Sex Entertainment Across America: Saluting Tod Hunter

Tod Hunter
Photo courtesy of Tod-Hunter.net

A guy.  There’s always a guy.  The point guy.  The go-to guy.  The guy with the skinny.  The guy behind the scenes who knows where all the skeletons are stashed.  The guy–well, you get the idea.

For the past 20-plus years in the adult entertainment industry, that guy has been Tod Hunter.  Perhaps the name doesn’t strike you along the likes of a Flynt or Hefner, but that shouldn’t diminish his place as a prime mover and shaker in the business.  As one of the industry’s preeminent film critics, his influence–both on producers as well as audiences–is legendary, well earned and merits his place as a key thought leader.

The fact that he’s also an eclectically great guy probably doesn’t hurt either.  Politically, he’s solidly duct-taped to the left wing, but you really have to love a guy who quotes Reagan and Jefferson in support of liberals–and makes sense doing it.  Personally, his lifelong love of show business manifests itself today with his membership in Hollywood’s renowned Magic Castle, where he’s also a docent.  Professionally, his gritty work ethic is balanced by the soul of a poet.

Hunter got his start writing for a popular TV game show and for the L.A. International Film Expo.  In 1997, he came across an Adult Video News (AVN) advertisement seeking film reviewers.  Hunter recalled, “The ad asked, ‘Can you write?’  Check.  ‘Can you meet deadlines?’  Check.  ‘Can you be a smartass?’  Oh yeah.  That’s me.  Actually, I just thought it would be a great gig because it offered an inside look at what goes on in adult entertainment, but it turned into much more.”

What it turned into was becoming a competent, activist voice in an industry poised on the verge of significant change at that time.  With the internet still in its relative infancy and its potential only beginning to emerge, Hunter became a proactive advocate for quality adult entertainment in America, acting as a positive force throughout its integration into the mainstream zeitgeist.  “It’s been an interesting time because the internet has really helped take away a lot of the stigma that used to be there,” he stated.  “It’s much more accepted now.  People know who Ron Jeremy is when he walks down the street.  But it’s also created an entitlement attitude because of the proliferation of free material out there.  It’s just like any other form of art or entertainment.  You get what you pay for and usually the cheaper it is, the crappier it is.”

His eye for quality genuinely set him above the crowd right out of the gate as he went about the business of finding the gems in the pile.  For example, in 1999, he was sorting through a stack of screeners one late night in his office when he came upon a production that had captured little interest entitled, “Double Feature.”  “A bunch of people had passed on this one,” Hunter recounted, “but about 20 minutes into it, I knew it was great.  I was completely blown away by it.”  Double Feature went on to capture 10 awards at the 2000 AVN Awards (the industry’s version of the Oscars) and another at the X-Rated Critics’ Organization Awards that year.  Today the film is widely regarded as a classic.  “I love those kinds of moments where you just know you’re onto something special–where you just want to tell everyone to get their own, this one’s mine!” Hunter related.

We first got to know Tod as he tooled around with us in a massive, golden SUV nicknamed “Vanzilla” during the San Francisco episode of Sex Across America in 2000.  Rather than just review completed screeners like most critics, his approach was to invest the time necessary to see the whole process from start to finish.  He did this to get a better perspective of production challenges, but also to gain a firsthand appreciation of the performers and crew involved.  The result was developing a unique, signature style featuring the ability to remain professionally positioned on the periphery yet able to build a sincere, personal rapport across the board.  In a field where it’s easy (and perhaps even beneficial) to be cynical and jaded, Hunter is one of a kind in the sense that he fully immerses himself until becoming a subject matter expert while maintaining the integrity necessary to critique that subject objectively.

Taking that a step further, he doesn’t limit his engagement to the set or the screening room.  He actively follows his subject wherever it goes and in whatever form it takes.  For example, besides being one of the foremost non-resident connoisseurs of all things adult in Las Vegas, he’s also a ground floor supporter of the long-standing phenomenon known as Porn Star Karaoke (PSK).  Billed as the “Longest running ongoing weekly adult industry event,” PSK has been going for over 10 years and has become a weekly staple every Tuesday night at Sardo’s in Burbank, CA.  “It’s the only ongoing gathering of the adult industry,” Hunter noted, “and it’s a great, fun way to keep up with who and what is going on.”  Keeping up with all of that, especially these days, is a monster task.  He makes it look easy–a trait common among those few who are world-class at what they do.

So, if you’re ever in the Southland and have nothing to do on a Tuesday evening, now you have something to consider–and you might just run into The Guy–the guy with his finger solidly on the pulse of all that’s going on in sex entertainment in America–our good friend, Tod Hunter.

