Ethical Porn in the Age of Cams

People do not consume pornography like they used to. When I look back to the 1990s and early 2000s, business was booming — we could hardly shoot content fast enough.  Today, however, the marketplace has changed.  Free content is ubiquitous and the barriers to entry are low. This has lead to falling sales and significant consolidation.  Ask anyone who has attended the adult industry trade show in Vegas — it was once spectacular. Today, large booths have been replaced by small ones, and fewer of them.

Compared to many companies, Kink.com has managed to better shield itself from this effect due to a unique product line in a tight niche and some very effective marketing.  We build elaborate sets and props in house and thus the barriers to entry in our market are higher. Still, there’s no question this trend has lead to cost cutting and tighter margins over the last five years.  Indeed, from 2011 to 2012 overall recorded content sales fell despite the addition of three new sites to our portfolio.

In response to this sobering state of affairs, our strategy is similar to that of the music industry — move towards live programming.  We are currently investing the majority of our technology resources into “webcams” that allow kinky performers to log-in from their home and connect directly with the customer.

The one-on-one interaction associated with live cams allows people to explore their sexuality in a more intimate way, which is core to our mission. The benefit to models is that cams offer the model the ability to work from home and set her own schedule, which is very different from working in adult movies where the work and schedule is unpredictable. However, it also represents a significant dilemma for us.

 Kink has always been a company that prides itself on protecting models and treating them fairly.  This has included insisting on clear communication about exactly what is going to happen before a shoot starts, an in-person check prior to each and every shoot, presenting models with paperwork where they tell us about limits, condom preference, etc.  We also have models sign a Bill of Rights, enforce strict rules for directors, and follow up after after every shoot with a phone call to make sure all went well.  We are also one of the few companies to publish set pay rates.

The live cam shows world is strikingly different to what we’re used to. With cams, a model may sign up to any one of many existing live-cam companies from anywhere in the world, so there is no a face to face meeting. Indeed, after she signs up with the correct paperwork, she is then free to start shows at any time. She is expected to negotiate boundaries directly with customers, some of whom may be impolite or abusive.  Live cam work takes place in a furiously competitive international marketplace where domestic models may get undercut by models abroad willing to work more cheaply. While some models make remarkably good money, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars a month, others who have yet to learn the knack of it, may make very little — or in some cases, nothing.

How can an ethical value system, learned and tweaked over the last 15 years be applied to such a radically different product?  As a company, we first experimented with studio-based BDSM cam shows. Our approach was to control these shows like we do our shoots, and to guarantee a minimum per-show fee to the model — something unheard of in the industry. We soon found out why. The costs associated with this approach resulted in big, unsustainable losses. When we reverted to the standard revenue-sharing model, we made mistakes in communicating this change, and in doing so upset many of the models working hard to make this venture a success.

But beyond the financials, this venture opens up many other questions for us. How do we gauge whether someone is in a mental/physical condition to consent?  How do we prevent a model going past their own pre-defined limits if no director is physically present? How do we protect a model from an abusive customer?  How do we ensure a model is working of their own free will? For some companies, these might not be concerns. (As a rule, the porn industry tends to be more libertarian than liberal.) But for us — rooted in BDSM ideologies of consent and safety — it represents a dilemma. This may be the future of the industry, but we want to ensure that future is safe for our performers as well.

We will need all those safeguards currently in place on other sites: screening of applicants, monitoring of shows, the ability for a model to block abusive customers, and a set of ‘house rules’ that define boundaries for all shows.  However, given the intense nature of BDSM, we also recognize that we’ll need more a more in-depth screening, training in BDSM negotiation and limit-setting, and to check in with models more often. (We also plan to focus on independent models by only ever paying the model in her own name  — as opposed to paying a studio manager and trusting him or her to pay the model).

The move to cams represents the biggest change to the porn industry in over a decade, and up-ends a business model in place for nearly forty years. We don’t have all the answers, but as we embark on this new business we do hope to open a dialogue — with our models, with our customers, and with the public at large — to talk about how we can extend our understanding of ethical production values and safety from the old world to the new.

Peter

5 thoughts on “Ethical Porn in the Age of Cams

  1. ingrid_de@me.com

    The more a person consumes porn, the less it creates an erotic experience.
    Kink is the extreme of porn and it satisfies those men who are no longer
    getting off watching two people having sex in everyday ways.
    It is also the opportunity for a man 40+ to have virtual sex with a women
    who would not under normal circumstances give him the time of day.
    Kink also is amazing to viewers as it is hard to believe good looking women
    are fine with licking each others assholes…taking strapons in the ass
    and taking enemas without issue. This is amazing to watch and
    understand that pretty women will actually do this kind of thing.

    Reply
    1. Peter Acworth Post author

      I don’t know that I entirely agree that as someone consumes more porn, they need progressively harder material to be satisfied. Speaking from personal experience, i have been through periods of my life where i have consumed an unhealthy quantity of porn – I didn’t veer towards progressively harder material, just larger quantities of the same material. I also have some survey data that may address this interesting issue and I will be blogging about it soon.

      Reply
    2. kaath

      well, i know enough which do^^
      i dont know whether call my self good looking, i am fairly average, my weight is normal (but my proportions are not very model-like, so i have fat around my belly but i am fine with that-the percentage of women who look like models is said to be around 5%-the other are most likely like me-a but fat around the belly, small hips, flat ass-other have a flat belly and wider thighs etc.. but all of tem, us are somewhat attractive-and i would totally rim^^ i like that stuff, i do it at home wih my partner (also one of the persons other people would not consider attractive, but where the love falls.^^)

      as i started with porn, i went for the hard. usual porn bores me and i dont find most of the usual blonde-big-tit-porn-actresse attractive. so the usual porn is not for me. also i have often the feeling that the stuff in that kind of porn is faked because the people i fuck usually sound and behave unlike the porn-models.
      but bdsm porn is more sincere. (well, its hard to sund like youre in pain but you are not-if you can do that you´re good actor^^) and well bdsm turns me on. it started with 8-there is got these strange feelings while listened to a cassette-play about 2 girlfriends and there was an abduction scenario (the cassette was for children, some kind of detective-story i think) and-hell this was interesting. i listened again and again and again. i think you´´re born with it, so the idea of consuming that porn because other is too boring only fits for people ho are into that. i knew some people which are not but consume a big amount of porn.^^

      disc: i am no native speaker, mistakes arent intended

      Reply
  2. Goldie_Starr

    You are so right about the implications for the industry and, especially, the models. As a new model I tried Webcamming and spent lots of time, earning nothing. And with our era of Big Government I fear many will be targeted by cops, just like they target Craigslist users.

    Reply
  3. Jenifer Waller

    There are people who are lonely, and there are those who are horny. If you notice any of the webcam models you see who are in a long private show, chances are those shows are usually talk shows, not “skin and sex” shows. The reason is, the customer is lonely and wants to talk. Lonely customer fantasies are different than the sex show customer fantasies. Lonely customers fantasize about knowing a girl or guy like you, about dating you, and having you as a “real life” friend. Of course, it’s not going to happen, because it is only a fantasy, and, deep down they know it. But, lonely people do not want to end the show if they still have hope of bringing their fantasies to life. It’s like a good dream you don’t want to wake up from. Sex show customers on the other hand masturbate, and then leave. Of course, you can tease and play with them to prolong the pleasure and your income, but ultimately, you have very little or no control.

    Reply

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