Web porn sinks smut shops

Elaine Allegrini

Adecade ago, fears that X-rated adult shops would bring their sexy wares to local communities spurred a rush to zone them to the outskirts — away from schools, libraries, churches and residential neighborhoods.

It turns out that the anti-smut movement may not have been needed.

Today, porn fans flock to the Internet as well as cable TV to pursue prurient pastimes, so few local sex stores can be found on the streets of cities and towns.

Pornography is big business but because much of its commerce is hidden, revenue estimates nationwide vary widely, all the way from $1 billion to $10 billion in sales annually, according to Forbes.com.

Another estimate sets the annual take between $13 billion and $14 billion, putting the United States fourth in the world in pornography revenue, after China (first), South Korea and Japan.

And there are new frontiers for the porn industry to exploit as street-corner smut shops fade from the scene. The next big thing will be using the trendy Apple iPhone as the source for porn, according to Time.com.

With cell phones and cyberspace luring porn seekers, who needs the adult store on the corner, with its old-fashioned seediness on public display?

“The porn industry has all gone underground,” said former Brockton Mayor John Yunits, who was in office when the city worried about a proliferation of adult shops along Main Street.

Today, the city has one adult store, on Montello Street near downtown. A survey of area towns turned up just three “adult” shops — in Brockton, Wareham and Raynham — and the Raynham establishment is known more as a meeting place for people who may want to “hook up.”

In addition, the once-popular adult movie sections in certain video stores are taking up less space these days.

“The whole industry has died out,” said Richie Graham, owner of Massive Video in Norton, now a family video store instead of a hub for X-rated movies.

Graham said sex movies are readily available on cable television and the Internet, leading to the downsizing or demise of corner video shops and even the larger chain stores.

Back when folks worried that smut shops would sprout near their homes, churches and schools, some communities designated zones for adult entertainment and related businesses that many expected would come.

“We all did it around the same time,” said Abington Town Manager Phillip Warren, who also held positions in Holbrook and his hometown of Norton.

“They were definitely being pro-active because the case was, if you didn’t have a zone, you couldn’t keep them out,” Warren said.

Gordon Luciano was a selectman when Raynham’s bid for an adult zone was overturned in court. “Legally, we could not ban it,” Luciano said.

The suburban town ended up with two adult stores, one that closed in recent years and the one that’s more of a meeting place. Fortunately, Luciano said, that shop is on Route 44 and away from the hub of the community.

Meanwhile, the market for adult merchandise is growing, according to Kim MacInnis, Bridgewater State College sociology professor.

“We’re becoming a society that’s desensitized,” MacInnis said. “Self-gratification gets more demanding.”

While the Internet has become a key shopping destination for adult merchandise, home parties also are gaining in popularity, especially among women.

Lisa White of Abington is a consultant for Athena’s Home Novelties and Pole Lot of Fun. She offers many of the items found in adult shops at home parties, with 95 percent of them attended by women ages 20 to 60-plus. The other 5 percent are for couples or for men and women who are not necessarily couples.

Athena’s line includes lotions, books and other products in addition to sex novelties. All products are ordered in private.

“Women don’t feel comfortable walking into an adult store,” White said. “Women who do come to Athena parties feel comfortable and at ease.”

Elaine Allegrini can be reached at eallegrini@enterprisenews.com. Enterprise staff writer Sky Gidge contributed to this report.