Society

Budapest, Prague and porn: very bad trip

Article published on July 24, 2012
Article published on July 24, 2012
In the wake of democratisation both Hungary and the Czech Republic have seen the X-rated film industry become firmly established in their societies. An examination of two countries where the pornography industry flourishes: from the gay porn’s golden age to harsh conditions for women workers

Consider what Budapest has apparently become through engaging in the process of democratic transition. As a direct consequence of the exit of communism, the new constitution legalises pornography. Plunged into a much more liberal society, the people of Hungary are certainly not prudes, and their politicians are nobody’s fools. Many see the porn business as an unprecedented economic opportunity.

Hard times - even for porn

Productions have also hit upon a gap in the new financial market. This, and the very low cost of manufacturing in Hungary, has drawn quite a few cameras to the Hungarian capital. Moreover, the low-cost dimension of Hungarian porn inevitably results in a lack of resources in production. Much like B movies, the films are laid on with a trowel, characterised by a rotten soundtrack and with lighting worthy of the days of the Lumière brothers. Regardless, the Hungarian porn industry boasts a labour force highly appreciated abroad. Without even mentioning the physiques of young Hungarian women, it is known that their open-mindedness towards sex is particularly appreciated by porn film producers.

Read '‘Buda-sex’ and the Hungarian porn industry' on cafebabel.com

After more than a decade of a porn golden age, the financial crisis has penetrated the film industry in general, and porn in particular. Budapest in the 2000s was turning out 300 films a year. Today, we can count just over 100. One of the giants of the porn industry and director of the production house Luxx Video, Istvan 'Kovi' Kovacs, considers the financial troubles of Europe greatly to blame. Yet he also cites the increasing development of the internet and the consequential piracy as factors. The result is that porn’s gradual relocation into eastern Europe, much to the chagrin of a country whose pornography industry generated over 600 million euros in 2008, or 0.5% of GDP.

Czech Republic porn

The problems met by the porn industry in Budapest were sufficiently important for the Czech Republic to become one of the new strongholds of the genre. Prague now is what Budapest was a decade ago: the promised land. Production costs are low, laws governing pornography are liberal and there are an abundance of beautiful young girls ready to give in to all the whims and follies of producers in order to enter and remain in the business. According to a study by the European parliament, girls receive between 200 and 300 dollars a day with a film requiring approximately five days to shoot. In countries where the economic situation of the population is relatively difficult (the average gross wage in Hungary is 600 euros a month), many girls are tempted to seek their fortune in the capital.

For some of these girls, working conditions are terrible. Exploited by casting agencies, the porn actresses must sometimes shoot for hours scenes that directors always judge 'unsatisfactory' - but which they will unscrupulously sell nonetheless. The actresses are not paid for their overtime and receive no percentage in case of the film’s success. This is the darker side of the industry: human trafficking, although they don’t produce it directly actresses help to fuel the phenomenon. There are those who do not hesitate to pose as porn producers, thus luring women to plunge into the depths of prostitution.

Prague, capital of gay porn

Male porn stars enjoy a different status. In Prague, the current economic situation is to a great extent a consequence of the development of gay porn. The city of a hundred steeples has become one of the most important production sites in the word and has no fewer than fifteen studios dedicated to gay porn films. These men, who are all straight - and they insist on that - have found an easy way to make money while unemployment has doubled in the Czech Republic since 2008. Some have girlfriends, others are married, but the reason they turn to gay pornography is simple: they can earn three, five or even eight times more by turning out gay porn scenes. It is hard to determine exact figures. However, we know that the gay porn industry generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars of that made by the entire porn activity in the Czech Republic. So, nearly half.

'These men, who are all straight - they insist - have found an easy way to make money'

At any rate, having relocated the porn business is settling down yet more deeply into the economies of eastern Europe. It’s a business which plays by market rules- taking advantage of low-cost production to thrive. It also exploits the misfortune of a lot of young actresses to increase its activity. So now we may ask, after Hungary and the Czech Republic, who’s next?

Images: main (cc) patrickreza; in-text (cc) aeneastudio; (cc) Philippe Leroyer/ all via flickr