Post Pornhub, Australian Pornography Is Fighting For Survival

The Australian porn scene is struggling. Post-Pornhub, there's simply less demand for paid content. But if history has proven anything, it's that pornography finds a way.

We spoke to some of Australia's premier porn performers and producers. They're struggling, they're doing it tough, but they're using technology (and their innate sense of hustle) in a last gasp fight for survival.


This is Ms Naughty.

In a past life Ms Naughty was a librarian. An actual librarian.

Ms Naughty didn't pout or play suggestively with stationary. Ms Naughty was a real librarian, with respect for the Dewey Decimal System. Ms Naughty put her books away carefully.

Ms Naughty also wrote. She was a librarian at a major newspaper and wrote freelance articles on the side. She regularly pitched to a number of different publications.

Then Ms Naughty wrote a story that transformed her career trajectory in the strangest of ways.

It was the year 2000. John Howard was Prime Minister. The Sydney Olympics was a dramatic success. In the Northern Territory 21-year-old Jamie Wurramara was arrested and sentenced to one whole year in prison for stealing $23 worth of biscuits.

And people were watching a lot of pornography on the internet.

A brave new world. 56k and thumbnails. No-one was streaming video content on their mobile phone. There was no such thing as Pornhub. There wasn't even a YouTube.

A different time, but porn was still a fixture. A major one at that. And it was a growth industry.

Ms Naughty was watching. She asked herself some questions.

Question one: how many of those porn consumers were women? Question number two: how much of that porn was aimed at women?

It was a question that became an article idea, which Ms Naughty pitched and then wrote. An article that became a business plan when she got her answer: yes, women were interested in watching porn; no, very little of the porn that existed on the internet was aimed at them.

Was this a gap in a growing market? Porn for women?

"Why don't you give it go?" Said a friend of Ms Naughty's, when she broached the idea.

Why not indeed.

And that was how Ms Naughty quit being a librarian and got her start in the world of internet pornography.

"It was a goldmine," she says.


Ms Naughty was making money hand over fist. She couldn't believe how much money she was making.

Back then the online porn business was simple affiliate marketing. Ms Naughty acquired photosets, gave them a theme, put out teasers that weren't explicit and directed audiences to paysites for the hardcore stuff. If they spent money? Bam. 50% of the sale.

50%.

"My first two and a half years were just fantastic," says Ms Naughty. "Sales were just insane at that point because porn was new on the internet.

"I was a librarian. If Amazon was able to pay me 50% of book sales I'd probably have set up a book site.

"Porn was just one of the best ways to make money online."

Fast forward to 2006. A forum dedicated to people making money in the porn industry. Ms Naughty posed a question.

"What do you think about this YouTube thing," she typed innocently, blissfully unaware of the hurricane about to hit. "Do we need to be worried?"

Spankwire, Pornhub, Redtube. No-one saw the tube sites coming. No-one.

They started small, a host of small sites with streaming video, pirating existing content and making it available to watch on site. No need for money up front, no need for subscriptions -- free. An ad-driven model.

It spread fast. Soon tube sites were the primary delivery method for online pornography.

Present day. The porn industry is a different beast.

It's 2017 and you have an industry flirting with monopoly. Mindgeek, a global IT company that describes itself as "a world-class portfolio of entertainment experiences and IT solutions", now owns eight of the top 10 tube sites, and is heavily invested in both the production and distribution of online pornography. With sites like Brazzers, Digital Playground, Reality Kings and Twistys, Mindgeek essentially runs the porn industry from top to bottom.

And unlike Youtube -- which can be overly draconian -- Mindgeek doesn't seem to place much of a premium on tracking and removing pirated content online. There are blurred lines: Mindgeek owns the means of production; so most assume the content is legit when it often isn't. Users are uploading pirated pornography without fear.

This level of piracy has had detrimental, often catastrophic, effects on the porn industry.

Everyone is affected, from producers like Ms Naughty all the way through to the performers themselves.


"I never planned to get into porn."

Madison Missina is one of Australia's best known porn performers. Since joining the industry in 2012 she's had a rapid rise, winning best Australian porn star in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

She believes sites like Pornhub are partly responsible for the decline of the porn industry, particularly here in Australia where the scene is already small and underfunded.

"We only have a handful of producers," she says. "I might be the only full-time performer in Australia."

Back in the 80s and 90s explains Madison, performers could earn thousands per scene. Today, post Pornhub, the average rate is anywhere between 350 and a thousand dollars. Tube sites provide access to a near limitless supply of pornography and there's less demand for new content. That means less production, which means less scenes. The end result: less work for professional porn performers.

But Pornhub's impact on performers extends beyond the commercial, it's changed the content itself.

Madison worries about the quality of porn being produced. When pornography ceases to be a craft that people practice professionally the content suffers, believes Madison. "You don't have professional porn performers that know how to perform," she says.

But that's trivial compared to the societal effects. It's not just quality that's being affected, it's the type of porn being produced.

