Internet boom owes a debt to porn

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Sex and violence drive technological innovation. Warfare as a locomotive for the development of cutting-edge technology is well-known. But the porn industry, especially the booming one in America, gets no recognition for the advances it helped make in internet commerce. This is an injustice.

Americans fret a lot about their economic and industrial decline, but here is an industry with which they will lead the world for the foreseeable future. Streaming videos, zipped file delivery and secure online payment are just some of the innovations in the past two decades that the porn industry, if not invented, at least helped to popularise. Amazon might have pioneered one-button shopping, but it was the porn industry that perfected continuous payment until you - good luck on that - cancel.

Like it or not, porn is mainstream.

The furore in the US over former hardcore porn star-turned mainstream actress Sasha Grey reading to primary school children is plain hypocrisy.

In the absence of proper sex education, many adolescents - in Hong Kong, the US and elsewhere - learn about sex from porn. And adults also learn about it from porn.

As British sociologist Catherine Hakim observes in her new book, Honey Money - The Power of Erotic Capital, 'unconventional' sex acts used to be the speciality of prostitutes and courtesans. But mass-market porn has brought such acts from the bordello into the bedroom.

From the time of Cleopatra women have always known about erotic capital, until it was denounced by the first generation of western feminists as sexism. Not anymore.

You can tell we are in a post-feminist, porn-saturated world when scholars like Hakim advance and promote a notion like 'erotic capital', surely a very ancient wine repackaged in a new bottle. Many women no longer have hang-ups about exploiting their assets, and that includes sex appeal.