With a title as provocative as this, I’m sure that readers would prefer that I skip the formalities and just get down to the nitty-gritty of everyone’s favorite topic: pornography. But, seeing as this is my first post on the Search Insider, I decided that I should introduce myself first. Admit it, you’re savoring the anticipation!
My name is Michael Block and along with being a fellow Dartmouth alumnus of Michael Mothner’s, I am also the Vice President of Client Services for his wonderful company, Wpromote. As writing has always been something of a hobby of mine, I was grateful to be given the opportunity to post on the Search Insider. I hope to write as frequently as Mike will let me, so make sure that you Digg this post.
Alright, back to the good stuff.
Access to online pornography has been a divisive yet prevalent topic ever since Al Gore was good enough to invent the Internet in the early 90s. In the interest of brevity, though, I won’t get into the historical details. Suffice it to say, the adult industry, libertarian-minded individuals and a small, often overlooked demographic of Americans known as “males” generally find themselves on one side of the debate whereas religious groups, concerned parents and values-oriented politicians tend to end up on the other. Today, in Portugal, the latter group earned a big victory as ICANN again shot down the idea of the .xxx domain suffix yet again. Actually, since the adult industry lobbied heavily against the .xxx suffix as well, due to the added competition it could create, it could be said that both sides won.
Or did they?
For as straightforward as it seems (this isn’t the first time that the .xxx idea was rejected), this event raises many interesting issues. First of all, any time that Jenna Jameson and Jerry Falwell have coinciding interests, I have to laugh. I mean, can you imagine what a board meeting between the icons Vivid Entertainment and the Christian Evangelical Church would look like? I’m not sure but I’d probably want seconds.
Another, more salient question that must be brought up is, “Why was this considered a win?” Now, I’m not an executive in the adult industry (I wish!) and I’m certainly not a minister, but I would proffer that the .xxx domain suffix could and likely would have benefited both groups. For example, if at least a segment of online pornography were segregated to the .xxx suffix, it would make restricting access for those who wish to avoid adult sites (e.g. public and family computers) a cinch.
Like it or not, pornography is here to stay and its proliferation online will hardly be slowed by denying the .xxx suffix. I would argue that the amount of porn on the Internet would increase at a similar and constant pace whether the .xxx suffix were added or not. We know that the market is essentially limitless. The only thing actually slowing it down is the amount of people willing to tell their friends and family that they make their living as a pornographer; that is, the amount of people willing to start up new adult sites. If you take that as a given (and you certainly don’t have to), then there is a serious argument to be made that a .xxx suffix would simply funnel some of the inevitable adult sites to be created to a more easily controllable URL. Isn’t that good for those worried about the potentially warped minds of America’s youth? Isn’t there an argument to be made that, if created, the .xxx suffix could be the first step in eventually siphoning ALL adult sites into a single, controllable ubergroup of domains? With the unpredictable nature of American voters, I would argue that it is certainly a possibility that shouldn’t have been dismissed so quickly by interested parties such as parents and religious groups.
As with any intelligent discussion, though, the familiar question arises, “Well, what about the porn stars?” I will admit that the possibility for increased competition in the adult industry with the addition of .xxx is real, but I would also ask, which groups are in the most advantageous position to secure the best of the new domain names? The simple answer is that those with the most money and, therefore, the most power are in that position. If that is true, then we reach a paradox: aren’t the rich and powerful of the adult industry the ones lobbying the hardest against the .xxx suffix? To me, it seems like the growth of one’s industry as a whole can only be bad for business if one’s company isn’t well equipped to compete in a larger market. We know for a fact that the giants of the pornography industry are certainly ready to compete as they have made fortunes peddling a product that is heavily regulated by the government and despised by many, including many of its closet customers. In fact, if you were to ask me where to find some of America’s leanest, meanest, most efficient businesses, I would tell you to look no further than the adult industry. I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t capitalize on industry-wide expansion caused by the inclusion of the .xxx suffix.
The obvious counterargument is that the church fears the possible expansion of the adult industry and the adult industry fears further regulation and potentially increased competition. It is to say that in the event of the passage of the .xxx suffix, both groups fear that the other’s success could spell disaster for their own greater goals. They both fear losing in a zero sum game and so the prudent course of action is inaction. If this is the case, then I say “shame on you” to them both. If the Internet has taught us anything since we unwrapped it in the early 90s and then thanked Mr. Gore for such a thoughtful gift, it is that things change, they change quickly and they tend to change by getting bigger rather than smaller, expanded rather than contracted.
The idea of hiding behind inaction seems not only out of character for two such proactive groups (i.e. the Church and adult industry), it seems like a missed opportunity and a lack of faith in their ability to control their own destiny. For the opportunistic adult industry and the single group that touts the merits of “faith” more so than any other–namely, the Church–the rejection of the .xxx domain seems less like a big win and a whole lot more like a gutless loss.Ã‚Â As both lose this battle–not their first and certianly not their last–they both make a major concession that neither group is ready to face the reality that the world is big enough for the both of them and that they are going to have to get used to that reality sooner rather than later.