Project Management

Publishing

Entries in Financial Times newsletter (2)

Tuesday
Mar142017

From special report: NMM (New Media Markets) spotlight on the emergence of satellite porn channels in the UK

 

October 26 1995

Is the UK rushing to watch TV porn? 

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), October 26, 1995

The aspect of satellite and cable programming most feared by the British government when it pushed the development of new media in the mid-80s looks set to become firmly entrenched as a part of the emerging television era. 

Next Wednesday, the USA’s most famous soft-pornography channel will arrive in the UK, almost certainly heralding a satellite porn war for the eyes of the British public. 

The Home Office, which used to look after televsion, was worried that porn would be one shock too many for the British and would create havoc with British television laws. But the mores of the marketplace have changed the climate, although the Broadcasting Act and the Independent Television Commission (ITC) still create limits that are stricter than in most other countries. 

Hard-core pornography - such as that shown on several continental channels which can be picked up in the UK - remains out of bounds, as evidenced by the Department of National Heritage’s recent proscription of the hard-core TV Erotica. 

But the drawing of the line between hard-porn and soft-porn changes over time: the programming now permitted by the ITC is a lot stronger than many might have thought likely a few years ago. The porn channels have learned how to push the boundaries of acceptability and, with competition increasing, are likely to push their luck even further.

Politicians, journalists and old-fashioned new-media programmers - for instance, the United Artists people who were dismayed at the decision of parent company TeleCommunications Inc to bring Playboy over to the UK - may believe that porn channels serve only to cheapen the quality of life. 

But the supply side of the marketplace detects that there is a widespread demand for porn and (ironically) religion and so programmers will follow the demand by supplying suitable programming. 

The soi-dissant “adult” channels estimate their potential audience at between 7 per cent and 30 per cent of cable and satellite homes - between 400,000 and 1.7 million homes at present penetration levels. 

Their main target market is the consumer of “top shelf” magazines which range from the glossy, even glamorous Playboy to the more downmarket magazines of the “reader’s wives” variety.  According to the Campaign Against Pornography, the top six pornographic magazine titles sell about 2.5 million copies a month. Altogether, there are about 200 pornographic titles on sale in the UK. 

Deric Botham, programmer at the recently-launched Television X - The Fantasy Channel  and a porn-industry veteran, estimates that the total UK sex industry - from videos and magazines to sex aids, but excluding prostitution - generates revenues of £4 billion a year, a figure which is difficult to substantiate but is equivalent to 10 times the investment in the UK film industry in 1994. 

According to Botham, “our research shows that people want this thing and the majority of people want it to some degree.”

The porn channels are finding it relatively easy to find satellite capacity, largely because they are forced by the rules to operate at a time of day (i.e. night) when most channels have quit their transponders and are only too happy to find someone to sub-lease them to. 

The first of the new porn channels will be the Playboy Channel, which likes to think of itself as being a cut above the others. The others, it claims, are for “sad, lonely men”. Playboy, on the other hand, is for “happy, heterosexual couples”. 

The channel, probably the softest of the genre, will be launched on November 1 by Flextech, BSkyB and the US Playboy Channel. 

It will be followed by the not-so-soft Penthouse which is being launched in the UK by a joint venture of Penthouse magazine owners General Media and Graff Pay-Per-View, which already owns the UK Adult Channel. 

Two other channels have received licences from the ITC - David (Sunday Sportnewspaper) Sullivan’s Babylon Blue and the Adam and Eve Channel. With the Adult Channel and Television X already broadcasting, there could be six porn channels on offer to UK viewers. 

But two other channels are beamed into the UK for those willing to pay the cost of extra reception equipment: the continental pirates, Rendezvous and Eurotica. There is also the now-banned TV Erotica. 

Cable and satellite was bound to be an attractive medium for the porn channels, given the possibility of encrypting the signal and imposing a subscription fee and, as a consequence, benefiting from the lighter regulation that has seemed likely. Sex-channel executives say that the ITC has become increasingly flexible in what it will allow. 

Three other factors have fuelled would-be channels to turn to cable and satellite: 

  1.  The replacement of the independent high-street video store by big video superstores has robbed the porn industry of a key outlet. 
  2. New-media distribution should bring in consumers who are embarassed to hire a porn video from a shop. Yet buying a subscription to a porn channel may be a more embarassing act within the family environment. 
  3. The Adult Channel is regarded as demonstrating that there is an audience for porn in the UK: it is thought to have about 224,000 subscribers. 

Cable and satellite has far more potential for the porn industry than the traditional-format channel. The prize, which will make everything worthwhile, is pay-per-view (ppv). Bill Furrelle, Playboy Channel’s sales director, said that he had been asked by several UK cable operators about providing a ppv service next year. The operators want Playboy, the Adult Channel and Adam and Eve to contribute to the Home Cinema ppv service which they hope to put together. 

Do TV porn channels degrade and humiliate? 

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), October 26, 1995

Susan Sontag, the renowned American essayist, described pornography as a “crutch for the pyschologically deformed and brutalisation of the morally innocent.” The Campaign Against Pornography in the UK believes that pornography exploits women and children “in a degrading and humiliating way, often with the message that we enjoy this and want to be abused.”

