Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams writes that "it was a big freaking deal when Rob Lowe had a romp with underage girls or Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee enjoyed connubial bliss," but that after the creepy night-vision of "1 Night in Paris," the cultural relevance of the sex tape began to wane. She explains,
With each new revelation of a dirty video lurking in a famous closet, the shock at the genre itself dies a little more. Had honeymoon movies of J.Lo emerged when she married her ex in 1997, it might have been a cause célèbre. Now? Big whoop. The explicit sex tape and the compromising photo are no longer potential career ruiners, nor are they the hallmark of a wild, anything-goes character — not when so many of us, famous and not, have been there and done that. It's a fair assumption that if there aren't explicit images of you floating around somewhere, you may not have a sex life. Or a phone.
It's true that it's hard to imagine one of the main tragedies of Trainspotting — Tommy's life is basically destroyed after he and his girlfriend make a sex tape — taking place today. And Prejean's incriminating solo footage seems like less a source of humiliation and more a serendipitous — or even savvy — book-tour booster. But perhaps the most telling evidence of the sex tape's incipient passe-itude is the fact that Us Weekly is now linking it to yet another stale and overexposed cultural phenomenon: armchair diagnoses of narcissism.
Sex expert Dr. Jenn Berman tells the tabloid that people who make sex tapes "like the spotlight. You may have some narcissistic tendencies, and you're more likely to have an exhibitionist side." Therapist Rhonda Findling, author of the no doubt edifying Don't Call That Man!, adds that such folk "are naive and in denial," and that sex-tapery "should be considered self-destructive." But if you must film yourself fucking someone, she says, choose "somebody you can trust, who doesn't have a track record of being deceitful or damaging other people's careers or being manipulative." Sage advice: when making a sex tape, try to pick a partner who has not sold any sex tapes before. Findling also recommends "a contract or a letter of agreement beforehand saying you can't release it." Hot.
I guess the message for young people today is: go ahead and make sex tapes if you feel like it. Probably no one will give a shit. Of course, if you get caught "sexting" while in high school, you might get accused of child pornography or thrown off the cheerleading squad. Because for everyone who claims there's no hysteria left surrounding a particular sexual practice, there's somebody ready to fan those hysteria-flames right back up to bonfire levels — or just to pick a slightly new practice to freak out about. So while sex tapes may now be the province of tired trend pieces featuring questionable experts, the next rainbow party is just around the corner, and our appetite for sex is matched only by our desire to judge others for having it.