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Opinion, California, Santa Monica, Film

Porn Leaves Los Angeles: Cue Small Violins

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Aug. 23, 2014, 9:16 am

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

All right, first of all… you have to make pornography somewhere. I’m not saying you have to make pornography; I’m saying if you are going to make pornography, you likely need someplace to make it. Production of “adult video,” which for many years has been headquartered nationally in “the Valley,” appears to be tapering off. And of course, the major concern has nothing to do with morality or some healing of a possibly disturbing need in the American psyche. No, what made headlines in the business section of the L.A. Times was the economic impact that the loss of pornography production would have on the “entertainment” industry in general.

The numbers are not insignificant: The L.A. Times reported that “Although porn production accounts for less than 5 percent of all film permits, the industry has traditionally been an important contributor to the local economy…” and then goes on to say that “local economists,” who I guess monitor the porn industry in their free time, estimated a decade ago that porn produced in the San Fernando Valley contributed 10,000 to 20,000 jobs to the local economy and might have had as much as $4 billion in annual sales.

In 2011, the Times again cites “industry estimates” that as many as 5,000 adult films were shot in L.A. in warehouses and private homes. That’s asking for a lot of different reactions from actors when the pizza man rings the doorbell (the industry standard for beginning any adult film).

To be fair, most of the technicians and make-up people working in adult films (most likely shot in video formats) probably don’t give a damn about the story points of the productions they work on. They care mostly about a paycheck. Not that they are mercenaries of any sort, although film and television production does require some level of adjustment from gig to gig. You might be a superb camera operator, but one week you’re filming a sensitive TV movie for LifeTime, and the next perhaps catching all the rib-tickling double entendres on “Two and Half Men.” Not that I would ever equate risqué network content with adult films. For one thing, adult films are honest about what they are.

But my guess is that if because of health-related pressures to make porn actors in California wear condoms the production of adult films did move, as it is threatening to do, to Nevada… some very small violins would play a very limited amount of sad music.

Again, you have to be someplace to make your porn film. Although (and please don’t ask how I have any of this information) a lot of Internet porn content is now filmed in moving cars and vans, the preferred location is usually a large home with a swimming pool and an interior design motif suggesting a collaboration between Cher and Pier One. But I don’t think there would be less than a shoulder shrug in reaction to porn’s leaving L.A. because of a drop in set design work. I think what people are most indifferent about is the production of content that seems to consistently reinforce the notion that, if left to our devices and freed of guilt from any and all quarters, we’d all go at it like over-heated chimpanzees.

Now I’m the last guy you want to turn to for any kind of well-grounded academic discussion on the impacts of so-called pornographic images. For one thing, “porn” to you might mean well-lit sexual activity. To me, it might be such things as news reporters asking the mother of a drive-by shooting victim, “And how does that make you feel?” To you, it might be any number of incidents in (again) so-called ‘mainstream’ media where preteen girls are sexualized. To me, it might be a group of full-grown men literally climbing on top of each other to get a picture of somebody’s grieving widow.

But I will offer this, which unfortunately begins with “When many of us were younger…” but… when many of us were younger, pornography seemed to be kept in a kind of tawdry box. Then, in our lifetimes, all manner of things became sexually “liberated” and porn began to walk around like any other citizen on the media boulevard. When society endorses something by mere dint of not suppressing it in any overt way, such as letting actors smoke all the cigarettes they want on screen or making beer a part of every social situation, then young people are left with the impression that such behaviors are basically a part of life.

I have no idea what the current ease of access to porn has done to budding relationships between young people. Does it cause young men to reduce the scope of their emotions toward a woman, perhaps shrinking down all romantic feelings to whether sex does or does not occur? We can make a pretty good guess that the young women who come to California looking for stardom and find instead the dingy stardom of porn performance have not in any good way been healed of any psychological baggage they might brought out with them to our sunny state. So if even part or all of this simply moves its headquarters to Nevada, I don’t think there will be much of a wake.

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Comments

Aug. 23, 2014, 3:00:18 pm

Leftie said...

So Steve, you're saying you don't give a crap about 10,000 to 20,000 jobs to the local economy and as much as $4 billion in annual sales being lost... All because you have some moral objection to porn? I never figured you for one of the Hobby Lobby crowd.

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