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967 emails in six years. So who is Brian S Gross, and why does he keep sending me porn?

I decided to open all of Brian’s emails in one go.

Over the last six years I have received 967 emails from a man called Brian S Gross, sometimes up to three a day. I have always liked the look of his name: very West Coast and exotic, a name of matcha lattes and eight-hour time lags. Given some of the subject headings, Brian is clearly involved in the sex industry.

I hadn’t opened them. It wasn’t prudishness that stopped me, simply the fear of being seen in the New Statesman office with a giant, flesh-coloured dildo on my screen. But, tired on press day, I decided to take a break and unsheath the man from the mystery: to learn more about Brian S Gross.

I put his name into LinkedIn. Brian is one of the world’s leading porn PRs; he studied music at Northern Arizona University, and has a shaven head and great teeth. According to Google Street View, he operates out of a large, white, plantation-style civic building on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. There is a financial adviser and a security company on the same premises. I decided to open all of Brian’s 967 emails in one go, to see what I might learn about the colourful world of porn PR.

On 12 February a woman called Chelsea, head of sex toys at the American company Adult Empire, had travelled to Texas to take a trip around the Fleshlight factory, producer of “discreet and portable” sex devices for men. The owner of Fleshlight, Steve Shubin, is a 6ft 4in ex-soldier and former LAPD cop: he originally designed his sex toys in his garage in the 1990s, after getting the go-ahead from his wife. He’d used food-grade mineral oils and thermoplastic elastomers on the early prototypes, which he test-ran on himself. The devices today are made of rubber polymers, “100 per cent phthalates free”. Chelsea saw this material being heated to 300 degrees in a large vat; then it was hand-pumped into molding machines. The products have a variety of different shapes and names, including “the Alien”. Chelsea’s account of her visit is 1,478 words long and quite scientific. By the end, I wanted to know more about her, too.

In other emails, Brian S Gross bounces off the political events of the day. The popular YouPorn-style video site RedTube took a survey of one million users, who predicted that Trump would win the presidency. Later, as Donald struggled with his first few weeks in the job, top pornstars – Mocha Menage, Harmony Cage and more – were asked what advice they wanted to give him. Abortion must be legal and available to every woman, they said. Decent foreign relations should be paramount. Take a lot of advice. Get a good vice president. Prioritise climate change. And free health care for all. Being president required a “low moral compass”, said the young star Georgia Jones – so there’s no way she’d want to do it. You can watch the women putting their ideas to the camera: Brian included a “safe-for-work” link in that particular email.

In another dispatch, Brian explores the widespread trend of porn-viewing in the workplace. The London pornstar Harriet Sugarcookie writes a report revealing that 60 per cent of some 2,000 workers surveyed worldwide had watched porn in the office, some “by accident”. Fifty-eight per cent said they were driven to it by boredom. In January, it was revealed that employees at the Houses of Parliament had made 24,000 attempts to access porn. “The lesson for bosses,” concludes Sugarcookie, “is to monitor stressed employees, give them a break to relax... Perhaps a porn break can get them back to peak performance?”

I cast my eye down the headlines of the 967 emails: “Super Hole Championship!” “Sugar Daddy Dating Sites Promote Prostitution, says Brothel”. Some emails advertise films, a more traditional part of the work of a porn PR: the triple-X spin-offs Tugrats and Bill And Ted’s Sexcellent Adventure, for example, or the new take on the 2014 Keanu Reeves action film John Wick, entitled John Wank.

But engineering, politics, ethics and occupational health are also arriving in my inbox every day, via the world of porn and the emails of Brian S Gross. From now on, I will open them all. 

Kate Mossman is the New Statesman's arts editor and pop critic.

This article first appeared in the 13 March 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Putin’s spy game

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.