The campaign encourages its supporters to take direct action against any distributor of pornographic material as part of its wider campaign to put the industry out of business.

The porn channels dismiss arguments that they degrade women and encourage male violence against women. Playboy managing director Rita Lewis argues that “women are happy to consume erotic imagery like pin-ups. Women are not hung-up by this anymore, they are not threatened by the fantasy women we show in our programming. We hope Playboy will lead to couples’ making love together.”

Andrew Wren, financial director of the Adult Channel, also dismisses the link between pornographic programming and sexual violence. “I don’t think there is anything in programmes that would encourage men to go and rape. Women are interested in sex as men are.”

Television X’s (Deric) Botham says that porn programmes are “a bit of titilation” in the fine, upstanding tradition of the British Carry On films. None the less, he admits that “I wouldn’t want my daughter to get involved in pornography.”

He says that the women involved in the programmes, some of them housewives, are willing participants and enjoy the opportunity. “I don’t produce anything that is against the law. We speak to the individuals concerned. If you have a reluctant model, it doesn’t work – I just won’t buy the video.”

The Campaign Against Pornography sees it all rather differently. Ann Mayne, a member of the campaign’s management committee, was particularly critical of two programmes on Television X – Shag Nasty and Mutley and Fly on the Wall.

She said that Shag Nasty and Mutley, in which a presenter approaches women in the street or in supermarkets and offers them £25 to look at their knickers, or £50 to be filmed having sex with him, gave the message that women were simply objects and that it was acceptable to harass them.

“It is complete prostitution of female sexuality,” she said. “Botham wants full-on, across-the-board prostitution of women. In his view, every woman must have a price.”

Mayne said that Fly on the Wall, in which real-life couples are shown having sex, was an open invitation for men to coerce their partners into being filmed, possibly to the point of abuse.

UK laws on satellite porn among toughest in Europe

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), October 26, 1995

UK regulations on what can be shown on sex channels are tougher than in most countries of the European Union. Channels such as the hard-core Swedish TV Erotica and the recently-launched French Rendezvous are licensed in their respective countries and transmit explicit scenes of sexual intercourse, straight and gay, featuring close-up shots of copulating genitals. 

Graff Pay-Per-View, the experienced US sex channel operator, consciously decided to exclude the UK as a market for its hard-core Eurotica channel which is licensed in Denmark and, like the other hard-core channels, transmits via a Eutelsat satellite. But pirate smart cards for the channel, as for the other channels, are available in the UK in specialist satellite shops. 

Graff’s seeming respect for the UK regulations may not be unconnected with the fact that it owns the Adult Channel and would be wary of upsetting the ITC. Broadcasting unacceptable material into the UK could provoke the ITC into seeing Graff as a body unfit to hold a licence, thereby threatening the Adult Channel. 

The ITC’s guidelines on sexually explicit material state that representations of sexual intercourse can be shown only after 9pm and that “the portrayal of sexual behaviour, and of nudity, needs to be defensible in context and presented with tact and discretion.”

There has been some relaxation of the rule. The ITC will, on an experimental basis, allow the watershed to be broken by a ppv or video-on-demand service. It is not, however, prepared to give this freedom to a porn channel, at least not in the early days, because it does not want to be seen to be licensing pornography. The relaxation will affect only general services. 

The ITC will also monitor any ppv service to ensure that there are no cases of children accessing the programming before deciding if the programme code should be revised. 

The transmission pf 18-rated films on terrestrial or new-media channels is not permitted before 10pm. Films with a 15-rating are not allowed before 9pm on terrestrial channels such as BSkyB’s Sky Movies or the Movie Channel. These are minimum requirements. Some 15-rated films, for instance those which show scenes of sexual intercourse or drug-taking, would not be deemed suitable for transmission even on an encrypted channel at 8pm. 

In practice, the ITC does not permit depictions of erect penises, anal intercourse, close-ups of genitalia or ejaculation. 

Where channels have overstepped the mark and gone abroad to get licences from less strict authorities - the late Red Hot Dutch and TV Erotica - the ITC has recommended that the channels be proscribed, action which has subsequently been taken by the Department of National Heritage. The ITC is now monitoring the Rendezvous channel, which shows a mix of gay and heterosexual hard-core pornography with graphic scenes of sexual intercourse. 

The DNH issues proscription orders under Sections 177 and 178 of the Broadcasting Act. The orders make it a criminal offence to supply equipment to receive the channels or to market and advertise them. 

The European Union directive on transfrontier broadcasting lays down that one country cannot prevent the reception of channels licensed by other European Union countries. However, it allows individual governments to take action against any broadcast which could damage the physical, mental or moral development of minors. 

Playboy ‘is not for sad and lonely single men’

By David South

Financial Times New Media Markets (London, UK), October 26, 1995

The Playboy Channel, due to launch in the UK on November 1, is trying to position itself as being a cut above the existing sex channels with which it will compete for subscribers. 

The channel, which is running an advertising campaign costing more than £1.5 million, believes that its big budgets and slick production values will attract viewers who have hitherto been uninterested in so-called “adult” entertainment. It hopes to win an audience among women as well as men. 

Managing director Rita Lewis dismisses the other sex channels as being aimed at people who are “a bit sad and on their own”. The channels promote “deviant” behaviour. 

