When I got into work last Thursday, Cracked.com Editor-in-Chief Jack O'Brien gave me a company credit card with a modest amount of cash and instructed me to buy a ticket to Iran. He said it was essential to the site that we be a part of this "monumentally important election" and that I should do it because my "socially degenerative drinking habits" and "frequent bouts of nudity" have made me impossible to be around. He assured me that this election is easily one of the most important events in my lifetime, and that it is my obligation as a journalist to witness this history-making moment.
Anyway I used the money to buy tickets to a porn convention that was happening at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Erotica LA is a once-a-year convention that celebrates adult film, sex toys, sexual advancements and at least one website that boasts nothing except "EXTREME VAGINA SHAVING." Basically, Erotica is an appreciation of all things sweaty, heaving and perfect in this world. It's like a writhing, pulsing beanbag chair of bodily fluids and daddy issues and I love it. I didn't know it when I walked in the door, but Erotica LA, and specifically the porn stars contained therein, had more to teach me about current events and the future of the entertainment industry as we know it than I ever could have expected.
I don't know why I didn't realize it at the time. I guess I must have been distracted by something.
The most effective Red Bull ad I've ever seen, even if the can is backwards.
The PornBot caused great conflict in me, as a result of my love of pornography and paralyzing fear of technology.
Porn stars giving free candy. Porn stars giving free candy. Porn stars giving free candy.
These are my people.
Every second, 28, 258 Web surfers are viewing Internet pornography, and "sex" is the most-searched word on the entire Internet. To find out why this might be (and because I'd already eaten my share of free ass-shaped candy, played a porn themed video game and matched wits with the PornBot), I decided to track down some porn stars and do some interviews.
The first person I interviewed was Gianna Michaels who, in addition to being super good at porning, is genuinely one of the sweetest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. If the image of her getting rammed in the back of a van wasn't already burned into my retinas, I could really see myself settling down and raising a bunch of kids with her.
[Full Disclosure: A) I don't know anything about proper journalism and B) when I asked porn stars for interviews, I guess I didn't actually expect them to say yes. So, when it came time to conduct the actual interviews, I didn't technically have any questions prepared. Still, that didn't in any way stop me from holding a little notebook up to my face to present the illusion that I was reading questions. For the record, this is what I was looking at during our interview:]
DOB: Gianna, thanks very much for meeting with me.
Gianna: No problem. Who did you say you were with?
DOB: Cracked.com![Blank stare]DOB: Cracked....Dot com?
DOB: It's a comedy website, we're... It's not important. Comedy website.
Gianna: OK, sounds fun.
DOB: Alright, now, first... first question....
DOB: [Clearing throat] How... long have you been in this business, and how often do you work? And how long will you plan on staying in the business? That... I'm sorry, that was three questions...
Gianna: I've been in the business four years, and I work about three days a week, minimum, but I make my own schedule. It's really like a freelance business, but a very consistent one. You wake up in the morning and you check and see if there's any work that day, and you go if you want to go, or you stay home if you want to stay home. I'm going to keep doing this as long as it pays, because I love it. I work three days a week, and I'm making my living just fine.
DOB: (Three days?! Son of a bitch!) Oh, cool, that's terrific. Moving on, how do you think the Internet's impacted the adult film industry, as a result of the sudden rise in easily available amateur material as well as multiple websites that provide free, streaming porn?
[This was actually a really cool moment, because it was clear that it was a topic about which Gianna was particularly passionate, I've never seen her so worked up or excited before. Except, you know, in all those videos.]
Gianna: It can be an incredibly destructive force, that's a good question. It's really troubling for the industry. More and more studios are going under everyday, they have to close shop. I mean, look at music. We're facing the same problem that the music industry was facing a few years ago.
DOB: Uh huh.
Gianna: Because, I mean, look at the amount of options people have these days. And sure the Internet's great, but it just might not be worth it based on all the businesses it's ruining. It might just completely destroy and break the porn industry. Seriously.
DOB: Get outta town.
