Adult websites and the tech media

Geeks are a pretty liberated bunch, on average, but it’s very interesting to see the way in which discussion of technology used for sex is still so very different from discussions of other similar technologies that happen to be used for other purposes.

I talk a lot about adult sites being way behind the rest of the industry when it comes to web2.0, but I think it’s also true to say that adult sites often don’t receive the same sort of coverage. One article which was a very good example of this was this article on mashable.com, about a new (no longer operating) adult social network. There’s nothing particularly negative in the article, but there does seem to be a bit of an unspoken assumption that adult sites are not something that we normally want to talk about. The author writes “Will it get a review on Mashable? Nope, but it’s worth mentioning these sites for the sake of completeness.”, and then goes on to make a point that he’s not actually going to link to the site in question. Links, since they improve your search engine rankings and direct traffic, are a valuable commodity for web entrepreneurs and are basically the main reason why a new business would send a press release to popular tech blogs like mashable. Presumably, the author of the article felt that it was a good compromise to mention the site, but not review it or link to it, since after all, it is an adult site.

For a more positive view of the adult web 2.0 industry, one can often go to popular silicon valley blog, techcrunch.com. Earlier this year techcrunch wrote an overview of the adult web2.0 industry in an article entitled New Generation Adult Sites Roundup. It’s a short, but fairly insightful article on the state of play, and tech crunch has consistently written on some of the big players in this industry, in particular giving good coverage of the sale of Adult Friend Finder (and associated sites) to Penthouse. However, for even this very occasional glimps of the adult web industry, techcrunch operator Michael Arrington has received a lot of flack.

In the article mentioned above, commenters wade in pretty quickly with jokes and then in many cases very strong opinions that this is not an appropriate subject to discuss on a tech blog. The tenth person to comment writes:

this might as well be trashcrunch.com!

i’m leaving and it looks like other are already leading the way!

this is all you have to talk about mike???

And the comment I personally found most astounding:

I’m very disappointed to see this post. Pornography causes untold harm to men and women daily. Despite the industry’s past or future technical contributions, covering specific pornographic sites should be beneath any respectable blog.

Let us not pretend that pornography is an acceptable past time for mature adults. It harms those involved, it harms it’s customers, it harm us as a society.

Despite these rather strong comments, techcrunch has continued to cover adult sites, and many of the comment threads on these articles have turned into pretty heated discussion between those who, for want of a better term, I’m going to call sex-negative and sex-positive readers. In particular, if you’re finding yourself bored one day, reading the comments on this article is a very interesting exercise, and contains some good defenses of on-line sexuality by Arrington and also by fellow tech blogger Robert Scoble.

I’ve had a similarly diverse range of reactions when mentioning my adult website work to other geeks. It’s very easy to forget, when hanging out with liberal minded sex-positive people that this isn’t necessarily a majority view. Still, I don’t think that this means that we should shut up, and I applaud those bloggers who are managing to give impartial coverage of this subject, in particular to American audiences.


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"Building the Sex" is a blog about creatively using technology to enrich our sex and fantasy lives.

Craig is a professional software developer, and the creator of Playful Bent, an adult social network.

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