educational

Lady Love

Anne Winter
Girl-on-girl action online has come a long way in just a few years, and what once was a platform dominated by the manicured nails and pink lipstick of “gay for pay” performers is now a vast source of all kinds of queer-friendly content.

Thanks to a new generation of tech-savvy consumers with a passion for girl-porn, famous studios are finally making their Internet presence known, and for a few femme-film entrepreneurs testing the waters, true lesbian content online is no longer nowhere to be found.

Two years ago, Nan Kinney, president of lesbian production studio Fatale Media, said making a move online wasn’t at the top of the company’s to-do list, and that she, herself, hadn’t yet taken to the Internet side of the adult business.

She attributed the dearth of true lesbian porn online to this apprehension shared among several “offline” studios, as well as the fact that there was a lack of people producing true lesbian porn in general.

Ask her now, however, and she’s singing a different tune.

“We’ve warmed up to having an online presence,” Kinney said. “I still consider my focus film production, my audience lesbian, and my goal to offer lesbians ways to enhance their sex lives. It’s just that the means of delivery have changed.”

In 2007 Fatale made its initial foray online after it was courted by video-on-demand outlet HotMovies.com, whose HotMoviesForHer.com arm features only the best that side of the biz offers, and once Kinney was comfortable with the idea, signed a partnership that still stands strong today.

“It’s been a good partnership and has helped spread the Fatale brand,” Kinney said. “At first it seemed like an odd thing to do, like, why would anyone want to sit at a computer and watch porn? We’re still selling full movies, and people are buying 10-minute increments. I don’t think it’s going to go completely one way or the other. The audience is open to both, in my experience anyway, so you need to offer them both.”

HotMovies’ Sara T., aka the Porn Librarian, said she’s noticed a surge in tech-savvy consumers who love getting content on demand, and an explosion of new, super-hot and sometimes even edgy queer content being produced by a young and independent base of industry newcomers. The fact that there are sites like HotMoviesForHer offers a welcome community to make this content available instantly is helping the lesbian community grow and thrive online.

“We try to feature an eclectic group because we know that for every woman that wants to see a softcore movie, there’s another who wants to see Belladonna’s dirtiest scene,” Sara T. said. “To be honest, we want it all. I don’t care if it’s a company that’s just put out their first movie or the most established company out there — if women will enjoy it, we want to offer it.”

VOD and rental sites have been a necessary and successful platform for making true lesbian films that were once only available in physical form watchable anytime anywhere. The producers of these films, however, also have seen the need to establish their brands online by offering more than just a rental channel.

Girlfriends Films, a studio known for its complex story lines, unique shooting locations, and real-life lesbian and/or bisexual performers, is deep in the midst of a major online overhaul, revamping its existing website in response to customer demand for a subscription-based model — something that’s been the bread-and-butter for straight studios for years.

Girlfriends also teamed with HotMoviesForHer back in 2006, where it has been a top-tier studio three years in a row, and later partnered with AEBN to further expand its VOD presence. The company plans to offer its content on as many platforms as its consumers demand.

“We look at it as a ‘viewing/ billing’ preference,” Girlfriends Films Project Manager Megan Stokes said. “Some people prefer to hold a hard product, some prefer to be billed monthly and get a buffet of content, and others prefer to only be billed per minute. It’s only in our best interest to make sure all preferences are offered.”

The essential first step to making the move online is to find partners and new employees who can be trusted to take the company in the right direction and make the right moves. Stokes recommended hiring someone with reputable contacts and strong relationships, and striking strategic partnerships with established online companies who can offer guidance.

“It’s intimidating for any studio,” Stokes said. “When your bread and butter is a hard product, the Internet can seem like a place that wants to steal your customers. You quickly realize all you have done is allowed more consumers access to your brand. When you have a solid product, it purely increases your fan base and your bottom line.”

Queer content studio Pink & White Productions made its mark in adult initially via DVD, which continues to be a top-selling platform for it and most of the other top lesbian porn studios, including Fatale, Sweetheart Video and Girlfriends Films

Moving online isn’t necessarily a response to a halt in offline DVD sales, but merely a smart move to take advantage of the growth potential that only the Internet can offer.

“Despite the recent economic trends regarding DVD sales, we are still seeing profit from them and there’s a high demand from domestic and international retailers,” Pink & White Public Relations Manager Shawn Tamaribuchi said. “DVD sales have been the bread and butter of our company for the last four years and it is really wonderful to see our online content catching up.”

