Paper illustration by Sarah Decker

The Year of the iPorn

Former pornographer living in Eugene says dirty films are going mobile

In pornography, size really does matter — though not the way you might think.

Think small size, like an iPhone instead of a film studio. “It turns out 2019 was a watershed year,” Hart Williams says. “It was the first year in which the majority of content was both produced and consumed on mobile devices.”

Williams, who has lived in Eugene since 1993, has excellent porn credentials. He wrote hardcore movies and videos in California’s San Fernando Valley — the Hollywood of X-rated flicks — from the late 1970s to the mid ’80s.

A quick look at his writing credits on IMDB gives you a taste of Williams’ movie career, from the 1985 video Older Women With Young Boys to 1986’s Wild Nurses in Lust.

He has also worked as a writer or editor for such explicit publications as Adam, Adult Cinema Review and Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine, where he worked in 1979 and 1980. At Hustler he met Eugene science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon — more on that connection later.

I called Williams, whom I met years ago while he was working for the Democratic Party of Oregon, and asked him to describe the state of pornography in 2020. He asked me to give him a few days so he could call old friends and “bone up” on the business.

When we got back together, he had a clear picture of the porn film world. The technology revolution has had much the same impact on the established pornography business as it has on newspapers, brick and mortar retailers and the record business, Williams says.

“Now, the majority of people are performing own their own content,” he says. “They have their own websites, they get their own money. The studios are kind of going down. DVD sales are cratering. Brick and mortar stores are in deep trouble in the urban centers. They’re still doing well out in the country because of bad internet.”

The internet has meant financial independence for the small number of stars who make it to the top, often working at home with nothing fancier than a good phone camera, some editing software and an imagination unfettered by personal modesty.

He offers the example of a wildly successful internet performer named Cory Chase, a New Jersey woman who’s been performing online since 2011. “Maybe you’ve heard of her. She’s very popular for doing the, uh, dirty mom stuff. ‘My sexy step-mom,’ that’s her whole shtick.”

In the past, Williams says, a woman like Chase would work in a studio system over which she had little or no control. Instead, he says, she operates her own website, owns her own films and has never needed the studios.

Williams came to Oregon in 1993 when he reconnected with Jayne Engelhart Tannehill, a writer he had known while working at Hustler through her relationship with Sturgeon, the science fiction writer. She was Sturgeon’s partner until he died in 1985. Williams and Tannehill were married in a ceremony on the McKenzie River in 1993.

The amount of material that has been uploaded to the web is staggering, Williams says. “Just on PornHub, every minute of the day 2.8 hours of material is uploaded. At present they have over 7,000 years of video onsite. If you started playing today and nobody added a new one, it would take you 7,000 years to watch them all. Wow.”

One surprising but gratifying shift Williams sees in the porn business is this: In the U.S., at least, pornographers have finally won the decades-old war against censorship. It’s just too difficult to control distribution online, and porn websites are too popular.

“We’re still the canary in the coal mine as far as censorship around the world is concerned,” he says. “But not at all in the United States.”

At least so far. Williams fears the ultra-right-wing turn that politics is taking in the U.S. could ultimately result in a crackdown here.

“I’m pretty sure Hitler did the same thing,” he says. “I mean, when Hitler started out, he insisted that he was implementing the will of the almighty, and that the Nazis were good Christians and all this other stuff. And God had to get rid of this degeneracy.”

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