Gianna: Because, I mean, look around, there's fuckin' a hundred different fuckin' sites about sex, and they're all free and they're all amateur. The viewers, they don't fuckin' care where it comes from, they don't have a fuckin' obligation to a fuckin' professional studio, you know? To them, they don't fuckin' care. Pussy's pussy, you know?
DOB: Yes, I do.
Gianna: And there's a million fuckin' other options. Fuck, what do you do?
DOB: Yeah... Well, what are you gonna do?
Gianna: Well, this is the time, because here is the reality check: Everyone is going to get free porn. And if people are going to get porn fuckin' everywhere, you've got to give them something special. You build a website, get a more personal experience, give the consumer an extra something, something personalized, some incentive that gets them to follow you and care what happens to you. And some people will be able to do this, and some won't, and I guess we'll just see in a few years who's fuckin' still standing.
[Note: If I was a more up-on-my-toes kind of reporter, I'd have quickly said something to the effect of "More like who's standing, still fuckin', am I right?" Instead, I said:]
DOB: Totally. Cool. So, next... Next question, what's the next step in porn for you, what's the next... thing you're gonna do?
Gianna: Make my own website, and take some editing classes and get into editing for adult film.
DOB: Totally. Cool. Final question: It was recently announced that President Barack Obama is going to be rescinding his previous promise to put a cap on salaries for the higher-ups of businesses that have already received bailouts. This abrupt change has certainly turned a few heads. Your thoughts?
Gianna: Well, that's unfortunate, but I mean, did you know that one of the reasons General Motors lost so much fuckin' money in the first place, and the reason a lot of people didn't get bonuses is because they're spending so fuckin' much on health care for their employees?
DOB: I...wasn't...actually...aware, no-
Gianna: I mean they had to cut back on so much because the alternative was they couldn't give health care to their workers. So it sucks about what Obama did, but the whole thing...(She pauses, searching for the right words.) It's a Fucked Situation. It's tough everywhere for everyone. It's tough all over. No one is having an easy time right now. It's a Fucked Situation.
[Again, another perfect set up for me to say something charming like "And you know a thing or two about fucked situations, am I right?" Instead...]
DOB: Awesome, that's awesome. I think... I think that's about all the questions I had prepared.
DOB: Thanks very much for your time.
Gianna: Oh, no problem... This wasn't comical at all, by the way.
DOB: Yeah, that'll happen, with us.
I left Gianna's booth, still sort of enchanted both by her thorough knowledge of the Internet as well as that filthy filthy mouth of hers when I ran into another porn star, Kiera King, who was also kind enough to meet with me.
You'd think I'd wise up and be more prepared for her interview but my life is nothing if not an infinite series of repeated mistakes and unlearned lessons. Kiera was certainly attentive, but I'm pretty sure she sort of hated me (what are you gonna do?). Technologically speaking, she was a little bit farther along than Gianna in that she already had a website that she had total control over, but what Gianna lacked in tech savviness, she more than made up for in not-hating-me-ness, so I think it's kind of a tie. A sexy, filthy tie.
DOB: Hey, Kiera, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
Kiera: Sure thing.
DOB: First question: How long have you been in the industry and often do you work?
Kiera: Just eight months, but I love it. I work about four or five days a week. I danced, stripping, for about a week and then someone said, "Hey, you should do this, you should do movies."
DOB: Neat. So, I was talking to Gianna Michaels a little bit earlier and she doesn't seem too optimistic about the future of the industry as a result of the Internet.
DOB: Oh, I- Did you have anything to say about... that? Any thoughts?
Kiera: Not really.
DOB: Oh. No, it's just, Gianna said that it might destroy the industry, so...
Kiera: Well, I'm not going to worry about it.
DOB: [Quietly.] But...Gianna said-
Kiera: Look, the way I see, it, whatever is going to happen with the Internet is going to happen. I can control my website, but not the Internet or the industry, so I'm not going to waste my time worrying about something I have no control over. Why would I waste time on that?
DOB: Gianna said-
Kiera: Like I said, I got into this business eight months ago, the economy was already shit, you know? I'm thriving right now because I'm new, and I'm not used to getting paid what the other girls who've been doing this for awhile got paid, so I'm making my website work. I'm in complete control of my website, I'm thriving, I enjoy this and I'm not going to bother about anything else.
