Dangerous, Scary…Designing Adult Web Sites

A Web designer posted a question on a Web site forum I belong to. He has been contacted by escort services (and other adult sites) to do work. He wondered if he should accept the [tainted] jobs or not.

There are five pages of posts and I’ve copied several comments here. I found it interesting to watch the debate by people who have zero contact with the adult industry in any form (except for a couple of the posters). In fact, if I want to toss around stereotypes, I could say this debate was fueled mostly by people whose only knowledge of the adult industry is that it costs $29.95/month to access.

One post: “I have too much of a conscience to aid in the exploitation of mentally vulnerable individuals.”

So, sex workers are not only victims, but verge on the mentally-handicapped? Thanks a lot.

Aren’t Web designers supposed to be such social rejects that they live with their parents, are lucky if they can even pay someone to give them attention and are unable to function beyond role-playing games (usually with dragons)? Wouldn’t that yummy stereotype be considered mentally vulnerable?

Or how about this thoughtful post (from someone who must be a hobbyist): “See if you can get paid in kind for your work. That way you can keep it under the sheets. Besides, the work might be titilating…”

A possible radical feminst: “Absolutely no. No compromise with the porn industry. It has to be stopped. Though most people may not acknowledge it, this industry is responsible for a worldwide crisis of sexual lust (shown by the thousands more cases of sexual attacks than there were prior to the growth of this industry). I would not take this job, no matter the money involved.”

And the person who said: “I personally would never work on a porn site as I don’t respect the industry” probably doesn’t respect the people involved in the industry either – which are mostly women.

One poster finally put some sense into the discussion:

‘Porn’ is only a small slice of the adult industry. What most people refer to as ‘porn’ is only the tip of the iceberg. Alongside you have a plethora of actors, directors, camera crew, producers, editors, technicians, marketing staff, support staff, graphic designers, web designers, programmers, manufacturers and so on. Also don’t forget that lingerie and adult toys also falls in this area.

Of all the people I have worked with in the adult industry around half were female and most were very talented people, whether they were designers, web site owners, producers or porn actors. They were all genuinely nice people as well who did what they did because they loved their work.

A lot of folk will shout ‘exploitation’ as well. Yes there is some explotation in adult but this tends to be well outside the mainstream area, usually run by criminal gangs who will do anything to earn bucks and likely the same people responsible for rackeetring, drug running, fake viagra email/scams and so on – porn is just another money making line to them. Also don’t forget that there are still many people being exploited by big brand names in 3rd world countries making your nice designer trainers and clothing.

And later they said: “The adult industry is just like all other industries. Some companies are terrible, some are not.”

A surprising response: “I’m Christian but I don’t have issue with the porn industry. Its one of the reasons the web grew so fast and with such technological leaps. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

And finally a female Web designer (her Web site is: http://www.designbysls.com/) waded into the fray (with her rubber boots on, I think):

I feel that what happens all too often to women who are Courtesans is wrong. ‘Web designers’ and ‘Web developers’ (I use these loosely) actually have the audacity to offer to ‘trade services’, hold sites ransom for ‘services’ or more money, distort photos and blackmail women to fix them or even blackmail them with face shots.

This is WRONG! I nearly lost my breakfast when I read the joke about trading services in the first two pages. Jokes aside… It is wrong. Nothing more nor less… This is despicable behaviour and if I save even one more woman from being abused in this way then I have done the right thing.

Has it cost me non-adult clients? Three.
Has it cost me jobs working for other companies? Two.
Have I declined clients due to content? Two.
Have I declined clients because they were abusive in nature (even though the person they abused was them self or tried to be abusive to me)? Three.

Do I stand by my decision to facilitate attractive, cleanly coded, 18+ websites to consenting adults? Yes I do.

I am tired of ‘keeping mum’ about it on this forum so I won’t. Very few are unaware that I do both genre. I didn’t want it to influence anything I said or did here so I did not publicly broadcast it. Now I openly stand here and say it for what it is with pride.

The determining factor on site content:

My child is young… If it is just a beautifully made, classy site for a personal companion then I will gladly take it on. The most that would be seen are artsy nudes (which show nothing as it makes them little money to show more than a hint of what is there), or a lingerie or bikini shot.

My daughter walked in as I was resizing photos one day. The only thing she saw was a woman wearing more clothing then the women on the front page of Sports Illustrated!

The only thing she said was:

‘Look mommy! A beautiful skinny ballerina!’

Funny isn’t it? No prejudice, no knowledge, no issues.

Don’t want to create something that your children would be shameful of? Don’t create sites that contain content or images that would make it such.

