Tuesday, 1 December 2020

A Czech XXX-Mas Party

By Lachlan Hyatt | Prague Daily Monitor |
17 January 2020

This article was first written for the international reporting class taught by Dinah A. Spritzer for NYU in Prague.

Prague - In a small club in Brno, some 140 miles southeast of Prague, the Christmas party was a fairly standard celebration-- up until the lingerie fashion show. Despite blaring disco music, Christmas lights, and hookah smoke, the party didn’t really begin until midnight when several of the Czech Republic’s most well-known pornstars stripped down to bras and Santa hats to catwalk along the bar, strutting to remixed holiday songs.

“Who knew the land of the free would be found in this bar,” said Marco, one of the guests of the Redpudding Christmas Party, as he knocked back another shot of vodka.

Following the Fall of Communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has become a mecca in the world of pornography. According to the Italian-Czech publication Progetto Repubblica Ceca, more than one in ten pornstars come from the Czech Republic, a country with only 10.6 million inhabitants. Nearly 30 years later, the country still remains Europe’s capital of porn.

“It was my dream since 16,” said Michaela (20), a popular Czech pornstar at the party, about starring in adult films.

Pornography was legalized in the Czech Republic in 1993 and the combination of the post-Communist economic depression, a lack of jobs, and a recently liberated population created perfect conditions for the an explosion of adult entertainment that still continues today.

From 1995 to 2005, the “Golden Age” of Czech porn ruled as adult entertainment companies from Germany and the U.S. flocked to Prague and Brno, taking advantage of the cheap shooting costs and plethora of new young talent desperate for work. The result was an era of big budget porn productions many in the country remember fondly.

“It was stylish and some movies, if you shoot a porn feature, it has real stories, script, storyboard. It was just filmmaking,” said Petr Novák about the Czech porn productions he helped make in the 90’s and 2000’s. “It was really big budget things, you know, lots of locations, exclusive places, beautiful wardrobes and dressed girls. Sex was actually the secondary part of the movie.”

Oldrich, now out of the porn industry and running a male sex toy business, frets at the new era of internet pornography. In his office filled with sex toys and movie memoriabila, Novák says, the lazy “gonzo” style of the internet age has ruined the magic of porn. Starting in 2005, free internet pornography began to swallow up the revenue of traditional porn movies. Porn studios around the world folded as streaming tubes rose to prominence.

The Czech Republic, however, has been able to weather much of the storm.

The porn industry generates around 15 billion CZK, or $650 million dollars per year, according to an article published by the lead Czech economic daily Hospodarske Noviny. Many big websites such as Pornhub and Beeg also have offices in the country. The Prague-based WGCZ Ltd. owns pornography websites including XVideos - the second most viewed adult website in the world which gets more visitors per month than Twitter, Instagram, or Wikipedia. Earlier this year, WGCZ acquired Penthouse Global Media, Inc., the popular American porn magazine for $11.2 million.

The former “King of Porn” in the Czech Republic, Robert Rosenberg, thinks it is Czech culture that has allowed the country to dominate the porn business in Europe.

“We don’t trust god,” said Robert Rosenberg, a former pornstar, referring to the Czech Republic being the most atheist country in the European Union. This, he said, makes it easier for Czechs to decide to do porn compared to people from more religious countries in Central Europe like Poland or Slovakia, where the social stigma may be higher.

Now a professional boxer after having performed in over 2,500 films with over 4,000 sexual partners and once shooting an orgy scene for 27 consecutive hours, Rosenberg sees the Czech’s sexual openness as another reason for industry boom.

“Also people talk about sex more naturally,” said Rosenberg about the Czech attitude towards porn over the sound of his boxing students working the heavy bags in his Prague boxing gym. “For me, I think, it’s sex. It’s same like eat, sleep, you know? It’s very important and if you don’t have good sex with your wife? You don’t have good life.”

Though there are many male Czech pornstars, they are few and far between compared to female performers, Rosenberg says. For some women, porn offers a way to achieve financial independence in a country known for having the second highest wage gap in the European Union.

