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X no longer marks the spot

from www.theaustralian.news.com.au-THEY say obscenity is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.

Take the image of Hustler publisher Larry “The Harder They Fall” Flynt on his knees to the Obama Administration seeking a $5 billion industry bail-out earlier this year. Flynt later insisted to the press it had all been just a bit of fun, but no one outside the NRL actually swallowed it.

What goes up must come down. But watching the bottom drop out of the pornography sector has been pretty raw stuff. And as the recession grinds on – and despite Flynt’s deeply felt calls for a stimulus package – the adult entertainment industry looks set to take even more of a hammering. Yet you can’t tell me they weren’t asking for it.

Analysts say the trend was heating up long before the downturn. At its peak in 2005, the market for porn in the US was worth upwards of $13 billion. Two years later, its value had shrivelled by almost half. There was so much free porn on the internet, it was a case of why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-download-highdefinition- images-of-the-milk-for-free?

Those who confidently predicted porn was recession-proof – like pet supplies or poultry processing – have had their comeuppance big time. DVD and merchandise sales are flagging fast, as the action has moved to file-sharing and DIY porn (think your next door neighbours in slipper sox, alight with desire and energy-saving globes).

Pornographers are attempting to stay ahead of the curve – they will not go genital into that good night – with innovations such as iPhone-based 3-D porn. “While the X-rated industry has always been among the first to adopt new technologies,” notes the San Francisco Chronicle primly, “it has not always embraced long-term forecasting.” I’m not sure the average punter is really ready for three-dimensional, mobile sex either. Come on. After all those years of marriage?

Even more kinky is that the thrill of online perving of any kind (even the most titillating sort: free) seems to be, if not exactly gone, then distinctly post-menopausal. According to data from internet tracking company Hitwise, over the past decade surfing for porn has declined from 20 per cent of all searches to 10 per cent, with the biggest drops in the 18-to 24-year-old age groups.

And anyhow, who needs porn when you can “poke” anyone you want to on Facebook? In his new book Cyburbia, James Harkin argues that porn is pretty much for … well, parents. Young people are simply “too busy ogling each other and sending messages”. Not to be done over, great minds in the adult entertainment industry have launched their own social networking site, Pornoob. Co-founder and creative director “Joel” says he wants “to see porn stars get the spotlight and respect they deserve”. And evidently they give amazing relationship status.

Friend me, baby!

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