Playboy hopes to attract happy, heterosexual couples who will treat the channel as an aid to foreplay: “We hope Playboy will lead to couples’ making love,” said Lewis, who believes that women, as well as men “are happy to consume erotic imagery like pin-ups.”

In the USA, according to Lewis, 70 per cent of the audience for the channel comprises couples. 

She said that the UK Playboy will run programmes that have more in common with programmes like Channel Four’s The Good Sex Guide. “These days, a whole bunch of people are sampling erotic programming like The Good Sex Guide. It is very sexy programming with mass-market appeal.”  

Playboy’s movies would have a high standard of production, she said, very different from what she claims to be the cheap programming made for the other channels, often home videos and often shot with hand-held cameras. 

Playboy’s programming will comprise sex films, interviews with “centrefold” models, documentaries on the sex industry and general-entertainment programming such as quiz shows. 

The rival channels claim that Playboy will not be a big threat to them. The Adult Channel’s Wren says that all the new channels “hype the market, which helps us.” In any case, adult entertainment consumers have already been weaned on harder mix of programming and do not want something that offers little more than what Channel Four shows. 

The UK Playboy Channel, which is owned by UK programmer Flextech (51 per cent), British Sky Broadcasting (30 per cent) and Playboy Enterprises (19 per cent), will transmit from between midnight and 4am on the Bravo transponder on Astra 1c. 

The Financial Times newsletter New Media Markets covered the UK's fast-moving new media scene in the 1990s.

Read another story on the liberating of the sex industry and the rise of the Internet in the 1990s here: Porn Again: More Ways to Get Off, But Should We Regulate the Sex Industry? 

Saturday
Jun132015

Porn Again: More Ways to Get Off, But Should We Regulate the Sex Industry?

 

From special report: Sexual Dealing: Today's Sex Toys Are Credit Cards & Cash: A Report on the Sex-for-Money Revolution

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Meet Steven Wang. The young Toronto distributor of porn magazines and videos is jerking his arm up and down as he describes what sells adult videos.

“Explicit boxes – dick in the mouth, cum in the face makes it sell,” says Wang as he tells me about packaging the videos he distributes.

Wang doesn’t fit the stereotype of a smut dealer. He is wiry, well-groomed and fits in easily amid Toronto’s army of yuppies. Despite the topic of our conversation, he isn’t shy about being graphic in a public place.

Wang admits his parents aren’t too keen about his success as a smut dealer, but he proudly tells me about his latest project, Cybercafe (located on Toronto’s main goodtime drag, Yonge Street). Banks of computers line the walls of the cafe, and a few customers bang away on keyboards and swivel mouses. Blinders on video terminals are quickly jerked forward by shy internet users as each new customer walks by.

Wang thinks the internet is the way forward for porn distribution.

“It’s heading more to bondage, violence – anything that is weird. Haven’t seen it, want to see it. You can only find penetration on VHS (video), though fisting is allowed.” continues Wang, who prides himself on foreseeing trends. “Now that people have seen these things, they want to go to the next step. Because you can only get these things on the internet, 80 per cent of the people are there for the adult material. Internet is the future, period.”

Wang got into distributing porn videos in 1990, just as the Ontario government began to relax the restrictions on hardcore porn movies, as long as they didn’t contain sex involving violence, coercion, bondage, sado-masochism, degradation, incest, animals, or minors under the age of 18.

Wang says he has made some good money, but it’s time to start looking to the next trend. He says those who consume his products have an insatiable appetite for sex in all its forms.

Money-for-sex revolution

The 90s have seen a quiet revolution in the sale of sex. While paying for sex is nothing new, never before has such a plethora of choices been so openly peddled in Ontario’s newspapers and magazines, mostly at a male audience. There are escort services, so-called massage parlours, phone sex, adult videos, sadism and masochism shops and clubs, strip clubs and swingers’ clubs. On the internet, 127 sex news groups compete with over 200 sex services on the World Wide Web, many charging for the privilege to peek at sex photos. And the sex trade comes at a price, with evidence showing lack of regulation means youths continue to be drawn into the business, while users search for bigger and better thrills.

Toronto weekly Now Magazine has been a pioneer in sex advertising. In September, 1989 the magazine’s back pages of classified ads contained around 130 “business personals,” ads placed by the city’s working prostitutes.

In the September 26, 1996 issue of Now, in seven pages of telephone personals and phone sex ads, there were 514 “Adult Classified” ads, a cornucopia of “massage” parlours, prostitutes, and escort agencies offering shemales, “hot Asian” and “Swedish” beauties.

While there isn’t any one source for accurate information on the size of Ontario’s sex industry, it is obvious it has not only grown in visibility, but in size.

“There definitely seems to be more of everything,” says Detective-Constable Austin Ferguson of the Metro Toronto Police’s vice section. “Look at how pornography video stores have blossomed – the spas, whatever you want to call them. Look through the yellow pages for strip bars, escort agencies.

“You got Now, Eye, pink pages, green pages, you can pick up the Toronto Star, The Sun. The phone lines are everywhere you look. I love it, it’s a great business,” says Ferguson sarcastically.

