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The Porn Review Site

For nearly two years now, I’ve done glorified volunteer work on a former college professor’s film site. It started as a pretty basic thing—he needed someone to help him post reviews once a week; in exchange for that, I got free screeners and the opportunity to have published reviews in a semi-legitimate location—but gradually I wormed my way up to a full-fledged web guru, spending a shitload of time using my limited web-design knowledge to bring the site into the 21st century.

Despite the lack of substantial payment, I’ve found the work rewarding enough to not bail. I mean, there are a lot of things I look to get out of the experience, and as long as I get a few of them, I’ll be okay for awhile.

And then The Webmaster sent me an e-mail that made my brain explode.

He sent it to myself and three others—the supposed site leaders. Apparently I’ve scaled the wall into the upper echelon, formerly reserved only for founders of the site, each of whom has been involved with it for nearly a decade. I’d feel a little better about it if this somehow padded my wallet, but okay, I’m one of the site leaders. Now what?

“Let’s make a porn review site.”

That’s an abridged version of the e-mail. Essentially, The Webmaster has little interest in it other than the financial aspects—he believes it’ll be a huge moneymaker, for reasons he did not expound on—so all he really wants to do is set up a WordPress blog, plug in a customized template, and then start reviewing hardcore porn.

While I sat there, baffled and wondering how one even reviews porn. Full disclosure: I have a few friends who will discuss, in detail, certain clichés found in porn that they can do without, but that’s more of an all-encompassing, universal thing. It’s a little different when one has to account for certain things like specific, personal sexual peccadilloes, meaning I may find a particular film incredibly arousing while others look at it in disgust. Sexuality, I’d argue, is even more subjective than art. And, to that end, pornography is even more disposable than mainstream cinema.

Here’s what I know about porn: it’s the cheapest, most disposable commodity on the planet, and therefore it is worthless. A review of something worthless, in turn, doesn’t have much value, either.

You can find pornography all over the Internet, for free, within seconds. You can dig a little deeper to find something that’s actually good, but it’s still free. It’s as simple as downloading a wide array to sample, deleting what you don’t like, keeping what you do. I don’t need to read a review to know what I like, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that assessment. I have actually seen reviews of porn movies, but I’ve only ever used them as a guide to find out the scene order, so I know when a particular star (if that’s why I’ve downloaded it) appears.

Which brings me to my next point: porn is all about fast-forwarding to the good parts. Why should I, as a reviewer, have to sit around watching the entire thing for the small percentage of people who are titillated by the anticipation of fucking, the boring talky scenes I always skip because I don’t like knowing how rock-stupid the “actrors” are. I also don’t like the gimmicks most of these movies employ to create the illusion of variety. Nobody’s going to sit and read a review and say, “Wow, it has surprisingly good cinematography considering it was shot on handheld! Must-see!” Few will read it and say, “Yes, it’s loaded with suspense before the actual magic begins!” Nobody wants to know about the “plot,” if it even attempts to have one—they just want you to concentrate on the act itself, and if they’re anything like me, they don’t even want to know how you feel about the level of eroticism present, unless it’s something generic like, “This is a pretty hot DP scene!”

Keep in mind, also, that I’m the youngest of these “founders,” all of whom are either approaching or past 50. So, you know, I just have this mental picture of middle-aged computer spazzes thinking, “You know how to make money on the internets? Porns!”

I don’t object to it out of hand; after all, I’ve reviewed my fair share of erotica. I just wonder who the prospective audience is, what they’re looking for, and whether or not we can meet their needs. If we can’t, I question the possibilities of the site as a sure-thing moneymaker. The only thing I can see as being a moneymaker is the type of site that reviews pay sites, but unfortunately, one would assume the advertisers would be said pay sites, and they might expect some kind of favoritism. But I’ve seen a couple of sites that exclusively review pay sites and judge them solely on the basis of content: is this worth paying for?

The Webmaster sounds like he’s more interested in reviewing movies, but maybe that’s only because he doesn’t realize what’s out there that’s worth reviewing.

Probably a bigger problem: who does he think will write this stuff? Right now, he has a pretty large group of reviewers for mainstream and indie movies—all of them unpaid, doing volunteer work because, like me, they have various things they want to get out of the site. Even The Webmaster himself said that he’d separate his name from it; I know I’d do the same, so that raises the question: what do the other (unpaid) writers get out of it?

A legitimate place to publish clips? Yeah, I’ll be sure to put my review of Malibu Ass Blasters 7 in my portfolio of writing samples next time I go in for an interview.

The fact is, if he’s going to start a porn review site, he’s going to have to start paying people. How much does he think this site will make? Is it worth it after he considers how much he’ll have to spend in order to keep content coming (so to speak…)? I know almost nothing about web commerce, but I’m going to have to go ahead and doubt it; if he intends to support this with per-click advertising, and you believe my theory that even if someone did read they reviews, they wouldn’t be buying porn—who’s going to do the clicking? If he intends to set this up as a pay site in and of itself—holy shit, who will pay a monthly fee to read reviews of porn? Almost every recent title listed on the IAFD has links to free reviews just below links to purchase the movies. That’s all anybody needs, so why would they pay for the luxury of reading the review?

Have I told The Webmaster any of this? Nope.

To be honest, I’m a little concerned. It’s not that I have a problem shitting all over his ideas, especially when what I’m providing is the “young-person’s” perspective (e.g., the alleged demographic), and that perspective is “waste of time”—no, my problem lies in not feeling like part of the gang. If they’re going to go ahead and do this, that’s fine. I’m not really going to help, I won’t waste the time reviewing any of the movies, but I harbor no ill will. (But I will secretly say “I told you so” when it makes $0.) But who am I to come in and say, “Even though I’m the youngest and newest member of this ‘leadership’ group, I have two huge reasons why this is a flawed idea, so you should at least consider them before going ahead with it”? It’s not my place.

Really, I’m just baffled they’re even considering this. They all seem like pretty straight-laced guys, married, affable. I dunno, maybe that’s the demographic to appeal to—aging codgers who don’t get much nookie and have to rely on porn but don’t have the time or resources to waste on just anything. It has to be special.

And suddenly I’m wondering if this isn’t such a bad idea, after all…

Edit 3/16/11—Because of this post, one of my friends effectively dared me to launch Sexual Velvet, which started out trying to seriously review pornography as art, before evolving into a weird satire of film criticism in the form of a character too pretentious to realize he’s watching filth, not art.

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