Inside the weird and wonderful world of custom pornography
Fabian Thylmann changed the face of pornography for good when he pioneered an online video sharing platform concept that would become Pornhub.
Similar to YouTube in its genesis, Pornhub has become a global leviathan unrivaled in the adult film industry - even if it has swallowed up most of its competition along the way for good measure.
As in the case of YouTube and the music industry, though, the effect of Thylmann's concept has caused ripples throughout the world of adult entertainment, felt most keenly by the performers and directors who make the movies.
This 'Butterfly Effect' is explored by Jon Ronson in his titular Audible series, and the results are fascinating and concerning in equal measure.
Some changes creep slowly up on us over time, while others seem to happen overnight, leaving us only to awake to unrecognizable surrounds that bare no semblance to the past.
When change comes, the adaptable find new ways to survive, and so it has been in the adult film industry. As Ronson chronicles, the ushering in of free internet porn has lead producers and directors down an altogether unexpected path - that of 'custom' pornographic films.
As cameraman Nate explained to Ronson, custom porn films are made for individual customers who "write their own scripts and pay us to shoot exactly what they want".
As one might anticipate, these custom films are home to some pretty niche desires and nuances, for example;
"There was one guy who wanted us to buy a van. And have my wife and a couple of other girls drive around in it for a week, and smoke cigarettes in the van, and pee in the van, and at the end of the week, we’d drive it out into the desert and blow it up."
Far from being a niche in the market, Ronson explains, these custom shoots are now a decent outlet for porn directors to profit from, and Nate tells him that such shoots make up the bulk of his work these days.
There are several fascinating examples of custom shoots upon which armchair psychologists could muse as to how an individual might come to harbor such fetishes. There is, for example, a 'Condiments Man', who wanted to see a woman in a bathing suit drenched in various different sauces and relishes. The man who requested this custom film apparently worked in the restaurant business.
Another video centers around a fully clothed woman who becomes irritated by the presence of a fly. She can't find her flyswatter to begin with, but then locates it, and spends the remainder of the video swatting at flies. The makers are unclear as to why the gentleman in question had a fantasy involving flies and the attempted swatting of them.
Important in Ronson's Butterfly Effect are the sweet, human stories of those who work in adult entertainment. So many of whom consume free pornography with such avarice might choose to disregard - or never even consider - these stories.
Ronson's series is presented without judgement, merely as an exploration of the astonishing ripples that one man's lucrative business idea made in the pool of pornography. Perhaps the rest of us would do well to acknowledge the industry with similar equity.
H/T: Jon Ronson's The Butterfly Effect