In early 2011, I received an e-mail from someone at Official Media, Inc. claiming that they represented sex.com and were working with the owners to launch a blog on the famous site, which had been sold for a reported $13 million in the mid-zeroes and then auctioned among other assets after the new owner’s foreclosure in 2010.
The e-mail that I received from the site’s representative read, in part, “The blog space will have an interesting and dynamic mix of contributors including celebs, adult stars, industry people, as well as every day people. Sex(dot)com is not offering any form of payment for this, but it will offer exposure on the worlds [sic] most famous adult term website. If your [sic] interested — let’s discuss further, I look forward to your response.”
I responded requesting more information, but heard nothing back. A year later, almost to the date, sex.com had relaunched as a porn-clone of the well-known image-based social site Pinterest. Over the next several months, I continued to check the pulse of the site, seeing whether anything would come of the owner’s choice in relaunching as a user-generated social platform. Given the hesitance of popular social networks to host adult content, it seemed that sex.com’s new attempt to enter relevance might not fail.
Sadly for them, they weren’t the only ones looking to fill the space. Just a few months earlier (the day before Valentine’s to be precise), another adult-focused Pinterest clone, Snatchly.com, launched. In an e-mail conversation with Venture Beat, L.A.-based anonymous Scnatchly co-founder described his offering as “a Pinterest that men would use.”
Six weeks later, Snatchly had registered 15,000 users and drawn 100,000 unique visitors and its two founders were excited to explore options for monetization. It’s been almost two years now and Snatchly remains seemingly free of revenue-generating instruments, including advertising. This is not the case for sex.com, which wasted no time injecting ads into its stream.
Another clone that appeared around the same time, Pornterest.com, now redirects to sex.com — pornterest.me seems to be unrelated. (Wonder if anyone’s going to have the nerve to try to litigate that? Given sex.com’s litigious and absolutely absurd history, it would only follow.)
Not too long after these first clones first landed, another came sharply into focus. Pinsex was more of the same thing, but it had an edge over all the other porn pinboard clones. It isn’t just its slightly different look that has attracted attention, or the fact that it has integrated cam shows into the navigation bar, or even its sex toy store. No, the thing about Pinsex is that its founder understands user needs a lot better than its competitors. The founder of Pinsex has gotten a handful of pornstars to register and make pinboards, he’s created a What’s Hot of some of the most active boards on the site to keep users engaged, and — most importantly — he’s made himself available.
Unlike any of a number of other porn Pinterest clones with no about section or promise that they won’t up and pivot one day leaving us and our naughty content in the lurch, Pinsex has worked hard in the last six months to establish trust with users. It offers safe-for-work YouTube videos explaining how to use various parts of the site and its CEO and founder, Christian Thorn, is available on Twitter to respond to any questions.
The timing, too, is impeccable. This summer, Google changed the content policy on its blog network in a not very covert effort to cull the many creators of adult content that use Blogger. Not long after, Tumblr, which was acquired by Yahoo in May, began to make adult tags inaccessible on mobile, and adult blogs unsearchable by third parties. Google’s policy on its social network, Plus, remains unclear with regard to adult content, but given their attitude about adult on other products, from Glass to Helpouts, I’m not holding my breath. And Facebook is still behaving like a Victorian schoolmarm, dragging Instagram along with it (in October, Instagram deleted a user’s entire account because one of her photos showed pubes sticking out of a full-coverage bikini bottom).
Silicon Valley’s crusade against adult content has been sure and steady, creating a perfect environment for a site like Pinsex to thrive. Currently, Thorn reports receiving over 120,000 unique visitors per day. With the amount of media attention they have started to receive, it’s not unlikely they will succeed in breaking a million by 2014.
Thorn told EJ Dickinson at the Daily Dot that he doesn’t think anyone has been successful at making porn social. But if you ask any porn star on Twitter or person still running a porn tumblelog, you’ll be laughed out of town. Hell, you can even find private communities on anti-porn platforms like Facebook and Plus. Porn has long since become social. What it’s never had is a place to call home without fear that it could be removed at a moment’s notice.
It’s not that porn has never been social. It’s that adult content creators and curators have never really had reason to trust any existing network or truly invest in it. They have never really belonged.
It helps that Pinsex understands that no one likes a site full of pop-ups, or one that requires you to understand serpentine controls. But more than anything, what the creators and curators of adult content need and want is a place they know won’t cast them out for doing and sharing what they love.