Nate Glass Column: Perception Is Reality

This article originally ran in the December 2012 issue of AVN magazine.

There’s an ages-old cliché saying something like “perception is reality,” meaning whatever you think is going on will be what you believe to be the truth.  In the world of piracy, perception plays a vital role in how people justify their actions. Most of the time, that perception couldn’t be further from the actual truth.

When it comes to the world of adult entertainment, you’re all about selling a fantasy. Not just the fantasy on the screen, but the fantasy of a sexy lifestyle featuring gorgeous people in lavish settings enjoying the kind of sex life everyone else dreams of.  In this industry, the truth isn’t very sexy at all. So it really shouldn’t come as a surprise most people’s perception of this industry is nothing like the reality. Recently on my blog, I got into a series of debates with a pro-piracy commenter. When I mentioned I had seen firsthand the effects of piracy on our industry over my 14 years, this commenter dismissed my claims, writing, “Obviously you’re bitter because you’re a failed porn star.” When I asked him what gave him the idea I was ever a porn star (and a failed one at that—ouch), his reply was, “Well, you said you’ve been in the adult industry for 14 years, so I assumed you must have been a porn star.”  I had to inform this guy there are more people involved in the industry than the performers you see on camera.

Many have this perception because it’s the fantasy we’ve sold them. Even when CNBC or HBO does a feature about our industry’s business side, it’s still about seeing Jesse Jane take her kid to soccer practice, or Seymore Butts picking up his kid from school. At the end of the day, Jesse Jane talking about her kid gets more ratings or page views than the accounts payable person at Digital Playground talking about her kid. So the average Joe out there is completely oblivious to what really goes on in our business. When they come out to Vegas for the big porn show, we don’t show them the person who does makeup, the people who edit the movie, the guy who does DVD authoring. We show them the glitz and the glamour because we are in the business of marketing fantasy to them.

However, this comes back to bite us in the ass when it comes to piracy. Freeloaders think our product actually has no value because they believe our industry begins and ends with Jenna Haze and Manuel Ferrara getting it on. They don’t have a problem pirating the latest scene from Stormy Daniels because they saw how much Stormy seemingly enjoyed her scene and that in and of itself should be her payoff, at least according to the freeloaders. They use the oft-stereotyped character of the sleazy porn producer to justify their Robin Hood fantasy. One freeloader told me how he felt righteous in pirating Bang Bus content because “they picked that girl up, had sex with her, and then dropped her off in the middle of nowhere.” Suddenly our fantasy has become our nightmare.

So what can we do? How can we educate Generation Y (can we just call them Generation Me?) to understand things actually have value and cost money to produce? Can we educate an entire generation of Takers to respect the rights of the Makers? Can we strike a balance between marketing fantasies and revealing the unglamorous, but no less valuable, truth?

In the current landscape of Occupy protests and global recessions, would we be better served to show the world that our industry isn’t as glamorous or as wealthy as the perception? Would people be less likely to feel justified in the rampant theft of our intellectual properties if they realized they were affecting the paychecks of middle-class citizens?

The recent Los Angeles County “No On B” campaign attempted (some would say unsuccessfully) to emphasize the economic impact of porn leaving the county. But again, the campaign featured mostly porn stars taking pictures and tweeting to their fans—those fans mostly living outside Los Angeles County and thus unable to vote on the matter. Pop-up windows showed up on Pornhub telling people to vote down the measure … again, mostly people outside L.A. County and people who clearly aren’t concerned about the financial well-being of the industry in the first place. And then we had quotes from millionaire studio owners who could close up shop tomorrow and never have to work another day in their lives. Would we not have had more success by showcasing the average middle-class people the adult industry employs in the county? Would showing a non-performer female talking to other non-performer females about how the government shouldn’t control their bodies have yielded better results? All across the country those politicians who were linked to the “War on Women” were soundly defeated, except in L.A. County. Why is that?

Our industry is under attack, both from the right wing and left wing of the political spectrum and from the digital anarchists of the internet. The perception is we are a bunch of reckless youth and sleazy millionaires. But I know the people I consider friends in this industry don’t fall into either of those categories. They’re small business owners, people who give generously to charities, and people who pick their kids up from the same soccer practices as everyone else. They play co-ed softball, buy junk from Wal-Mart and watch The Walking Dead on TV. They’re just like everyone else.

But that’s not the image of us portrayed in the media, thus we get no sympathy from people who don’t know any better. Pirates don’t feel bad ripping us off because they believe we’re either some Jackie Treehorn/Caligula hybrid porn producer, or the girls are the cast of Clueless on a Requiem for a Dream trip.  Until we change this perception, the reality is always going to be pretty grim for the adult industry.

Takedown Piracy is an anti-piracy service started in 2009 by Nate Glass, a 13-year veteran of the adult industry. TDP offers copyright holders an affordable and effective means to fight back against content thieves. To date TDP has removed over 1.6 million content infringements, and it closely monitors 200 piracy websites. For details, visit