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The Humanity Panel

by Chris 11 months ago in Love
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Post-apocalyptic Fiction

The apocalypse led to a worldwide population of less than half a million people. A unique company has a possible solution.

“Everything is filmed right here, in-house.”

“Everything?”

“Yeah, that’s the point here John, we don’t take any submissions at all, unlike the other sites.”

The two men walked between the yellow painted lines, zigzagging through dozens of sets; workers were everywhere, some hanging décor and fluffing pillows, while others broke down cardboard motifs and steel structures to prepare for the next scene.

“Do you guys get complaints? Hate mail?” John asked.

The other man stopped walking and gave him a thin smile. “You bet, it’s non-stop, we get hacking attempts and terabytes of death threats every day. You’re a civil servant, John, so I’m sure you get it, people will always find a way to hate authority and those trying to change the status quo. We take everyone’s feedback, tedious as it is, very seriously.” He waved his hands emphatically. “We need all the customers we can get.”

They walked around a few more corners before stopping at an active set. The director, a young man with a frizzy mustache and a ball cap, gave them a friendly wave followed by a finger to his lips to ask that they stay quiet.

The set they were looking at was small, maybe the size of a studio apartment; masses of vines and thick vegetation filled all corners of the room, leaving only a circular opening near the front where the camera was pointed. Two people stood there, dressed similarly in skin-tight leopard print beachwear and matching heart-shaped lockets around their necks. The woman rested her hands on the man’s collarbone and he held her at the waist. John could see their lips moving, but couldn’t hear any words. A moment later, she cupped his face and they kissed. She moved her hand down the length of his bare body to his shorts and he pulled her into him. The camera moved in closer, rolling and stopping at predesignated points along the rail.

John took a step forward, but the other man put a hand on his shoulder. Flushing slightly, John looked back at him.

The other man smiled at John. “Normally it’s not an issue to watch, they’re pros, but Laura’s ovulating right now and they’ve been trying for a while. We’ll just give them a bit of privacy.”

John’s eyes widened, he nodded and took a step back. They could hear everything quite clearly from the couple now, as their voices rose in unison. The other man guided John away from the sets towards the side of the large, dark warehouse where some chairs were set out along with a table with cookies, assorted vegetables and meat trays, vitamin water, and wet towelettes. John sat down while the other man filled two cups with water.

He handed one of the cups to John. “So, what do you think? It can be a bit much coming from the outside.”

John looked back at the way they came, he could see at least twenty sets of varying sizes staggered throughout the warehouse. Some of them were brightly lit and had film crews and actors, while others were in the process of setup or teardown. There was a poolside cabana, an entranceway with marble columns, and several green screens. Others were simpler and were designed to look like bedrooms, living areas, and bathrooms. He coughed and sipped his water.

“You said that the two… actors we saw are an actual couple?” John paused. “What’s the angle? Straight couple sex hasn’t been popular since the early 70s and I don’t see you hitting any of the target markets. Is he at least going to tie her up with some of the vines?” He asked.

The other man shook his head. “No, we encourage roleplay, but we’re not into hardcore here, we’re trying to get that across to our audience.”

He looked out at the glowing sets. “As you know, digital porn exploded in the early 2000s, growing from billions into trillions of dollars of industry revenue. The most popular content was violent, demeaning, and focused on self-gratification. Things only got worse from there, the more views those videos got, the more the producers pushed. Younger, rougher, and more sadistic than the last.” He sighed deeply and looked down at his cup. “Generations of kids grew up associating sexual relationships with pain and taking what you want, can you blame people for being afraid of intimacy or getting fucked up ideas about sex?”

John leaned back in his chair and put his head against the wall. “Yeah, our department manages those stats. By 2055, porn was by far the most highly consumed online content, blowing past every other streamable put together. Our planners and scientists saw the changes in birthing patterns, but it was already too late. Thousands of cities were deserted as their populations grew older and died; governments tried repopulation strategies, incentive programs, and you’ll remember the large-scale cloning, but it ultimately all failed. The only people left, about half a million worldwide by the World Government’s last count, are essentially all daily pornography users. We humans managed to successfully replace sex with digitally-enhanced, hyper-immersive fantasies about sex. The apocalypse came and went while everyone was jerking off.”

The other man looked at John and nodded. “Unlike the other 95% of the market, we’re trying to help repopulation efforts and our audience is growing. Our videos are getting twenty thousand daily views and the users know that they’re seeing consensual partners who have agreed to share their videos online, in order to show others how to do the same.”

