Vice Squad
Monday, April 30, 2007
 
The Business of Kinky Internet Porn


Sunday's New York Times Magazine includes this informative piece about a company, Kink.com, that produces fetish porn for the web from a former armory in the Mission District of San Francisco. Much of the article concerns the professionalization and mainstreaming of internet porn. The dot.com bust was a bit of a blessing for internet porn, as highly-trained technical people became available to work in the industry.

The Kink company has developed an elaborate protocol to ensure that their BDSM-style shoots are, and are perceived to be, fully consensual. The protocol includes the filming of pre- and post-play interviews with the participants.

One of the problems that web-based porn purveyors face is receiving payments: many credit card issuers and other standard payment mechanisms (including American Express and PayPal) will not deal with porn sites, in part because a large number of the processed payments were challenged by cardholders or clients and rescinded. Apparently, more narrowly-focused sites have less of a problem with chargebacks, as their clientele is more dedicated.

The article covers legal issues, too, such as whether Kink-style pornography might be adjudged to constitute illegal obscenity. The problem of determining the relevant "community standards" for web-based porn -- a crucial component of the US obscenity test -- is noted, as is the likelihood that the more such porn produced and consumed, the harder any legal challenge will be: "It makes itself unobscene." In any case, the article sheds a good deal of light on one generally opaque sliver of the vice world.

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