Two recent articles have caught my attention, one concerning the market for pornography, the other for sex toys. In both cases, transactions that were once widely regarded as repugnant seem to be becoming less so.
My colleague Ben Edelman has an article on the market for on-line porn in the (usually fairly staid) Journal of Economic Perspectives: Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 23, Number 1—Winter 2009—Pages 209–220
"Who buys online adult entertainment? From a top-10 seller of adult entertainment, I obtained a list of the zip codes associated with all credit card subscriptions for approximately two years, 2006–2008. While it is difficult to confirm rigorously that this seller is representative, the seller runs literally hundreds of sites offering a broad range of adult entertainment
"Controlling for broadband access, states show remarkable similarity in their subscription quantities, as shown in Table 2. Dividing state subscription counts by the FCC’s Broadband Deployment quantities, the most-subscribing state is Utah (where 5.47 of every 1,000 broadband households subscribed to the service at issue), while the least-subscribing state is Montana (1.92 per 1000 broadband households)."
"The fourth column reports that in regions where more people report regularly attending religious services (per National Election Studies 2004), overall subscription rates are not statistically significantly different from subscriptions elsewhere (p = 0.848). However, in such regions, a statistically significantly smaller proportion of subscriptions begin on Sundays, compared with other regions. In particular, a 1 percent increase in the proportion of people who report regularly attending religious services is associated with a 0.10 percent reduction in the proportion of purchases that occur on Sunday. This analysis suggests that, on the whole, those who attend religious services shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week, despite on average consuming the same amount of adult entertainment as others. (As an interesting comparison, Malhotra, 2008, finds that religious people are more charitable only on Sundays.)"
And in the (somewhat less staid) Times of London there is A guide to the new luxury sex toys, which reports on a burgeoning market in well designed, celebrity endorsed, expensive items.
"These companies have spotted a gap in the market for female-friendly, luxury sex toys and lingerie, and television shows such as Sex and the City, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Gossip Girl and Lipstick Jungle have empowered women to buy them. "
One proprietor they interview says “People will contact us for wedding gifts and buy our little platinum vibrator with diamonds ($3,250) for the bride, and seven of the little gold-plated vibrators ($325) for the bridesmaids.”
The article ends with helpful links to "designer-centric" establishments where the market can be explored: http://www.jimmyjane.com/ , http://www.myla.com/, http://www.sh-womenstore.com/, http://www.coco-de-mer.com/