“Salary for girls in the Czech Republic is very low and even if you have a degree, the salary is very low,” said Andrea (29), a former pornstar and current camgirl, explaining her reasons for joining the industry. “Girls want to earn more and not rely on men. We want to be independent.”

For many women, though, starring in porn isn’t a choice. Some performers are forced into the work to pay their bills or are exploited outright by producers. Girls are tricked into signing contracts they haven’t read or being told that what they shoot won’t be distributed in the Czech Republic. Some actors and actresses are pushed past consent during production.

“It’s mostly about manipulating them slightly to do what you want and not telling them the whole truth at the beginning, like what’s going to happen with the material,” said Johanna Nejedlova, the head of Konsent, an NGO dedicated to educating people in the Czech Republic about consent and sexual violence. “From my point of view the worst is that those are very young girls. Eighteen. If you are not from like big city or not well educated it’s maybe not easy to think about the consequences of what will happen if you participate in it.”

Some sites like CzechStreets and CzechBitch of the Czech AV Network are not made available for viewing in the Czech Republic, so producers promise that the performer’s friends and families won’t know. The content, however, is uploaded on worldwide streaming sites for all to see anyway.

Despite this, there are nearly 70.7 porn performers for every 1 million inhabitants in the Czech Republic, the second most of any country in the world. The Czech Republic also has the lowest rate of unemployment in the European Union, yet many still choose porn over traditional jobs. Some choose to continue staring in pornographic films despite being tricked by production companies.

Michaela recounts being barely 18 and befriending a “drug user and liar” who introduced her to the world of porn. Producers withheld money from her and tricked her into starring in numerous films. After getting an agent and finding success in the industry, Cruz said, she is happy with her career.

“It’s totally changed my life and now I work for myself. I love it and never want it to change,” said Michaela. “It wasn’t about the money, I wanted to do it. For people that don’t have money, they may have felt bad after shooting. Girls are stronger here.”

Even with the financial success of the porn industry in the Czech Republic, some want to see better production values and a return to the country’s Golden Age of big budget x-rated entertainment.

“It’s so, so strong here, but a little bit boring,” said Jan Dudek, Creative Director and CEO of Redpudding, the company hosting the Christmas party, about the current condition of Czech porn.

Dudek says the Czech pornography industry survived the rise of the internet because of its abillity to produce an abundance of content with low production costs for big companies. There was a cost however, he says, in the quality of the porn produced.

“I believe there is a free spot in the market because there’s not quality, not so quality, and they’re missing a little bit more creativity, like fantasy,” said Dudek.

Dudek invisions a porn landscape similar to social media where individual users are able to build brands and retake much of the revenue taken up by large platforms like Pornhub and XVideos through the “Youtubization” of porn. Dudek hopes the industry will stay generating money in the Czech Republic in the years to come.

An aspiring director at the party known as ‘Tina’ wants to “bring the magic back” to Czech Porn as well.

“When you go see a movie, everything is fake but it feels real,” said Tina. “For porn, the opposite is true. It’s all real but it feels fake. I want to make honest porn.”

Robert Rosenberg thinks the same.

“More people come back to stories, not open the door, fuck, and go away,” said Rosenberg about the future of Czech pornography.

Some statistics would actually suggest this as well. Petr Novák says that people are now going back to the creative Golden Age Czech porn films for viewing.

“The sales people, you know, in Europe, they say DVD sales of porn are raising back compared to last year,” said Petr. “Maybe they’re bored of the internet.”

Back at the Christmas party, the pornstars tiredly roll spliffs on the bar table and compliment each other’s nude pictures taken in a photoshoot earlier that day. A half-eaten pizza grows cold, surrounded by mugs of pilsner beer and staring men.

“Fifty percent want to see naked girls, fifty percent are in it for the art,” said Martin Rybar, a photographer at the Redpudding Christmas Party, referring candidly to a nearby table of the industry’s pornographers, editors, cameramen, and tag along creeps.

Editor's note: Names of some people quoted in the article have been changed to protect their privacy.

Lachlan Hyatt is a journalist from Colorado and student at New York University. He has had work published in the Washington Square News, Canyon Courier, and Transitions Online.