“Even five years ago, there were only a few massage parlours. Now there are 400 to 500 massage parlours in Toronto alone. It has quadrupled since 1990.”

“It’s an underground revolution,” says Sue McGarvie, a sex therapist and Ottawa talk-radio personality. “You go out on the street and see how many prostitutes there are, and how much more open it is, how many more night clubs there are that are gender neutral, that are fetish.”

McGarvie doesn’t think it necessarily means more people are turning to commercial sex.

“We are having as much sex as we ever had, we have as much sexual desire as we ever had,” says McGarvie. “I think the outlets are changing, so that we are going to have to be flexible about that.”

Steven Wang estimates 3,000 out of 5,000 Metro Toronto video stores carry adult videos. Another 1,250 exclusively carry adult videos. A manager at Toronto’s Adult Video Superstore says, “Sales and rentals have gone up in the last three years.” The Adults Only Video chain, founded by Kitchener-Waterloo resident Randy Jorgensen, now spans Canada with 51 stores, 12 in Toronto. And what internet user hasen’t taken a few minutes (or hours) to play voyeur on the many adult web sites or chat lines?

An Adults Only Video survey found, out of 2,000 customers, 56 per cent watch adult videos with a partner. It also claims 20 per cent of renters are women. Many are skeptical about these claims.

Barking through what sounds like a speaker phone, Larry Gayne, president of sex toy mail-order company Lady Calston, says “It’s all men who look at the back of Now. Some claim as much as 50 per cent of adult video watchers are women. I don’t know if I believe that figure.

“Sex is a US $40-billion business in North America alone. In 1992, more sex aids were sold than breakfast cereal.”

The businesses manufacturing sex try to distance themselves from the more visibly seedy porn stores.

“The explosion in triple X video stores is the only seedy end,” continues Gayne. “The sad part is you take away those triple X stores, there is no seedy part to this industry. Not behind the scenes, not in front. It doesn’t exist. There is nobody seedy at our level. Those people don’t exist, they are just normal businesses. There is in fact a downside to the triple X stores.”

Sue McGarvie is an enthusiastic supporter of greater sexual liberation, even if its expression is through the sex industry.

Speaking between clients from her Ottawa office, she says 36 new adult video stores have opened in Ottawa in the past five years.

“Some are small sections of regular video stores,” says McGarvie. “I’m a big believer, I’m still under 30, my generation is one of the first generations that is no longer attending church as a regular part of what we do. Sex is no longer a moral issue. But people are saying ‘wait a minute, because of STDs I’m going to be stuck with my partner for the rest of my life? I better make it the best damn sex we possibly can have.’ Vibrators are outselling any other appliance.

“I’m poised on the industry of the next decade, the next millennium. Sexuality as an expression is the second most powerful drive after food.”

McGarvie doesn’t think that what is in the adult video stores is unhealthy. “Porn as a term is not right, either. Porn is illegal, but the stuff in the video stores is not illegal.”

McGarvie also doubts adult videos are contributing to an atomised world, similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the government controls a population anaesthetized by the buzz of orgasms and drugs.

“I don’t necessarily think it is causing people to be less intimate. The industry needs to stop being in the shadows. Our lives are busy. People are having a hard time connecting with others, but I think that is a separate issue. I think there is a new sexual revolution going on, and if our reality checks catch up with our sex drive, we’ll be okay. We don’t have socially acceptable ways of meeting people that isn’t in a bar when people are drinking.”

Toronto swinger and strip club DJ Ron Michaels thinks the tables are turning on the money-for-sex industry.

“A lot of adult video stores are closing. A lot of strip clubs are on the verge of going under,” says Michaels. “It is like a ghost town in there. I don’t see it is a growing trend. Perhaps it is more front page, more visible. I don’t think it’s any larger than is has been before. I think our society in general is far more sexually liberated than we were 50 years ago. Certainly more than 100 years ago.

“A lot of people thought they could make a fast buck off of it. The market can’t support that number,” according to Michaels.

Child porn

But is this really just good fun? Unfortunately, there is too much evidence showing a direct connection between a robust sex industry, and the sexual exploitation of minors and demand for degrading sex. A booming sex industry just can’t be disconnected from the exploitation of youths and an absorption in degrading, freaky sex, like defacation or bestiality. The industry may not be directly connected to the much-publicized paedophile rings in the news, but the mainstream sex industry is not adverse to exploiting youths and an appetite for sex with minors to sell videos and magazines.

“We have laid charges on people who were initially operating a reputable business,” says Ferguson, “until they found there was a demand for the seedier stuff.”

Sue Miner, the head of Toronto’s Street Outreach Services, says high unemployment rates amongst youth feeds the sex industry with a steady supply of desperate teens.

“It’s indicative of people needing to survive and not having jobs. I’ve heard enough young people saying they needed some money to pay the rent. A lot of young people do it to survive – survival sex.”

“I have yet to come across an escort agency that uses minors,” claims Ferguson, admitting that because he hasn’t, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. “It’s usually a bit more classier than that. You don’t get your Parkdale hooker types. Pimps don’t run escort agencies.”

A 1984 government study on prostitution, the Badgley Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth, found one-half of prostitutes had entered the sex trade under the age of 16, 96 per cent had become prostitutes before the age of 18.