As Ms Naughty explains: "the entire business model of porn is you tease. If you want the whole thing you pay.

"That's all gone by the wayside in the last 5 to 10 years."

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According to Madison, the porn industry has struggled to adapt to tube sites like Pornhub. Content is freely available and the tease died with it. Some have refused to accept this. The end result: some very extreme (often violent) pornography. What was once the hardcore product has become the tease for something that pushes boundaries even further.

"If you have a look these days," says Madison, "you actually see a lot of sexual violence. I think the porn industry took that too far."

The reasoning: if content you once had to pay for was now freely available, there was only one solution. Make new, even more hardcore content and charge for that.

Madison calls it a marketing gimmick; a gimmick she believes has had a negative impact on society's attitudes towards sex. In addition to her performance work, Madison has worked as a qualified sex therapist. She believes extreme pornography has the potential to affect the type of sex acts we find arousing.

"People who wouldn't necessarily become aroused by sexual violence, will become more attracted to it. We're seeing that now with rising rates of sexual assault.

"Even amongst kids we're seeing it."


When we first speak to Gemma she's distracted, and has every right to be. She's in the midst of a genuine security breach.

Someone is trying to access her nudes.

"It's my fault," Gemma explains. "I was a total idiot."

That morning Gemma awoke bleary-eyed to a message from a 'friend', who concocted a story about accidentally pasting her phone number into a two-factor authentication field. She asked for the code. Without thinking, Gemma sent it. Almost immediately, she realised she was being hacked.

Later Gemma discovered her friend had been hacked as part of a broad attempt to access nude photos from a number of people in her immediate circle.

Thankfully, there wasn't much damage.

"The email was a spare one I barely use," explains Gemma.

"If it'd been linked to my Snapchat I'd be in a world of hurt."

Snapchat is how Gemma makes the majority of her money.

Gemma isn't really a porn performer. Not in the traditional sense. She's been involved in sex work and nude shoots -- both behind and in front of the camera, but this isn't a full-time gig. Her words: "it's a side hustle".

Gemma doesn't turn up for scenes. She doesn't get paid by the hour. Gemma takes advantage of her sizeable social media following and sells photographs to her followers using Snapchat.

It wasn't something she planned. It just happened.

"I'd heard about other women doing it," Gemma explains. "At the time I was getting a lot of random dudes hitting me up on Instagram asking for nudes.

"So I thought, fuck it. Might as well make money off this."

Gemma makes a fair amount of money. As a model, she might earn roughly $500 for 200 photos -- $2.50 per photograph. A poor return by most measures.

With Snapchat Gemma makes around $50 per photograph.

"So many escorts I know make bank uploading a photo a day to a Snapchat account they wouldn't use otherwise."

This is what the porn industry does, explains Gemma. It evolves. It finds a way to survive in spite of the obstacles.

Gemma equates it to the origins of the 'lap dance'.

Once upon a time strippers were paid as full-time employees, but club owners soon tired of the expense. They realised money could be saved if strippers were treated as 'contractors'. In response the girls invented the 'lap dance' as a way to supplement their diminishing income. Any extra cash they made was treated as a 'tip'. This increased their earning power exponentially.

It's a beautiful thing. Sex performers have always attempted to subvert the structures of power that hold them down. They are constantly in search of unique ways to supplement their income.

Snapchat is the latest extension of that.

"Porn performers and sex workers have an innate talent for hustling and being ahead of the game," explains Gemma.

"The internet isn't really different."


Gemma's customers crave intimacy.

An intimacy you don't get with regular pornography. The illusion that photographs have been taken specifically for you, with you in mind. The thrill of wondering: was Gemma thinking of you when she took that photo?

"Intimacy is a real baseline human need and it's very addictive.

"It's something I noticed when I started escorting. You absolutely get clients who just want a warm body, but the clients who pay the most are the ones that want that intimacy. They're the ones who come back and pay for extras."

Gemma does Snapchat dates, she sends birthday messages for long term clients. Intimacy is the currency that Gemma trades in, almost exclusively.

Very few people are aware of Gemma's side business. She'd like to keep it that way. She's not worried about being 'outed'. During her hack scare, Gemma wasn't afraid of friends seeing photographs of her naked body; she wasn't worried about her parents finding out she did sex work.

No, she was worried about her client base.

"If I was outed, I doubt anyone would be shocked, but the reason I get the clients I do is because it's so secretive. Like a forbidden fruit.

"They feel special because they're seeing something not a lot of others get to see."

It's all about protecting that currency. That intimacy.

"Intimacy is the chink in mass produced porn's armour."


As a porn performer, Madison Missina sees things differently. She believes the intimacy consumers crave can change pornography from the inside out.

"Snapchat," she says, "is a wonderful thing".

"That money's going directly to the performer," says Madison. "That's really awesome to see. It's even more awesome to see porn fans starting to seek out that intimacy."

