Tuesday 16th September 2014,
Televisual

In Adult Video Online, Does Diversity Sell?

Aymar Jean Christian April 7, 2010 uncategorized 14 Comments

I’m assisting a lecture tomorrow on the adult entertainment industry for a course at Penn, so I thought I’d write a quick blog. Note: most links NSFW. Thanks to Queerty, Fleshbot, MOC Blog and Racialicious for linking.

Sean Cody, the king (or among the kings) of amateur gay, and gay-for-pay, video online, has recently included a couple of black men on his site. Sean Cody is infamous for his almost religious devotion to featuring only white performers, though he’s not the only one. Bloggers from Unzipped, Fleshbot, to Men of Color Blog were understandably flabbergasted — and delighted — at the recent shift.

I wonder: Does the change have anything to do with Sean Cody’s possibly declining numbers?

(UPDATE (7/6/10): After featuring Landon numerous times since this post was written, it appears most metrics have Sean Cody’s traffic numbers rising.)

First, disclaimers: 1) I’m speculating. I have no access to Sean Cody’s traffic or subscription numbers; 2) Sean Cody makes it money from subscriptions, not advertising, so while traffic might suggest lower subscriptions, it doesn’t necessarily; 3) the sites I’m using are as unreliable, though perhaps more so, than the other ratings agencies.

Looking at the general trend, it seems possible Sean Cody’s popularity has declined in recent months. See the tables above. The site has been facing increased competition from a steady stream of new entrants to the market, sites like Dominic Ford, It’s Gonna Hurt, Tim Tales, Cocky Boys and a host of others, most of which I don’t know. This is not to forget all the free amateur/professional aggregators, like XTube, YouPorn, and the like.

All this competition promises one thing: anything a user wants, a user can get. If Sean Cody doesn’t offer black guys, you can get it elsewhere for free. And if you want higher quality, most of the other upscale amateur sites offer more diversity. Randy Blue, which uses more professionals and a few more people of color, is either up in traffic or slightly more than flat. Equally diverse Dominic Ford, a newbie, is on the rise, though not yet a threat (a lot of its buzz has to do with its much-promoted 3-D offerings). Meanwhile, lily white Corbin Fisher is probably flat. A number of other new subscription amateur outlets, like the controversial Machofucker, put diversity at a premium. Sites like Manhunt and Adam4Adam offer pay-per-view options with huge and diverse libraries, and they too are growing or already popular. The free sites, for their part, have basically beat everybody out, and Quantcast’s numbers suggest black, Latino and Asian visitors disproportionately frequent free sites like XTube, GayForIt and JerkYourTube. Perhaps they are getting something there they can’t elsewhere: diversity!

It’s not just about race, of course. Other higher quality amateur and subscription professional sites offer lots of deviations from the white, smooth, clean frat type (SC’s bread and butter): hairy, older, beefy, tattooed, etc. are all available elsewhere. Sexual tastes are varied. It goes without saying more variation is better, though holding your niche is important as well.

Sean Cody may have needed a way to differentiate himself from the likes of Corbin Fisher and Bel Ami, knowing he would get press for his championing of diversity and maybe a few new subscribers. Months ago, starting with Geoff and Middle Eastern Sydney, Sean Cody has been slowly diversifying his slate of pseudo-straight models. It must be working, as in, paying off. Since then, he’s published: a pair of ambiguously ethnic models (John, Joseph), the black Derek, hairier guys (Ian), the older (looking) Dennis, all culminating in the recent interracial scene, the first in, well, a long time. (UPDATE: He has posted a second interracial scene with Landon and another Latino guy has shown up in his subsequent audition video. UPDATE 2: Even more ethnic diversity, scenes with Landon and a new Brazilian. UPDATE 3: Landon is, essentially, a regular.).

Sean Cody was really one of the first sites to capitalize on the use of amateur performers in adult online video, turning it into a solid business and proving you didn’t need to produce a six-figure scripted film to get people to pay for pleasure. It is true that his site, along with Randy Blue, really did start out quite diverse, when both sites needed to fill the content vacuum and get models who would work for cheap, as MOC Blog pointed out (not without controversy). Now the market might be running away from, or past, Sean Cody, and he’s needed to adapt, however slowly, to the changing and increasingly cutthroat environment.

It’s still possible — likely, really — that Sean Cody’s subscriber base does not want black models. But it’s equally possible the site wants to grow that base and needs black models to do it. It’s also true that for mainstream subscription-based companies like HBO and Showtime, the freedom from relying on advertising has allowed for greater experimentation and diversity. Despite HBO’s primary focus on affluent men, shows like Oz and The Wire, while nowhere near as highly rated as The Sopranos, allowed the network to retain its more urban subscriber base. Showtime made its mark by being the only network to show explicit gay content, and, while it’s largely abandoned that strategy, it still offers a strong slate of shows geared toward women, offering actresses like Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Toni Collette (United States of Tara) the complicated lead roles rarely offered to women.

