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Technology and “adult entertainment”

Booth personnel at the Adult Entertainment Exhibition at the 2009 CESThe following post contains adult themes and links to NSFW content.

When I went to my first CES in 1984, I heard stories of an “Adult Entertainment Pavilion.” I didn’t go because I had booth duty and mixed feelings about “adult entertainment” because of my father. My hornier coworkers came back with excited tales of upcoming video releases and signed photos of their favorite actresses. (Not Stormy Daniels, though. This was before her time.)

It may seem as strange for porn to appear at a technology show as it does now to see it discussed as a political issue. But porn has always driven technology. That’s why it makes an appearance in my novel Amiga.

Adult films were created soon after the motion picture was invented. By the 1980s, adult films were moving from XXX theaters to the home through videotape. VHS was the media of choice because it could hold longer movies, and Sony refused to allow pornography on Betamax. This killed off Betamax even though it offered superior quality to VHS.

In the 1980s, computers were also looked at as a potential media for adult entertainment. There were some video games, like the infamous Custer’s Revenge, but the image quality wasn’t there. It wasn’t until the 1990s that computers had the graphics resolution and performance to show full-motion video. Then the Internet came along and, well, you know.

In writing Amiga, I wondered how some enterprising pornographer would look at the potential of such a high resolution computer.

Amiga excerpt

But Laura later questions whether this is the best use of technology.

This shows the uncomfortable relationship between technology and adult entertainment. At the same time we acknowledge how porn can drive tech forward, we worry about the potential damage it can do. The same smartphone cameras that enable us to share pictures with our loved ones are also used by perverts to send pictures of their genitals to unsuspecting people. Technology also facilitates the creation and distribution of child pornography and revenge porn.

It’s part of the ongoing conflict between the tools we create and how they are used. Do we ban tools or prevent their development because they can be misused? Or are there ways to prevent their misuse without stifling innovation? This is a question society has to struggle with.

Also published on Medium.