Systems

Are you ready for some contradictions? Systems are necessary, and systems are terrible. 

I’ll start at the beginning: According to the box cover of Razordolls (Kill the bear!) my first xxx scene was shot on June 5th, 2006. Meaning it will have been ten years since I started performing. 

You might think the bulk of an adult performer’s work hours would be spent on set, performing in scenes. As a contract performer in the late 2000s, the bulk of my work hours were spent giving interviews, participating in signings at brick and mortar stores, and attending conventions.

Before the DVD market began to show obvious signs of dwindling, I hauled boxes of DVDs to most of those adult conventions and sold them directly to consumers. 

(Now I bring a little drawstring bag full of USB drives and a small stack of liner note booklets. EDIT: And I wear flats half the time, and make use of chairs.)

Desperate for something to take my mind off of how much stilettos start to hurt after your third hour standing on concrete covered by a thin carpet, I paid extremely close attention to those consumers. And I started to notice patterns. 

If I had two different titles out on the table, most of the people who came up to me would glance at them and then walk away. If I had ten different titles, about half would examine everything before developing a mildly glazed look in their eyes and also walking away. 

With a range that small it was no special effort to find the sweet spot through trial and error, and for me the sweet spot was six. Six prompted the most questions about the products, and resulted in the highest sales. 

(If I’d read Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” I could have saved myself some mental effort, but the mental effort was my original goal.)

When TRENCHCOATx soft launched, it had six different series. This remained sustainable for about a week, and then we needed to start building an organizational system. 

Systems are necessary.

The issue here is that those kinds of systems understand everything as a data, including people, making the whole exercise inherently dehumanizing. No more dehumanizing than Tindr or Ok Cupid, but still—any time we’re sorting people or aspects of people into categories of labels we’re going to see some amount of generalization at work. Usually a large amount. 

Systems are terrible.

Getting rid of the worst words was easy: milf/teen, interracial. We just don’t use them. The difficult part is the issue of vocabulary when you’re dealing with a few different sets of user demographics. 

Because if most of your potential audience can’t understand the words, they’re useless as communication tools. So it’s a balancing act, and that balance also has to shift to take into account shifting language norms. Constantly.

I can’t imagine anything more exciting to work on.

The Squick/Squee project should always be sticky. We should always be noticing new problems and problematic effects. And if we ever stop feeling like it needs to be fixed, we’ll know that we’ve failed—not succeeded.

Introducing: http://squeepedia.graphicdescriptions.com/

x

Stoya

(Speaking of fixing up–this CMS. It’s about time.)

[Edit 26 Mar 2016: Fixed. It isn’t fancy but at least it sizes properly to a cell phone now.]

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Squicks and Squees

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A long damn time ago, like 362 whole days, Fiona Duncan asked if she could interview me about language as it relates to porn.

The semantics of sex are interesting to me and Fiona looked cute on twitter and then we were on the phone. During our call she expressed a desire for a negative search option when browsing porn:  “like, “school girl” plus “pubic hair” plus “threesome” minus “hard boob job” minus “dude gut.” 

And that got me thinking, about how people still like to browse clothing stores even though they can search up exactly what they’re looking for online: “blue chambray” plus “short sleeves” plus “loose fit” minus “$100+.”

The next time I saw Kayden she said something about the way that everything is novel to a child, how as we live our greater knowledge of the world means there are fewer novel experiences to come across, and how that tends to make novelty feel more valuable. 

So: a number of people are accessing porn by typing long, specific search strings into a browser—helping them find what they want but immensely narrowing the field of new things they might discover. Some people value surprises they enjoy. People also have specific things they would prefer to avoid, but these specific things are multitudinous and highly individual. 

People have their squicks, and they also have their squees.

At some point during the design of TRENCHCOATx 1.0 (as the site appeared after mid-June 2015. Before mid-June was TRENCHCOATx beta and I don’t even want to talk about it) I asked our new web designer if they could make a customizable negative search profile for our customers, and our designer said yes.

So I sat in my apartment for days on end, tagging every video we have with everything I could think of off the top of my head: analingus, armpit hair, ejaculation: on face, vulva, penis, uncircumcised and circumcised, three levels of pubic grooming, and breasts: augmented or natural. 

The list continues for quite a while, but can’t begin to reach comprehensive without some major feedback from consumers. It will probably never be complete. 

As of today, we’re (super) proud to introduce a pair of new features on TRENCHCOATX.com: Squick Protection and Squee Enhancement. Any logged in user can choose both things that squick them out and things that make them squee from a list of tags, have their squicks either completely hidden from them as long as they’re logged in or be warned if a video they’re considering contains one or more of their squicks, and have videos that contain their squees highlighted.

Fun, right?

We don’t go so far as to call it a trigger warning feature, because while some triggers may be obvious others are sometimes indecipherable. There’s no way to guarantee no viewer will never be triggered during a scene that they’re watching. But this does enable people to create a safer space to explore adult content.

And I’m so very excited to keep digging into the semantics of sex.

xo,

Stoya

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