The overwhelming majority of prostitutes have run away from home at least once. Street prostitutes leave home at an earlier age than other children, at an average age of 13.7 years, compared to 17.3 years.

The most difficult porn to regulate, as most governments know, is on the internet.

Detective-Constable Ferguson says having photos of bestiality and paedophilia, for a few seconds on a harddrive, is considered by the law to be possession. He also admits because of the ethereal nature of computers, the law is totally unenforceable.

“You would have to get online with that person. Get to know them, chat with them.”

He does warn any internet cafes to stay clear of the stuff. “They are totally nuts to have obscene or child pornography available because somebody would spill the beans pretty quick.”

Escorts

As for prostitution, the police have a harder time controlling escort agencies because they are careful to never make a deal on the phone, says Ferguson.

“They are only going out for dinner and dance, eh?,” chuckles Ferguson. “Somebody sees a business opportunity to run prostitutes. They are harder to crack. It’s a long, long process to take one of these places down because of all the undercover work involved. What you can, can’t do. It’s no easy task.

“They won’t make a deal over the phone. They might say ‘you can have my service for $150/$200 an hour,’ as soon as you say ‘what do you get for that?’…click.”

McGarvie says she wouldn’t be too happy if her husband went to a prostitute to cope with sexual stress if they were too busy to have sex. On the other hand, she thinks the escort industry would decline if there were more healthy outlets for sexual release.

Toronto feminist and author Susan G. Cole, in her book Power Surge: Sex, Violence and Pornography, and ironically a Now Magazine editor, has called for greater regulation of pornography, arguing the industry really has no claim on freedom of expression. The public, Cole says, can accept a regulatory role for government when it comes to other industries, so why the exception for the smut trade?

This should be extended to the rest of the sex trade, she argues. Body-rub parlours, escort services, street prostitutes, strip clubs and phone sex, should not be allowed to remain in regulatory limbo, only subject to police attention when community groups kick up a storm.

Back at the Cybercafe, Steven Wang is trying to be heard over the Pet Shop Boys’ pounding dance beats.

If anybody wants to protest outside one of Wang’s two Toronto stores, or any other adult stores his videos are distributed in, he would probably make the placards. “Business goes up when we get pickets, negative reviews are always positive for the business – automatically sales go up that day,” says Wang smiling.

Swing Shift: Sexual liberation is back in style

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Deep in the bedrooms (and livingrooms) of the home-owning classes, the sexual liberation movement marches on: swingers’ parties are back. Those libidinous libertines many thought were lost in a 70s disco haze, according to a Toronto swinger, are back in greater numbers than in those polyester days. 

In contrast to the many people (mostly men) looking for the anonymous and on-demand buzz of escort agencies, porn videos and sex toys, it seems to me swinging is the most idealistic camp in the army of sexual liberation. There isn’t any sneaking around behind your spouse’s back - in fact, you bring them along for the good times. 

Swingers were usually the subject of the porn movies I watched at the base cinema during my army days. They weren’t real people, but some sort of myth from more electric times. 

Ron Michaels, 41, is an unabashed proselytizer for swinging. A strip-club DJ and erotic and commerical photographer, he’s also co-owner, along with his wife, of swingers’ club Eros. A confident and articulate spokesperson, he has been swinging since he was 17. 

“We believe honesty is the cornerstone of our lifestyle - that makes it work,” he says. “The people engaging in back-alley sex are being dishonest. It’s the same with having an affair - wanting your cake but not being able to share it with the rest of us. 

“Swinging is a moral alternative to having affairs.” 

The divorce rate among swingers, Michaels maintains, is only five per cent, compared to 51 per cent for the general population. The one wrinkle in this impressive “fact” is Michaels’ other admission that many swingers are on their second “married relationship”.

Interviewing Michaels, I feel like I’m talking to a Rotary Club member or a boy scout leader, not a swinger. The talk is about clubs, memberships ($69 a year per couple), trips. It’s a hobby, sport and lifestyle to many swingers, claims Michaels. 

“We have regular weekly functions throughout the year. Some of them are organized by the members. We organize trips and holidays. Weekends in the Caribbean. Like any other social club.”

That can’t be wife/husband swapping he’s talking about, can it?

Michaels’ Toronto Beaches home leaves no doubt as to its occupant’s lifestyle choices: “If you don’t swing, don’t ring,” says a brass plaque nailed to the door. 

Michaels is very proud of swinging’s growth in the 90s. His group has grown from 300 member-couples 14 years ago to 1,800 today. Michaels ambitiously estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 Southern Ontarians are into swinging, between 20 and 25 million across North America. 

So, how does swinging in the 90s work?

Michaels says most clubs operate more as matchmaking parties than full-out orgies. Couples get to know each other and make the arrangements to meet away from the club’s party. Michaels is quick to disassociate his club from drop-in style swingers parties. 

“Canadians are much more conservative than Americans. In New York they are more hardcore, less selective of their partners. When they get there they are more like, ‘let’s find the first available body and get to it,’ whereas people at social clubs want to get to know you. We are talking about four-way compatability here.”

According to Michaels, the big victory for Canadian swingers took place in 1992. “Our Mississauga club was raided back in ’92 and we took it through the courts for a year. We were acquitted and set a legal precedent, making swingers’ clubs legal.”

