BDSM on the Web: Where There’s Still Profit in Pain
CYBERSPACE — At face value the proliferation of BDSM and fetish-themed websites appears to be a boon for webmasters, but getting into the pain game requires a lot more than slapping down some rough content.
Webmasters looking to cash in on what seems to be an ever-increasing interest in BDSM sites may be in for a bit of a shock.
Although the market is humming with new sites, blogs and conferences popping up regularly – thanks to the ad nauseum popularity of the “Fifty Shades” phenom that shows no signs of ending anytime soon — it’s not enough to simply gather some bondage content and watch the fetish folks beat a path to the door.
The BDSM niche today requires some keen massaging. Sites like DDF Network’s HouseOfTaboo.com has added a glamour model angle, while Crygasm.com — that claims it approaches extreme topics in a safe way — drills down into a micro niche that operator Stewart explains at first blush might seem to be very extreme pain based content, but in fact it is porn for women aimed at showing the sexual catharsis many women feel when using the power of an orgasm to overcome feelings of self-doubt, stress or other negativity. “The result is a site that appeals to both hardcore BDSM extremists and very casual softcore porn curiosity seekers as well,” he said.
This kind of laser focus is essential in the burgeoning yet restrictive market segment that’s being embraced more and more with fans worn out by over-saturated vanilla and free Internet porn.
Even the big guns need to dance to the tune of change. Kink.com founder Peter Acworth told XBIZ that revenue from BDSM recorded content on the Internet is slowly decreasing for the fetish giant, a trend that started a few years ago despite the company’s efforts to revive sales and reduce costs. “The profit margins are not what they used to be,” Acworth said.
But Kink has a plan that involves “re-platforming” Kink.com to reinvigorate sales by including the ability to bundle content arbitrarily (via performer, via tag, etc.) so it will be possible to subscribe or “follow” a performer and receive all of his/her content. Kink will also be tagging all of its content with BDSM toys used, and will be entering the novelty market in a more serious way (i.e. fans will be able to buy items used in shoots), according to Acworth.
And although the knee-jerk reaction by those new to the genre would be to push the limits of content to new extremes in order to titillate new paying customers, Acworth said in fact his company may be “retiring” some of its most extreme lines in favor of appealing to a more mainstream audience.
Kink’s also investing time and effort in KinkLive.com, which he said is growing nicely and is expected to continue over the next few years.
Another Internet giant and genre pioneer, Wastleland.com’s Colin Rowntree agrees that the current marketplace for BDSM continues to be strong, but it’s "different" than it was just a few years ago.
“Due to a lot of ever-evolving restrictions by the credit card associations on what can and cannot be shown in an S&M film, a lot of the ‘extreme’ content producers found it very difficult to create realistic and compelling BDSM content and moved over into simply "rough sex" genres,” Rowntree explained. The change in some ways has actually decreased competition and has, “thankfully” taken BDSM film making back towards its roots of "safe, sane and consensual,” according to Rowntree.
But some companies are still pushing the envelope — perhaps to get the edge others don’t want to touch. And terms like "slave,' tortured," "humilated," "brutal" and more are often bandied about on a site to lure in customers.
Even though rough sex producer Intersec Studios company spokesman Dixon agreed with Rowntree’s take that content is limited to credit card processors’ censorship (the site avoids content like peeing on other people, blood or fecal matter), the content on its sites including SexuallyBroken.com, InfernalRestraints.com and (rigging site) Hardtied.com’s, among others, can be considered extreme even in today’s market.
Despite its limitations, the company prides itself on providing graphically creepy environments and content that includes talent crying and some physical markings. There's even RealTimeBondage.com live shows.
In an effort to entice consumers, HouseOfTaboo describes itself as “Your online home for the marriage of kink and pleasure” and asks “Do you crave the darker pleasures of sexuality? Does your libido seek its satisfaction in the expression of the kinkiest urges known to modern men and women?”
Marketing manager Paul Acevedo said the site is definitely a harder style of porn, with various niches within, all falling on what some like to call the dark side of sexuality. It’s one of the company's top performing sites, but because of its harder content the firm is toying with the idea of removing its network and making it a network of its own, as some customers prefer not to be exposed to this kind of genre of sex.
Acevedo also believes the niche is definitely growing thanks in part to the boom in the use of bondage machines, devices, and gadgets.
The site beckons members by asking, “Do you get excited by the sight of a gorgeous innocent female with her hands bound and mouth stretched open by a harness, so that a cock can power deep into her face and expel its sperm down her throat with no objection or obstacle?” Do you prefer women to be whipped or spanked or pissed on, along with their being fucked?”
Hardcore? Definitely — and successful.
Recently debuted BDSM.xxx from ReallyUsefulCash.com said that people would still pay for BDSM content that “exactly” fits the bill. The company built an entire production dungeon in the heart of London and hired BDSM experts with decades of experience in the lifestyle to facilitate its launch.
Edgy sites like these seek to cash in on the growing market. But Rowntree believes the trend is in customizing rather than shocking, and new entrants should heed the advice. He said the pendulum has firmly swung the other way now towards more authentic BDSM play between consenting people that practice BDSM as part of their kinky lifestyle. “Filming in that genre with firm limits on how extreme things can go, and working with elaborate sets, props and lifestyle performers creates a pretty big barrier to entry for newcomer producers to the BDSM genre,” Rowntree told XBIZ.
And if the growing community of new sites and blogs like Slavemastery.com, hardcore fetish comics (“The Club” and “Die Farm”), and fetish dating sites are any indication, there’s still plenty of room for new enterprises.
Fetish expert and PR guru Jay E. Moyes told XBIZ that sites like Fetlife.com and CollarMe.com rival social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for the fetish-minded, and are seeing continued growth based on a grass roots uprising. “Run by John Baku for more than six years, Fetlife is one of the most user friendly, community-run fetish sites in the business. Right now, if you're doing content or talent in fetish or BDSM and don't have a Fetlife account, you're out of the loop,” Moyes said. “You'll not only find the big boys like Extreme Restraints and Kink.com, but also emerging producers of content, bondage gear and sex products."
CollarMe focuses on singles and dating where submissives look for people to claim and Dommes look for submissives to collar, Moyes pointed out. His observations illustrate that whether it’s a webmaster, production company or consumer — the fetish genre is a ripe market for those sharp enough to know how to navigate the razor’s edge that often blurs the line between what's extreme, what's acceptable and ultimately how much of a risk a webmaster will take to be profitable.