[Maybe it was because I was wasting her time --and Kiera was staunchly anti-time-wasting-- or maybe it was because this was a sensitive subject, or maybe she just happened to notice the fact that I clearly didn't have any notes prepared, but this is when I started to get the feeling that Kiera wanted nothing to do with me or this interview. She kept shooting me dirty looks and actively trying to walk away, but she wasn't allowed to leave her booth and I'm incapable of picking up on social cues, so the interview continued. Still, in a horribly misguided attempt to diffuse the situation, I decided to change the subject to something non-Internet-porn-related.]
DOB: Final question, Obama's decision to close up the Guantanamo Bay Prison has pretty clearly divided the nation. Some worry about known and suspected terrorists ending up on our soil in our prisons, while others applaud the president's efforts to move the prisoners from such a, let's say, "less democratic" holding facility to something more in keeping with America's ideals and character. What, uh... What are your thoughts on that?
[I'm the worst fucking interviewer on the planet.]
DOB: The... he wants to close the prison and move them-
Kiera: Move them here? No, that's a terrible idea. Our prisons are already so overcrowded, the whole penal system is completely screwed up. With overpopulation in prisons already a problem, I can't see a reason to throw more prisoners in there and close one prison, I just feel like there's a better way to spend the taxpayer's money.
[I know much less than porn stars on every single conceivable subject.]
Kiera: Anymore questions?
DOB: No, no I think... I think I'm all set, here, this was great.
Whether it was luck, skill or porn star witchcraft, Gianna and Kiera provided some of the most insightful and important ideas regarding future of online entertainment I'd ever heard. I mean, I think it's already pretty obvious that the Internet is what it is today almost entirely because of porn--high speed Internet, higher quality videos, streaming sites; it all can be traced back to our overwhelming need for immediate porn. Still, I didn't realize just how on target Gianna and Kiera were when I interviewed them. You might have missed it the first time around. You know Gianna's plans for creating specific, personalized incentives for her consumers? The fact that she acknowledges the need for connecting directly with her audience, finding what they want and giving it to them? That's Niche Marketing and, according to Entrepreneur, that's exactly how you cultivate, strengthen and profit off of a dedicated following and if, as some have speculated, there's no way to save television at this point, then this is basically the future. Whether you're writing a book, promoting a movie or breaking new ground in ass-to-mouth technology, what's essential in today's entertainment industry is building a dedicated audience that will follow you.
And just look at those glasses. Look how smart she is.
By meeting with her audience, finding out what they want and giving it to them, Gianna's not just another Jane Q. Pornstar, she's actively providing a specific service that people need. She's creating something new that fills the void as defined by her audience. That, according to lots of smartpeople, is how you build an audience and develop your brand. She's not just a standout in the adult film industry, she's already standing head and shoulders above every existing mainstream studio. While most studios and networks are actively ignoring the Internet's impact, Gianna's already learned how to thrive on it by finding what problems her audience has and solving them. That's what Gianna's going to be doing while Fox waits around for this whole Internet fad to pass.
"I'm so hot for New Media."
And Kiera is equally well-equipped for the future. Until we figure out how to make loads and loads of money off the Internet (never gonna happen), people are going to need to be prepared to work for less than the bloated salaries that are currently being thrown around. A lot of executive, fancypants elitist porn stars probably aren't prepared to make the leap to the Internet because it means a pay cut, which means less money to spend on dick-top hats and vagina monocles. Kiera is new and eager and hungry. She's ready to work often on a website over which she has total control and she's willing to do it for less money than porn veterans. When, as Gianna predicts, the studios do collapse, Kiera is going to be one of the ones left standing because of her aggressive work schedule and lean salary.
Just makes you think. We can already credit porn for getting the Internet where it is today. And they're certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to figuring out and managing the future of the Internet. And they clearly know more than I do about everything, so it just makes you wonder.
Why the hell aren't porn stars running this country?