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'How I Started Making Porn Women Can Enjoy'

“People were telling me, ‘Women aren’t visual. They aren’t going to pay for porn or erotica,’ and I was like, ‘That’s crap, of course we’re visual.'”

Angie Rowntree pioneered the genre of so-called ‘porn for women’ in the 1990s. Her long-running site Sssh.com provides subscribers with a variety of independently shot porn that features real-life couples, written erotica and advice columns. Just don’t call it ‘mommy porn’.

‘My husband and I started in the mid-’90s with a mail-order-catalogue business; one was Celtic and new-age jewellery, the other one BDSM toys and bondage gear. There wasn’t much out there and we were the very first ones on the Internet. I am a freelance photographer and we loved the BDSM fetish-type photography. We found that more people were interested in looking at the pictures than they were in actually buying the products. That’s how our first website started.

‘About five years later, in 1999, I developed and launched Sssh.com as erotic entertainment for women. I was deeply discouraged by the fact that men in the industry did not gear material towards women. In the stuff I was seeing, there wasn’t any connection between the people involved. I didn’t see any passion. In some cases, they didn’t even look like they wanted to be there and it all seemed contrived. How can people get really turned on by a couple who are not excited to be with each other? People were telling me, “Women aren’t visual. They aren’t going to pay for porn or erotica” and I said, “That’s crap, of course we’re visual.”

‘All of a sudden it became about what women want. We started a survey that’s now been running for over 16 years. Women are so diverse. Their fantasies and desires are far more complex than men’s. Women wanted to see anything – BDSM, being a dominatrix, being a sub, hair-pulling, more leather. They wanted rough sex, they wanted to be seduced, they wanted a scenario where they get picked up by a stranger at a bar. They wanted full stories, no stories, short stories, experimentation such as girl-on-girl and voyeurism.

‘When we first started, everyone wanted Harlequin romance, pirates sweeping them off their feet, big costumes, drama – which we do have still. They wanted an intelligent story line and they wanted to root for the heroine. Then Fifty Shades Of Grey gave women permission to say, “I just want to be fucked and have rough sex.” It varies so much. My office manager loves to get her hair pulled; if somebody pulled my hair, I would cry! The thing we’re trying to accomplish is to make everyone feel normal about their desires, as long as they’re safe and consensual.

porn, ssh.com

Cosmopolitan.com

‘There’s so much porn out there and I get very frustrated with it because it shows everything in such a bad light. I think [mainstream porn] objectifies everybody. But I don’t think it’s only a porn issue. Look at Hollywood movies and ads on TV and in magazines. We try to give people something to look at other than what you can find out there. But I’ve talked to many women who love the stuff on the tube sites [like RedTube and YouPorn], where women are this vehicle with a disembodied penis.

‘I don’t ever want to tell anybody that something is wrong. We make all the movies on Sssh.com. We release one or two original movies a month that we shoot ourselves. We also have curated a collection to make sure we can provide something everyone wants. We try to use real couples via word of mouth. I try to explain to them that everything is streamed because we’re trying to cut down on piracy. We have told them that we can’t promise they’re not going to end up on the tube sites. We’ve hired a company that, if it finds our content, will go and serve [cease and desist papers]. But it’s a huge problem!

‘We try to get variety. The oldest couple we had was a guy who was 44 or 45. His wife was in her late 30s. We use different body types, people with tattoos, people with large breasts. I try not to hire people with implants, because I want women to look at them and say, “This is a real person.” It’s about celebrating your own sexuality and your own body image. Ultimately my goal is that they walk away feeling really good about Sssh.com and about themselves. I want it to be real sex, intimacy, passion, mutual pleasure, and to have women in strong roles and in charge of their own sexual pleasure.

‘I’m always surprised by what people like. One of the very first requests that stumped us was a member who wanted a spanking movie. A spanking movie has no sex; we worked with someone who specialised in spanking. You don’t even show any naughty bits. The whole thing is domestic discipline. We didn’t really understand the genre. But we made it into a trilogy that many people really liked.

‘I actually hate the term “mommy porn”. It’s horrible. It’s just a label. It somehow implies that women with kids need their own kind of sex, their own movies. We’ve seen a huge increase in membership of women aged 45 and older. We’re starting a whole new section inside Sssh.com, and we’re calling it “50 and fabulous”, “60 and sexy”, etc – because we’re trying to tell people that age has nothing to do with sexuality.

‘I’ve had a lot of fantastic reactions from my friends and the community and I know it’s not the norm [in porn]. It just piques people’s curiosity. It makes great dinner conversation. I get slammed with questions, mostly, “Am I normal?”

‘In the survey, anal sex is the one thing that everybody wants and yet everybody doesn’t want. It’s really a hot topic. I think it’s one of the last taboo topics. Anal sex is a really big topic at dinner!

‘All in all, I really haven’t been discriminated against. But I know that many adult stars have. I’ve been really lucky. My family knows. My mother speaks five languages and helps me with international customer-service e-mails. The other day, I went to the pet store to pick up pet food and the owner came up to me and said, “I know what you do.” I was trying to think of something appropriate to say when she said, “We all know about Sssh.com and we love it.”

‘Even though we say we’re porn for women, we’re getting more and more couples in there. It’s people having fun – sex is fun and can be silly. There are lots of men who want to see that. Lots of people are answering the questionnaire that they’re watching with their partner – that’s increasing, which is hugely different from the way it used to be. Instead of making porn for men or women, we just need to make porn for people.

This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com

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