Just wanted to share this debate, simliar to what’s gone on here, in an area where I never expected to see the debate. What’s funny is that these posters came up with pretty much the same arguments feminist prostitution “experts” use. Has the anti-prostitution movement caught on that well, or do they simply use the most obvious arugments?

One thing this debate showed me is that sex work affects everyone. There should be some power in that.

Shameless self-promotion: I discuss the problems of escorts seeking Web design help in Book #2. There are a lot of pitfalls (especially the odious “trade” thing), though I was completely ignorant of how Web designers really view the entire adult industry. This thread has been eye-opening. Might have to do some re-writing.

23 Responses

  1. yes, that charming little suggestion, that people who work in the sex industry, if not already clearly victims, are mental incompetents, was thoroughly laid out at a post at–guess where? M. U. Farley’s.

    http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/blog/2007/02/kinkcom_in_san_franc

    Well, Im not a american during the years I have a lot of contacts with
    the women who work in our local sex industry. An there is a bit of
    everythink, some women like what they are doing. Most HATE what they are doing, and would like to be someplace else.
    Reading USA pornographers forums and some former mostly christian sexworkers forums, I have came to the conclusion that a large group of the women involved in pornography are mentally ill. Their so called consent is not solid. Let me see, paranoid schizofrenic women, bipolar disorder women, histerical personality disorder, postraumatic stress personality disorder from rape or chid abuse, 90% of them are heavy drug users, mentally retarded women, autistic women. Almost all well known US porn stars fall in one or more of those cathegories. Many are also in codependent relatioships, sometimes abusive. So much for
    consenting adults.

    My opinion is than rather censoring porn, if the feminist left and/or
    the christian right want to hurt the porn industry in the US they only
    have to accept the pornographers claims than theirs is a legitimate
    entertaiment business. And start suing. They violate almost every law
    in California on workers health and safety, performers control over
    their image, health insurance, agent (a pimp really) and talent
    representation, sexual harassment of workers. You name it. And if
    having sex with a mentally ill women or a drugged up women is legally
    rape, why is legal on film? Is their release document really valid?
    The problem is that you got a group of troubled, postadolecent women
    that dont want to be blacklisted if they like what they do or dont
    want the notoriety if the hate what they do, that are to poor to
    retain a good lawyer without having to sleep with him, to sue. That
    won’t happend. The left or the right must need to get the lawyers
    probono. Many pornographers recognize in private that if you apply
    legitimate entertaiment industry laws to porn there will only two or
    three companies left. Regarding to kink I would love to see the health
    insurance and filmmaker liability if something goes wrong.

    Posted by: rics

    ****

    Farley’s response to this wisdom:

    We can’t just accept the pornography industry as an entertainment
    industry any more than we can accept prostitution as work – those
    words lose us the battle.

    I don’t think that women in porngraphy are more frequently mentally
    ill than Iraq combat vets. Yes both groups are harmed but let’s always connect the harm directly to its emotional consequences.

    Why not sue the pornography pimps and their distributors for the
    actual harm caused to the actors? Know anyone who wants to sue? Know anyone who wants to raise funds for this? I know some good lawyers.

    Posted by: melissa

    *****

    You know what I love? How, out of ALL of that post–the jaw-dropping ableism, the suggestion that women who have any one of a million conditions as well as women who’ve been abused and “mentally retarded” people are not CAPABLE of consent to sex (ever, perhaps), the casual reference to spending at least as much time on religious POV’d anti-sites as feminist, and of course the stats and other fun facts the author pulled directly out of her ass, the ONLY words Farley objects to here:

    “We can’t just accept the pornography industry as an entertainment
    industry any more than we can accept prostitution as work – those
    words lose us the battle.”

    It’s all about P.R., see. -Really good P.R.-, from the looks of things.

    Or, well, no–they may be mentally ill, porn stars, but no more so than veterans, on the average; sure, they’re most of ’em fucked up, and apparently we’re still going with the “so-called consent is not solid,” but they maybe didn’t -start- that way. Good to know!

    And yes, I’m sure they’re lining up around the block to take her up on that lawyer offer right this minute.

    “Hi! I think you’re a deeply fucked up mental defective as well as an overgrown adolescent. I’m here to help! p.s. even though I don’t think you’re capable of consenting to these sexual acts, I TOTALLY think you’re more than capable of getting up on the witness stand and playing j’accuse. C’mon! Let’s sue the bastards! It’ll be fun!…”

    yeah, i wasn’t too familiar with Farley before that; i gotta say, between that and the early reviews coming out and particularly the nature of the erm defense thus far…yyyeah, I’m not feeling real persuaded yet, I must say

  2. okay. i’ve tried to post this one post like six times, and every time it keeps disappearing. why could this be? the length? the link, which i’ve broken up several times now? wtf, say I?

