opinion

Boys Will Be Boys (And Sometimes Girls, Too)

Stephen Yagielowicz

While the question of online ad legitimacy and user profile verity or “enhancement” is not new, I found an interesting perspective on the topic in a recent article at Vice.com: “Things You Learn Designing Porn Banners For A Living,” which interviews a young Jewish girl named Adi Aviram — a self professed prolific porn banner ad maker. In the interview, she revealed her personal insights on adult website marketing, but seemed dismayed that many “hot chick” interactions that consumers see — including chat ads and other copy supposedly written by women — is in reality, often penned by men.

“In the end, you’re all gay,” Adi concludes. “It’s all men to men, and girls have nothing to do with this. They’re just the face and they have no control. It’s all really homoerotic.”

Roald of Payserve/IMC told XBIZ that when he started submitting galleries in 1999 he used a girl’s name all the time, as site owners seemed to be much nicer that way.

While I have friends in this business that have posed as women through online personas for years, I do not agree with Aviram’s belief that all Internet marketers are gay. Sure, many pornographers are gay/bi, but trying to reach your audience as effectively as possible is based on strategy as much as sexuality — this notion causing me to consider whether or not only women should express a woman’s voice in porn.

I turned to the XBIZ.net community of adult entertainment professionals to ask them if we are all gay, and received some enlightening replies on the topic. While many members discussed the varying shades of their sexuality, for his part, Dr. Clockwork thinks the premise is a bit of a stretch.

“I see how the point could be made that a man is going to know what a man wants to hear or read better than a woman, but I don’t think that makes it gay. It’s marketing,” Dr. Clockwork says. “If I write a commercial for dog food and utilize images of big chunks of meat that will make a dog salivate, does that mean that I’m into bestiality?”

“Sexual preference is a sliding scale, not a toggle switch, but that’s not the point,” Dr. Clockwork added. “I take offense to what the article states because it is comparing marketing to sexual preference, which has nothing to do with each other.”

Barry from MB Entertainment told XBIZ that “the fact that men make the ads but use women to do it doesn’t make you gay because, as men, we are still responding to the women in those ads.”

Dee Severe of Severe Society Films explained how there are a lot of women working behind the camera and behind the scenes in porn, and there is no one “woman’s voice,” saying, “If you look at the work of women directors, there’s a really wide range. From feminist porn to extreme hardcore, realistic lesbian to heavy femdom, and fetish to romantic porn.”

“The gender of the person making the banner is irrelevant,” she concludes. “It is their ability to gauge what appeals to their target audience that’s important.”

The topic of gender and persona impersonation reaches far wider, however, with James S. of the Body-Rockin Promotions Network asking the XBIZ.net community if it is ethical for marketers to create profiles on social media or other sites where visitors interact with someone who they believe is that performer — but who is an imposter, a con artist — and is likely male.

“She says she loves you [even though you’ve never met] but she is stuck in Africa taking care of her father (although her profile says she’s from San Bernardino),” James says. “She needs you to send her $1,500 so she can get home ... and so she can be with you.”

Adult Blog Writer says that in the phone sex world, girls have many personas and some guys do buy it at face value and think they are really talking to the girl in the picture. Others look at a call like going to the movies, where it is a temporary suspension of reality.

“You don’t really think there’s super-heroes that can fly, yet you go to the movies, and for the length of the movie accept the fantasy. For calls you should do the same,” Adult Blog Writer explains. “Some guys do not want to think [that] 25-year-old, 120 lb. ‘Brandy’ is really 55-year-old, 300 lb. Linda.”

“For cam sites it would be deceptive business to show a picture and then the cam shows someone else,” Adult Blog Writer added. “But you do realize 95 percent of phone sex girls and phone sex companies use content pics, right? That’s reality.”

Oscar Storm says that performer impersonation is unethical. “To claim the client should know is silly, where are the disclaimers?” he asks. “If they all know it’s pretend and harmless entertainment then print those disclaimers that all answers are made up and any similarity blah, blah, blah.”

Kelli Roberts of Kelli Internet Services told XBIZ that using fake pictures for phone sex is one thing, but to fake your gender to market a website is something else. “If you are some dude pretending to be a girl on Twitter to get anything ([such as] traffic, money, gifts or attention),” Kelli says, “then yes, I consider that unethical and I have a problem with it.”

“It’s advertising copy, don’t worry about it,” Adult Voyeur stated. “It’s not illegal, everyone does it, and if it will earn you money, you should do it too.”

Adult industry attorney Michael Fattorosi notes that any sense of legality is not universal. “In California it could be criminal,” Fattorosi told XBIZ. “[Because] there’s a new law about pretending to be someone else online.”

Roald of Payserve/IMC told XBIZ that when he started submitting galleries in 1999 he used a girl’s name all the time, as site owners seemed to be much nicer that way. “On TV, phone, text and SMS promos all carry small fine print stating that all profiles are fake and that you can’t get a physical date with the girl, ever,” Roald explains. “[It] still works out well I think.”

Dixon Mason believes that it is unethical if the person is still active in the industry with their own social media profiles running concurrently as the fake ones. “I think most people would get offended at someone posing as them,” Dixon says. “However, if it’s someone who’s not really around, or not really active on Facebook or Twitter, it’s more of a gray area.”

Given these responses, it seems clear that the ethics of using online personas and their impersonation may depend upon the circumstances and is more of a murky gray than a clear case of black and white.

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