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.

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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