Interview with Scott Owens of EroticBPM
So full disclosure here: Scott Owens and I are buddies. We’ve worked together and even lived together (in a business/friendship type of relationship), but because of this I know so much about how he’s handled his business and I credit him for helping me to believe that there are ethical pornographers out there. I know that he cares about his business and the people involved in it which is why it was such an honor to interview him about his website, EroticBPM, and his thoughts on ethical pornography.
First a little bit of history though. EroticBPM was originally named RaverPorn and was started in July of 1999. It was one of the very first alt porn sites to hit the web. Several years later, in an effort to remove itself from the drug image, but not from the electronic music scene, the name was changed to EroticBPM. The BPM stands for beats per minute, which is at the very least a double entendre if not a triple. I encourage you all to check it out. The community is still one of the best on the web in my opinion and it’s all going strong even after almost 11 years.
Garnet Joyce: How and why did you start EroticBPM/Raverporn?
Scott Owens: It started as just a summer project. A silly idea to learn photography and web design. In doing some research around the internet I realized there were really no porn sites that appealed to me. I did not identify at all with what I saw. At the time I was pretty involved in the rave/club/techno scene and making an adult site built around that subculture and its community just made sense.
Much to my surprise, there was quite a demand for it and though it has evolved and changed considerably over time, it is still going strong after 11 years.
GJ: How do you come up with your ideas? How much do you let your models contribute to the creative process?
SO: When it comes to ideas I am always trying to think of ways to do something better than what the standard is. I always thinking of how I can stimulate the community in new ways and provide a fun environment for models and members.
During photo shoots I really like working together with models to come up with creative ideas and make them happen. More importantly, when I am making business decisions that affect models I involve them heavily in the process. For example, I recently brought webcams back to Ebpm but I am not doing the standard pay-per-minute private show system you find on most sites. I needed to come up with something entirely different and I took the time to survey a number of models who have cam experience with other sites to come up with an agreement that is fair and makes them happy. I feel that this kind of relationship with the models is really beneficial and almost completely eliminates problems because the models know they always have a say in things.
GJ: What do you think it means to be an ethical pornographer?
SO: An ethical pornographer stays true to their personal ethics and the ethics they founded their business on while not letting those ethics get corrupted by the lure of more profit or exposure.
It can happen with any business, but I think maybe it happens more in the adult business because it is perceived by many as being inherently unethical. If you are not careful, you start to see the talent you work with and the customers who purchase from you as nothing but numbers. Once that happens, you don’t think twice about the things you should.
GJ: Do you consider yourself to be an ethical pornographer? If not, why not? If so, how do you follow through with your ethical standards? Is it ever difficult?
SO: Yes, I very much consider myself to be an ethical pornographer. Being ethical is not too difficult although I sometimes find myself in gray areas. So, I frequently stop and evaluate my decisions to make sure that I am not straying from my standards. I also communicate a lot with my models and customers to make sure that they are happy and have no problems with the way I do things.
GJ: How is Ebpm different from other porn websites? Ones that are mainstream as well as ones that are alt porn.
SO: Although it is not apparent to the average visitor, I think the biggest thing that sets EroticBPM apart from most other adult sites of all types is the way that I pay models. I offer the same rate to all models regardless of what they are willing to do. A topless model will get paid the same amount as a girl who does anal with her boyfriend. Same applies to our new live cams. Topless girls get the same amount as those who do full masturbation. The standard in the industry is of course to pay more money for doing more. I believe this is ok for experienced talent that can set their own rates. However, I mostly work with inexperienced models who are just getting into the industry. Maybe they are not even getting into the industry but just want to be part of one site. If I set a pay scale that gives incentive for doing more explicit acts, women may be more likely to do something they originally were not interested in doing. By setting the rate the same for everyone, what you see is a very real expression of the sexuality of each individual.
That, coupled with a very laid back and relatively drama-free community made up of people from different backgrounds creates an environment that is not found on many other porn sites.
GJ: Your website doesn’t have a whole lot of diversity. Is there any reason for this? Do you strive to achieve diversity at all?
SO: I could probably do more, and I probably will at some point. I just don’t want to seek out diversity for the sake of diversity and end up with “token” representations of different groups. I like to get things happening in a more natural way and that probably means finding new places to promote my site and foster more diverse growth in the community. Once that happens, I would expect more diversity in the content.
GJ: You’ve boasted before that feminists like your website. How, as a man, do you feel that helps or hurts your business model and why do you think they say they like your website?
SO: Early on, this was a really interesting thing for me. It felt really good to come into an industry that many at the time viewed as purely exploitive of women and then really get a sort of stamp of approval from not just women but feminists.
I think the way that I worked with women and gave them the freedom to express themselves how they want without pressure or incentive, it connected with a lot of people.
Unfortunately, it became a sort of marketing gimmick for a lot of sites to appear feminist by appearing to or actually being run by women. I didn’t jump on with that and it probably hurt me a bit. For a while I got quite a bit of email from people who said they could not support me or work with me because I was a man. Some people believe that a man in porn can not be feminist and will always inherently be exploitative of women. I disagree, but with so many different schools of thought on feminism it’s not something I care to debate with people.
Today it is less of an issue, I don’t give much thought to it or hear much about it because I don’t define or promote my business that way. Though, nothing has changed, I still have the same ethics that brought me the attention in the first place.
GJ: Do you think that mainstream porn can be ethical? If not, why not? If so, how? Is there anyone currently making it?
SO: I believe it can be, and I am sure there are ethical people in the mainstream. I just don’t associate a lot with the mainstream, so I can’t name any names.
GJ: If you had one piece of advice for someone wanting to become an ethical pornographer what would it be?
SO: You can’t be an ethical pornographer unless you are an ethical person. If your personal ethics are strong, then take a close look at how you can extend those ethics to your business. And always take care not to compromise your ethics for the sake of more profit or exposure.