How the Internet Keeps Pushing Porn's Social Progress Forward

Earlier this month, celebrated porn director Dana Vespoli released a groundbreaking new film, Girl/Boy 2. From the box cover alone (NSFW), which features glam face shots of a man and a woman, there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly unique about the film. 


Except the man in question is celebrated trans performer Buck Angel, and another scene features trans woman Venus Lux. But despite how the film’s scenes are all about playing with gender, Girl/Boy 2 is not specifically advertised as a trans film.

The story of the internet and the adult industry is often framed as a tragedy—at least, if you’re someone who’s hoping to make a living from smut. Anyone who’s been in the industry for over a decade will reminisce about how going online transformed the jizz biz, first by accelerating profits as discreet access to porn became easier than ever, then by tanking the whole operation as piracy ran rampant and paying for porn became a thing of the past.

But that’s the story of the industry’s financial health (a story which, it should be noted, has been replicated across a number of other, more mainstream media industries). The story of how the internet has changed the content of the actual porn we consume, on the other hand, is a much more positive one.

By offering a way for outsiders to break into a historically impenetrable industry, the internet allowed for an injection of totally new ideas. This effect continues shaking up long-held views about how and what porn is “supposed” to be. And it’s beginning the process of a democratization that is creating a vastly more interesting erotica landscape, where porn’s finally breaking from its stale ideas and formula and creating something truly innovative, like Girl/Boy 2.

If your main exposure to porn is whatever clips happen to pop up when you search “big boobs” on PornHub, however, you might not be aware of any of these major sorts of changes in content. The style of porn—primarily heteronormative, straight-male focused—that was popular throughout the 90s and early aughts is still being made, and still has an audience. But alongside that classic type of porn is a new breed, once solely considered the domain of small, indie producers, that’s finding its way into the libraries of big name distributors and studios.

Mixing together a whole bunch of rather queer-feeling content into a mainstream release is a radical break from format.

Girl/Boy 2 was released and distributed by Evil Angel, one of the bigger names in the world of porn. If you’re mostly familiar with indie internet smut, Evil Angel backing Girl/Boy 2 might not seem like that big a deal. Gender bending and freely mixing trans and cis performers in the same product is pretty common for companies like the San Francisco-based Crash Pad Series. But for a more mainstream, LA-based company like Evil Angel, this kind of release is hugely groundbreaking. Mainstream porn thrives on sorting performers into body type based silos; mixing together a whole bunch of rather queer-feeling content into a mainstream release is a radical break from format.

Why was Dana Vespoli able to transcend the rigid gender boundaries that define most porn? To understand this story, it helps to go back to the early aughts, and the beginnings of a genre known as “alt porn.”

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