Interviewed by Paul Vee
|In the early 1980s, I was a college professor.
I was the director of bilingual studies at Laguardia Community College,
but I didn't want to finish my doctorate, which meant that I was not going
to get tenure and was therefore going to need a new job. I was like thirty
years old, I'd been in academics all my adult life, and I didn't think
I could handle it anymore. I was burnt out and I needed a change. And then
I got lucky--I met this guy on an airplane who was crazier than me, and
he showed me my first porn movies. I thought, "Wow! This is a world I've
never seen! I like it!" Next thing you know, we were going to parties that
the porn magazines were giving and I was like, "I have to get into this."
So I did a cable show on Manhattan Cable called Plain Brown Wrapup,
where I reviewed porn movies from a woman's point of view and I interviewed
all the porn people that lived in New York.
After that show, I just kept moving through the porn industry, doing publicity, marketing and sales for adult video companies. I made a lot of friends and about four years ago, these two boys approached me--two young men who were computer gurus in Canada, Unix people--they wanted to convince me to go into business with them. I had no experience with computers, but I had a ton of contacts in the adult industry. If I wanted the rights to something, I could get them. Whereas these boys had no idea who to call, I did. I knew how to get video clips, images, everything.
The boys said, "This thing is the future. Computers are gonna change porn. You have all the content, we have the technological know-how." And I thought, "Well, why not move with it?" You know, once you're in the sex industry, you just go to whatever the newest thing is, so here I am--into computers. I am the co-owner and operator of an adult website that specializes in live chat and live video with real, living women.
I work a lot. I get up each morning at eight and post on various newsgroups for about an hour--just to advertise my site. Then I come in and open the office around eleven, turn on the air conditioning, turn on the computers, maybe do a little bookkeeping or whatever. And then things get busy by one o'clock when the girls start coming on live.
We have two video studios that offer live women over the Internet every day from one in the afternoon to four in the morning. The way it works is, the girls sit by themselves in a room about maybe six feet by eight feet. They're on a futon that's got cushions and pillows and we've got a backdrop in there, and curtains, and a keyboard. There's a video camera pointed at them, but other than that, they're all by themselves with their keyboard. I'm sitting in the office outside. They can yell over the top and talk to me if they need to.
Our customers--who are all men as far as I can tell--purchase blocks of time with their credit cards. Then they get to "enter" the rooms with the girls and, to some extent, control the video camera. They can command it to do close-ups, for instance. They also ask the girls to do things, you know, put on shows. It can be very explicit. The girls insert toys, whatever. They do everything. And they chat with the guys. If it gets busy, I can help the girls by typing for them, or typing with them. If there are like ten guys on at once and each guy is saying something like, "Show me this, show me that" or, "Wow, you look great, turn it around, give me a close-up," I may type quite a lot.
We have fifteen different girls that work for us in shifts. The most we ever have in the studios is two at a time; usually it's just one. You can have a hundred men watching and chatting with the same one woman, so it isn't cost-effective to have too many women. The only reason we ever offer more than one is for appearance sake--you know, for the appearance of variety. The most customers we ever get at once is maybe thirty, tops. But even if you have only ten or fifteen guys, at a buck a minute, that's money. Ten bucks a minute is definitely money.
We get our girls mostly through word of mouth. In the two years that the site has been up, we've put out only two ads. The first was because we were just opening, and the second one we put up a couple of months ago, when I found the girls were kind of getting a little burned-out and I wanted to pull in some new ones.
My girls are not your run-of-the-mill topless dancers that you're going to see in a club. They are not your standard "trailer park cuties." I hire them, and the girls I pick are literate, can type and have enough imagination to keep guys going in chat. They also have to be distinctive. What we specialize in--rather than just girls taking their clothes off and writhing around on a bed--is fantasy. So we have girls dressed as nurses, construction workers, we have a goth chick, we have a little girl who calls herself Heidi Hole. Each one has a personality and they play to the guys differently depending on what type of personality they are--that's the whole thing.
