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Paulina Borsook on Internet Business Porn - Beyond Computers, October 1999

"Silicon Starfish! how a gang of zanies at e-Starfish thought out of the box to revolutionize all known universes and changed well something forever using the Internet and beat out the fortune 500 fuddyduddies who remind us of our fathers and now we can stick our tongues out at whom we choose and date a better class of female"/Vanity Press/2000.

No, you can't actually buy this imaginary book, but you can buy a whole bunch of real ones just like it: they all belong to a genre I call business-porn. Just to name a few from the last year or two: "aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in the War for the Web". "Speeding the Net: the Inside Story of Netscape and How It Challenged Microsoft". "Silicon Sky: How One Small Start-up Went Over the Top to Beat the Big Boys in Satellite Heaven". And "How the Web Was Won: The Inside Story of How Bill Gates And His Band of Internet Idealists Transformed a Software Empire" (not to be confused with the same author's earlier "Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry --- and Made Himself the Richest Man in America")

Business porn, particularly of the dot com variety, is as formulaic as any other kind of porn. Connosieurs are presumed to have an addiction to endless repetitions of the same narratives, but these variations-on-a-theme have to be done just right, the ritualized details conforming to the conventions of each particular sub-genre.

Consider Harlequin Romances (emotion-porn). In the hypothetical 'Love's Heaving Bosom', the woman is plucky and in the right situation, wanton, and the guy is always cruelly handsome, something cold yet sensual about the mouth, and the fantasy is that the tracking, seducing, and marrying of His Woman is the most important leitmotif in his existence. In men's fiction (action-thriller porn), say "Delta Force Recon Hunter/Predator Team Trident", weaponry, fitness regimes, and male bonding, even between rogue warriors or worthy oponents, is described in loving detail. There, the fantasy revolves around the notion that the secret services, the armed forces, and law-enforcement routinely train and employ the smartest and most elite males on the planet, and that their technology is the coolest and never requires the services of a sys admin.

In business porn, as with any porn, there are lots of statements of "I performed this action/and then they had this response" and "I asserted this/and then they came right back at me". But the fetishizing details of business porn have to do with hiring and firing and shipping beta and broken deals, and not with body parts or fluids. There remains, though, much flirtation, foreplay, and in some cases, near-rape (by competitors or partners or investors), which nonetheless all gratifyingly leads to the thrilling climax (I! P! O!). And there's even the classic porn-script of the mouse no one desires, who when unleashed becomes the seductress that everyone wants (in a venture capital kinda way), or the little guy who turns into a dynamo, pleasuring the institutional investor crowd.

For the important thing about business porn, as with any porn, is that it depicts worlds where the heroes and heroines get what they want, and readers get off, every time, to the kind of stories they want. How little these narratives resemble way most people actually live and work, even within high-tech, can never be the point. People read porn for pleasure, and escape, and to imagine how hot they, too, could be.

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