Then and Now: the Evolution of Adult Entertainment

Looking back over the past 20 - 30 years, it's not difficult to see that adult entertainment has undergone a staggering evolution, mainly due to technological advances. Yet, is it possible that the content has also changed? 


Adult Entertainment has very different connotations for different people, especially when you factor in time periods. The way people consume content in general, has changed significantly. 

Throwback to the days where horny teens and university students were keeping top shelf magazines and the latest edition of Playboy under their beds. Dads were bringing back xxx VHS tapes to 'spice up' their marriage or (mainly) to enjoy a little secretive solo play. Mums were getting flustered over steamy soap operas and the occasional late night softcore movie on terrestrial TV.

Then something BIG happened. With the widespread introduction of cable television, viewers no longer had to go to the video store and rent adult video tapes, they could pay for on-demand services and get the latest xxx titles direct to their televisions. 

Another leap in technology, was the advent of the DVD in 1995. At this point, the release of the DVD was second to none. Picture colouration, quality and definition had advanced several levels beyond the VHS and somewhat temperamental cable channels. It was the sure-fire way to watch what you want, when you wanted it. 

In the 90's, big budget studios were enjoying the decadent era for adult entertainment. Sales were soaring and performers were living the high life. After all, big funds meant big productions.

It wasn't uncommon to see titles incorporate penthouses, luxury villas, outdoor pools, beautiful people and plenty of hardcore sex. A number of films and photo sets were shot in some of the most affluent and exclusive communities. 

Typically, script writers would even throw in a ridiculous storyline for good measure; such as the 'teacher visits parent about student's poor grades and ends up having with them' scenario or 'repair man finds hot milf home alone and has sex with her in the kitchen.' 

Meanwhile, the internet had just become accessible to those who could afford it. The first adult sites had already begun to pop up and offer webcam viewing, live chat services - some of the very first chatrooms to appear on the net. 

Of course, dating sites and adult online communities were also making an appearance. Friend Finder Networks Inc. aka Adult Friend Finder was established in the US in 1996, and was one of the first social communities on the net. The platform allowed users to create profiles and communicate with one another. 

By the early 2000s, flash video had become the next thing of interest. This meant that users could install the plug in on their internet browser and watch adult videos online.

By 2004, tube sites were about to be unleashed on the world. This is the year that Mindgeek was founded aka the company behind YouPorn and PornHub as well as several production studios such as Brazzers.

The launch of YouPorn in 2006, changed the face of adult entertainment forever. Users could access thousands of videos directly from one website. With numerous categories, pornstar listings and search bar for users to enter specific sex acts or peformer parameters, it created a whole new world for consumption.  

No longer did people have to trawl through the same videos to find the specific sections they enjoyed. Users could explore and watch new clips every day; from short snippets of hardcore action to full, plot-driven scenes. It seemed like this type of offering would become an absolute candy land for porn connoisseurs. 

While it may have been, it also highlighted some issues that were previously going undetected by both internet users and content providers alike: privacy, child protection and piracy. As such, the adult industry became one of the first to implement privacy protection measures. Pay-sites also began to incorporate age verification systems to ensure their user base were of legal age. 

One of the biggest issues for content providers that still remain unsolved is copyright infringement. While users can now create their own collections and share them online with others, the original owners of the clips are being sold out for the sake of traffic and video hits.

Meaning, that a lot of independent performers are making significantly less than they use to, while pay site owners are making serious revenue through traffic and advertising.

Nowadays, we have adult studios that deal solely in Virtual Reality adult content, while exploring the possibilities of Augmented Reality. 4K video has become the new 'HD' and half of the most talked about celebrities have a sex tape 'leaked' every few years. 

Technology, is not the only thing that has changed the face of the industry. The call for diversity has also lead to studios catering specifically for niche audiences, or employing a policy of 'inclusivity' in their productions. This seems to have developed along side the evolution in the understanding of human sexuality and the public perception there of. 

Even the way adult performers are portrayed is beginning to change outside of the Western mainstream. Genuine interactions and states of arousal are starting to be depicted as the norm, there are more 'natural' looking performers than there has been in decades and in contrast, tattooed performers. It is worth noting, that there is drastically more on-screen diversity, i.e. different ethnicities, sexual orientations, body types etc. 

As more women now then ever watch porn, there's been categories dedicated to showing erotica from the female perspective and / or that is deemed to be more appealing to women. 

Variety, as we know, is the spice of life and consumers have far more options than ever before. It's hard to imagine where adult entertainment will go from here, just as it is to imagine what technology we will have in the next 10 years. 

All we know is that things will continue to change rapidly, and a sure bet is that whatever technologies are developed for the purposes of business and entertainment, the adult industry will embrace them with open arms. 


Written by Brenda Adiyiah for Burn the Night

In association with Rose Talks Sex


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