDESHOW CONTAINS MATURE SEXUAL CONTENT. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED
In the new CNBC Original Production “Porn: Business of Pleasure” nothing is off limits when it comes to the $13 billion industry that aims to please but has been known to offend.
It was once too taboo to talk about, but not anymore. In fact the porn business is so big that every second:
- $3,075 is spent on it
- More than 28,000 Internet users are viewing it
- 372 Internet users are using search engines to find it
And every 39 minutes, a new porn video is being produced in the U.S.
Pornography sells what millions of people want — and want often.
Left: Actors Katsuni and James Deen shooting a scene for the Digital Playground film "Is He There?"
Steven Hirsch is the CEO of Vivid Entertainment and one of the biggest players in adult entertainment.
Hirsch: "Well, you know our first movie was 25 years ago. It’s really the same formula [today] — movies that cater to couples, people can sit down and watch a movie with a wife, or a girlfriend. And, hot sex. Those things haven’t changed."
What is changing is the business of porn. Profits are under assault. Some officials estimate DVD sales are down as much as 50 percent in the last year — pounded by a weak economy, piracy and free or cheap porn on the Internet. Industry execs say it’s the toughest time ever in the business of porn.
Porn has always been at the cutting edge of technology, helping VHS win the battle over Beta, and Blu-ray over HD DVD. It was also an early adopter of e-commerce, giving customers the anonymity they couldn’t have when visiting triple-X stores.
But, now technology has made it easy to enter the marketplace. Anyone willing to have sex on camera can be a porn star and anyone who can post a video online can be a producer. Tube sites — like YouTube — allow people to post porn online.
Thanks to technology, the peep show now comes to you. Porn is readily available on DVD, the Internet or even an iPhone or Blackberry. Filmmaker Steven Hirsch believes people are more comfortable with adult films than ever before.
Hirsch: "Porn (is) infiltrating every part of people's lives. I mean, you see it on the Internet for free, on TV, on DVD. As a result of that, you know, these girls (porn stars) are really popular. People know them. And, you know, mainstream picks up on that."
Former "Passions" soap star and beauty queen Kelli McCarty says a detour into porn, with a feature role in the movie "Faithless," actually helped her mainstream career because of porn’s growing acceptance.
McCarty: "I’m getting a lot of comments: 'Well, you went to the dark side. You’re never gonna go back.' ” Well, the reality is, I'm already getting calls from TV shows that are mainstream. So it’s just that is hasn’t been done before. But, you know, things change."
Sasha Grey is the star of "The Girlfriend Experience" by Academy Award wining Director Steven Soderbergh. She’s savvy about her brand and career.
Grey: "Adult and mainstream ... It's so hard to split them up for me because I really do look at it as one. And, I don't try to put a clear defined line between the two. I'm just trying to build my brand and make a name for myself."
At the 2009 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, dozens of Sasha fans lined up for an autograph or picture with the porn star.
Having sex on film is what porn star Jesse Jane is best known for. She’s starred in the mega-budget porn flick Pirates 2, Island Fever 4 and Jesse Jane Heat.
Jesse Jane is shown here on the set of Pirates 2: "It’s a job and you have to treat it like a job. I’m a mom. I have a family. You know, I bought a house. You know, it’s the way you pay your bills. And, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just having sex on film, like everybody thinks."
Jane wants to be a sex symbol — with all the movies, appearances and product lines that will extend her career beyond pornography.
>> Find out More On the Set & At Home with Jesse Jane slideshow
These days, women aren't just in front of the camera. They're behind the scenes running studios, directing films and starting the next generation of adult companies.
Samantha Lewis is CEO of Digital Playground, which produced the popular Pirates and Pirates 2 adult films.
Lewis’ bet: higher quality porn can break through the clutter of cheap or free Internet porn and get consumers to buy at a time when DVD sales have slowed.
Joy King is VP of Special Projects at Wicked Pictures. She started in porn 24 years ago as a single mother working for a company that distributed G-rated kids movies. She switched to the porn industry for the promise of higher pay.
Today, King says she knows her audience and caters her movies more toward women. "I try and tell my directors I want a stronger female lead…I don’t want it to be all about the guy."
Paul Little, better known as Max Hardcore, is the poster boy of triple-X porn to the extreme. CNBC's Melissa Lee caught up with the renegade pornographer just days before he was to start serving a federal prison sentence in Los Angeles.
A federal court convicted him of selling obscene materials on the Internet and shipping pornography through the mail.
Hardcore: "You should understand that in my case in Tampa, Fla., there was no complaints by any local citizens. It was completely fabricated set-up case by the federal government, which targeted me. Society has spoken and they have demanded it. There are more people buying my videos than there are protesting my videos."
Pat Trueman is a former Director of Child Pornography and Obscenity at the Department of Justice.
"What I would say to any town in America — you don’t have to accept that porn shop in your community. You don’t have to accept that your cable company is offering hardcore pornography. You don’t have to accept that hotel you like to stay in is selling hardcore pornography."
While federal and state laws prohibit the distribution of obscene materials, they often are not enforced. If they were, some legal experts say studios that sell porn, cable and satellite TV companies that put porn on their systems and hotel chains that offer porn on pay-per-view would all be offenders.
The Justice Department declines to comment on whether porn is a priority, and says 13 defendants await trial on obscenity charges and 58 have been convicted since 2001.
Michael Leahy is a self-diagnosed porn addict and author of "Porn Nation." He tours college campuses around the world, warning of the dangers of porn.
Michael Leahy: "I had a 30-year relationship with pornography. My life was out of control. My life became unmanageable."
Leahy is concerned about porn’s impact on society.
"This isn’t really an addiction story as much as it is a story of how we're becoming desensitized as a culture, as a nation. Things that are put in front to us now (that) were sexually arousing 10 years go hardly get an increase in pulse in most people today. So how far do we continue to move that bar?"
CNBC original production Porn: Business of Pleasure
Nothing is off limits when it comes to the $13 billion industry that aims to please but has been known to offend.
Records required by 18 USC 2257 and its implementing regulations are available for review at CNBC, Inc., Attention: Legal Department/Record Keeper, 900 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. "Porn: Business of Pleasure", Tape #1,#2,#3. Recorded [2/10/09], [2/12/09].