By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
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"I think people were concerned it was going to be, like, 'Punk Sluts Fucking for Punk Rock Records!' and it would be very demeaning and degrading to women in the scene," says Spooky, co-webmaster with partner Missy of flagship nudie site Suicide Girls, the Epitaph Records of the DIY porn scene. "[But] you'd be shocked. First of all, I don't sleep with any of the girls. I don't touch any of the girls, period. We do have parties for the girls, but the girls just chit-chat, drink, have fun. There are no orgies. No sex parties. No gold Ferraris or giant Jacuzzi tubs. I spend most of my day answering e-mail, doing tech support. There's nothing decadent about the business."
So what are you getting for your punk porn dollar these days? For a subculture that once could have laid claim to women like Lydia Lunch and Wendy O. (arrested 11 years ago this month for masturbating onstage with a sledgehammer!), the visuals skew a little tame: though boys make appearances on edgier sites such as Pennsylvania's Porn for Punks and Punk Erotic, the bread-and-butter of punk porn is young female models. And since so many of the girls on the sites are modeling for the first time ever (or so the story goes), they tend to stick to the vanilla stuff: a lot of T&A, a lot of full-frontal, maybe a little girl-on-girl petting. Of course, paying members get more: Porn for Punks will happily sell you pictures of off-duty dominatrixes pissing in their own mouths, for instance, and even Suicide Girls—the models, not the administrators—were debating whether to take the plunge into penetration shots. And members were generously telling them to do what they were comfortable with.
A Suicide Girls model named Chloe says she feels like a part of something rather than a piece of something. It's a sentiment members paying to access these sites might agree with. For many, it's the community that's the draw, as much as the naked girls. And it's that part-of-a-community—rather than piece-of-ass—feel that characterizes the kinder, gentler approach a lot of punk porn tends to take.
"The audience," says Missy of Suicide Girls, "is people who look like the girls. They've got the same attitudes and the same interests as the girls on the site. It's not designed for the typical porn user, like a 56-year-old man who's divorced or something."
Of course, there's no way to be exactly sure who their audience is, at least until the Total Information Awareness database goes online. But porn site message boards offer pretty convincing hints: user profiles feature the same sort of indie-Internrrrds that frequent MakeOutClub and LiveJournal, counterpointing ironic hipster tastes with professed interests including "college music girls tattoos" and "hot chicks and guitar licks."
It looks as if they've tapped into an audience that's more than willing to keep them in the black—maybe because webmasters are their own target market. You can't get much more in touch than that: as a woman, says Friction USA administrator Stephanie, she wants to be able to find images of beautiful women that aren't offensive; as a man, says Spooky, you'd want a woman to enjoy sex—so why wouldn't you want her to enjoy porn?
What's most important, they say, is putting form to a fantasy not included in the industry vision and making sure that the models have the freedom to do whatever they want. First, they want it to be different than the porn they've already seen. They want it to be clean, smart and female-friendly. They want it to be—in a lot of ways—like the trendy website Nerve.com, which blazed a trail that punk porn sites, intentionally or no, seem happy to follow by buttressing their own punk-girl photos with articles, band interviews and even message boards.
They also want it to be punk: specifically, like Dischord Records, the D.C. independent label whose take-care-of-your-own integrity is echoed in a site called Burning Angel's collectivist organizational structure or Suicide Girls' hire-from-within employment policies that puts models to work as HTML programmers or office managers.
And of course they want it to turn a profit—apropos to those punk-y business ethics, a profit that's fair for everybody involved. Nobody likes to talk numbers, but the payment a model receives for a photo session seems to be somewhere between what you'd make by working eight hours at McDonald's and what you'd need to make rent for a month in the Pacific Northwest—probably a few hundred shy of the $1,000 or so a girl might make for shooting a porno out in the San Fernando Valley.
"At the end of the day, [Suicide Girls] can be whatever you want it to be," says Spooky. "People hook up on our site with one another all the time. In San Francisco, they get together for curry dinner. In LA, they're all going to Disneyland with one another. But if people just want it to be a place to find materials to … pleasure themselves, that's certainly available on the site, too."