Interview with Karen from Purple Dollars

I recently wrote an article about the increase in women porn surfers and how webmasters need to be aware of this segment of their traffic. I recently had the opportunity to interview Karen who runs a for-women website, aptly named, about what turns women on. Read on to find out what Karen had to say about her site, the for-women niche, and what webmasters can do to capitalize on their female traffic.

Muffy: My standard first interview question, how and when did you get involved in the online adult industry?
Karen: I got involved mid 2000 when working as a freelance journalist. I was writing an article for a magazine called Australian Women’s Forum about what porn for women was available online, and there wasn’t much to speak of. After talking to a few webmasters I decided to have a go at making a free site – Grandma Scrotum was one of my first. I made a few costly mistakes, and I was learning web design from scratch, but it didn’t take long for me to be hooked, both on the creative process, and the whole “fishing” thing – putting my websites out into the stream and seeing what I could catch.

Muffy: Tell us a little bit more about your program Purple Dollars as well as your website ForTheGirls.
Karen: For The Girls is an adult website for women that offers erotic content as well as an entire women’s magazine. We’ve got the standard selection of naked men, and male strippers, but also a range of couples and hardcore content that is better tailored to the tastes of women. The ezine has feature articles, interviews and columns, mostly dealing with sex and women’s issues. It’s a kind of Cosmo without the diets and the guilt. We add new articles and content every week. The site was launched in June, and it’s performed very well so far. The rate of recurs is particularly good; I think our written content is an important factor with that.

Purple Dollars is the affiliate program for the website. We offer a 50% revshare partnership through CCBill and hosted galleries. We’re looking to expand in the coming months and add a couple more sites, which will be exciting. Purple Dollars is run by myself and Debbiejr. We’ve both been making websites and marketing to women for at least 3 years.

Muffy: How does your for-women site differ from other websites in the same niche?
Karen: For a start, we’re completely focused on female surfers. Our site isn’t just a quickie site tacked onto a larger mainstream program because someone figured they’d better cover all bases. We’re genuinely interested in offering women an alternative option to what’s out there, and making sure our female surfers get an honest deal for their money.

It’s a core value for us – offering value for money and not ripping the surfer off, especially in the light of Visa’s new chargeback rules. The magazine aspect of FTG is an essential part of that, and it’s also something that sets us apart from the others. We’re looking to keep women entertained long after they’ve put the vibrator away.

As well, we’re women! So we’re offering content that we ourselves would like to see, and it allows us to better understand what other women want. And we’re both passionate about the whole idea of erotica for women. We want to see a better balance in porn, and an industry that treats women better, both as customers and as content. This pro-sex, pro-women attitude is an important aspect our site, and our business.

Oh, and did I mention that we don’t have gay content on our site? That alone sets us apart from a number of other 4women sites.

Muffy: What other industry related projects are you involved in?
Karen: FTG keeps me quite busy, as I write almost everything for the ezine. I’m currently a moderator at the Female Webmasters board. Aside from that I mainly work on my own projects – AVS and free sites. And I’m setting up a 4women linklist, which I hope to have up and running soon.

Muffy: Do you find that there are any obstacles for women in this male-dominated industry?
Karen: I personally have encountered very little in the way of male-created obstacles, although from the beginning I have associated mainly with female webmasters. I also know plenty of male webmasters who are fabulous. For me the bigger obstacle has been distance – I’m Australian so I’m cut off from others in terms of personal contact and face-to-face networking.

At the same time I think women can have a harder time of it in this business, at least when it comes to being taken seriously. I’ve heard stories from industry conventions where the standard assumption is that you are content with nothing more to add, and I’ve seen plenty of comments on boards where opinions have been dismissed as being merely the ramblings of a chick with PMS. And then there are those webmaster competitions where you can win a weekend with 16 naked women… Nonetheless, I think things are improving. Associations like Women In Adult are useful, and awareness is growing that female webmasters are out there doing business with the best of them.

Muffy: Now, I know that you feel that there is a lot of stereotyping when it comes to the for-women niche. Why do you think this is?
Karen: A lot of assumptions are made in this industry about what surfers want. No large-scale product research really occurs. On top of that, the industry tends to build on what has been done before (even if it does go occasionally go in new directions, like reality porn). This is why so many porn films follow the same conventions – the money shot, the woman keeping her shoes on etc. The view is, it works, so why change it? 

The cultural assumption with regard to women is that they aren’t visually stimulated. This is mainly due to 50-year-old Kinsey research, and ignores numerous recent clinical studies, which prove otherwise. Add to that the fact that nobody’s done much porn for women in the past, and everyone concludes that women aren’t visual and it’s a dud market.

