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Argument: Modern porn increasingly crosses fantasy-reality boundary

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Supporting quotations

Ross Douthat. "Is pornography adultery." The Atlantic. October 2008: "the fantasy-versus-reality, pixels-versus-flesh binary feels more appropriate to the pre-Internet landscape than to one where people spend hours every day in entirely virtual worlds, whether they’re accumulating “friends” on Facebook, acting out Tolkienesque fantasies in World of Warcraft, or flirting with a sexy avatar in Second Life. And it feels much more appropriate to the tamer sorts of pornography, from the increasingly archaic (dirty playing cards and pinups, smutty books and the Penthouse letters section) to the of-the-moment (the topless photos and sex-scene stills in the more restrained precincts of the online pornosphere), than it does to the harder-core material at the heart of the porn economy. Masturbating to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (like Christie Brinkley, once upon a time) or a Playboy centerfold is a one-way street: the images are intended to provoke fantasies, not to embody reality, since the women pictured aren’t having sex for the viewer’s gratification. Even strippers, for all their flesh-and-blood appeal, are essentially fantasy objects—depending on how you respond to a lap dance, of course. But hard-core pornography is real sex by definition, and the two sexual acts involved—the on-camera copulation, and the masturbation it enables—are interdependent: neither would happen without the other. The whole point of a centerfold is her unattainability, but with hard-core porn, it’s precisely the reverse: the star isn’t just attainable, she’s already being attained, and the user gets to be in on the action.

Moreover, the way the porn industry is evolving reflects the extent to which the Internet subverts the fantasy-reality dichotomy. After years of booming profits, the “mainstream” porn studios are increasingly losing ground to start-ups and freelancers—people making sex videos on their beds and sofas and shag carpeting and uploading them on the cheap. It turns out that, increasingly, Americans don’t want porn as a “kind of science fiction,” as Kipnis put it—they want realistic porn, porn that resembles the sex they might be having, and porn that at every moment holds out the promise that they can join in, like Peter Cook masturbating in front of his webcam."

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