Media, culture, and politics from an aesthetic-materialist's perspective.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Porn Bailout, or, What Would Richard Shelby Do?

Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, has been bullish in opposing any form of government bailout for the auto industry. His logic is of the typical free-market, survival-of-the-fittest ideologue. But what would Sen. Shelby say to a proposed $5 billion porn bailout? Alabama is conservative, redder-than-red territory, no doubt, but surely many of his constituents can fess up to not wanting to see the American porn industry go down the tubes.

Larry Flynt, head of Larry Flynt Publications and its flagship publication Hustler, and Joe Francis, of Girls Gone Wild, have been working on a bailout proposal for U.S. porn. Gonzo news source TMZ already tracked down a few Congressmen and one Senator to get their take on the proposed plan, and the signs don't look promising. Still, Flynt is determined to relieve some of the burdens from the porn industry: "People are too depressed to be sexually active...This is very unhealthy as a nation...It's time for Congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America."

Overseas the idea of a porn bailout has been met with more welcoming arms. The BBC brought a porn director on air to discuss the actual economics of the industry. Diversification in these tough economic (but bewilderingly hyper-technologized) times seemed to be his Plan B, in lieu of a government bailout of porn.

Following this take on Flynt and Francis's announcement, an Australian writer noted that there would be valuable economic lessons to learn from the U.S. government underwriting porn: "If the porn industry can be saved, the financial sector could be taught Porn Economics, the idea of sales of something people actually want, for the purpose of profit, as distinct from Subprime Economics, the sale of sexless garbage nobody ever needed for the purpose of destroying the global economy."

Back in the States, at least one independent businessman supports the proposed bailout. Glenn Wilson of Shreveport, Louisiana, says sales have been declining at his sex stores, Fun Shop Too. According to a local news source, Wilson would welcome a porn bailout in the hope of sparking sales.

In more promising news, one writer and sex activist notes that, even though the porn industry may be flagging at the moment, independent sex workers are likely to survive the recession without too much trouble. In surveying prostitutes' and escorts' success as advertisers, Carol Forsloff sees a canny ability to navigate tough economic times with drive and gusto -- and a theoretically inexhaustible set of "goods." Forsloff concludes, "So while the boys are asking for a bailout, the women carry on as business women with advertising and the like. The fact that they advertise widely, on their backs, on street corners, in phone directories and on the Internet, likely shows they are better prepared than Flynt and Francis."

I suppose if Richard Shelby and his colleagues reject Flynt and Francis's appeal for a porn bailout, they can always turn to the example of independent sex workers as people who are weathering the recession in the most innovative, business-savvy ways.

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