To many men, the whole swinging thing seems like the best of both worlds: you keep your wife and get to taste the fruits of other trees at the same time. But Michaels says this male teenage fantasy doesn’t pan out in reality. 

“That wears off pretty quickly. Let’s face it, men have a much lower capacity for sex than women do. Men need a longer recovery period and don’t have as many orgasms in a night. Women can just go and go. Guys can’t compete with that. After a while the fantasy wears thin, and it’s the guy that wants to drop out of the lifestyle.” 

And what about that oher most-asked-question: what’s it like to see your spouse having the time of their life with your neighbour?

“They don’t get into those kinds of comparisons. How can I describe this? It’s not a competitive thing where you try to outperform each other. Most swingers appreciate each other as being unique and different, rather than this is bigger, this is harder, this is faster, this is better. Each new experience is taken at face value, ‘Hey, it’s a good time’. You move on to the next one or you go back to your regular partner.”

“Cock Tales” too much for Hamilton

By David South

Id Magazine (Canada), October 3-16, 1996

Steeltown is a little less hot now that View, Hamilton’s alternative weekly, has dropped a controversial sex columnist in the face of complaints from distributors. The fracas has raised a thorny issue: to what extent should a newspaper stand behind a controversial writer?

My Messy Bedroom, a weekly column by Montreal journalist Josey Vogels, mixes graphic language and humour in its look at sexuality. The dispute erupted over a column in the August 22 issue entitled Cock Tales 1 (Cock Tales 2 will not run in View). 

A surprised and angry Vogels says she only found out her column had been dropped when id called her in September. Vogels believes the problem was with the frank discussion by men of their sexual tastes. “Maybe it was the opening line. ‘Mouth on my cock, finger in my butt, looking me in the eyes,’ then a joke: ‘Would you like fries with that?’”

Vogels maintains View knew what it was getting into when it picked up the syndicated column in June, 1995. “You can’t say you want a column because of its nature, then say you don’t like it.”

Vogels says she co-operated in the past when the magazine asked her to tone down a column. “But there is a line where my integrity is at stake.”

Tucked away among five pages of classified ads, My Messy Bedroom was the only piece of journalism with a sexual theme in View

Editor Veronica Magee says View received complaints that children were reading the column, and some distributors refused to carry the paper. In a rambling editorial in the September 5 issue, Magee defends the decision to drop the column, saying it was time the paper made some changes. 

Magee writes that Vogels’ column taught “sexuality is something clean, not dirty,” but admits some urban weeklies aren’t so urban, and must cater to a more conservative, suburban readership. “Hamilton is a conservative city,” she claims. 

In an interview with id, Magee admitted View’s attitude towards the column was “what can we get away with - let’s push the limit.

“Some people argue she should have known better. Although I’m sure people will believe we are making the writer suffer for a decision we made, that is not the intent.”

But the publisher and editor of View offer conflicting explanations of who actually pulled the column. “It was a collective decision,” says Magee. 

Sean Rosen, one of View’s two publishers, told id the magazine had been considering dropping the column for some time. But Rosen says the decision was solely Magee’s. “The editor decided it had run its course, trying to be sensational for the sake of being sensational.” 

Other stories from the special feature: 

“Barely Legal”: Scummy New Generation of Mags Evades Anti-paedophilia Laws by Nate Hendley

Randy for the People: Conservative Ontario City Home to Porn Empire by Nate Hendley

Is Stripping Worth It? by Cynthia Tetley

Those Old Crusaders: Pornography and the Right by Eric Volmers

Feminists for Porn by Nate Hendley

The Sex Trade Down the Ages by Fiona Heath

Id was published in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in the 1990s.

NMM (New Media Markets) spotlight on the emergence of satellite porn channels in the UK

October 26 1995

Is the UK rushing to watch TV porn? 

By David South

Financial Times (London, UK), October 26, 1995

The aspect of satellite and cable programming most feared by the British government when it pushed the development of new media in the mid-80s looks set to become firmly entrenched as a part of the emerging television era. 

Next Wednesday, the USA’s most famous soft-pornography channel will arrive in the UK, almost certainly heralding a satellite porn war for the eyes of the British public. 

The Home Office, which used to look after televsion, was worried that porn would be one shock too many for the British and would create havoc with British television laws. But the mores of the marketplace have changed the climate, although the Broadcasting Act and the Independent Television Commission (ITC) still create limits that are stricter than in most other countries. 

Hard-core pornography - such as that shown on several continental channels which can be picked up in the UK - remains out of bounds, as evidenced by the Department of National Heritage’s recent proscription of the hard-core TV Erotica. 

But the drawing of the line between hard-porn and soft-porn changes over time: the programming now permitted by the ITC is a lot stronger than many might have thought likely a few years ago. The porn channels have learned how to push the boundaries of acceptability and, with competition increasing, are likely to push their luck even further.

Politicians, journalists and old-fashioned new-media programmers - for instance, the United Artists people who were dismayed at the decision of parent company TeleCommunications Inc to bring Playboy over to the UK - may believe that porn channels serve only to cheapen the quality of life. 

