Sources

Brazil's Porn Business Tries To Find The Right Model

The good old days of Pornochanchada are over
The good old days of Pornochanchada are over
Graziele Dalbó

SÃO PAULO - In the 1970s in Brazil, there was an explosion of a very particular cinematographic genre: Pornochanchada, a type of soft porn.

In the middle of a military dictatorship, these erotic movies without explicit sex and with naughty humor were phenomenal successes at the box office. For example, O Bem Dotado - o Homem de Itu (The Well Endowed Man From Itu), one such film, was seen by 2.4 million cinema-goers in 1978.

With the end of censorship six years later, Pornoshanchada quickly gave way to hardcore porn. Like in Europe and the United States, audiences started to migrate from seedy movie theaters into the privacy of their own homes with home video. The movie theaters closed and turned into churches.

But then came the Internet and DVDs, making transport and pirating easy – and the porn party came to an end. Now it seems more like a funeral.

Photo: Cinedistri

According to Paula Aguiar, the president of the Brazilian Association of Erotic and Sensual Media (ABEME), erotic films only account for 1% of sales in the erotic media industry. In the 1990s, they represented up to 60% of the market.

According to ABEME statistics, in 2006 erotic productions generated about $150 million in revenues, 50% of the adult market at the time. “In 1962, when the first sex shops opened, there were no movies offered. That changed and video sales eventually overtook the sales of products and toys. But the big boom ended in 2004,” Aguiar says.

It’s not just in Brazil. Steven Hirsch, the owner of Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult entertainment companies, went so far as to say that it is the worst time for the industry in the past 25 years. Piracy and the Internet weakened the business for large producers – and so did the bad economy.

But while the traditional porn media like videos and magazines is suffering through a crisis, Internet pornography is booming. According to numbers from PornWatchers.com, the two main porn sites international have a total of 735,000 videos all together, with an average length of 11 minutes each.

With this kind of stock, it would be possible to watch the ‘productions’ for 16 years straight without having to repeat a title. In addition, with fast download times and secure pages, these sites really control the industry. The time of porno producers who drive around Beverly Hills in their limos, accompanied by models, is a thing of the past.

Fetish videos

“In the 1990s, there were erotic movies in all of the nearly 15,000 theaters around the countries. Now they don’t play in even half of the 5,000 ones left,” says Evaldo Shiroma, creator of Erotika Fair and the vice-president of ABEME.

One of the options for fighting the drop in the market is to bet on sub-genres that have better selling potential. “Fetish videos, targeted towards fans of strange content, have a lot of market space, we have even managed to export them to Europe,” says Shiroma. But this has not been enough to lift up the market.

The crisis has caused many producers to throw in the towel. "We used to have 12 big names, between the producers and the distributors. I don’t know exactly how many are left, but the number has dropped by a lot,” Shiroma says. Hardsexy is one of the survivors. The company’s owner, who prefers not to give his name, also makes movies in a lot of different genres, including action films and religious and evangelical movies. The businessman remembers that, in the good times, a video would sell 40,000 copies in the kiosks. Now it is difficult for a DVD to sell 8,000 copies.

This has meant adjustments in the whole of the porn industry, from reducing the final product price and lowering the number of new releases from nine per month to two per month. On the positive side, the cost of making copies has fallen, although that is part of what has made pirating so easy. “I release a movie and the next day it’s on the Internet. There are a couple of steps we can take against piracy, but that is the most we can do,” says the owner of Hardsexy.

In spite of the difficult times, he is not thinking about quitting. “I have been in this market for 23 years, and I have been through all the stages. I earned a lot of money, lived in luxury, but I like to be going against the currents,” he says, adding that one of his projects is to release a 3D Blu-ray erotic movie, which, according to the businessman, would be the first such release in Latin America.

If porn producers are suffering, for porn actors and actresses the crisis and necessitated a total reinvention. “I used to get $750 for a scene without a condom. Now I don’t even make $400,” says Patricia Kimberly, who has been in around 200 productions since 2006, including Carnaval do Frota (Carnaval Fleet).”

In her first couple years as a porn actress, Kimberly could participate in around 10 productions a month, for which she would make around $7,500. “Now I only do one scene in a month,” she says. To make up for the drop in income, she has launched her own site, a move that is increasingly common in the U.S. and Europe. Now the Internet allows anyone or couple to construct themselves an identity – with their own site. They can record home videos with digital technology and offer them for download for a fee.

This is what the Loupan did, an actor who has around 2,000 movies and 11 years in the industry. “I have a partnership with a producer, and we make high-quality videos for a website. A good scene can cost $3,000. That is the difference between a serious production and one that is thrown together,” he says. He has been doing this for the past three years, and he has managed to maintain his lifestyle.

“I used to do between 15 and 16 movies per month, and now I do between 6 and 8, but in terms of the salary it hasn’t changed much,” he says.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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