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With commuter porn, anyone can get an eyeful

X-rated videos are now playing on very small screens in cars and on cell phones, iPods and PDAs. But what's the fun in that?
Cell phone displaying picture of porn star Jameson
A cell phone features a tiny image of porn star Jenna Jameson.Peter Morgan / Reuters file
/ Source: contributor

Though I can’t be positive, I think there’s a law (something like Moore’s Law, the idea that the number of transistors you can put on a computer chip doubles about every two years) that says wherever new audio-visual electronics go, porn goes with it. Seriously. How many people ran out to buy BetaMax or VHS video tape players just so they could rent "Flashdance"?

So now that we have 3G cell phones, PSP game handhelds, PDAs and the iPod, porn-in-a-pocket is a reality. In fact, before Sony’s PSP was even officially out on the market last year, there were porn videos for it.

New online services, a la i-Tunes, will download, say, “Hi Neighbor” (“When Alexis invites you over for a movie ... you never end up watching a movie.”) for your phone, iPod or PSP. Or you can buy Japanese disks formatted for PSP with titles such as “Big-Breasted Nurse Mitsu Amai” or “Undressing Volley Division,” which, judging by the cover, involves volleyball without pants. Playboy has a PSP download service for its brand of softer erotica featuring its “Cyber Girls.”

According to New Scientist magazine, an analysis by two computer researchers from Google showed that a higher percentage of Web searches from cell phones were for adult material than were searches launched from desktop computers.

The market for DVD systems in cars is growing every year, too, and not only because mom wants to keep the kids amused with "Dora the Explorer." Video systems in low-riders and tricked-out SUVs often have an X-rated video playing in them as part of the bad-ass atmosphere.

All of which raises the specter of commuter porn. No more newspapers expertly folded to two-column width to accommodate the crammed subway, no more traffic reports on the car radio. Nope, goes the theory, the diversion on commutes may resemble a trip to the old Pussycat Theaters.

Japanese salary men already stand in train cars on their way to work reading porn-and-bondage manga. Soon, if it hasn’t happened yet, you might glance over the shoulder of some guy in the next seat to find out what song he’s playing, only to get an eyeful of Brianna Banks’ private parts on a two-inch screen.

Picked up for 'drive-by porn'
There have already been arrests in several states for so-called drive-by porn.  

Last December, in Spartanburg, S.C., an off-duty highway patrolman and his wife happened to pull in behind 26-year-old Jerome Curtis Buckson whose video system was playing “Booty Talk 43” on a screen aimed at the backseat — and therefore through the rear windshield.

He was arrested. The judge figured the video did not fit the charge of “dissemination of obscenity,” but the state was thinking of re-filing similar charges.

I thought I’d call Mr. Buckson and ask him what, exactly, he was thinking. I mean, there was nobody in the back seat to watch the video. He was alone. So, umm … why?

Sadly, he was unavailable. It seems he has bigger problems than “Booty Talk 43.” According to Spartanburg police, he was arrested in January and has been charged with burglary and murder.

In Oklahoma, state representative Joe Dorman was driving down Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City “when I stopped at a light and the person in front of me had two of the DVD players over the back seat and both were playing the same movie,” he told Sexploration. “But it was on repeat. It was playing the scene over and over. So we go to two more stop lights and I looked twice to make sure I was seeing what I thought was playing on there. I came in [to the legislature] the next week and filed a bill.”

States like Louisiana, Tennessee and Virginia have passed such laws already and other states considered them. Some bills stalled because of the usual definitional problems, like what’s “obscene” and “intentional” and “private.”

Dorman expects his bill will become law this spring. If so, breaking it could result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $500.

Representative Dorman, who seems like a reasonable guy, doesn’t like being in the position of “monitors of morality.” So, he says, “staff made sure the bill was drawn up so people can do what they want in homes or cars as long as others cannot witness. Then it’s their business. We wanted to make sure we did not go too far, but we had to do something.”

His own experience “was ridiculous! It was designed for people to see. It was blatant.”

No doubt. But there is some evidence that right-wing religious groups have latched onto the notion of commuter porn in order to stoke porn fear. Of course, like Dorman, they have a point. Displaying your porn stash to everybody around you in public is a lame move. 

But nobody seems to know how often people have been a captive audience to unwanted porn. There are a few scattered reports from around the country — a woman with her kids in the car in Michigan on I-96 spotted a porn video in another car and complained to a state senator; a driver in Schenectady, N.Y., was pulled over for playing a DVD called “Chocolate Foam” on the video system of his Mercedes — but nothing like an epidemic.

Not that much fun, anyway
While bills like Dorman’s would seem to be an obvious solution to even the possibility of finding yourself trapped in traffic with a dirty movie playing through the Honda Civic in front, and having to answer a question about unorthodox uses of fruit from your 9-year-old, such laws may be a solution in search of a problem.

The commuter porn phenomenon will likely fizzle shortly. Watching porn on handhelds isn’t all that much fun. Cell phones have about 2 inches of screen, the i-Pod 2.5 inches. The PSP has a 4.3-inch screen. The UMD-formatted disks that play on PSPs are expensive.

You really have to want to watch “BiBody Ero-Terrorist Noa” to view it under those conditions. Once the shallow thrill of being able to do it at all goes away, hand-held porn will be as boring as cell phone photos.

Screens in cars — and just who thought of putting DVD systems in cars anyway? — aren’t much better and it’s already illegal in many states to have a screen the driver can see.

So the mobile porn fad will probably fade. Can’t wait to see what comes next.   

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).

Sexploration appears every other Thursday.