But the supply side of the marketplace detects that there is a widespread demand for porn and (ironically) religion and so programmers will follow the demand by supplying suitable programming. 

The soi-dissant “adult” channels estimate their potential audience at between 7 per cent and 30 per cent of cable and satellite homes - between 400,000 and 1.7 million homes at present penetration levels. 

Their main target market is the consumer of “top shelf” magazines which range from the glossy, even glamorous Playboy to the more downmarket magazines of the “reader’s wives” variety.  According to the Campaign Against Pornography, the top six pornographic magazine titles sell about 2.5 million copies a month. Altogether, there are about 200 pornographic titles on sale in the UK. 

Deric Botham, programmer at the recently-launched Television X - The Fantasy Channel  and a porn-industry veteran, estimates that the total UK sex industry - from videos and magazines to sex aids, but excluding prostitution - generates revenues of £4 billion a year, a figure which is difficult to substantiate but is equivalent to 10 times the investment in the UK film industry in 1994. 

According to Botham, “our research shows that people want this thing and the majority of people want it to some degree.”

The porn channels are finding it relatively easy to find satellite capacity, largely because they are forced by the rules to operate at a time of day (i.e. night) when most channels have quit their transponders and are only too happy to find someone to sub-lease them to. 

The first of the new porn channels will be the Playboy Channel, which likes to think of itself as being a cut above the others. The others, it claims, are for “sad, lonely men”. Playboy, on the other hand, is for “happy, heterosexual couples”. 

The channel, probably the softest of the genre, will be launched on November 1 by Flextech, BSkyB and the US Playboy Channel. 

It will be followed by the not-so-soft Penthouse which is being launched in the UK by a joint venture of Penthouse magazine owners General Media and Graff Pay-Per-View, which already owns the UK Adult Channel. 

Two other channels have received licences from the ITC - David (Sunday Sport newspaper) Sullivan’s Babylon Blue and the Adam and Eve Channel. With the Adult Channel and Television X already broadcasting, there could be six porn channels on offer to UK viewers. 

But two other channels are beamed into the UK for those willing to pay the cost of extra reception equipment: the continental pirates, Rendezvous and Eurotica. There is also the now-banned TV Erotica. 

Cable and satellite was bound to be an attractive medium for the porn channels, given the possibility of encrypting the signal and imposing a subscription fee and, as a consequence, benefiting from the lighter regulation that has seemed likely. Sex-channel executives say that the ITC has become increasingly flexible in what it will allow. 

Three other factors have fuelled would-be channels to turn to cable and satellite: 

 

  1.  The replacement of the independent high-street video store by big video superstores has robbed the porn industry of a key outlet. 
  2. New-media distribution should bring in consumers who are embarassed to hire a porn video from a shop. Yet buying a subscription to a porn channel may be a more embarassing act within the family environment. 
  3. The Adult Channel is regarded as demonstrating that there is an audience for porn in the UK: it is thought to have about 224,000 subscribers. 

Cable and satellite has far more potential for the porn industry than the traditional-format channel. The prize, which will make everything worthwhile, is pay-per-view (ppv). Bill Furrelle, Playboy Channel’s sales director, said that he had been asked by several UK cable operators about providing a ppv service next year. The operators want Playboy, the Adult Channel and Adam and Eve to contribute to the Home Cinema ppv service which they hope to put together. 

Do TV porn channels degrade and humiliate?

By David South

Financial Times (London, UK), October 26, 1995

Susan Sontag, the renowned American essayist, described pornography as a “crutch for the pyschologically deformed and brutalisation of the morally innocent.” The Campaign Against Pornography in the UK believes that pornography exploits women and children “in a degrading and humiliating way, often with the message that we enjoy this and want to be abused.”

The campaign encourages its supporters to take direct action against any distributor of pornographic material as part of its wider campaign to put the industry out of business.

The porn channels dismiss arguments that they degrade women and encourage male violence against women. Playboy managing director Rita Lewis argues that “women are happy to consume erotic imagery like pin-ups. Women are not hung-up by this anymore, they are not threatened by the fantasy women we show in our programming. We hope Playboy will lead to couples’ making love together.”

Andrew Wren, financial director of the Adult Channel, also dismisses the link between pornographic programming and sexual violence. “I don’t think there is anything in programmes that would encourage men to go and rape. Women are interested in sex as men are.”

Television X’s (Deric) Botham says that porn programmes are “a bit of titilation” in the fine, upstanding tradition of the British Carry On films. None the less, he admits that “I wouldn’t want my daughter to get involved in pornography.”

He says that the women involved in the programmes, some of them housewives, are willing participants and enjoy the opportunity. “I don’t produce anything that is against the law. We speak to the individuals concerned. If you have a reluctant model, it doesn’t work – I just won’t buy the video.”

The Campaign Against Pornography sees it all rather differently. Ann Mayne, a member of the campaign’s management committee, was particularly critical of two programmes on Television X – Shag Nasty and Mutley and Fly on the Wall.

She said that Shag Nasty and Mutley, in which a presenter approaches women in the street or in supermarkets and offers them £25 to look at their knickers, or £50 to be filmed having sex with him, gave the message that women were simply objects and that it was acceptable to harass them.