Pink & White launched CrashPadSeries.com in 2007 as an online counterpart to its successful DVD series of the same name, which sold more than 10,000 copies when it first hit streets. Though online content is still a relatively new field for the company, founder and head director Shine Louise Houston realizes the Internet’s unique ability to spread and promote artistic visions and messages.

“The genesis of an online presence for us has allowed us to take these values and expand their impact and availability to the public by using a medium which inherently has a wider reach — the World Wide Web,” Tamaribuchi said. “Online content encouraged us to increase our productivity; this provides us an extra source of income that in turn allows us to pursue even more projects. Our online membership site and VOD presence has, in a word, made us far more prolific.”

The Internet has become the tool for spreading a message the fastest and the farthest, and that’s why many newcomers to the adult production field — especially those with no previous experience within the industry — are heading straight online to make their presence known.

Jincey Lumpkin, a former attorney, was inspired to launch DigiRomp.com, a lesbian social network meant for sharing erotic experiences in 2008, and after some top lesbian porn performers joined, she embarked on a journey into lesbian porn production. The result is web-only film series “TAXI.”

“I was producing a few web-based videos for DigiRomp and I thought that it would be really hot to have a sex toy company sponsor a video series where women masturbate in the back of taxis,” Lumpkin said. “As I thought more about the idea, I realize that I wanted to keep it as the concept to use for my first video production.”

TAXI will be available exclusively online via a new site that Lumpkin had her business partners are launching this fall, called JuicyPinkBox.com. She said a formal announcement will be made soon, and has no definite plans for replicating content for DVD.

“We have a few options we’re considering for later, but our focus is really online at this point,” Lumpkin said. “Consumer feedback is a beautiful thing, and we are always open to hearing it and making people happy.”

But for producers of high quality true lesbian content, DVD likely will never “die,” despite what some studios from the straight side have touted. Tamaribuchi said that contrary to current trends, Pink & White’s DVD distribution rivals its online branch, which acts more as a supplement than a competitor.

“I think it’s entirely fitting that our feature-length, plotcentric movies come out on DVD first because the format really lends itself to these types of films,” she said. “Our website contains segmented vignettes well-suited to VOD and streamed viewing. We also acknowledge that some folks are die-hard DVD viewers or completely online viewers, which is why we make an effort to have our DVD content cross over with VOD and place selections of our web content onto DVD volumes.”

Fatale’s Kinney also realizes her customers enjoy a variety of ways to watch its feature films, and though they’re in the process of shooting content primarily for the web, its plot-driven films come out on DVD and are made viewable online by scene or per minute.

“I think there are lesbians who like the quick fix and others that like plot, and many like both,” Kinney said. “I think it’s important to offer as many ways as possible for lesbians to enjoy porn.”

Girlfriends’ Stokes said the company is planning not only to shoot web-exclusive content for its upcoming subscription-based site, but also behind-the-scenes footage and possibly even “webisodes.” She’s still getting feedback from fans sharing what they want to see from the studio online.

“Our fan base definitely enjoys our plot-driven content,” Stokes said. “Our titles are actually done in an episodic format and have recurring characters, drama and complex dialog — I think that is what is going to make us stand out online.”

HotMoviesForHer’s Sara T. agreed, sharing that most of the sites’ users actually prefer the longer plot-driven films, and can’t think of any lesbian porn producers whose primary business model consists of gonzo.

“The plots may be thin sometimes, but they’re almost always there,” Sara T. said. “Of course, sometimes it’s just 30 seconds of dialogue before getting down to business, but at least we know that the girl in the cap is delivering pizza and the other girl doesn’t like sausage.”

But content producers like Pink & White, Girlfriends Films, Sweetheart Video and Fatale Media continue to be successes because they stay aware of what their market wants, while also staying true to their vision of making high quality — and authentic — lesbian sex available to as many viewers as possible.

“It will depend on what the fans require, where the market goes,” Sweetheart Video director and writer Nica Noelle said. “Technology will evolve with the times, but without being a slave to trends and following the crowd, we will stay true to the kind of movies we want to make.”

Tamaribuchi echoes this sentiment, and feels it’s as important to expand the visual vocabulary and dialogue of porn as it is to utilize new technologies available to distribute it.

“I see the market as a living, breathing and changing organism along with trends, tags and the identities that lay behind them,” Tamaribuchi said. “I believe that the way we have been trained as media producers to see and create work in relation to who we believe our market to be needs to change, and is changing. We need to own up to the fact that our audiences are getting more sophisticated as viewers and media consumers.”

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