Would you watch porn for the plot?

The makers of "Marriage 2.0" say all that it takes to fight online porn theft is a great story -- but does it work?

Published April 11, 2015 11:59PM (EDT)

India Summer and Ryan Driller in "Marriage 2.0"      (Adam & Eve Pictures)
India Summer and Ryan Driller in "Marriage 2.0" (Adam & Eve Pictures)

From mass lawsuits to threats of public humiliation, the adult film industry has taken desperate moves in recent years to fight widespread piracy. Last year saw the launch of the “#PayForYourPorn” campaign, in which adult stars begged fans to not steal their smut. Digital fingerprinting technology is also helping adult filmmakers track down stolen content. But a new film, “Marriage 2.0,” attempts to tackle the problem in a new way: by creating a high-quality, story-driven movie with explicit sex scenes that are in the service of the plot. Imagine that! The idea is that if the sex scenes are made sexy by the larger, complex narrative at hand -- rather than the shorthand of X-rated clichés, like the naughty schoolgirl or the MILF next door -- they won’t end up as free jerk-off material on PornHub. The creators of "Marriage 2.0" are serious about the film being taken seriously: In a highly unusual move, an edited version of the film was submitted to the MPAA and received an NC-17 rating.

The storyline itself is ambitious, too. It begins with India, played by India Summer, interviewing Christopher Ryan, author of the New York Times bestseller "Sex at Dawn," for a documentary, presumably on the topic of monogamy. We soon discover that she's struggling with jealousy in her open relationship with Eric, played by Ryan Driller. Throughout the film, there are tough conversations about the battling desires of security and adventure. Set in the San Francisco Bay Area -- with some of the most sensual footage being of the Northern California coast -- the movie introduces us to progressive brunch conversations between pals about monogamy and sophisticated swingers parties filled with real-life sex experts like Emily Morse and Reid Mihalko. There's a cameo by Good Vibrations sexologist Carol Queen as a neighbor who walks in on the leading couple having sex. And, right, sex! There is plenty of it in all sorts of configurations -- between India and Eric, Eric and his other girlfriend (Dylan Ryan), India's mom (Nina Hartley) and her boy toy, and so on. Spoiler alert: India ends up finding her own side piece and then all is gravy.

In general, it's a far more attractive and better-acted porn film than most. But it's the focus on incorporating the explicit sex scenes into a well-developed narrative that really makes it stand out. Some industry insiders, like Nate Glass, a digital piracy expert and owner of Takedown Piracy, say this is part of a larger shift in the industry. “Piracy also forces adult studios to reexamine the movies they create, both from a production and quality standpoint, and also in regards to the story,” he says. Studios like Adam & Eve, Wicked, New Sensations and Girlfriends are producing "story-driven feature films where the sex supports the movie," he says. “While there will still be people who are only interested in the sex scenes, the hope is that the film as a whole will attract people to watch from beginning to end, which they have to do legally, since it's much harder to get away with pirating a two- or three-hour movie in its entirety...

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By Tracy Clark-Flory

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