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From California to the Czech Republic: the porn industry seems to have changed its head office. And the reasons for this phenomenon are many

The offices of WGCZ, a public limited company dedicated, according to official information, to the provision of certain services and the lease and sale of properties, are to be found in serious headquarters in a distinctive location in a cross street of the central and historic Wenceslas Square in Prague. From the information gathered from the online registers dedicated to Czech companies, WGCZ appears to be a simple, anonymous company engaged in common and unoriginal sectors, careful not to even specify the nature of the services offered. A quick internet search, however, reveals the sector in which it is active, clarifying the probable reasons for this discretion. The Prague company owns some of the most important porn sites globally, firstly XVideos and XNXX. The first, in particular, is the second online platform of pornographic content in the world, the 46th most visited website and provider capable, on a monthly basis, of reaching an average audience of 350 million users (well over the total population of the USA, to make a comparison). Only a year ago, then, the company acquired control of the famous erotic magazine Penthouse, for a sum of 11.2 million dollars. Behind the discretion of this company based near Wenceslas Square, therefore, lies the indiscreet business by definition: pornography.
The pornographic industry represents a massive phenomenon in the Czech Republic, of which WGCZ appears only as the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg, however, that has chosen to remain completely submerged, far from the prejudices of a too prudish world society in public, which however, privately enriches the numbers of about 30 million hardcore sites, which together reach the impressive figure of 300 million daily visits. An industry that constantly struggles with the problem of piracy and the overwhelming power of the web, but which nevertheless manages to achieve a global turnover of between 14 (according to the American CNBC network) and 100 billion dollars (as reported by several studies, including one from 2006 by NBC). Uncertain data for an ever-changing economic sector, allergic to sector studies and financial reports.

In this context, the Czech territory holds the lion’s share. Despite possessing slightly over 10.5 million inhabitants (about 0.14% of the world population), the Czech Republic is the third nation in the world in the number of porn stars behind only the United States and Russia. In fact, 12.88% of the world total of adult film stars comes from Bohemia and Moravia. According to one estimate, there are 70.7 porn actors and actresses for every million inhabitants.

But why is the Czech Republic today one of the world’s biggest pornographic industry hubs? Why is Prague considered the European capital of red-light productions, capable of undermining even the absolute primacy of California? The reasons are numerous and of different nature.

The centrality of the geographical position helps production companies to find actors and actresses from neighboring states, also taking advantage of the free movement of people and workers within the European Union. Specifically, Prague is the destination of many performers from Hungary, a country that in the 1990s represented the Eldorado of producers of hardcore porn content, but today suffers from structural and technological gaps compared to the Czech Republic. Precisely 9.51% of actresses and actors in adult films are Hungarian, and many of them are cast by the studios based in Bohemia. One figure seemingly taking full advantage of the geographical proximity between Prague and Budapest, for example, is the legend of world and Italian porn, Rocco Siffredi, who despite being resident in Hungary, is often spotted in the Czech capital, presumably for work commitments.

Another reason for the development of the pornographic industry depends on the country’s excellent technological and digital infrastructure. The Czech Republic is home to major ICT companies, which can take advantage of over 6,000 students who graduate each year in this field, and can boast a strong presence of fiber optics, which allows the Czechs to be among the top ten countries in the world for Internet connection speed. In addition, the Czech Republic ranks first for information security, according to the National Cyber Security Index. All this makes it easier for companies like WGCZ, which need human and technological resources to implement sites capable of moving 30% of the total web traffic. From a future perspective, this feature could further contribute to the development of porn in Prague, if as it seems, the new frontier of adult content will be virtual reality.

The third reason why the Czech Republic is one of the most important centers for worldwide pornographic production is socio-cultural. Some articles on this subject by American sites and newspapers describe the Czechs as a people eager to leave the years of communism behind through a social opening that also means greater sexual freedom. If this correlation between sexual freedom and the communist regime appears to be quite fanciful, it is however confirmed by the data that the Czech country, on a moral level, is the most open in the world, as recorded by the 2013 Global Attitudes Project of the Pew Research Center. The statistics of Pornhub probably depend on this, the first pornographic site in terms of number of visits, according to which Czech women are among those who watch the most porn videos (25%, two percentage points above the world average). Also, according to the study by the Pew Research Center, the Czechs are the third largest population in the world due to openness to sexual orientation, and this could contribute to explaining the absolute and undisputed primacy in the production linked to gay pornography.

Among the factors increasing the attraction that Prague exerts towards adult film companies, there are also the recent difficulties of the old masters of the sector, the Californians. In 2012, Los Angeles lost some important producers, who moved to Europe because of a law, which was later canceled, according to which the actors should have worn a condom in every sex scene. Such a circumstance would have greatly reduced the appeal of videos produced in the States, because internet users do not like the presence of condoms in porn. If there is therefore a more restrictive American law on the other side of the Atlantic, there is much less strict Czech legislation on this side of the Atlantic. Having sex in public, in the Czech Republic, involves a maximum fine of only 5,000 crowns, trifles for the giants of pornography, who pay what is due with one hand, while with the other they film all the hardcore scenes they need throughout the streets of capital.

Another fortune of the Czech red-light industry concerns the actresses. According to the analysis of porn sites, Czech pornstars are among the most appreciated, both at home and abroad. Users from Germany, Holland and Chile, eighteen hours of flight from Prague to Santiago, but apparently the porn nullifies the distances, appreciate movies with Czech actresses to the point that “Czech” appears in the top 25 most searched terms on Pornhub. Moreover, as many as nine of them are in the European top 50, and four in the global table. Lucie Wilde is the third most searched porn star of the Old Continent and the sixteenth in the world, worthy heir to Barbara Summer and Dolly Buster, true icons of the red-light industry. Among the emerging actresses who are most successful there are also two Czech sisters, with Italian origins, whom we tried to contact without receiving a positive response, while detecting a certain intolerance towards them from their old management company. These are the Dellai twins, who have already been under the wing of Rocco Siffredi, a formidable talent scout for young promises and capable of launching many porn stars in the past. Silvia and Eveline Dellai live in Prague, a city that is often present in their hard videos, demonstrating how convenient (or rather, inconvenient) it is to shoot public sex scenes in the streets of the Czech Republic. Among the public places where they are set some of the videos show the Palmovka metro station, the Kaizlovy Sady park in Karlín, and the very central (and very popular) Petřín park in Malá Strana.

In short, many reasons make this country an important destination for the largest companies in the sector. A further demonstration is the annual holding of an international conference in Prague, within the framework of The European Summit, which brings together the big names in online pornography in the Czech capital, including specialists in erotic dating platforms.

In conclusion, it seems that, despite the discretion of the major players in the sector, the pornographic industry in the Czech Republic records numbers and successes so great that it cannot go unnoticed, neither in the eyes of society, let alone those of the Czech economy, which can take advantage of the demand for human and technological resources of pornographic companies to increase their volumes. Besides, if the producers really like to shoot erotic scenes in public, you could also happen to find yourself in front of them. And, in that case, it won’t be easy to turn away to the other side.

by Giovanni Mattia