The Economics Of Pornography Essay

1920 words - 8 pages

Steven Hirsch is still a handsome man at age 39; he has a golden tan, long brown hair, and a new black Ferrari. Steven founded Vivid Videos in 1984 when he was 23. Now president of the lucrative company, he discusses brand recognition and foreign licensing rights from his office nestled in the solid middle class community of Van Nuys, California. Steven sounds much like the young Hollywood movie executives not far from his inconspicuous studios ... until he starts listing some of his company's video credits: Ho-tel Pacifico, Lonestar Virgins #9, and Life on Beaver Ave.

Steven Hirsch is a pornographer, and Vivid Videos is one of the three leading adult film companies in the world. Hirsch didn't just stumble upon the business. Like any other wealthy entrepreneurs, he recognized a market and capitalized on it. Some believe his rise to the top could only happen in America. Others might compare Steven Hirsch to F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional Jay Gatsby. They believe entrepreneurs who enter the sex industry pursue the "American Dream" the wrong way.

Society devotes a lot attention to the harmful effects of pornography and to the issue of the First Amendment. We hear much less discussion about the economic aspect of porn. In fact, pornography represents the product of an industry that has grown immensely since its emergence after World War II. Films, for example, were heavily restricted during the 40s and 50s. But when films like Bonnie and Clyde and Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, both with explicit sexual innuendo, began out-selling more "wholesome" movies, many of the barriers holding sex back crumbled in the name of profit (Clark 1029-1030). Pornography is an industry, and as such, its success depends on the free?enterprise laws of supply and demand. Thus, the free market will impose its own informal regulation on the porn industry. Any attempt to regulate the industry would be superfluous and anti-capitalistic.

Many condemn the porn industry for being un-American. But as Eric Schlosser writes in U.S. News and World Report: "There is something quintessentially American about it: the heady mix of sex and money, the fortune quickly made and lost, the new identities assumed and then discarded, the public condemnations of a private obsession" (43). "Legitimate" companies like Abercrombie-Fitch and Calvin Klein profit from sex. Calvin Klein became well known for his use of scantily clad and sometimes nude models in his jean advertisements. Abercrombie has been the latest to come under fire. Its Christmas 1999 Naughty and Nice catalog, which featured nude models and an interview with a porn star, was eventually shrink-wrapped and sold only to consumers over 18 (Nussenbaum 2). Both popular clothing brands enjoy enormous profits. Micheal Wood of Teenage Research Unlimited directly attributes Abercrombie's increased popularity among teenagers to their sexy campaigns (3). Magazines, car manufacturers, beer makers, clothing designers -- they all use...

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