“When men look at porn,” says Angie Rowntree of the female-focused porn site Sssh.com, “they tend to want the whole thing, fast. With women you’ve got to slow down, be prepared to stop, and hold things back.”
Since 1999 Sssh.com has been parceling out curated and graduated servings of porn for women who might only want to dip a toe in the pool of pornography before electing to go full immersion.
In addition to advice columns, erotic horoscopes, stories, galleries, and a “Man of the Month” feature (broken up over several pages so that more upright women can look away before too much comes off), Sssh.com also runs original and affiliated story-based stills and video content, with titles like “A Night with My Man,” “Watching the Neighbors,” and “Into the Mist.”
There is even a “bi-curious” section for parts of the country that might not understand why, here in Southern California, women make out at bars, on the street, and at the DMV.
If this all sound like it’s 15 years too late, remember that you’re the one who’s riding the razor edge of American culture and steling your porn; the rest of the country needs to catch up.
“For 80 percent of our customers,” Rowntree says, “Their Sssh.com membership is the first porn they ever bought. You can get as tame or as dirty as you want.”
Well, not as dirty as some of the people I know would want, but Rowntree illuminates a fact that is often overlooked by the mostly male, Porn Valley-based tastemakers (I’m open to a more appropriate term) of American pornography: that everyone wants their porn graphic and capped with a facial cumshot.
“And that’s fine,” says Rowntree. “My husband (Colin Rowntree) runs (ancient and respected fetish site) Wasteland.com. There’s room for everybody.”
The Rowntrees operate Wasteland and Sssh (pronounced “shush”) from a series of nondescript buildings in southern New Hampshire, and have amassed some fascinating statistics about porn surfing behavior in their combined three decades of online smut peddling.
“On Sssh we’d ask, ‘What do you want to see more of?’ and people would answer, ‘Anal sex,'” Rowntree says. “And then we’d ask, ‘What do you not want to see?’ and other people would write, ‘Anal sex.'”
A few weeks ago I told you about the book “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” a picture of what men and women want as defined by terabytes’ worth of search and demographic data from porn websites, including Sssh.com.
Rowntree says that she has left it to site members to choose the content for Sssh, as opposed to seeking the advice of porn industry pros she encounters at conventions.
“Everyone at a trade show says, ‘Why isn’t your site black?’ They don’t get that there’s a whole rest of North America out there.”
One example of how Porn Valley’s taste might differ from that of the Merrimack Valley is how career pornographers define a couples’ film.
“We are running Roy Karch’s ‘Insertz,’ which is a great movie,” says Rowntree, “and Roy would call that movie a couples’ film. Because that’s Porn Valley’s version of a couples’ film. But our readers don’t think a facial belongs in a couples’ movie, so we edit those parts out.”
But just in case readers get more adventurous, there is a lip-based ratings system in place on the site.
“Cinemax-y stuff gets one lip,” Rowntree says, “and something like ‘The Fashionistas’ gets three lips. Actually, we’d give that movie more lips if we had them.”
Rowntree notes that Sssh uses real couples as often as possible, and that subscribers have sometimes protested when they see early footage of a man whom they know to be in a couple in a scene with another woman.
“We got letters saying, ‘Did Rob break up with Daisy?’”
I ask Rowntree what women want.
“Women want a reason for the sex to happen,” she says, “as well as some kind of afterglow.”
Apparently, blowing a semen-scented kiss to the camera while licking come off one’s face does not qualify as an afterglow.
The design of Sssh.com is straight out of 2003, but that probably proves comforting to the skittish and curious, who might equate cutting-edge web tricks with porno depravity. But its Flash-based videos and image galleries are hard to pirate, so the site savvily mixes an old-tymey look with a modern delivery system for a customer’s $19.95 a month.
“Men looking for porn don’t get us,” Rowntree says. “Gay men looking for Playgirl-style content don’t get us. But women get us. Men are in for a penny, in for a pound; but sometimes women want to look away, and that’s sexier to them.”
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Book: Women need “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” but men need just one
See also: Sssh!