Just skip this one

File under “Duh“.

Jeremy Caplan reports for Time:

Apple may be golden because of the iPhone, but the soon-to-be-updated device is also increasingly the source of forbidden fruit. Steve Jobs’ company is keeping a civil, if embarrassed, silence on one of the potentially most lucrative and controversial uses of its handheld jewel: porn.

The technological feats of the 3G iPhone are key to the coming pornucopia. To date, mobile porn has consisted largely of still images, racy text services and “moan tones,” which are sultry-sounding ringtones. In Europe there is an active market for video chatting; customers pay on average $50 a month to exchange dirty messages with actresses. But now, thanks in large part to the iPhone’s video dexterity, short clips are becoming a staple of the mobile porn business ….

…. Leading porn purveyors see the iPhone as a dream come true. Its relatively ample screen size, speedy Web access and ease of use are just part of it. The device’s miniaturized version of Apple’s Safari software simplifies mobile access and streamlines the process of tailoring dirty sites for optimal viewing on the go. “It’s by far the porn-friendliest phone,” says Devan Cypher, representative for San Francisco–based Sin City Entertainment. As evidence of the gadget’s rocketing popularity in California’s porn capital, the San Fernando Valley, numerous iPhone-specific porn sites have been launched in recent months. “There are a few hundred iPhone porn sites now in use,” says Farley Cahen, vice president of business development for AVN Media Network, the adult industry’s trade body ….

Add to that the usual trappings for a story like this. Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock (seriously) says of course the company doesn’t condone porn distribution, and will take measures to restrict adult content. The development community does nonetheless have certain potential. The porn industry sees a huge new market. And, of course, the children: won’t somebody please think about the children?

Opposition to iPhone porn, however, may grow as well. The genre’s availability could spark new demand for mobile-phone porn blockers, as parents realize that children could access adult content on Apple’s device. “Our iPhone 2.0 software will give customers the opportunity to turn on parental controls,” says Apple spokeswoman Bowcock. Some parents may not be tech-savvy enough to figure that out, though, and some kids may be clever enough to find a work-around. “If a minor with one of these phones pokes around, he could easily access adult sites without his parents’ knowledge,” says Holden, who authored “Adult Content in the Palm of Your Hand,” Juniper’s latest research report.

Cahen says an industry group called the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection has worked to promote industry-wide adherence to standards preventing youth access to porn. Problems may still arise, says Holden. “If the Janet Jackson episode led to a fine for a quick breast flash,” he says, “can you imagine what could happen to an American carrier if a child gets hold of some of the hard-core materials that are easily available? The FCC will have a field day.”

One of the things about this concern that disturbs me is that, while I understand the usefulness of children having mobile phones, who, exactly, is going to put a full-powered entertainment machine in their child’s hands? I don’t expect students to be writing term papers on their iPhones, so I cannot justly call the thing a full-blown computer, but let’s stop and think about it for a minute.

In the first place, one of the first things many people do with a new computer is take it out on the network and see what it can do. And among those tests is often the acquisition of pornography. So if a kid with an iPhone gets hold of some of the nastiest pornography on the net, who, exactly, is the FCC going to take it out on?

This all looks back to the parents. Life goes on.

• • •

Okay, stop reading now!

Seriously. Just … stop.

If Caplan’s report on iPhone porn seemed like a waste of network resources for its exceedingly high “duh” factor, this next … well, seriously. Stop … reading … now.

File under “God damn it!

And stop reading. Now. Did I mention that?

Michiko Toyama sends her “Postcard from Tokyo” for Time:

Besides his glowing complexion, Shigeo Tokuda looks like any other 74-year-old man in Japan. Despite suffering a heart attack three years ago, the lifelong salaryman now feels healthier, and lives happily with his wife and a daughter in downtown Tokyo. He is, of course, more physically active than most retirees, but that’s because he’s kept his part-time job — as a porn star.

Shigeo Tokuda is, in fact, his screen name. He prefers not to disclose his real name because, he insists, his wife and daughter have no idea that he has appeared in about 350 films over the past 14 years. And in his double life, Tokuda arguably embodies the contemporary state of Japan’s sexuality: in surveys conducted by organizations ranging from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the condom-maker Durex, Japan is repeatedly found to be one of the most sexless societies in the industrialized world. A WHO report released in March found that 1 in 4 married couples in Japan had not made love in the previous year, while 38% of couples in their 50s no longer have sex at all …. Yet at the same time, the country has seen a surge in demand for pornography that has turned adult videos into a billion-dollar industry, with “elder porn” one of its fastest-growing genres.

DVD box cover featuring septuagenarian porn star Shigeo Toyama.I’m not really sure where to start. Obviously, with a shudder, but beyond that, flip a coin or spin a bottle. Tokuda’s character is predictable enough, “a tactful elderly gentleman who instructs women of different ages in the erotic arts”, and while we might, at first glance, find merit in a series title like Maniac Training of Lolitas, the central issue of what seems so wrong about the genre is found in the follow-up series, Forbidden Elderly Care.

What? I told you to stop reading a while ago, didn’t I?

