Mass market pornography has a history of appropriating technologies of image reproduction and distribution. From photography to 16mm film and home video, the adult entertainment industry has always quickly adopted new media technologies, and the internet has proved no exception. Pornography has become one of the most prevalent forms of electronic commerce and a channel for sexual entrepreneurship (Lane, 2000). Possibly more than any other type of entertainment content, porn seems most appropriate for taking advantage of the distribution channels offered by the internet. Images can be easily distributed across borders in ways that escape national censorial frameworks, and, without the linguistic barriers of television or film, pornography is not subject to the same cultural discount as these media. Popular adoption of the computer as a domestic technology has allowed direct access to porn in the private confines of the home. With an over-abundance of images and easy access, the internet is close to representing what Laurence O'Toole describes as the pornutopian fantasy of 'sex now and without complication or issue ... no headache, no limitations of size, stamina, performance or desirability' (1998: 23).
Similar to the segmentation of the market for printed pornography, commercial porn sites provide hundreds if not thousands of titles, catering from broad to narrowcast tastes. Amongst the range of erotic sites on the internet, celebrity nude sites have formed connections between the porn business and popular fame. Celebrity nude sites carry galleries of naked public personalities, with images of film stars posted alongside those of music stars, television and sports personalities, and other well-known figures, including models and politicians. In keeping with the representational economy of pornography in general, the volume of female celebrity images far exceeds the number of naked male images. Celebrity nude sites carry images of stars in various contexts; stills from intimate scenes in films, or from porn films made before the performer was famous, are part of the familiar repertory; paparazzi photos catch stars in states of undress while on holiday or relaxing in their private lives. For example, a naked image of Brad Pitt sunbathing is one of the main promotional windows for True Male Celebs, which also carries images of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Wahlberg. On 100% Nude Celebrity Pics, images of female film stars are collected under various headings: 'Oops -Upskirt Pics' catches stars exposing more than they had intended; 'Paparazzi Shots' includes images of Cameron Diaz nearly naked on the beach, along with shots of Uma Thurman, Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow, while Neve Campbell, Heather Graham and Reese Witherspoon appear under 'Young Nude Celebrities'; 'Rare XXX Celebrities Movies' uses film clips to isolate Jennifer Lopez, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and Barbara Streisand, amongst others, performing sexual acts.
To satisfy legal conditions, a number of disclaimers are made by these sites. The small print at the bottom of the front page for True Male Celebs, states 'Please note that all the images contained herein are for newsworthy purposes only. Any fees payable for this site are exclusively for bandwidth charges associated with the internet.' It is also affirmed that all the subjects were aged over 18 years at the time that the sexual depictions were created. CelebsXposed and 100% Nude Celebrity Pics cover issues of intellectual property by declaring that the operators believe all images carried by the site are public domain. However both offer to remove any material for which it is proved that rights are held. Wary of the many panics which have surrounded concerns over child pornography on the internet, True Male Celebs carries the logo of ASACP - Adult Sites Against Child Pornography.
Sites vary in their methods of access. After a three-day trial subscription of $2.95, a monthly subscription charge is made for access to True Male Celebs ($36.19) and CelebsXposed ($25.95). For 100% Nude Celebrity Pics, access is restricted by the Adult Check age verification system run by Cybernet Ventures Inc. For $19.95 per month, the system's Gold Service operates as a central gateway to access a vast number of premium sites which, at the time of writing, totalled 14,126.
After recognising that these payment systems further locate the identities of stars in the context of commercial exploitation, the question remains, what are they selling? It would be easy to view these sites as further evidence of how pornography has colonised the internet, regarding celebrity nudes as images intended to cause sexual arousal. However, this would provide only a partial explanation of the phenomenon. When the first star scandals appeared in the early 1920s, stories revealed a side of stars hidden from public view. As DeCordova suggests, the personality, star and scandal discourses incrementally deepened a star's identity. Together these discourses constructed a series of layers in which a 'set of secrets was introduced beneath a set of secrets' (1990: 140). 'First, fans "discovered" the secret of the star's real, bodily, existence outside of films, later the secret of the star's married life, and later still, in the twenties, the secret of the star's sexual affairs and transgressions' (1990: 142). Through these secrets, the discourses of stardom promised to reveal the truth of a star's identity. Taking a Foucauldian line, DeCordova suggests that scandal stories served to make sexuality the ultimate truth of a star's identity: 'The sexual scandal is the primal scene of all star discourse, the only scenario that offers the promise of a full and satisfying disclosure of the star's identity' (1990: 141).
Celebrity nudes may not contradict the on-screen images of stars, but they do function in the same way as the scandal discourse to reveal a hidden truth. While so far arguing for seeing celebrity nudes as a form of pornography, there may be a problem with such a conclusion. Celebrity nudes may or may not be judged erotic; the caught-off-guard moments of many paparazzi images lack the sexualised aesthetics of pom. Rather than the eroticism of the image, what is potentially more significant about celebrity nudes is the curiosity they evoke. Like the scandal discourse, the nude image uncovers the secret, hidden star. Regardless of who the star is, celebrity nudes all articulate a similar appeal: this is what a star looks like naked. The intimate transgressions reported in scandal discourse were not interesting, however, for making sex in general known, but for how they made the sexuality of particular stars known. Like the whole star system, celebrity nudes acclaim the exceptional individuality of stars, for their promise is to show not just anybody naked but this star naked. Seeing stars naked makes a direct voyeuristic appeal to internet users, catching the star in his or her intimate private state.
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