John scratched his head. “How do they know that though? I get that you make all your own videos, but even then, how can anyone really know that nobody here has been drugged or is here against their will?”

The other man smiled back and clapped his hands together. “It’s really the biggest part of our promise; have you heard of the Humanity Panel?”

John looked at him quizzically, but gestured for him to continue.

“Like I said, we wanted to make wholesome pornography that could save the world. It was a crazy goal that was extremely hard to define. We needed to guarantee that our actors are in fully consensual relationships, wanted to have sex, and could showcase it as something respectful and valuable between partners. In addition to filming here, we do background checks and provide one-on-one debrief sessions with registered counselors to make sure our actors feel safe with their partners.” He stood up and reached out for John’s cup. John shook his head, and the other man went to refill his water before sitting back down.

“The Humanity Panel, though, is the feather in our cap. Did you see those lockets that the actors wear?”

John nodded. He had seen the lockets on all of the actors and some of the staff as well. The other man reached under his collar and pulled out a silver chain, on it was the same red, heart-shaped locket. Now that he was closer, John could see that the red surface was translucent and held intricate circuitry underneath.

“This locket is our symbol of trust, it’s our logo, but it’s also much more than that. Through this sensor in the back...” He flipped the locket up to show a small circle on the back of the heart. “We are able to measure heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline, cortisol, to name a few, which helps us determine the health and mental state of our actors. This is how we can make sure they’re not scared or under the influence of any drugs.” He dropped the locket back onto his chest.

“The front of this locket has an ultrawide 3D visual receiver and microphone which is able to capture the surroundings within a 10 foot radius. This function is only turned on when we film, and the recorded content is encrypted and sent directly to the Humanity Panel.”

John shifted in his seat. He was starting to get it, but it still didn’t line up completely. “OK, so this panel reviews the shoot. Essentially a third-party quality assurance agency, but who did you get and how can you prove that you didn’t pay them off?” John asked.

At this the other man laughed and smiled brightly, which crinkled his eyes and made him look older than John expected. “It goes to their parents.”

John gasped, then exclaimed. “WHAT!”

A few of the staff working at nearby sets stopped to look over at them. The other man waved and a few waved back before returning to their work.

“That’s not right. That’s— How would you even—” John felt dizzy for a bit and was glad he was sitting down, he lowered his voice. “That’s just crazy, and they all agreed to that?”

The other man held out his hands in front of him in a placating gesture. “I know, it is crazy. I almost fired the person who came up with the idea, but then I actually gave it some thought and well… here we are.” He laughed.

John swallowed, still a bit shaky. “So your idea, which you’re hoping to grow, is to get parents to watch their kids having sex? That’s just ridiculous and there’s no way I can endorse—”

“John. Can you honestly tell me you haven’t seen worse things happen to other people’s children online?” The other man looked him in the eyes. He wasn’t laughing anymore.

“That’s different. Watching your own child, that’s just—” John started.

“Disgusting? Traumatizing? Perverse?” The other man pointed at John, then at himself. “When we replaced intimate relationships with pornography, we gave up on partners and families. What we’re trying to do is guarantee to the world that there are still people out there in healthy, meaningful relationships. Our team couldn’t come up with a single person, more qualified, committed or harder to bribe, than a parent tasked with ensuring that their child is with someone who truly loves them.”

John didn’t move or speak. He held his head with his hands and looked down at his shoes.

“My parents were the only ones from their families who had a kid. I can’t imagine what it would be like raising a kid these days...” John sighed, then gave the other man a small smile. “You know, I came here to shut you down today. Our department is recommending to the World Government a perpetual, worldwide ban on the creation and distribution of pornography until our population stabilizes.”

“John, I’m with you. Let’s go cold turkey and sanctions as option 1, but trust me, people have been trying for decades, maybe centuries. It’s very hard to say what effect a complete shutdown will have on hundreds of thousands of dependent users. We’re asking you to vet us carefully, and see if there’s something we can offer you.” The other man stood up and John came to his feet, rocking slightly. He handed the other man his empty cup who dropped it into a grey bin.

“And you think that your people and… the Humanity Panel are the answer?” John looked at him through the dark.

The other man looked back at him, his eyes in the shadows, hidden from the set lights. “I feel like we’re a bandage on a gunshot wound, John. We’re a chance, far from a sure thing, but we’re a turn in the right direction if we can get our message out.”

John thought about it for a moment, and chuckled dryly. “We’re all goners if people start discovering that they can’t have sex without their parents watching. Alright, what else do you have to show me?”

The other man smiled and held out his arm. “Right this way.”

Love

About the author

Chris

Small-time writer looking to write something.

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