The DVD vs. VHS Smackdown

Oh, the constant hype over the next new wave of consumer-oriented technology — it’s never ending. Because we are constantly barraged with ads about what’s just around the corner for the next generation of cell phones, or how the next Palm Pilot is going to bring you the paper and your slippers on Sunday mornings, it’s easy to get cynical about what’s new and useful in the marketplace. I remember a great TV commercial depicting a man driving in a convertible and looking all smug about his new purchase — a computer strapped into the passenger seat, the “H-6.” As he drove by a billboard, workers were already pasting up a new ad for the “H-7,” wiping the smile right off our once-sated consumer’s face. Which points to hesitations about new tech, and that includes the push to make a switch from VHS to DVD — it begs many questions as to why we might do such a thing. Especially from the perspective of a porn consumer.

For the people who are already DVD porn consumers, “DVD vs. VHS” is a moot question. In their minds, the benefits of DVD porn far outweigh the pluses of VHS porn. What bears examining is the way porn is used as a sex toy, and how that applies to the interface for the user. People use porn to get off in a variety of ways, but in general there are two kinds of viewers: One enjoys being pulled into a storyline or visual world, being aroused by a variety of fantasy imagery; the other relishes their visual sex straight, no chaser so to speak, and wants to view a particular sex act for instant fantasy fuel and release. One wants to receive fantasy from an outside source, while the other has a predetermined fantasy they want to see acted out — and this equates to watching plot-driven porn or all-sex, no story porn.

For the all-sex crowd, DVDs are ideal. Say you want to get off watching one sex act (like cunnilingus), a particular part of the sex act (like a facial come shot), a specific fantasy scenario (a guy with one woman on his face and another going down on him) or sex with a certain actor or actress. With VHS, you need to watch the whole tape to get to the scene you want to see. Then, when you find the scene you masturbate and rewind repeatedly until you see enough of the scene to reach orgasm — a scenario that is frustrating, rife with opportunity for operator error, and difficult to time with your orgasm. Believe me, it can be done, but the effort often outweighs the enjoyment of the resulting orgasm.

With a DVD the all-sex viewer can avoid many of these frustrations. The person who wants to go right to a particular scene with one actor or actress can first view the menu, with an overview of all scenes broken down into “chapters” and go right to the scene they want to see. Looking for a specific sex act is much easier, as some DVD players have “jog/shuttle” on their remotes, making moving around the disk a breeze. On all DVD players, the viewer can fast-forward and rewind at multiple speeds, from slow to super-fast, and the picture is crystal-clear, so you don’t miss any subtleties when searching for that one thing that gets you off. Some players have zoom functions, allowing the viewer to examine certain elements of a scene in greater detail. And for repeating the sequence you like, most of the new, inexpensive players have what’s called an “A-B” function, or “repeat” where you can program the player to show a specific segment over and over, until you’re done — hands free.

Viewers who like to sink into story and enjoy the seduction of a well-shot, carefully constructed porn film will find that DVDs take their viewing style even further. In this case, the bonuses are in the DVDs themselves, rather than the DVD player. The first thing to notice is the unbelievably crisp, clear picture — and I’ll admit that once you see the remarkable picture from a DVD, you won’t want to settle for less again (and on an HDTV it’s like watching a clear 3-D picture, but without those annoying red/blue glasses). The sound quality is amazing, though this feature is seldom a plus in porn, where sound quality is usually lacking and the soundtracks often are lame. However, some DVDs will allow the user to eliminate the soundtrack altogether, eliminate dialog or offer options to hear the director or an actor’s commentary throughout the film. Some porn DVDs offer true multiple angles, allowing the viewer to virtually move the camera around to watch from different angles. And many offer other pluses after the feature, such as extra scenes, interviews with stars and directors, porn bloopers, alternate endings, outtakes and more — which you can skip to from the menu at any time.

Those who appreciate a good story with their plot will also appreciate the DVD system of “chapters,” where scenes or plot points are broken down on the main menu. If you have to stop viewing for any reason, you can eject the disk and come back later to the specific point in the story that you left by selecting that chapter from the menu.

Also, if you find a film that you really like, DVDs will outlast VHS tapes, barring any surface scratches to the disk. VHS tapes stretch, get eaten in VCRs and are fallible by virtue of their clunky design. The DVD is wafer-thin, strong and can’t get mashed by (or stuck in) tape rollers. However, not all porn films are available on DVD, so you may need to seek out some classics, independents, fetish-specific or difficult-to-find videos on VHS. But DVD players have come down so much in price — so much that they cost the same as or less than a new VCR — that many distributors are rushing to get as many movies onto DVD as they can to cash in on the also-plummeting price of the DVDs themselves.

It has become much easier and cheaper to rent DVDs as well, much easier in fact than VHS tapes. Many of the garden-variety adult stores here in San Francisco dropped their DVD rental prices right after the 2002-03 holiday season, from the cost of a new VHS rental (for non-new releases) to the same cost as a regular VHS rental. Web sites that rent and sell DVD porn have sprung up like weeds, operating the same way as other DVD rental sites, making DVD selection and rental fantastically easy. Gone are the worries about late fees and going into adult stores, not to mention whether they’ll have your tape or not. Now, you can browse an online selection in the privacy of your home, do research on a particular title and read reviews, then rent online, have the disks sent to you, and drop them in the mail when you’re done. Each site has their own policies regarding price and rental rules, but they’re incredibly economical, and you can go to any store online you want.

While I was a hardened tech skeptic, now I have to say that with DVD, porn is a better sex toy. And getting off better is the bottom line.

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Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations is the premiere sex-positive, women-principled adult toy retailer in the US. An iconic brand and one of the world's first sex toy shops to focus specifically on women's pleasure and sexual education, Good Vibrations was founded by Joani Blank in 1977 to provide women with a safe, welcoming and non-judgmental place to shop for erotic toys. Good Vibrations has always included all people across the gender spectrum, and is a place where customers can come for education, high quality products, and information promoting sexual health, pleasure and empowerment. Customers can shop Good Vibrations' expertly curated product selection across any of its nine retail locations or on the GoodVibes.com website, where they can also find a wealth of information pertaining to sexual pleasure, exploration and education.

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