"It's beautiful, because that's the purpose of our sexuality. If you're just sitting behind a screen jerking off to people doing a bunch of outlandish things, there's a disconnect there."

It's a disconnect Madison has noticed in her work as a sex therapist. Men with porn addiction, she explains, often don't find sex with a real women arousing. They've lost that connection.

When Madison sees porn consumers actively seeking out that level of intimacy with porn performers, she's encouraged.

"The beautiful thing I'm starting to see now when I look at porn statistics is a rise in amateur couples -- those kinds of experiences.

"This tells me that people see real intimacy and connection as arousing. It's working in that cycle. It's nice to see that growing."

Madison's hope: the porn industry will take note, and filter more resources into the creation of well-produced porn that caters to a new level of intimacy, instead of heading down the extreme route.

Maybe intimacy can save pornography from itself.


Or maybe porn is finding new ways to cater to a tremendously broad audience with different needs, different kinks.

That's how Gemma sees it. Sexuality is multi-faceted and every kink is catered to. Now consumers can freely and anonymously pursue their preferences without judgement.

"Everything is presented to you in a platter," explains Gemma. "People are figuring out what turns them on other than 'woman with large breasts does a sex'."

In a world where pornography is overexposed, overblown and oversaturated it pays to cater to unique, niche audience.

That's what Ms Naughty is trying to do.

When the affiliate business began to taper out, Ms Naughty moved into production. No longer a mere conduit of pornography, Ms Naughty was now a creator.

"We've become known as a feminist porn group in a lot of ways," explains Ms Naughty. "It's not even an industry it's just a bunch of people with some cameras."

Ms Naughty's work focuses on female sexual fantasies and the female orgasm, a largely untapped niche, particularly in mainstream porn.

She recently shot a performer with cerebral palsy -- a popular performer that cams regularly -- because she "wanted to make something that showed her as a wonderful sexual being".

But times are tough.

Once upon a time creating pornography was a necessity for Ms Naughty. Eventually it became a passion and a creative outlet but today, in 2017, she's starting to wonder if it's all worth it.

"I'm pretty burned out," she says.

There's the piracy. There's Pornhub and the public's reluctance to pay for porn, but there's also the technology and the dramatic change of pace. It's exhausting. The internet used to be a digital wild west where the Ms Naughties of the world could compete on a fairly even keel. That's no longer the case.

"I self taught myself HTML," say Ms Naughty. "That was easy in 2000 but now my coding skills are outdated. There's a huge learning curve ahead of me and a large part of me doesn't have the energy for it."

Ms Naughty is at a crossroads.

"When you make your living in porn you can't really make long term plans. I've never been able to. A lot of it depends on whether google likes me tomorrow.

"I don't know what my future is."


At 34 years of age, Madison Missina is one of Australia's oldest pornstars.

But she still wants to make porn.

Despite the sexual harrassment. Despite having a contract torn up after refusing to have sex with a producer. Despite being told she was "orgasming wrong". Despite being told her look was too straight for lesbian porn ("It makes no sense," she laughs. "I'm a massive dyke").

Despite the stigma. Despite being vulnerable to exploitation as a porn performer. Despite having no recourse when agreements are broken or altered because of attitudes towards sex workers. Despite losing work because of her stance on condoms and safe sex.

Despite all these things, Madison Missina still wants to be a porn performer.

"I'm so passionate about the existence of porn," she explains.

"It gives us the ability to educate and open our minds about sex, to normalise sexual fantasies that people feel ashamed of.

"Porn is amazing."

Madison is reluctant to move on, but she does have concerns. Her pay is decreasing and her pledge to only produce porn that promotes condoms and safe sex is hurting her financially. Like Ms Naughty, who lives on the other side of the camera, she's starting to wonder if it's all worth it.

"I need to think about my next steps," she says. "I'm at a strange point in my career right now.

"I'm reassessing."

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Comments

    Damn, this was truly a fascinating read.

    Fascinating insight, thank you Mr Serrels.

    Good read. Ive only joined two porn sites in my life Melbourne based Abby Winters and Sydney based Girls Out West. Why ? They offered amateurs and first timers and it was unique. The State of Victoria basically forced Garion Hall the owner of Abby Winters over seas to Holland after raids and court action. Basically its illegal in the State of Victoria to have woman 'look;' under 18 even though they could be 25 . Aussie girls have been replaced by more sophisticated European woman and I havnt joined since.
    Girls out West have gone to far to butch lesbians , bit of a turn off now. NSW is a bit more liberal than Vic. Still you have to offer unique content and think out of the box. Porn lie Brazzers with plastic porn stars is a turn off,. You could almost relate to the girls on abby winters. They could have been your sisters mates,

    Last edited 19/05/17 2:12 pm

    Its always a shame when industries have changes like this. But the thing is you cant hold back progress. Doing so would be like trying to stop a tsunami with a tissue. Thankfully the internet gives you endless opportunities to adapt. Good luck to all those in this article :)

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