Flame On: Social Media

Saskia Vogel
It’s not news that porn stars and the interactive web go together like bread and butter. The step from web cams and community sites like Burning Angel to porn stars using mainstream social media channels like MySpace , blogs, and Twitter was intuitive. But social media’s full power is still being harnessed. Engagement with social media may very well be the thing that is key to fully assimilating porn with mainstream culture. Dana DeArmond, Nina Hartley, and Madison Young are three people who seem to really be on the right track, following the two basic tenets of social media: authenticity and transparency.

Dana DeArmond, also known as “The Internet’s Girlfriend,” is a forerunner in this new wave. When she decided to go all that way with porn, “I decided to have a fan base, so I started accepting every friend request,” she said. “Now no one but Jenna Jameson has more friends than I do.” DeArmond said she has 869,000-plus friends on MySpace and 16,750-plus followers on Twitter. Fan engagement and requests to do porn were driving forces behind the production of her 2006 film “Dana DeArmond Does the Internet,” a hardcore bio-pic.

Sure, this is a great example of the power of social media to turn fan-love into something tangible…along the idea of crowd sourcing. But DeArmond’s approach to social media gave even more remarkable results when her house burned down during the 2007 Adult Entertainment Expo. Her fan base transcended the Internet. Fans, media (like Fleshbot.com), and other companies alike jumped to her aid with funds and vital goods.

Of her fan loyalty she said, “I treat my fans as friends, not customers.” She does not have a pay site (TheInternetsGirlfriend.com is a blog with a variety). Her wider social media presence, like her site, is a charming, hilarious mix of her life in and out of hard-core, including Twitter exchanges with Dave Navarro, videos on FunnyOrDie.com, and her work with the comedy troupe The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. She feels that her social media presence has “made people more comfortable talking to me in public. They don’t approach me saying ‘I jack off to your ass.’ They say, ‘I’m your friend on Facebook.’ … Because you can see people’s interactions in Twitter [for example], people see the connection between mainstream and porn.”

The venerable Nina Hartley is a prime example of someone bridging this gap, with the help of social media consulting firm Markyr Media.

The firm that focuses on creating community through conversation, is credited with making the infamous rock venue The Roxy relevant again through social media. With a natural end to her on-screen porn career in site, Hartley, who said “Pornography is my laboratory and sex is my experiment,” wanted to expand on what she loves. “I was frustrated with a lack of nonjudgmental, sciencebased practical info about sex,” she said. With her knowledge and notoriety, Hartley and Markyr’s Kyra Reed and Marjorie Kase devised Sexwise, an online community where people can talk about (legal, consensual) sex in a nonjudgmental environment. It launched this year.

Sexwise has three ways people can be “sexwise,” a term that represents the brand philosophy and its approach to sex. Sexwise.me is a subscription online community, with all the functionality of traditional social media networks, hosted on SocialGo.com, where people can post blogs that can be submitted to the Sexwise Magazine, share info, form groups, and chat about sex. Hartley, of course, engages with the site regularly.

Sexwise.tv is a free weekly TV show hosted by Hartley and streamed live on UStream.com. Hartley brings special guests from the world of sex on the show and presents music and art contributed by members of the community. Sexwise.info is where information products, like ebooks and educational videos, are for sale. As with many ventures on the net, they give a little for free to whet the appetite, but you have to pay to get the really good stuff, “We really want to make it a community thing. Nina is guiding the conversation…that you can participate in. That’s the whole basis of Sexwise as a brand. It’s an opportunity to turn a conversation into something meaningful. You’ve seen her do it, now don’t you want to find out why, how and what she gets out of it? Results have been really amazing.

“How do we create Nina Hartley as sex educator, without alienating her fan base? Well, we made it very clear: Sexwise is for talking. Nina.com is for sex.”

Reed, coming from the music industry, sees a lot potential in social media that is not being capitalized on. Indeed, there is much to be explored when thinking of monetizing a social media fan base.

Others in the sex biz that excel at creating conversation and community online and off include Madison Young and Rachel Kramer Bussel. Madison Young "cultivates visual difference” with a focus on queer culture and sex. Her fans get to know her through art, hardcore, and conversation. She also streams a sex-ed show on Ustream, in addition to her hardcore site MadisonBound.com, video productions, and the San Francisco-based Femina Potens art gallery.

Rachel Kramer Bussel, sex writer and editor of erotic books including “Best Sex Writing” has been planning cost-effective virtual book tours. Her books tour the blogosphere through reviews, guest blog posts and the like. Porn bloggers also do this, for example hosting dedicated weeks to a certain star with giveaways for fans. It’s all about finding a niche and spreading the word about your work using the armada of media channels available for little to no cost. The star is getting closer to the fan than ever.

It seems the future of porn and social media will be in this three-dimensional conversation with a three-dimensional porn star. You know, the kind you greet on the street by saying, “Hey, aren’t you my friend on Facebook?”

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