The other stereotype is that porn for women must mean naked men. It’s based on a simple role-reversal – naked chicks in Playboy, naked men in Playgirl, simple, right? Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that a lot of women don’t find naked men arousing, perhaps because until recently society didn’t really teach women to admire the male form. The focus, on TV, in advertising, in movies, is that only women’s bodies are intrinsically sexy, so getting turned on by naked men is something of a learned reaction for a lot of women.

The fact is that the more women I talk to, the more diverse their tastes are. Certainly plenty of them are getting off to hardcore, not to mention lesbian, fetish, and amateurs… I think the real challenge in offering a site for women is to better articulate female fantasies, and to present a more female-friendly point of view. We’re trying to do that at FTG, and with our other 4women sites as well.

Muffy: What do you think of the recent statistics put out by Neilson, that one in three women surfers are visiting porn sites?
Karen: I’m not surprised by it at all, and I find it extremely heartening to see my own marketing experiences borne out in major surveys. Obviously they’re not using porn in the same numbers as men, and there are a large number of reasons for that, the topmost being that women are not “trained” to use porn the way that men are, but it’s still an impressive statistic. The challenge here is to see if the industry can better cater to these “hidden” surfers.

Muffy: What suggestions would you give to a Webmaster of a mainstream sex site in order to capitalize on their female traffic?
Karen: They’ve got two options. One is to outsource the traffic to a 4women-specific site such as For The Girls through a “Ladies, click here!” link and make money from the affiliate sales. You won’t be surprised to hear me say I recommend this option ;)

The other is perhaps a little more labor intensive and may not work on a lot of mainstream sites e.g. cumshot or blowjob sites. This would involve making a female-friendly tour; one that perhaps makes less use of the standard language of porn or that doesn’t specifically target one gender. And it would involve having a more inclusive members area, one that acknowledges that the members aren’t just male, if only through its use of language. Perhaps this would also mean having a separate “women’s area” with nude men and “soft” couples pics (or even femdom stuff, which I know a lot of women dig). Perhaps it would mean having more stories (and stories told from a female point of view) and maybe even articles and shopping.

At this point I don’t want to write out a prescription for “what women want” because as I said above it’s very diverse. Without doubt there are plenty of bog-standard sites winning female members who do enjoy the down-and-dirty standard stuff that porn gives them. But at the same time there are those who want a softer touch, a more emotional slant, or a more respectful, pro-sex attitude, and catering to them is a worthwhile effort (you may find a lot of guys appreciate it too).

Muffy: How do you feel women’s desires and turn-ons differ from that of men?
Karen: Research done recently at Northwestern University revealed that women are actually very wide ranging in their turn-ons. When shown porn films of hetero sex, gay sex and lesbian sex, women (of all orientations) found them ALL arousing, whereas the gay men only got off on the gay porn, and the hetero men went for the hetero stuff (and the lesbians… of course). The researchers said that women were less “target specific” compared to men. What this says to me is that women have the capacity to be turned on by anything! 

I also think it suggests that women may be responding to more than just the mechanics of sex; I’m sure there’s an emotional connection that spurs on arousal, and the test subjects couldn’t help but to respond to the various depictions of human intimacy and the relationships they implied. So, I think it’s reasonable to hypothesize that women do prefer some emotional depiction in their porn, be that kissing, hugs, afterglow, or simply the fact that the participants are looking at each other (and that doesn’t happen much in mainstream porn). And this emotional connection is often more present in erotic fiction, which tends to be popular with women as well.

Muffy: What do women typically look for in a for-women paysite?
Karen: I think it’s fair to say women look for content, value for money, respect, and security – pretty much the same as any porn surfer. If the site is offering content they want to see, and in quantities that are equivalent to the amount they paid, they’ll like it. And they need to know that they won’t be overcharged, and that “Godzilla Penis” won’t appear on their bill. Actually, I’m finding a lot of women really distrust adult sites, probably because there’ve been so many dodgy operators in this industry. Gaining trust is very important, I think. And respect, of course. They don’t want to be called a slut for joining a site, or treated like an idiot.

Muffy: What is your favorite adult website and why? (not including your own)
Karen: I must admit I’ve only ever been to a few paysites, and that was as an affiliate rather than a surfer, so I can’t give a much of a comment there. I think I’ll say LadyLynx is a favorite because it was the original women’s linklist and has always been there to support the niche, as has Sandra who runs it.

Muffy: Last question. What would you like to see change within the for-women niche in this industry?
Karen: I’d like to see a far more diverse range of content, so that I can use pics that are actually created for the female viewer, rather than adapting mainstream or gay content. I’d also like to see a far better delineation between 4women and gay content and sites, just so women can find the stuff they want to see easily and quickly. The sooner that happens, the more women will buy.

Muffy: Thanks so much Karen for speaking with me about your site and the whole for-women niche in general. I would like to wish you the best of luck on your current and future endeavors.


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