  3. Belle- So sorry about that! It appears that if there is a link in the comment it goes to spam- even comments from folks who are contributors to the site. So it won’t go out unless one of the administrators approves it. Ugh!

    So be patient folks. We are committed to making this site an open forum and we have no intention of censoring any of the comments, it just takes some time before we get around to clearing the spam box!

  4. belle:

    Yeah, I remember that trainwreck over at Farley’s. To say that it pissed me off would be an understatement. Just more of the whole “you can’t think for yourself, so we have to do it for you” bullshit I’ve come to see and loathe in all too many places.

    Makes me want to puke, really.

  5. hey SS, no worries, and wasn’t actually thinking you were censoring it; in fact i knew that you weren’t, because WP would say that i’d posted it but it simply wouldn’t show. and then when i hit “post” again WP would say “duplicate comment!” and i’d think, but but but it’s not -there-, is it? Is it? i’m…so confused *sob*

    anyway. no worries.

  6. what really drives me around the bend: hello, if you insist that a woman isn’t competent to say “yes,” doesn’t it leave the door open that she’s also not competent to say “no?”

    so, they get around it by imposing increasingly rigid parameters on the -acts,- you know; but, it’s not about the -acts,- it’s about doing something against someone’s -will.-

    If you don’t -believe- in a woman’s agency to choose, then doing something -against her will- is pretty much meaningless, since apparently she can’t -will- anything. not sexually at least.

    and so then if -she’s- not competent to decide what’s best for her, who -is?- …gee.

    but, of course, we’re -women,–we- don’t have power; and -feminists- -never- engage in power trips over each other. besides which if there’s no sex there isn’t a power trip, or not one nearly as worthy of concern anyway. so…

  7. That comment enraged me. I’ve got a post brewing on a similar topic…

  8. ANd t hen ofcourse there is also the whole if a woman has been abused, raped, has psychological issues or PTSD can she consent to ANY kind of sex (for free, even), or, is she “well enough” to drive a car, hold a job, raise children???

    Hell, I figure being a cop or a taxi driver or a junior high teacher or an ER nurse or an airtraffic controller or a broker or at home mom or plenty of other things are probably as stressful, ugly, whatever as being a porn performer…should we question the true consent of any woman going into those fields?

  9. Well, hello. It’s classic ableism and it sucks royally.

  10. Ugh. Those remarks about “trading services” are stupid, ridiculous, and insulting.

    For a while now I’ve been thinking about doing freelance development work for adult sites, but haven’t been sure how to go about getting work. So, just consider this a bit of a feeler (pardon the creepy-sounding term, but I couldn’t think of another one) – I can do small jobs (emphasis on *small*, because I do have a 9-to-5 as well) and do ’em well, and I promise not to be a freakin’ weirdo.

  11. Amber,

    There are some girls who actually like to trade; most don’t.

    Start off doing some work for people you know and let the word spread. You could always advertise you’re an ethical designer but you might end up with more work than you can handle. I say to let word-of-mouth work for you. (Or put up a small design site and let people find it.) I have no doubt you’ll get all the work you want.

    XX

  12. Forgive me if I seem a little confused, but is there a qualitative difference between trading for services and paying for services?

    How can you be insulted by one and not the other?

  13. Rico,

    Because it’s always a losing proposition for the girl. And, frankly, real professionals want money. It keeps things simple.

    Like I said, some girls do like to trade. I don’t as I’ve never seen value in it. And I have seen many “trade” arrangements that have elements of coercion in them because it’s usually only “hobbyists” who want to trade. I have a real problem with that.

    XX

  14. Amanda,

    I can understand why, as a policy, you might prefer cash to trade. I just don’t understand why one is any more offensive than another, which is what the posts seem to imply.

    If you buy into the fact that sex is just another commodity to sell, then trading it would be no more morally outrageous than selling it, I would think.

  15. It’s not a matter of morals. It’s a matter of personal feeling. Who says all sex workers view their sex as a commodity? They might not view themselves that way. And that’s where it counts since this is an individual decisicon.

    The majority of the girls that I am aware of trading [for various things] nearly always ended up with negative feelings about the arrangement. “It’s not worth it” is a common refrain. That ‘s very telling.

    Girls don’t like to feel cheap or like they’ve been had. I think that’s a pretty normal desire for all humans.

    The guys who always suggest trading always do it in an offensive manner. It’s not because they desire to help someone out — it’s always with an eye to their own gain which usually requires taking advantage of someone else. That IS offensive.

