Sex is not just reproductive, is also productive which is why in some countries, such as the UK, its service revenues will be added to the GDP data. One of its contributions to economic stability is it’s counter-cyclical nature. When the economy is flourishing there are many alternative demands and distractions on time, but during recessions and layoffs there are fewer. Not every economy has bitten the bullet on this one yet, but South Korea has recently rescinded a law that penalized adultery, sending the demand for condoms sky high and pushing up the share price of latex products manufacturer Unidus Corp. by 15%, which upon reflection suggests a very law abiding society.
But it is in the IT world the real valuations are at work. Internet porn was an early driver of credit card use, companies working out ways for people to pay online. As H.L.Mencken might have said “no-one ever went bust over-estimating the demand for sex.” The most recent addition to online services comes, appropriately enough, from the social media mobile app Snapchat. Strippers, male or female, offer their services for a small payment, maybe as small as $1 or $5 a time, for a one-off showing which rapidly disappears without trace from the mobile phone, so no audit trails. Payments can be made using Square or directly through Snapchat accounts, P2P. Sexting is big bucks, US2.8 billion a year on mobile devices according to a report by Juniper Research, and a further US1 billion in “adult” subscription services.
The independent 1989 movie, Sex, Lies and Videotape, which won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, bought film director Steven Soderbergh to prominence. In its own way it was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its day, but with depth. Another worthy winner of the Palme D’Or in 2013 was Blue is the Warmest Colour. Is it surprising therefore that Hollywood doesn’t produce more of movies along sexual themes? The successful one make pots of money. But neither of these Palme D’Or winners were Hollywood studio movies, and Hollywood tends to shy away from anything too risqué. There may be another reason, and that is Hollywood likes to go for mass audience popular tastes, and for movies in which sex plays throughout the story line there is a much cheaper alternative: online porn. The difference, of course, between porn and ‘blue’ art movies is they are designed to stimulate different parts of the body. Back to H.L.Mencken who actually said words to the effect “No-one ever went bust under-estimating public taste.”
So what does social media stimulate? For the young, curiosity most likely. In the 1950s and 1960s conservatives in society decried the growth of “sex, drugs and rock n’roll” but those were the days in which a bare mid-riff could cause raised eyebrows. The big change probably came from TV. In 1965 the theatre critic Kenneth Tynan rocked the polite world of British media audiences by using the F-word. Shock, horror and dismay were widely reported by seasoned journalists. Wartime general Lord Montgomery declared he had never heard the word used in all his days in the armed forces. By the late 1990s , the American TV show ‘Sex and the City’ pretty much let it all hang out, if only metaphorically. The times they had changed. Today, social media, not TV, is where it all hangs out, and not so metaphorically. At least, it might improve the future public’s understanding of the human anatomy and how to keep it in good shape. Be optimistic, see it as an anti-obesity campaign.