“In namelessness and facelessness, it becomes easy to not care about labour conditions and intellectual property issues,” she adds. “I think among people who make porn, there’s a consensus that the proliferation of ‘free’ instant access porn on streaming sites has forced porn (and therefore performers) to become increasingly reduced to keywords and categories,” says Vex Ashley, head of porn outfit Four Chambers.
“In a tube-site environment, as a user, it’s so easy to stop thinking of the videos having any origin – no producers, directors [or] performers with histories and distinct identities beyond what you see being performed – and therefore, it’s easy not to care, and easy to lose sight of the basic humanity of sex. “This means that anything that subverts stereotypes or keyword trends is lost in the expansive tube-site archives.”The domination of keywords can also be an opportunity to create a new territory elsewhere, though – one that’s harder to serve within the business model of Mind Geek.
He’s just launched a new virtual-reality porn venture, and is excited about what it could mean for the industry.“This is a whole new world,” he says. If you turn to the left, you can watch a bowl of fish swimming around a little jar. In 2012, Louis Theroux’s documentary charted a Californian business decimated by the rise of video streaming.
This is dangerous.”At the core of this conceptualisation are keywords. Four Chambers bills itself as “post-porn”, and started as an passion project by Ashley to explore the potential of porn as a creative medium, outside of what you might normally find on traditional porn sites.
“I think we often see porn as a purely functional product, I think it can have the potential to do more, say more, and be more than just something to quickly jerk off to, then clear the browser history and close your laptop (not that that obviously isn’t good sometimes),” she explains.
The domination of Mind Geek, as well as sites like x Hamster and XVideos, has led to accusations of a monopoly over an industry that relies on it to stop from collapsing entirely.
Performers are paid less, with the whole concept of a “porn star” dissolving among the constantly rolling bodies of free-to-watch porn sites.
“Because porn has been dismissed as culturally worthless, it has infinite unexplored potential.“The anonymity of instant access clips of contextless fucking on tube sites has heralded a kind of counterculture of more personal, more DIY – for want of a better, less pretentious descriptor – ‘artisanal, farm-to-table’ porn being made directly by performers.”Bedfellows is a research project investigating sexual identities, led by artists Chloe Cooper, Phoebe Davies and Jenny Moore.
They also see an opportunity in the cracks between the keywords; creating spaces for sexual identities that are often sidelined on streaming sites.Her videos are a mix of the sexual and the non-sexual, pairing You Tuber-style conversations about video games alongside clips of sex.Instead of an anonymous body, her videos are a multidimensional showcase for her personality, inside and outside of sex.Yet in an age of Pornhub and its X-rated Library of Babel, this is a rarity.As you close the laptop on your bedcovers, can you remember the faces you’ve seen? While the proponents of VR porn may be focused on the financial domination of ad-based streaming sites, other voices in the industry are taking aim at the wider, existential crises that the age of Pornhub has induced around performance and personality.“With so much free, disposable content, are we, on a conscious or subconscious level, learning that the people in porn are disposable bodies, part of a never-ending stream?