Yesterday, Snapchat's parent company went public—and, in the process, a number of people made quite a bit of money. But there's one group of people for whom the IPO feels more like a cause for concern than one for celebration. For Snapchatting pornographers, the added scrutiny that comes with a company going public might lead to crackdowns on their accounts—and, in some cases, a serious loss of income.
Yes, even as Snapchat has grown beyond its reputation as discreet sexting service, it's still maintained a thriving community of sexy snapchatters. This shouldn't really be surprising: pornographers, like pretty much everyone else in the media, love doing what they can to promote their product and connect with fans. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook all function as promotional platforms for people in the adult industry. But what's unique about Snapchat is that it's not merely a way to hype your for-pay product. For a number of people in the adult industry, Snapchat accounts are an adult product in and of itself.
What is it about Snapchat that lends itself to the distribution of adult content? Unlike Instagram or Facebook, the service has been relatively laissez-faire towards adult accounts. But the same could be said for Twitter and Tumblr as well. Snapchat's position as a place not just to promote, but to sell, adult content seems to be the result of a few key details.
There's the fact that it's video driven (always a plus when you're talking about porn) and the fact that it's relatively private—both in the sense that its product is ephemeral and the sense that it literally offers users access to private accounts, where risque material can be shielded from the eyes of prudes and censors, and made available to any fan who's willing to pay.
But just as significant is the way that Snapchat itself is a thriving ecosystem of users eager to consume its addictive, instant content. "The people that use Snapchat don't want to get off Snapchat," says Lux Lives, a camgirl and indie pornographer who offers fans porn and fetish content through Snapchat. Lives notes that unless you're directing them to free porn, users are unlikely to leave the app for another platform. "It's easier to get people from other social onto Snapchat than Snapchat users onto other social media."
The XXX Snapchat users I spoke with all maintain two (or more) Snapchat accounts: a public, mostly nudity-free account that's used to attract fans and hype their projects to as wide an audience as possible and a private, more risque account that's only accessible to paying fans (with prices generally in the $30-$50 range, and often just as a one-time fee). The contents of those private accounts vary from user to user. Bryan Gozzling gives fans a behind the scenes glimpse at the creation of his content, using Snapchat to livestream from the set of hardcore shoots. Ariana Marie showcases sexy scenes from her everyday life, offering up access to stripteases and nip slips she won't share on her public Snapchat. Lives has not just one, but two, private Snapchats: one that offers access to her explicit hardcore porn, and femdom account that provides jerkoff instructions to her eager submissive followers.
No one I spoke to was making the majority of their income off of Snapchat. Marie and Lives both estimated that they make around 10% of their living from their sexy snaps; Gozzling doesn't even charge directly for access, instead approving the friend requests of anyone who provides proof that they've paid for a membership to his site. But that's not to say that no one's making serious bank from XXX Snapchat: Marie reported hearing of girls making upwards of $7000 per month off their Snapchat accounts, and an Australian news report from last summer references young people making $2000 AUD (about $1500 US) per month off selling sexy content through the service.
Which brings up the obvious question: What happens to these users if Snapchat starts cracking down on explicit content? If the service gets motivated to starting policing the content of private accounts, it doesn't need much justification to start shutting down hardcore content: pornography is in violation of the app's terms of service (though what counts as "pornography" is, of course, up for debate).
Marie, for one, is trying to stay on Snapchat's good side by keeping her content relatively tame (more rated R than XXX); even in the pre-IPO days of Snapchat's parent comapny she heard stories of porn performer accounts getting deleted, by shying away from explicit sex, she hopes to avoid that fate. But if Snapchat goes down the same path as Instagram or Facebook, wielding the banhammer in response to the slightest hint of nipple, she's got a backup plan at the ready. A number of her performer friends have recommended Only Fans, an app that claims to seamlessly integrate paid content into platforms like Twitter. If she can convince fans to follow Twitter links to paid content on Only Fans, it could be a painless solution to the potential loss of income.
Because as useful as Snapchat has been for many in the adult industry, it is, at the end of the day, just one more platform to hype their product, and not the actual product in and of itself. Given our sex negative culture, Lives notes, "Pretty much every site that's a porn host or provider—be it camming, videos, whatever—is always at the risk of getting shut down for one reason or another," making sure she has multiple sources of income to fall back on is, she tells me, "always on my mind."
If you build it, they will porn—but if you shut them down, they'll find a way to porn somewhere else.
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