(You can follow Tod through his website at Tod-Hunter.net or on Twitter @TTodHunter)

Sex Across America: Beyond the Series

Chronicling the exciting and intimate sexual escapades of people around the country is the basic focus of Sex Across America series.  Each episode features a sampling of the erotic landscape in various locations.  Many of these places were what you might expect in this kind of program, for example:  New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas.  Others, such as Aspen, Virginia Beach, Puerto Rico, Seattle, New Orleans, Hawaii and Sturgis South Dakota were perhaps not as obvious on the surface, but certainly no less worthy when it came to painting a portrait of sex across America.

Even though each episode met its intended mark individually, we felt the overall picture was left incomplete.  Perhaps a simple casualty of pragmatic programming. Hence, a lot of pertinent material didn’t make the final cuts.  As a result, the idea of evolving the core concept of the series into a more expansive project was born–and that development begins here.

As we progress, we intend to focus on information that’s both useful and productive for our readers with an occasional nod towards some irreverence and satire as warranted.  After all, the broad subject of “sex” in the US does provoke some pretty goofy points of view at times, so why not just embrace the reality of that and make it part of the discussion?  In any event, in order to hone in on what’s most useful to a pretty diverse audience, we hope you will actively let us know what’s important to you–and we’ll try to make it part of the subject matter we spotlight.

For us, this is a labor of love–a means for highlighting things that are fundamental to the human experience in a positive and intelligent way (even if tackling controversy at times).  For you, it’s a free resource that we hope you’ll enjoy often as we grow.  So, please bookmark us, chat us up on your social media fix(es) of choice and, most of all, enjoy our grand adventure that is Sex Across America.

Regards,
Luc Wylder & Alexandra Silk,
Producers of Sex Across America

Fantasies Across America

When looking at emerging trends in sexuality, some are much easier to pin down than others.  While many people are finding greater liberation in discussing sex these days, there are still certain aspects that are tougher to discuss openly or admit to honestly in surveys, even if there’s an assurance of anonymity.  Whether it’s due to a fear of being judged, an aversion to having to deal with an emotional process or outright denial for whatever reason, there are just some things that many people want (or need) to keep to themselves when it comes to their sexual proclivities.  The subject of fantasies tops that list.

Frankly, the lack of candor regarding fantasies makes a certain amount of sense if you pull at the seams a bit.  It’s a serious emotional risk to admit most fantasies aloud and many likely feel that a fantasy kept private is also a fantasy kept perfect.  There’s no real way of telling how many bomb when people try to bring them into reality, but there’s absolutely no risk if one keeps their fantasy safely couched inside.  Accordingly, these sorts of things tend to remain closeted and excluded from positive developments in sexuality trends.  Yes, it makes perfect sense, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense for the better.

Here’s the thing:  Admitting to and playing out fantasies with a consenting partner can be a perfectly safe, healthy and fun way to not only explore and expand one’s sexuality, but also to increase intimacy and trust.  The hardest part of the whole deal is simply getting the proverbial ball rolling, but once it is, keeping it rolling in the right direction is just a matter of basic planning and developing comfort with the process.  It’s a serious hurdle, to be sure, but it can be surmounted if an honest commitment is made to keeping an open mind and nonjudgmental approach.  Normalizing the method that works best for the unique people involved might take a few tries, but planning for such little bumps in the road ahead can minimize their impact in the long run–and in fact, enhance the bonding.  How one couple does that will likely be quite different from another, but the key is to apply traits that work well in other aspects of a specific relationship and fine tune them as progress is made.  If a partner has a legitimate concern about a particular fantasy, it should be taken seriously and worked out to a reasonable compromise.  Usually, if a couple is comfortable with a negotiating style as a foundation in their relationship (i.e., “Sure, I’ll go see the bang-em-up, shoot-em-up, blow-em-up movie with you this weekend if we can go see the touchy-feely-teary-cuddly-feel-good flick next weekend.”), then chances are a quid-pro-quo approach will work equally well, as long as it’s equitable.

As the process takes root, keep it simple.  While many fantasies are highly detailed in one’s imagination, trying to accomplish them with perfect intricacy in reality usually spells doom.  Aiming for a more general effect has a much better chance of success, at least at the outset.  You can always step things up as time goes on, but try to rack up a few wins first in order to build confidence when first starting out.  Additionally, try not to look at things that don’t go so well as failures but rather as opportunities to improve the next time.  It’s just as important–and effective–to know what doesn’t work as what does.  If you have an oops, blow it off, laugh at it together and make the necessary adjustment as you progress.

