Have camcorder sales increased since the film sex, lies and videotape became last season’s sleeper smash hit? Or hove a significant number of video buffs been writing and taping own X-rated videos for years and keeping quiet about it?

Participating with a current partner in a favorite pastime, privately, in front of a camera…is it erotic? Exciting?

Or have the few adult video scandals played up in the media made it so dangerous none of us ought to risk sexual activity before our camcorders?

The issues behind the current interest prurient camera use are complex and far-reaching.

Home video sex may sound like a sensual, innovative, and inexpensive way to improve upon the 1300 hardcore films stashed in the back of the video rental store. But without informed consent and confidential handling of taped material, the issues become moral, ethical, and political.

And, with potential victims and profits involved, issues can also become legal.

Consenting Adults

Home video sex can be one of two things: sexual enrichment or sexual endangerment.

Sexual enrichment is a term long used by sexologists and marriag counselors. It refers to a wide range of private activities, performed between consenting adults, that can enhance an existing sexual relationship.

These include massage with and without oils, furs, or feathers; playing with sex toys, dressing up in erotic costumes, acting out fantasies; reading erotic literature; and watching X-rated films.

For many couples, maintaining passion in a long-term relationship is work, requiring a willingness to experiment and take risks with new and varied activities.

With the advent of the camcorder, couples with an active imagination and courage enough to watch themselves on screen can explore an additional dimension of sexual enrichment. With today’s technology we can all be TV stars, we can all be our own private porn stars.

Many couples see home sex as sexual enrichment: a way to enhance marital communication, excite routine relationships, or just have fun on rainy Saturday nights when the kids are at grandma’s.

Blue Angels

A California sex therapist and his partner were mutually pleased to note the intimacy, gentleness, and emotional connection in their own movies-elements missing from the X-rated films they’d rented.

While viewing their lovemaking, they also discovered a pattern of miscommunication. She felt uncomfortable in an act he assumed she enjoyed. Talking about this afterward improved their relationship considerably.

Dr. Bernie Applebaum maintains that “viewing sexual encounters could be useful and enlightening to any couple, and can promote increased openness and expressiveness.

Another gentleman, 54, purchased a video camera specifically to view his sexual prowess on tape and to use as a come-on with women he wished to take to bed. He was certain he could do better, as director and performer, than the blue movie pros.

Over a three-year period he asked six partners to participate before the camera.

“All six,” he says, “consented, loving every exhibitionistic minute ofit.” He and his partners agreed before-hand that the tape would never go beyond them, and was not for public consumption of any kind.

A Midwest couple found listening to the sounds of their lovemaking such a turn-on they were nearly unable to sit through one sequence before recording another.

A Florida man who likes to set up his camera so he can watch himself on the monitor says home video sex is “like a high-tech mirror on the ceiling.”

Its Too Late to Stop Now

The aforementioned couples found that making their own movies provided the missing ingredient in mass market pornography-a visual statement of the connectedness of the coupling couples.

It may be that on-screen evidence of genuine intimacy, feeling, and affection is what “back of the store” consumers have been looking for all along. It’s an emotional connection people can identify with so closely, it is their fantasies come true.

Home video sex also has commercial potential. Home video delivery services estimate that 100,000 American couples now participate in tape-swapping clubs.

Some are entrepreneurial in their home video sex endeavors. Hundreds of people have placed ads in film and video-related magazines, offering their own productions for rental, purchase, or trade.

Small production companies will buy personally produced tapes for $500 to $700, boxing and marketing them for distribution through their own networks.

Consumers of this porn alternative say they can tell the difference between tapes made by those who wanted to do it, and those who were paid to do it.

Finally, home video sex as sexual enrichment has professional applications. Videotaped feedback could become a more accepted resource for sex education and in the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Interactive video discs can teach children where babies come from, how to prevent pregnancy, and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.


Dark Side of the Blue

All good things have their dark side; so too with home video sex.

As sweet as the aforementioned stories may sound, in the wrong hands home video sex can become sordid, transformed into sexual endangerment.

Sexuality is a powerful force, and not everyone in our sex-saturated society has the purest of sexual motives. Power, dominance, control, revenge, anger, hatred, and plain pathology can be reasons for wishing to see one’s own or someone else’s sexual behavior on film.

Explicit tapes can become tools of extortion, blackmail, and bribery or simple humiliation.

Teen idol Rob Lowe was sued by the mother of an underage girl who willingly had sex with the movie star-in front of an 8mm camcorder. The girl and another participant absconded with the tape, showed it to friends, and soon found it the hit of the Atlanta underground and eventually the nation’s porn market.

A home sex video entrepreneur who made and distributed home tapes was publicly embarrassed and financially ruined when he was arrested for using mirrors in his movies.

Professional pornography directors and stars often unintentionally set standards for performance that few can duplicate. One of the dangers of X-rated media is that even the sexually confident viewer can be made to feel inadequate.

Home video sex might indeed be a welcome relief from the self-imposed expectations derived from pro productions.

The Look of Love

Sex has been used to sell everything from sofas to sedans. One might wonder what would happen if more people “did it themselves” and found the results personally, aesthetically, and technologically more rewarding than tapes for sale or rent. The porn industry might twinge…just a little. Even anti-porn feminists might approve of home video sex between consenting adults.

Whatever the Gay Nineties may bring to both the technology and sociology of sexuality, we can be pretty sure we’ll be able to hear it and see it. Sex is here to stay; on what visceral, visual, and value level remains to be determined.

Pat Hanson, Ph.D., is a Professor of Human Sexuality

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