This job is kind of like being a bartender. I have to be easygoing, easy to talk to. Guys log on and tell me their life story in thirty seconds and then I'll say like, "Come on at five, I have a girl you'll love." And I chat with all the regulars. I know what kind of girls they like and what they want the girls to do. The regular customers have become part of my life. I even e-mail some of them personal stuff sometimes. In general, I think they are pretty silly. I mean, this job has completely skewed my view of men. I see them as silly adolescent boys and I don't quite understand what draws them to cybersex. But this is what they want, and I try to give it to them. My business is based on never underestimating the tastes of the American male.
I consider myself a feminist. Absolutely. But I think there're two branches of feminism--those who are puritanical and those who aren't. To me, feminism that represses women's sexuality is absurd. You might just as well be a right-wing religious fanatic in that case. My website is women-owned and women-run--no men, none. The two Canadian guys who helped me get into this business have moved on. It's all girls now. We don't even allow men into the office.
There are other live girl sites--I know a couple of them and I know who owns them--and they do things like the old casting-couch routine. You know, "You sleep with me or you don't get the job." There's even a competitor of mine--which will go nameless only because I don't want them to get a plug--where the women, in order to get to the bathroom, have to walk naked through their offices. There's nothing like that here and that's why we get the best women. My girls are a hundred percent safe with us. We give them privacy. They have dressing areas. They don't get sexually harassed. And women who have worked at the other places have come running to us. That's why we don't have to put out ads.
It's a very pro-sex atmosphere here, but it's not sleazy. It's not like we're looking down on these women saying, "Oh, we've got these real poor little girls who have been mistreated in their lives and therefore all they can do is take it off on the Internet." Not at all. Our girls generally are artists in one way or another and do this because they can't make a living at what they really want to do, like design clothing, make feminist videos, play music. Each one has some specialty that for one reason or another is not making them rich and so they need extra income.
If I could make money doing it, I would. In a heartbeat! But nobody wants to pay me for it anymore (laughs). And from a feminist's point of view, if women don't get into this industry, this industry will always be degrading to women. I don't feel we're degrading women and I don't think anybody who works for me feels that way. Our genitals are about as sacred to us as our typing fingers. It's merely body parts. If we can make more money showing one body part rather than another, you can bet we're going to do it.
Unfortunately, I'm not making much money at this myself. The problem is that it's very competitive. There are ten thousand adult sites and some of them are big guys--I mean we're batting up against Penthouse, Playboy, Spice Channel. We are trying to find a special niche--the live girls--and that niche involves a lot of overhead. The rooms, the computers and the girls all cost a bundle. So I'm not getting rich. In fact, I've never really made any money in the sex industry. I've made enough to live on--I mean, I've been in the same apartment the last eighteen years and I've paid the rent all by myself--but that's about it (laughs). At least I'm never bored. And as long as it makes some money, I'll keep at it.
I love the job. Who wouldn't love being their own boss in a room full of women that you like? Lotta laughs--playing at sex, making fun of the guys sometimes. I love the freedom. You wear whatever you want. No makeup. I'm not part of the corporate world so I can say whatever the hell I please. And the people that I deal with, being mostly in the adult industry, are the same kind of free. If I want to say "fuck you" on the phone, they think it's funny. In the corporate world, even though they all say it in their minds, they can't say it out loud.
You know, it took me till I was twenty-one years old to be able to say "hell" and "damn"--I said "heck" and "darn" till I was twenty-one. I didn't smoke or drink till I was almost thirty. Not because I was brought up by Puritans; I was just this sort of heavy-duty intellectual who thought that the most important thing in life was to have read all of Kafka and seen Stravinsky in person. I had a streak of perversion, definitely, that I was kind of repressing, but basically I was a very straight person. Now I talk like a truck driver and I indulge my perversions, which I like. And I think I am a more natural and happy and better-adjusted person for doing this.
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