Increasingly, it seems sex is “commodified” through the increased prevalence and availability of pornography and pay for sex options such as escorts, “rentboys” and sometimes masseurs. This is likely due to the influence of the internet and other technologies and changing social mores. In this salon, we would like to discuss this phenomenon of “sex commodification”. Some questions to ponder:
1) Sex for Pay
• Have you ever paid for sex or thought about doing so? If so, why? If not, why not? Is there social stigma against sex for pay?
• If there is social stigma, is it purely a result of social conditioning or is there something inherently demeaning about receiving or paying money for sex?
• Is there something just efficient about paying for sex? Instead of spending one’s time online cruising or going to bars, might it be just faster and quicker to pay for sex, while getting exactly what you want?
• What about the ethical and moral aspects of sex for pay? Is there always something exploitative about prostitution? Does it vary from situation to situation (e.g., child prostitutes in Thailand vs. $5000/night high end escorts who control all aspects of their business)?
• Some argue that prostitution is demeaning because you are selling your body for money. If this is true, how is prostitution different from acting in porn movies, posing nude or just modeling or acting? Taking this further, how is this different than a laborer selling his labor for money? Or even, an attorney selling his brain for money?
• Another possible aspect of the escorting world is the use of drugs, addiction, and alcohol. How many of the escorts use drugs? How many were sexually assaulted as children (and learned their value came from providing sex)?
• What are the motivations for those paying for sex? Is it just about the sex? How about companionship, power, ego? Is it possible to find love?
• Gay porn has evolved from $20-$50 full-length video cassettes produced by a limited number of studios to millions of free clips on the internet ranging from seconds to hours. How has the decreased price and increased volume changed gay porn consumption habits? How does porn consumption affect dating motivation, preferences and success? Hookup frequency and preferences?
• How does porn consumption affect us psychologically? For better or worse? How does porn consumption affect a long term relationship? Does porn have a different role in a monogamous vs. an open relationship? What are your thoughts about watching porn with your sexual partner before and/or during the sex with each other? Does it take away from the experience together or enhance it?
• How much porn consumption is too much? Is it possible to become addicted to porn?
• Is porn exploitative of the actors? Does the recording of a sex act for pay magically make the person involved an actor rather than a prostitute? Where is the demarcation line of prostitution and porn actor? What about those too young (but still of legal age) to know better and later end up regretting it? What about those from poor (often Eastern European) countries with no better alternatives? What about those addicted to drugs needing to finance their next fix? What about those not aware they're being recorded in an amateur porn video?
• What are your thoughts about gay-for-pay? Are the straight identified actors being exploited? Are the straight identified gay-for-pay actors exploiting the gay community? Does the consumption of porn with gay-for-pay actors increase internalized homophobia when it comes to picking a mate from the gay "dating" pool?
• Does bareback porn increase bareback practices among gay men? Does gay society have any obligation to mitigate that influence with vehicles such as the porn condom law in Los Angeles? If an HIV- porn actor becomes HIV+ due to a bareback porn shoot, who bears the responsibility? The actor? The HIV+ co-star who passed along the infection? The studio? The porn consumers?
• Floating in the sea of internet porn are islands of specialized genres and fetishes. Does porn specialization have the real life impact of opening one's mind or does it rather just narrow one's focus? Does mainstream porn marginalize men of color? Is there such a thing as mainstream porn now that most porn is retrieved by the terms you search by? If someone exclusively seeks out porn actors of their own race, is that considered racist behavior? What if the porn consumer exclusively seeks out porn actors of a particular race different from their own?
• Has the high volume and variety of internet porn eliminated the gay porn star? Or enabled a new class of gay porn superstars?