“It is complete prostitution of female sexuality,” she said. “Botham wants full-on, across-the-board prostitution of women. In his view, every woman must have a price.”

Mayne said that Fly on the Wall, in which real-life couples are shown having sex, was an open invitation for men to coerce their partners into being filmed, possibly to the point of abuse.

UK laws on satellite porn among toughest in Europe

By David South

Financial Times (London, UK), October 26, 1995

UK regulations on what can be shown on sex channels are tougher than in most countries of the European Union. Channels such as the hard-core Swedish TV Erotica and the recently-launched French Rendezvous are licensed in their respective countries and transmit explicit scenes of sexual intercourse, straight and gay, featuring close-up shots of copulating genitals. 

Graff Pay-Per-View, the experienced US sex channel operator, consciously decided to exclude the UK as a market for its hard-core Eurotica channel which is licensed in Denmark and, like the other hard-core channels, transmits via a Eutelsat satellite. But pirate smart cards for the channel, as for the other channels, are available in the UK in specialist satellite shops. 

Graff’s seeming respect for the UK regulations may not be unconnected with the fact that it owns the Adult Channel and would be wary of upsetting the ITC. Broadcasting unacceptable material into the UK could provoke the ITC into seeing Graff as a body unfit to hold a licence, thereby threatening the Adult Channel. 

The ITC’s guidelines on sexually explicit material state that representations of sexual intercourse can be shown only after 9pm and that “the portrayal of sexual behaviour, and of nudity, needs to be defensible in context and presented with tact and discretion.”

There has been some relaxation of the rule. The ITC will, on an experimental basis, allow the watershed to be broken by a ppv or video-on-demand service. It is not, however, prepared to give this freedom to a porn channel, at least not in the early days, because it does not want to be seen to be licensing pornography. The relaxation will affect only general services. 

The ITC will also monitor any ppv service to ensure that there are no cases of children accessing the programming before deciding if the programme code should be revised. 

The transmission pf 18-rated films on terrestrial or new-media channels is not permitted before 10pm. Films with a 15-rating are not allowed before 9pm on terrestrial channels such as BSkyB’s Sky Movies or the Movie Channel. These are minimum requirements. Some 15-rated films, for instance those which show scenes of sexual intercourse or drug-taking, would not be deemed suitable for transmission even on an encrypted channel at 8pm. 

In practice, the ITC does not permit depictions of erect penises, anal intercourse, close-ups of genitalia or ejaculation. 

Where channels have overstepped the mark and gone abroad to get licences from less strict authorities - the late Red Hot Dutch and TV Erotica - the ITC has recommended that the channels be proscribed, action which has subsequently been taken by the Department of National Heritage. The ITC is now monitoring the Rendezvous channel, which shows a mix of gay and heterosexual hard-core pornography with graphic scenes of sexual intercourse. 

The DNH issues proscription orders under Sections 177 and 178 of the Broadcasting Act. The orders make it a criminal offence to supply equipment to receive the channels or to market and advertise them. 

The European Union directive on transfrontier broadcasting lays down that one country cannot prevent the reception of channels licensed by other European Union countries. However, it allows individual governments to take action against any broadcast which could damage the physical, mental or moral development of minors. 

Playboy ‘is not for sad and lonely single men’

By David South

Financial Times (London, UK), October 26, 1995

The Playboy Channel, due to launch in the UK on November 1, is trying to position itself as being a cut above the existing sex channels with which it will compete for subscribers. 

The channel, which is running an advertising campaign costing more than £1.5 million, believes that its big budgets and slick production values will attract viewers who have hitherto been uninterested in so-called “adult” entertainment. It hopes to win an audience among women as well as men. 

Managing director Rita Lewis dismisses the other sex channels as being aimed at people who are “a bit sad and on their own”. The channels promote “deviant” behaviour. 

Playboy hopes to attract happy, heterosexual couples who will treat the channel as an aid to foreplay: “We hope Playboy will lead to couples’ making love,” said Lewis, who believes that women, as well as men “are happy to consume erotic imagery like pin-ups.”

In the USA, according to Lewis, 70 per cent of the audience for the channel comprises couples. 

She said that the UK Playboy will run programmes that have more in common with programmes like Channel Four’s The Good Sex Guide. “These days, a whole bunch of people are sampling erotic programming like The Good Sex Guide. It is very sexy programming with mass-market appeal.”  

Playboy’s movies would have a high standard of production, she said, very different from what she claims to be the cheap programming made for the other channels, often home videos and often shot with hand-held cameras. 

Playboy’s programming will comprise sex films, interviews with “centrefold” models, documentaries on the sex industry and general-entertainment programming such as quiz shows. 

The rival channels claim that Playboy will not be a big threat to them. The Adult Channel’s Wren says that all the new channels “hype the market, which helps us.” In any case, adult entertainment consumers have already been weaned on harder mix of programming and do not want something that offers little more than what Channel Four shows. 

The UK Playboy Channel, which is owned by UK programmer Flextech (51 per cent), British Sky Broadcasting (30 per cent) and Playboy Enterprises (19 per cent), will transmit from between midnight and 4am on the Bravo transponder on Astra 1c.

The Financial Times newsletter New Media Markets covered the UK's fast-moving new media scene in the 1990s.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.