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Diary of an Adult Webmaster: “Coming Out”

The life of an adult webmaster, due to the nature of the business, sometimes seems like a never-ending cycle of alternation between strict secrecy and all out, no holds barred self-promotion. While the reputation and general public attitude surrounding adult work (in both the physical and virtual worlds) forces those of us in the industry to keep our business to ourselves around family, friends and polite company, the business is still, well, a business. And, as any entrepreneur knows, the only way to keep a business running is to constantly, and sometimes shamelessly, promote it.
Promoting an adult business while hiding behind the privacy shield of the Internet is the easy part. Placing and maintaining ads on major search engines, relentlessly searching for affiliate marketers in adult forums and placing help wanted ads with online classifieds can all be done in the relative safety and anonymity of cyberspace. For established, professional adult webmasters, though, there inevitably comes a time to “come out” to friends, acquaintances and others in the real world, the world in which we physically face others without the comforting shield of the computer monitor.

Sometimes, coming out is easy. With my close acquaintances, a simple leak of information was all it took. With a phrase as mundane as, “Hey, you should check out my site sometime,” coupled with a URL scrawled on a cocktail napkin, the proverbial beans were spilled and… the ramifications were dramatically underwhelming. Although my close friends and I celebrate the end of each week with an uninhibited, sometimes racy lunch at a local bar and grill and the conversation almost inevitably includes some lewd remarks, references to my online llc endeavors have been sparse to say the least. Among my close friends, I haven’t even been asked for so much as a trial membership. Sometimes I wonder if maybe they’re afraid to venture into my online creations for fear of eternally associating me with whatever they may find on my sites.

Coming out to strangers can be a little more daunting. I gauchely identified myself in a writer’s class as an online adult entrepreneur once when caught somewhat off guard. Given a selection of passages from a creative non-fiction collection, the class was asked to select three items that piqued our personal interest. Among others, I selected Pornography, an interesting and insightful piece by, coincidentally one of my favorite non-fiction authors, Margaret Atwood. When the class instructor unexpectedly pressed for an explanation of why I selected that particular piece, I clumsily blurted out, “I may, uhm, have overseen some, uhm, been involved with, uhm, some online adult entrepreneurial endeavors.” From that point on out, at least as far as that class was concerned, the cat was decisively out of the bag.

But the cat was more akin to a docile house kitty than the vicious lion I had envisioned. Sure, my response was met with an immediate mix of gasps and applause, but the long-term effects were practically nil. In fact, I had almost forgotten that I had let that proverbial cat roam free until a comment arose during a class discussion about subcultures: when the instructor was listing some subcultures that might make for interesting essay topics, a female classmate spontaneously appended “…and pornographers!” to the end of the list. My inquisitive glance at her was met with a coy wink and a smile, far from the haughty disdain I was expecting.

Apparently, in a world where The People vs. Larry Flint can be a blockbuster movie and The Girls Next Door is a highly-rated cable series, pornography has lost a big chunk of its shock value. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to out myself to my more conservative, Bible-Belt family members just yet, though. Some things really are better left in the closet at times. And, of course, my work in the online adult industry has afforded me some incredible and often laughable opportunities to catch curious-and unprepared-onlookers by complete surprise, sometimes even creating an advertising opportunity for my sites from otherwise mundane situations. Perhaps I will recount some of those opportunities in my next column.