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Calvin Klein underwear ads imitate a booming amateur Porn industry

Slick with sweat, two half-naked men and a lone woman wearing only cut-offs and an ankle bracelet writhe, entwined on a plain but modern living room sofa. While two of them engage in a deep open-mouthed kiss, a single male lies exhausted on the floor, his shirt open, his faded jeans undone, his eyes wide shut in an apparent post-coital afterglow.

This is not an Xtube orgy scene.

It is Calvin Klein’s crudely photographed, spring 2009 print and video campaign, intentionally shot coarsely to promote its grainy, amateur status.

Klein’s steamy video, already removed from YouTube, riffs on the current popularity of real-people, amateur porn. The appetite for DIY online sex tapes, thanks partly to Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton, is so voracious that many industry professions worry their livelihood is in jeopardy – that their jobs are being outsourced to amateurs.

Shari Graydon, a director of the Canadian watchdog group Media Action, says Klein’s pseudo-porn imagery with the “cellphone esthetic” is far from shocking. What’s alarming, she says, is that the fashion empire, once a marketing innovator, is now stooping to imitation.

The campaign is merely part of a pornographic cultural phenomenon, she explains. “Kids these days are so at ease sending images of themselves, sometimes even explicit ones,” says Graydon, the author of Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know.

Calvin Klein’s new print ads and video, shot by fashion photographer Steven Meisel, who famously collaborated on Madonna’s Sex book in the early ’90s, is coasting on a cultural zeitgeist – and that’s what’s shocking, says Graydon.

While innocuous versions of the ad appear in magazines like Cosmo and Lucky this month, a slightly racier image appears in the gay news magazine Out. The video has been removed from YouTube, which is ironically littered with old-school, not-ready-for-prime-time Calvin Klein ads. Put your hands over your eyes and go to calvinkleinjeans.com, for a peek at the new video.

In Canada, Real Productions, owned by Shaun Donnelly, specializes in producing commercial films with amateur porn actors. Based in Edmonton, his greatest hits include “First Time Series” and “Make Me a Porn Star” that he sells to cable channels. Porn that has an amateur hand is enormously popular, he explains. These days the Hollywood comedy Zack & Miri Make a Porno and the Canadian produced Young People F—ing barely make us blush. “Porn has become mainstream”

Carmine Sarracino and Kevin Scott, the authors of The Porning of America, argue porn has become one of the most important influences shaping our culture. Its esthetic has gone beyond the fashionable porn chic and is now so ubiquitous it’s become background music – our “cultural wallpaper,” they report. “Because it is everywhere it’s not visible,” says Sarracino.

“Porn has become sort of passé – ordinary people do it themselves.”

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