In March, Kayden Kross and Stoya launched TRENCHCOATx.com, a pay-per-scene porn site they describe as “curated smut.” The performer-run and owned site is powered by the vision of its two partners and stands in stark opposition to the search-optimized tube sites that are closing in on monopolizing porn distribution. As Stoya wrote about tube sites, “I believe the worst sorts of capitalists would consider Manwin’s behavior a win of the highest order.” She spoke to us last month shortly after the launch about the origins and intent of TRENCHCOATx and about workers seizing the means.
Stoya: For years, because we were both under contract together at the same company, on set or when we were signing stuff together or just like sitting at a coffee shop, we would do a lot of complaining about, “This is how it should be done, this is what I think would be the right process for having barrier-optional performance choices with regards to safer sex procedures like condoms and dental dams, how adult material should be described,” and our shared distaste for the way it was moving more and more to tags. Kayden described it best as “kindergarten Mad Libs of naughty words.” For years we’ve been both sitting there saying “This is how it should be and it would be perfect and magical!”
And then we both left the company we were with because there was a change in ownership and it went from a pretty standard boss-to-worker relationship where we would butt heads, them trying to get the most work for the least money and us trying to get the most money for the least work—that’s normal, having a job. It went from that to “The new owners are exploitative and we dislike them and we don’t have to work for them and we won’t.”
That was [that company]?
Yeah, but I try to avoid ever saying their name.
Kayden was in the middle of having a baby—like in the pregnancy process, not in the middle of giving birth—so she was pregnant and I had this idea for a movie I really wanted to do, only I’d already started booking performers and looked at locations and begun work on it, and Kayden said maybe we should think about going into business together. And I was like “I’ve got this thing and I don’t think it would be good for our friendship for you to come in in a teamwork capacity right now, I just want everything the way I want it.” She also was like “Well, and I’m making a fetus.”
Plus it was a year and a half ago. It was a pretty different time as far as the intricacies of adult entertainment. DVD was still viable and now I’m not sure it’s even worth the effort of printing them.
So we were like, what would we do, would we have a DVD company? That doesn’t seem like something you want to start now. Membership site? Eh, that’s not really it. I shot my movie, Kayden had her child, and then we were talking and someone was like, this pay-per-scene model is really awesome and that would be the thing to do. If it’s streamlined, if it’s interesting, if we keep the content down, we don’t have to employ an awful tagging system with those Mad Libs naughty words.
Kayden was like, “I can make that happen. I will get a programmer, we can have them build the site then all we have to do is make more than one movie a year, have more than five updates.”
It was all very theoretical til the morning of March 4th. We had stuff on drives, ready to go, site’s ready to go, we were waiting on billing and then I was on my way home and I looked on Twitter and I saw someone had found the site, the billing went through. Someone had found it and signed up and had bought a video. We actually had scheduled a phone call to talk about our plan to think about soft launching on the 12th and all that went out the window.
Kayden handles more of the numbers side of the business, negotiating with internet guys who use all those buzzwords. She can actually talk that language and communicate with them. And then what I handle is more the last looks on any aesthetic thing and the marketing and the PR and for me, what has been my job for the last week, five days has been trying to get press to wait for a couple of days or weeks so we were better able to be like, “We think the site can handle a significant amount of traffic.” That’s awesome and I’m overwhelmingly happy to the point where if I think about how happy I am I’ll lose connection with reality. It might actually be viable.
Another really cool thing is also in the past week Ela Darling launched her VR porn site, it’s Oculus. When you put the two companies happening with performers on, not the very forefront of tech, but using the nifty cool new stuff to start adult businesses that they control, this is like a whole thing.
Was billing really hard to set up?
We went through everything, basically. Well, maybe because there’s also the known fact that piracy happens and adult entertainment historic business practices, not that they’re unique to adult, but they definitely pushed to get away with as much as they could as a whole industry for a long time, so you can’t blame people not wanting to give them their credit card.
So there was discussion about Kickstarter, here’s how much it will cost to create it and here’s what we’ll need to take time to make the thing, but Kickstarter doesn’t work with adult, and PayPal doesn’t, and so many people don’t. We ended up getting CCBill to do the processing but that took a while. The site was basically done in December and then it was waiting for CCBill.
Waiting for them to approve you?
Process and approve. We’re not really doing anything that would raise any sort of flags where they might go “Oh, we don’t know if we want to have you.” It’s not like we were tackling menstruation taboos. The content is really pretty mainstream and vanilla within the broad spectrum of adult entertainment. Even with that, it was like “OK, CCBill has to look at everything and decide.”
So the tags are mainly a thing on the tube sites?
Not just the tube sites. Hot Movies, Clips4Sale, basically anyone that does bulk volume. And then that has trickled over to when someone has a blog on Tumblr where they post other pics, what they tag things with. For instance my first scene is Jiz Lee and Lily LaBeau. Over my dead body am I going to let someone label it a girl-girl scene much less do that myself.
The way to avoid the category tags is we write scene descriptions that actually say what’s happening. “Jiz Lee, genderqueer hero.” I know things will get tagged, people will do what they want, but I’m not gonna call Kayden a MILF. They’re multifaceted women and when they’re having sex in front of a camera they’re really hot adult performers.
The act of naming or stating what you the viewer see in an image or story, I think that itself is neutral, but the way it can be employed ranges from frantic to malicious.
The consumer isn’t in a position where they’re paying $30 a month. It’s, here’s stuff we thought would be cool, you pay $3.99 for whatever you also think is cool. So if you don’t like it, you’re not paying for that part. If you find two people with penises offensive, your dollars are not going to that which then leaves what we can do basically wide open. Obviously because of the business there will have to be some consideration when we get better data on what people are buying. Like, OK, there’s these things lots of people buy and cost $3,000 a scene to make, and here’s these things people don’t and they cost $10,000 a scene. How much do we want to risk to make this thing?
You’re like a record label, if you have a platinum record it can pay for passion projects.
If there’s something that based on the numbers is not going to directly recoup costs but Kayden and I believe in it and there’s enough room in the company as a whole. Ideally everybody loves everything we do and then I can have a happy sex worker commune.