Beautiful Porn: From an Artistic Idea to a Sexy Little Empire
A group of women-led, erotic websites has been blossoming in Montreal. Working under a strong belief that pornography can and should be beautiful, the sites’ producers are making photos, videos, and web text using a particularly engaging, artful aesthetic. Their work includes both women and men in a variety of situations, but with a focus on female agency and pleasure.
Camille Crimson ©The Art of Blowjob
The company’s first site, Dolorem, went live in 2006 and had such a clamorous response that the founders, Camille Crimson and Mike Flirt, soon launched another site, The Art of Blowjob, featuring an extremely sensual take on fellatio. Crimson is not only the star of the screen on these two sites, she also does all of the web coding, design, and some of the video editing. She describes the sites as being “special like a homemade cookie, only with sex!”.
Since the initial success of these two sites, Crimson and Flirt have joined up with a (female) PR and editorial co-worker, and they’ve added three more sites: Pornographic Love, I Use My Feet (a foot and hosiery fetish site), and an à la carte download site. They are continuing to grow the company into what they hope will be “the most revolutionary pornographic network on the internet”.
There is good evidence they’re getting there. Recent accolades include The Art of Blowjob earning a nomination for a 2011 Feminist Porn Award for Best Website, and Crimson herself being placed on notorious sex and technology expert Violet Blue’s list of the Top 10 Sexy Geeks of 2011.
The beauty of the sites is twofold: part composition and part realism. Photos and videos are shot with well-planned lighting, shallow depth of field, use of slow motion, skilled editing and tasteful colour grading. At the same time, the people shown are beautiful, normal people with genuine human connections. Their scenes and shoots consist solely of what truly turns them on so that all of their reactions and orgasms are real.
Making such thoughtful, artistic sites sounds laudable, but is it really tenable as a business? Are there enough viewers willing to pay for quality production when there is so much free porn available?
Crimson says that yes, “because of the overwhelming similarity in free porn, many people are searching for something different and something that feels more true to life, while also feeling a little more quality. That's where sites like mine come in.”
The erotic stories on The Art of Blowjob all use a first- or second-person narration style, helping to make the reader feel like these are real scenes that they themselves could be part of. For example, they use phrases such as: “I knead at your perineum”, and “You tease my nipples”. This voyeuristic trick is very effective: it conveys the idea that the woman in the scene is communicating directly and lovingly to her male partner, it also lets the reader of the tale imagine himself in the place of the male recipient of the affection (or for a woman, to imagine herself as the “I” in the story).
Crimson also makes a good point that as porn becomes more normalized, there is also less of a shyness about purchasing it. It’s not something you need to sneak off to the dark corners of the web to catch free glimpses of, but something that you can actively, selectively acquire as a knowledgeable and confident consumer of pleasurable experiences.
This market of confident porn consumers includes more women than ever in past. In Fleshbot, a leading website about sexuality and the adult entertainment industry, Crimson says: “my site is a way of showing that women can have agency as both givers and receivers of pleasure. Any time a woman is enjoying sex, doing it on her own terms and doing it the way she wants, it's a feminist act.”
One of the nicest aspects of these sites is the enjoyment that the company’s owners get out of making them. Quite apart from large porn studios, Crimson is intimately involved in all stages of site creation and content production as well as in running the business. She describes what a great life this makes for:
“I'm unbelievably lucky because I get to be my own boss, I get to be myself for a living, I get to be creative, I get to code, I get to have sex, I get to work with my boyfriend, I get to work from home...It's a very rewarding lifestyle. At the same time, because I have so much invested in it, I only get out of it what I put in, so it's a lot of work. At the end of the day, it's worth it.”
Lilyanne ©Pornographic Love
It’s a similar story over at Pornographic Love. Pornographic Love features a real couple, Lilyanne Bloom and her boyfriend Max, and their daily lavishing of sexual affection on one another. The name of the site says it all: here is real love, made available for viewing via photography and film (pornography).
Bloom says that the site takes a lot of work—30-40 hours a week between herself and Max, who both have full-time jobs—but that the reaction to the site has been encouraging. She says: “The comments we’ve received so far are very positive. I think that the people who have found our site are really concerned about love and sensuality in porn.”
It is indeed a very intimate style of porn. The set-up and editing are planned, but the sex is real and unpredictable. Bloom says: “In our videos, we really are having sex the way we do it in our personal life.... The only thing is that when we do videos we are more planning what sexual act we will film and where we will make it…Emotional reactions are never planned, they are there so we use it.”
Ultimately all porn is a fantasy, a representation of sex as seen through a particular lens, and distantly, in someone else’s livingroom, but for some the knowledge that the people on the screen are genuinely enjoying each others’ and their own bodies and that they have a real emotional connection to each other is a huge turn-on. For these sites, the goal of making a thriving business out of a more human style of pornography is worth all the work that goes in to make it so beautiful.