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The Rise of Gonzo Porn Is the Latest Sign of America's Cultural Apocalypse

A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies. A visit to a Las Vegas porn convention reveals we are dying now.

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The following is an excerpt from Chapter II of Empire of Illusion, where Hedges attends an enormous porn convention in Las Vegas:

The largest users of internet porn, which is slowly draining away profits from magazines and DVD sales because so much of it is free, are between the ages of 12 and 17. And porn producers know their market is increasingly underage. "The age demographic has moved downwards, especially in the UK and Europe," explained Steve Honest, the European director of production for Bluebird Films. "Porn is the new rock and roll. Young people and women are embracing porn and making purchases. Porn targets the mid-teens to the mid-twenties and up."

There are some 13,000 porn films made in the United States a year. According to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs and the ever-expanding E-sex world, topped $97 billion in 2006. That's more than the revenues of the leading technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $ 10 billion or higher. There is no agency that does precise monitoring of the porn industry. And porn is very lucrative to some of the nation's largest corporations. General Motors, for example, owns DirectTV, which distributes over forty million streams of porn into American homes every month. AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable are the currently biggest American companies accommodating porn users with The Hot Network, Adult Pay-Per-View and similarly themed services. AT&T and GM rake in approximately 80 percent of all porn dollars spent by consumers.

Ariana Jollee, 21, is sitting in a motel room, beside a particleboard desk and a bare white wall giving a pre-film interview for the DVD 65 Guy Cream Pie, a gangbang film produced in 2004 by Devil's Film. In the film she has sex with 65 men who stand in two lines, their pants unzipped, on either side of her. She is smiling at the camera. Jollee has sleek dark hair with bangs, a tribal armband tattoo around one bicep, and wears jeans and a loose black tank top. She has rounded arms, full cheeks and a slightly heavy chin. Jollee started doing porn in 2003 when she was 20 in a film called Nasty Girls 30. She has done hundreds of films and is one of the industry's premier "gonzo" girls, purportedly enjoying extreme abuse. Jollee tells her audience that she performed in a 21-man gangbang on her 21st birthday. She says she is looking forward to doing the same now with 50 men, although this number climbs to 65 on the set. "Cream pie" refers in the world of porn to men ejaculating on a woman's anus or vagina, rather than ejaculating into her mouth or on her body.

"I'll be banging fifty guys - fifty, fifty, fifty! Maybe more even. That'd be cool. So I'm like really excited."

She laughs and plays with her hair. "And it just so happens that all these guys are going to be coming IN me." She looks coyly at the camera. "In the ass and pussy," she grins, wrinkling her nose. "See I like it in the ass the best. I wanna find the biggest pervert and get him to suck all fifty loads out and spit it in my mouth." She reaches up and fiddles with her bangs. "That'd be so good. That'd be fucking hot. It'd be disgusting." She giggles. "I get off on that." She runs her fingers through her hair, fanning it out behind her.

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