I’m not sure of many things, but I can be sure that the market for online video is dynamic and always changing. Who knows where it will go next?

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

14 Comments

  1. Victor April 8, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I asked Zach Sire to join me for a public discussion of Racism in Gay Porn but he never responded. The offer remains.

    Great work, Aymar!

    http://menofcolor.blogs.com/moc_blog/2010/04/some-thought-behind-sean-codys-discovery-of-black-men.html

  2. Aymar Jean Christian April 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    That would be a great discussion. Maybe when I have tenure and some clout we could get a panel together!

    Thanks for the linking love, AJ

  3. MPG April 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Has anyone noted that this color-coded upscaling was the process for Madonna, Fox, WB. At least in TV and music, industry people know that black people consume more than their white counterparts (if studies about average TV watching can be believed). So, for a start-up, you have a built-in audience if you start with black content.

    But going upscale apparently means going white. My sense is that this is purely about image. All of our most prestigious institutions are white with a few colored faces sprinkled in occasionally. Predominantly black space — residential, educational, etc. — are *defined* as lacking value and often deprived so that the symbolism will also describe material reality.

    Well-kept white skin has a cash value. And the occasional Condoleezza/Vanessa Williams as Miss America/Landon on Sean Cody does nothing to change that relationship.

    To take a quick detour, it’s why some naysayers went ballistic about Bigelow’s Oscar. By definition, female directors are either devalued chic-flick makers OR imitation men. Filmmaking that can be identified as female is automatically devalued, despite its actual box office pull and artistic merit. The occasional person to successfully “pass” for white or male does nothing to change the fact that the goodies are all amassed on that side of the fence.

    And the election of an Obama who wants to call everyone “American” and call it even… was not designed to do anything about it.

    It’s sad. The best thing I can hope is that every child in a subordinate group gets the opportunity to be in a space where their group is not treated like a suspect minority but as the standard of excellence and achievement. Otherwise, it’s going to keep being having to deny or migrate out from woman/gay/black/immigrant to get to the goodies. And I am tired, TIRED of that.

  4. Xavier McDonald April 9, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Coming at this from an entirely different perspective, as a website featuring only Black Men, I am always happy to see more black faces in gay adult videos.

    Having said that, it suprises me sometimes that many of the black guys who appear on a site like Sean Cody never send us photos or otherwise inquire about appearing on BlackMen.Net. We’d be happy to shoot them, and there is little doubt that we offer a unique style in our portrayal of black men that would depict them in a very favorable light.

  5. Matt April 9, 2010 at 1:40 am

    @Xavier McDonald:

    Perhaps in the mind of those guys, modeling for your site would be construed more as “real porn” than what Sean Cody appears to be offering them? I have no proof, only a rather weak hypothesis based on your comments and this blog entry.

  6. Aymar Jean Christian April 9, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing. I think there is a difference from the Sean Cody guy (straight, mainly), and other porn sites, where it’s more vague. But it looks like you’re right that your sight comes close to the SC aesthetic.

  7. Keegan April 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Ironic this subject was brought up because I was thinking about it this morning. With the popularity of heterosexual porn stars like Leo Geomani who ruin every scene they are in to the increase of interracial porn my viewing experience has decreased. I prefer Caucasian gay men; I find their social and physical characteristic attractive. It’s becoming more difficult to find porn with just Caucausian gay men. Heterosexual males who are gay porn stars are pathetic. They can’t find real jobs and are not accepted in heterosexual porn because their endowments are not big enough. *Heterosexual males want large endowments in their porn; talk about size queens*

  8. Matt April 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Keegan:

    seriously? Hetero males who do gay porn aren’t able to do straight porn due to the size of their endowments?

    Rubbish. I can think of several gay for pay models who have impressive endowments and have been courted by straight studios or who already work with them. Chriss Strokes immediately comes mind.

  9. Keegan April 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I’m sure Criss Strokes was rejected by several heterosexual porn studios before he decided to do gay porn. He then got out of it as soon as he could.

  10. Matt April 10, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Are you speculating, or do you have proof?

    Considering the size of Strokes’ appendage as well as his fit body and age, I somehow doubt he was turned down. He may have chosen to straddle the “fence” between straight and gay porn – straight to keep himself grounded that yes, he’s straight, and gay for the monetary aspect, since big-dicked, straight-acting young men are in demand.

    But I’ll admit to speculation on my part. What’s your evidence?

  11. Mike February 21, 2011 at 1:15 am

    I’m a black guy and though I’m attracted to and have been with a range of races, I prefer porn to be all white. It’s fantasy. I’m a dark guy and seeing to pure white guys having sex is precious to me. It’s something I can’t experience and that’s what turns me on. Also, the idea of sliding my darkness into pure white flesh w/o condoms seems to forbidden and dirty that it’s hot. The idea of a white guy inside me makes me feel lucky.

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