CYBERPUNK: The Stars of Internet Porn

Just as the old media pornography had its own stars, the Linda Lovelaces and Ron Jeremys of the world, so too will the new-media sex scene have its luminaries. More than a few possible contenders were in the audience Aug. 26 at the fifth-anniversary party for Jen n Dave's Home Page! (www.jen-dave.com), held at a bowling-alley bar in Timonium, Maryland.

Advertised only by the site itself, the bash was a real low-key event--if you'd just wandered in from the rock 'n' bowl for a frothy one, you wouldn't recognize this cavalcade of adult-pix celebs. But there they were, scattered about the bar. The short-skirted Vixen of Logan & Vixen's World (logans-world.com) in for the party from New Jersey, was sitting on some guy's lap. Oasis of Mirage (www.cum2oasis.com/), a long-haired, Ally McBeal-thin twentysomething who bills herself as the "Queen of Exhibitionism--Princess of Gangbangs," was hanging out at the bar with tough blond biker chick Steffie. "Oh yeah, I'd do him" Oasis says with a wicked laugh, pointing over to a buddy, vamping it up for the small gaggle of quiet guys gathered around them both.

In the world of million-dollar dot-com failures, Jen and Dave represent an e-commerce venture that's actually making money these days, a real grass-roots kind of thing: amateur Web porn.

Putting the words "amateur porn" and "moneymaker" in the same sentence may seem paradoxical. A few years ago, amateur porn on the Internet meant newsgroups, such as alt.binaries.erotica.amateur, filled with endless collections of home photos of wildly varying quality. They might have consisted of ex-girlfriend shots posted by avenging jilted lovers. Or blurry snaps of men and women too drunk or stoned to know or care about a probing camera. Or raging exhibitionists with genitals too small, too wrinkled, too lopsided, too whatever to make the glamour glossies.

Oddly enough, despite (or perhaps because of) the ethically questionable origins of these photos, they had an alluring quality missing in most professionally produced smut--something raw, rough-hewn. They captured all of life's warts, flaws, and wild moments. Whatever the reason, in recent years "amateur" has become a selling point rather than a warning. Add this to the DIY ethic of the Web, and up sprang hundreds of sites like Jen and Dave's, couples and singles posting photos of themselves and charging admission to see them. These two Cockeysville Maryland residents have run their site commercially since October 1995 (even before then, they offered stuff up for free to sate their exhibitionist cravings). The selling point here is the cute-though-hardly-tall-enough-for-Playboy Jen, a 26-year-old gal who has been endowed with--am I being sexist here?--mammary glands of generous proportions.

Whatever the commercial prospects of these sites--as Logan, of Logan & Vixen's World, tells me by e-mail, "If you want to 'get rich quick' try something else"--in their small way, this phenomenon turns arguments against pornography on their head. At least, it makes the charge that porn is inherently exploitative trickier to make.

"Personally, the Internet has been extremely liberating for me," Oasis e-mails me. "As far as the exploitation-of-women discussion goes . . . every amateur Webmistress that I know (and I know a whole lot!) is running their site because they enjoy it . . . because it's their lifestyle, or because they like taking pictures, or because they like showing off.

"They're not being used or exploited because they are in control, and in many cases they are running the entire project. I thoroughly enjoy running my site and I love taking the pictures and the video. I'm never 'talked into' doing a certain photo set, or coerced in any way to shoot video. I do only the things that I want to do, and I only do things when I want to do them. That's about as far from exploitation as I think it's possible to get."

Whether it's as liberating for the voyeurs who log in is another question. Every Web girl at the bar was surrounded by a small cluster of guys--all quiet, all holding beers. Most seemed to be in their early 20s. They looked like they were trying very hard to appear nonchalant. When there was no Web vixen around, they just sort of walked around randomly, seldom talking to one another, eyes darting about for something to look at. It was sad, their shyness and lack of communication skills.

Jen and Dave have been running bar meets such as this for a few years now. One guy tells me why he enjoys them. "It makes it more personal," he says. When the guy first stopped into one a few years back, he was a regular subscriber to Jen and Dave's site, but he didn't know what to expect--maybe Jen dancing nude on the bar or something.

"She was eating dinner," he explains.

"Yeah, OK, that makes sense," I reply.

"No it doesn't!" he shot back, grinning. "Strippers aren't supposed to be eating dinner!

"It made her more real to me," he goes on. "She became more of a person. The next day, when I was looking at her pictures, I felt I knew her better. Like I could tell, almost, what she was thinking."

Joab Jackson can be reached at alternet@joabj.com.

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