Ultimately, while it’s a general subject that many prefer to keep private, it’s a lot more common than most might think.  Hopefully, knowing you’re not alone in that regard will be a catalyst for giving it a good shot.  Exploring fantasies through erotic role playing with a partner can be a simple, yet elegant way to expand your sexual repertoire and perk up your sex life immensely.  Keep it direct and to the point at first, but don’t be afraid to push the edges a little as time goes on.  If it’s less-than-perfect in execution, focus on the intimacy and fun and then just resolve to tweak it a bit the next time.  It’s genuinely one of those things where the journey is much more important than the destination.

Porrrn in the U.S.A.

We take a lot for granted these days when it comes to technology trends, but when you consider that Windows 95 is now older than most college freshmen, it doesn’t take much to recognize how far the world has actually come in a relatively brief period of time.  Oh sure, for some more seasoned types, there may be a certain degree of nostalgic yen for times that current froshes will never know, like that ubersatisfying blooop-brrrrrp-screeeeech of a dial-up connection, for example.  (Come on, you know you loved it when it worked.  Admit it.  It made you happier than Gumby at a yoga class.)  In any event, it seems that for the most part, people just roll with the changes regardless of age–and regardless of the disruptions caused by advancing technologies.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the adult entertainment industry, at least from the consumer side.

To get to the eventual point quickly, let’s look at this in eighteen year blocks.  In 1995, the year that most of today’s college freshmen were born, the primary means of enjoying adult entertainment at home was by VHS video tape, either rented from the back room of a local mom & pop video store or purchased by mail order.  Eighteen years earlier, in 1977, the accepted medium for the same entertainment was film-based.  Full length feature presentations were usually limited to theaters and, as the first viable video players were just hitting the market back then, prevailing home entertainment options were either in short form reels that were played on 8mm projectors or film-strip loops requiring a specialized cartridge player.  There was certainly an upheaval in the adult entertainment industry when the disruptiveness of video tape over film occurred, but the disruption ultimately ushered in what many considered to be the golden age of adult entertainment from a business perspective.

In the eighteen years since our current college newbies were born, VHS gave way to DVDs which gave way to file sharing, digital downloads and real-time streaming as the most commonly desired delivery forms.  With rapidly improving bandwidth, wireless delivery systems, increased file storage capacity and various ‘smart-devices’ (which, themselves, are now usually obsolete as they roll off their assembly lines), not to mention an incredibly wide variety of do-it-yourself platforms, adult entertainment production and consumption has never been more convenient or cost effective.

As you might imagine, this pace of disruptive change has caused rapidly increasing upheavals and shifts throughout the adult entertainment industry, significantly shrinking the business value of professional performers and first-rate content creators in favor of an emerging model where lower-quality providers can thrive.  In other words, no more ‘golden age’ as it was, and while that’s certainly not good news for the existing industry, consumer trends indicate that most people are indeed just rolling with it–and rolling in a big way.  Most of the world’s top adult content providers reported record years in 2013, with the U.S. leading the way in per capita porn consumption across the board.  (Yay, we’re number 1!)  In fact, every major country measured increased consumption in the 2012-13 year-over-year analysis, but here’s the twist:  Very little (if any) of the content provided through these systems is actually produced directly or even purchased by today’s largest suppliers.

As is the case these days with most forms of social-based new media, content is often provided by the user base; either DIY produced, technologically stolen from other producers and repurposed into clips to prod a viewer to another site or, in fewer cases, just for fun if the creator has an exhibitionist streak or fancies themselves an amateur porn star and doesn’t really care about revenues or intellectual property rights.  Anyway, since the platform suppliers aren’t enduring content costs for the most part, much of their fare is given away free in order to encourage maximum consumer traffic which enables commanding higher advertising prices, all resulting in a very clean and significant revenue stream which is highly efficient based on today’s technocapabilities.

Indeed, the past business model has been disrupted to the point where an entire industry will have to either adapt or die, but that’s not really all that dissimilar from previous disruptions which have been endured.  The thing is, those pesky college freshmen are-a-comin’ and very soon will be the industrial brains and muscle, both on the business side as well as the consumer end.  Eighteen years from now, they’ll be the ones nostalgically looking back on today with a fond view of how ‘technologically primitive life was in 2014′, but it’s also likely that they’ll be responsible for whatever the next big thing will be.  That is, unless some more seasoned types beat ’em to it.

What do you think that will look like?

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