    XX

  16. It’s funny that you say that, because, as a man, I would consider myself to be the losing party if I made such a trade. Instead of receiving payment for my service or product, I’d have a brief encounter that would cease to pay dividends the moment it was over. It’s the sort of transaction that may feel good at first, but that I would surely regret ever after.

    I suppose an ongoing transaction (asking for sex every week in exchange for rent or something) might make a little more sense, but even then I don’t see the gain for the john. I keep thinking of that scene in The Grifters when Annette Bening puts her rent on the dresser and makes her landlord choose between collecting that rent or fucking her. The implication, of course, is that she conned him. From my point of view, as well, he is the big loser in that transaction. Don’t get me wrong: perhaps both parties lose.

    I understand that women may find trading to be a bad deal, from a business perspective. If that is what you meant, then it makes a little more sense. I’m still feeling out what motivates a girl in that business, and I must confess that I can’t relate very well.

    Nevertheless, if Annette Bening’s character saved $500 in rent money with her landlord, isn’t that the same as earning $500? As old Ben Franklin said, a penny saved is a penny earned…or is it?

  17. Sorry for that double-post. I don’t know how to delete one of them.

  18. Rico,

    No, you don’t understand the business much. Most girls are in business to make money. That’s tied up with self-esteem and a sense of self. They don’t view themselves as commodities and don’t like being viewed like that.

    A trade does not save money. Not really. Because it’s still work it still requires effort and it’s effort that’s not being paid for — effort which requires another appointment to make up for the income lost. It’s much easier to have cash on hand and buy whatever you want with that cash.

    But again, I’ll point out that some girls like to trade since they see it as an easy bargain. Most girls don’t.

    And please stop thinking that Grifters is somehow representative of sex workers as whole.

    XX

  19. Amanda,

    I agree that I don’t understand the business. I suppose that is why I’m here.

    Although I will admit that much ignorance, I must say (in my own defense) that I don’t think of The Grifters as representative of the trade. In fact, Annette Bening’s character wasn’t a prostitute at all as I remember it. She was a con artist who happened to trade for sex in that instance.

    All of that aside, I notice that you haven’t disputed my claim that such trades are also be a losing proposition for the john. Can I take that to mean you agree?

  20. Rico,

    No, I don’t think trades are a losing proposition for the man who suggests them. If he didn’t think he was getting the better deal, he would not suggest the trade. The men who suggest trades do so out of self-interest and not because they’re interested in fair and equal arrangements.

    There are girls who suggest trades because they feel it’s easier for them than spending money. It’s still motivated by self-interest. And the men they make arrangements with may feel taken advantage of. But I feel this is the rarer scenario.

    And now, I’m thoroughly done with the topic.

    XX

  21. Wow! I am impressed!

    Here I was looking through my google profile for my .com and I saw an unusual link location so I followed it.

    Let me start by saying… Rubber boots? I think it was a cross between stilettos and hip waders. *smile*

    I am adult site friendly as noted above… Though my adult designs are nicely housed at my .biz site as this works better for myself and my clients.

    I am flattered that my post made it here and I am glad to see there is a potentially adult friendly designer above and that Amanda Brooks has been here to give another perspective.

    I have been around the adult industry either directly or indirectly… My entire life. My family was personal friends with Dorothy Stratten prior to that tragedy and as I grew into an adult I had friends go the route of being an Adult Entertainer.

    Of all the women (and men) that I have had the opportunity to meet over the years… I can honestly say that only a handful of them were entertainers because they felt they had no choice. Maybe this is because I am Canadian, or maybe it is because I have been around people with such internal strength.

    Let me put something into perspective here:

    Some in society condemn a person (generally a woman) for supporting them self by money made in the erotic arts, yet these same people often times feel there is nothing wrong with someone being promiscuous for nothing other than personal gratification. To put it simply: It is fine to give it away but evil to be smart enough to charge for it.

    How is someone “pleasuring” their partner and then going on a shopping spree the next day any different from being compensated… Outside of the fact that one is often a singular partner, and the other is pure honesty.

    On the subjects of “trades” when dealing with such a personal service… It is rarely a good idea. Someone always feels taken advantage of, and often times it turns into an ugly mess. I have had non-industry site requests where the client wished to barter, but again… I felt it best that if they booked my time and services that I was paid accordingly, and if I in return wished to purchase their services that I did so independently.

    Now I will sign off on my long winded response, and peruse the rest of the links that catch my eye.

    Regards,
    Shelley

  22. Shelley,

    Thanks for stopping by to add to the great comment you made on the original discussion thread. You’re welcome to add your insights here any time.

    XX

  23. Amanda,

    Thank you very much.

    I have been reading back posts.

    Regards,
    Shelley

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