A representative for Glory Quest, the studio that releases Tokuda’s films, notes the fierce competition in Japanese pornography: “There were already adult videos with Lolitas or themes of incest, so we wanted to make something new. A relationship between wife and an old father-in-law has enough twist to create an atmosphere of mystery and captivate viewers’ hearts.” I do confess, though, that my heart is not so much captivated by pornography. It seems a different sort of satisfaction.

Speaking of captivation, Toyama reports:

Director Gaichi Kono says the eroticism of elders is captivating to younger viewers. “I think that, as a subject, there is this something that only an older generation has and the young people do not possess. It is because they lived that much more. We should respect them and learn from them,” says Kono passionately.

Now, I cannot say that I haven’t viewed some pretty strange pornography in my time. Then again, that doesn’t mean I’ve seen as strange as is out there. A long-lost Circus magazine article from my adolescence recounted Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhodes watching pornography that involved a very exhausted-looking chicken, so, really, I obviously haven’t seen everything. And, if anything, the viral anti-popularity of an allegedly-disgusting internet video only reminds how prudish and stupid people are. Yes, its suggestions are disgusting, but people repulsed by that one ought to see the real thing, just once.

In the meantime, at least we got the Kermit video (content warning) out of it.

But here’s the thing: the captivating aspect of certain spectacles is that they are, indeed, spectacles. Most of the prudish reaction to the 2 Girls One Cup video is a hypocritical farce, a public demonstration to reaffirm one’s appearance of normalcy in front of others. I mean, who the hell actually sits their mother down in front of the video and then records her reactions to it?

People are fascinated by things they consider strange or inappropriate. There are all sorts of captivating spectacles out there. The internet brings us all manner of shocking, enchanting, or captivating images. Dead teenagers with their faces torn off, or video of some guy committing suicide at a press conference, or two women allegedly consuming feces out of an ice cream cup.

So if, as Gaichi Kono suggests, younger audiences are captivated by the sight of septuagenarian Shigeo Tokuda having sex with a grandmotherly-looking co-star, we must pause to consider whether that attention is, as the director suggests, a matter of respect and learning, or something more akin to, “Whoa! Dude, check this out!”

Don’t take me wrongly: I’ll give Tokuda a measure of admiration. It’s good to know that I, too, can be carrying on like that into my seventies, presuming I live that long. But if I do ever get around to watching a Shigeo Tokuda scene, you can damn well bet it will be downloaded off the internet because it’s there, it’s free, and it’s over in a few minutes. I cannot imagine buying or renting one of these films and, in the quiet confines of my home, murmuring, “Teach me, Master Shigeo.”

Perhaps the star himself is more realistic:

But Tokuda stresses the appeal of his work to an audience of his peers: “Elderly people don’t identify with school dramas,” he says. “It’s easier for them to relate to older-men-and-daughters-in-law series, so they tend to watch adult videos with older people in them.” The veteran porn star plans to keep working until he’s 80 — or older, as long as the industry will cast him. Given the bullish market for his work, he’s unlikely to go without work.

“People of my age generally have shame, so they are very hesitant to show their private parts,” Tokuda says. “But I am proud of myself doing something they cannot.” Still, he says, laughing, “That doesn’t mean that I can tell them about my old-age pensioner job.”

And, indeed, according to Ryuichi Kadowaki, of Ruby Inc., a label specializing in the mature-woman genre, the market for elder porn in Japan has doubled in the last ten years, and as a large portion of the population grays into their golden years, the future looks bright for this part of the industry.

• • •

We might note that both of these articles come via Time magazine, and this is, technically, an accident of when I first started playing around with RSS feeds in my Safari browser. Time was one of the news sources already in the browser, and I’ve never bothered taking it out. Obviously, this apathy is to all of our detriment.

Time.com's ranking of most popular stories, June 22, 2008.The lesson to be learned here, I guess, is one almost equally obvious as Caplan’s vapid consideration of pornography via iPhone: The mere fact of the internet and the ease of information access it presents does not mean people will have access to better information. Rather, it just means there are miles and miles and freakin’ miles of empty space to fill with equally-empty content. The internet itself is soulless, but this does not explain or excuse Time. Nor am I justified in wasting your time with this sort of stuff. Nor, in the end, is anyone else justified who helped make Caplan’s the third most popular story on Time.com for the day, or Toyama’s the fifth. Think of it this way: the Kermit the Frog link above has logged 3,647,326 views at YouTube since November. And, thanks to any of you who clicked on it, that number is growing.

Moral of the story? None, really. But I do have a certain song stuck in my head.

    We watched the tragedy unfold. We did as we were told, we bought and sold. It was the greatest show on Earth, but then it was over. We oohed and aahed, we drove our racing cars; we ate our last few jars of caviar, and somewhere out there in the stars a keen-eyed look-out spied a flickering light—our last hurrah! Our last hurrah. 

    And when they found our shadows grouped ’round the TV sets, they ran down every lead, they repeated every test. They checked out all the data in their lists, and then the alien anthropologists admitted they were still perplexed. But on eliminating every other reason for our sad demise, they logged the only explanation left: This species has amused itself to death.

    —Roger Waters

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