PORNOMICS: The Economics of Porn

MANILA, Philippines – When the Katrina Halili-Hayden Kho Jr. sex video was leaked on the internet via YouTube, the public went gaga over it.

The video sharing site recorded an overwhelming number of hits – over 23,000 a day. This means 23,000 people watching the video daily, from the day it was uploaded.

After YouTube management decided to pull the video due to violations of

Maria Katrina Irene Pe Halili , a.k.a. Katrina Halili was hounded by controversy after her sex video with physician, turned celebrity, Hayden Kho Jr., leaked in the internet and subsequently, in the stores of counterfeit DVDs in Manila.

Maria Katrina Irene Pe Halili , a.k.a. Katrina Halili was hounded by controversy after her sex video with physician, turned celebrity, Hayden Kho Jr., leaked in the internet and subsequently, in the stores of counterfeit DVDs in Manila.

the Terms of Use, the flick went “underground,” burned onto DVDs and sold on the streets, selling like hotcakes in Quiapo, Greenhills, Recto and elsewhere, at one point going for as much as P200 a copy.

Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim has ordered the confiscation and destruction of seized copies of the Katrina-Hayden video.

But the ease and lows cost of producing pirated copies of movies, including the Katrina-Hayden sex flick makes eradication a near to impossible task.

The machines needed to burn pirated copies are simple: multilayered CD/ROM writers, PCs and the master copy of the movie. In minutes, hundreds of CDs and DVDs can be reproduced, packed and sold.

But some the pirates are becoming more “techie,” acquiring more sophisticated machines to churn out better copies.

The Porn Black Market

Pornography is illegal in the Philippines but the underground industry is a thriving one.

The center of the “industry” is Quiapo, the Manila district where counterfeit video and other optical media products, e.g. operating software for pocket and desktop computers, games, etc., are sold for one-third the price of the real thing. Much of the reproduction also happens there.

The prices, as this author surveyed the streets of R. Hidalgo and the former Raon, range from P25 to P150, depending on the quality and amount of porn contained in each disc.

The titles range from porn “classics” like Taboo, which was very popular during the 1980s, to so-called “sex scandals” like the Katrina-Hayden flick; from Hentai or Japanese adult cartoons to bestiality; sadomasochism movies to child pornography.

A profitable industry

Pornography is said to be a US$57 billion global industry. And experts expect the profits to grow even more over the next few years.

And Asian countries top the chart of countries benefiting from selling and reproduction of porn.

As reported by Top Ten Reviews website (http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html), China led the porn profit race in 2006, with $27.40 billion in total revenues.

Second is South Korea with $25.73 billion, followed by Japan, with $19.99 billion in total revenues.

Next is the US, with $13.33 billion, then Australia, $2.0 billion, followed by the United Kingdom ($1.97 billion) and Italy ($1.40 billion).

Tied at eighth spot are the Philippines, Taiwan and Canada, with $1.0 billion in profits in 2006.

“Every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography; every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography; every second, 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines; and every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States,” says Jerry Ropelato, who wrote the Top Ten Reviews report.

“The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink,” he said.

From January to September last year, Optical Media Board (formerly the Video Regulatory Board) said it had confiscated and destroyed 4.807 million illegal pornographic videos worth around P1.3 billion ($27,475,757.94).

Who benefits from porn?

There are two schools of thought about who benefits from and who are harmed by the proliferation of porn.

Even in the “liberal” United States, the debate still continues about the morality and benefits of the flourishing porn industry, which pays a huge amount of taxes to the Federal Government.

In 1986, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography released what is popularly known as the Meese Report, which concluded that pornography, in general, has no harmful effect on the American populace.

The report also examined the direct relationship between pornographers and organized crime.

Earlier, in 1969, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson formed the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography to study the effects of porn in the American community.

This commission’s conclusions:

That there was “no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults.”

That “a majority of American adults believe that adults should be allowed to read or see any sexual materials they wish.”

That “there is no reason to suppose that elimination of governmental prohibitions upon the sexual materials which may be made available to adults would adversely affect the availability to the public of other books, magazines, or films.”

That there was no “evidence that exposure to explicit sexual materials adversely affects character or moral attitudes regarding sex and sexual conduct.”

That “Federal, State, and Local legislation prohibiting the sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed.”

Avedon Carol, one of the founders of the UK-based feminist group, Feminists Against Censorship, said in her essay in 1995: “As those among us who have studied child abuse and sexual violence (or experienced it) know all too well, rape and abuses are problems that go deeper and are more intractable than anything that can be blamed on the camera and the printing press. Abusive relationships take many forms and almost anything can be seen as the ‘cause’ of abusive behavior. As many husbands have harassed and humiliated their wives over cooking and housework as have done so over sexual issues – and many women have learned, to their chagrin, that abusers are often more likely to try to suppress sexual expression in their wives than they are to try to force such expression. And most abused women – including those who have suffered sexual abuse – have little to say about pornography as a specific problem in their relationships.

“Indeed, criminologists and clinical workers alike are largely in agreement that pornography is not causal to sex crime and abuse. In the United States, treatment centers and law enforcement agencies have collected data on sex crime for over 50 years, showing no correlations linking it to pornography.

“That moral rightists continue to support the anti-porn arguments is not surprising. They are correct in noting that women have experienced greater freedom during the period that mass-produced pornography has become available, and they see this correlation as positive proof that pornography causes harm by encouraging women’s liberation.

“What is disturbing is that women who call themselves feminists persist in asserting that the presence of pornography in the culture actually reduces women’s visibility and achievement in public life. Diana Russell, in her book Making Violence Sexy, even goes so far as to compare the position of women in the west with the condition of Jews in Germany during the Third Reich. “Catharine MacKinnon has claimed that pornography itself “censors” women, and that women’s voices in the public discourse have been silenced by it. (The Harm of Porn: Just Another Excuse to Censor; accessed at http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/FAC/harm.htm, May 27, 2009).”

In the Philippines, there are also attempts to legalize, not exactly pornography, but prostitution. The proposal is being advanced by so-called ultra-feminists but being blocked by national democratic women.

“If they legalize porn, (they) might as well legalize the others like abortion or marijuana,” says Ma. Consuelo G. Cabrera, a filmmaker and painter from the Southern Tagalog Exposure Media Collective in an interview.

Prof. Rolando B. Tolentino of the University of the Philippines Film Institute clarified, however, that there is no hardcore porn industry in the Philippines.

“Subcontracted lang [ang hardcore movies] mula sa Korean producers, halimbawa. Kalakhan [ng pelikulang may temang sex] ay either soft porn (bomba films to gay films sa present) hanggang sa uploaded sa e-sites at video scandals; yung uploading and viewing, personal pleasure na lang ng mga tao (Hardcore movies are only subcontracted from Korean producers, for example. Most of the sex-oriented films are either soft porn or video scandals uploaded onto e-sites; the uploading and viewing is for the personal pleasure of people),” he said in an interview.

And who’s benefiting from Pinoy porn?

“E di ‘yung (Of course the) foreign producers,” the film expert said. (Appeared at Dateline Philippines)