Port-a-porn

I know I’m hopelessly retrograde in my thinking about phones, quaintly and antiquatedly believing their function is to allow one person to speak to another person at a remote location. I haven’t yet accepted that they are so much more than that, and that communication is really the least of their functions. Communication is so last century: what’s happening now is the phone as personal marketing manager, a device to allow advertisers to tailor things specifically to you that can reach you wherever you are and whatever you might be doing and help you transform any environment you happen to be in into a personal you-specific playground of desire. Wherever you go, your phone, your portable personal buddy, is there to reinforce that you are at the center of the universe and all digital roads lead to you.

Once it was the Internet that put you firmly of the center of the universe, and it was pornography — that solitary, masturbatory, self-contained form of libido management — that led to its rapid adoption as a media format. Now, according to a story called “Sex Cells” in today’s Wall Street Journal, pornography will also lead the charge toward the widespread use cell phones as tiny TVs. Thanks in large part to port-a-porn, spending on video content for phones is up to one billion dollars from virtually nothing a few years ago. In Asia, cell-phone users can play with “Vivianne” a “virtual girlfriend” and in Europe you can have live chat with strippers who get naked on the little video screen.

None of this is much different from what’s already available via cable and the Internet at home. But the essential difference is its portability, which allows one isolate oneself with his porn in increasingly private places — you won’t need to lug a laptop into the bathroom to masturbate in private. And you since you can carry your fantasy-gratifier around with you, it will always be there to pull you away from the real world, the world where social interaction is necessary, where it is not scripted by prearranged money exchanges and contractual expectations. It is a more enveloping way to not be where you are but to be in the phone world instead.

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