For most people, the general perception of porn is that it is made by and almost exclusively for men. Angie Rowntree, founder of the award-winning website Sssh.com, has been changing that myth by creating erotica that’s not only catered to women, but also inspired directly by feedback from the website’s members themselves.
C.J. Asher – How did you first get started in the adult entertainment industry?
Angie Rowntree – I got my start in the early 90s, when Colin, my husband, and I launched Wasteland.com. At the time, among the things we were selling in our online catalogs was bondage gear and items like leather clothes and accessories, and we noticed a lot more people were downloading the images than were ordering anything, and a light bulb went on inside our heads; maybe people would pay for access to images like these. Our hunch turned into a business which is over twenty years old now.
C.J. Asher – Tell me a little bit about Sssh.com.
Angie Rowntree – Sssh.com creates erotica catered to a woman’s point of view, and more specifically, porn based on the direct feedback and submissions which come from our members. Over the last seventeen years, we’ve used survey data and member feedback to create content which is equal parts intelligent, sexy and entertaining. The site has a huge selection of original movies, erotic novels, a radio station, an extensive 3D virtual world, educational videos and articles, all offered in a sex-positive way.
C.J. Asher – How did you decide to start Sssh.com?
Angie Rowntree – Back in the 90s, I looked around the market and noticed there was very little adult content made with a woman’s perspective and aesthetic sense. The more people told me there was no market for such content because “women don’t watch porn,” the more convinced I became they had it backwards; there was no market because hardly anybody had tried catering to women as porn viewers. I thought it made sense to give it a shot, and here we are almost seventeen years later and Sssh.com is going strong, so I guess there’s a market for porn for women after all.
C.J. Asher – What sets Sssh.com apart from other adult content websites, even those that cater specifically to women?
Angie Rowntree – The main thing is the interaction with our members. I don’t know of too many sites of any kind who do so much to assure they’re producing movies and other content which their members have requested. I did it this from the very start on purpose. I didn’t want to just assume I knew what other women wanted to see, and I know from firsthand experience women get very tired of being told what they should want in life, so I thought I’d try asking them instead.
C.J. Asher – There is a common misconception that pornography is made for, and used by, mostly a male audience. What have your experiences with Sssh.com and the adult film industry as a whole taught you about how females enjoy pornography?
Angie Rowntree – My experience has taught me if you try to dictate to people what they want, whether it’s in porn or any other creative medium, you’re likely to fail – if not financially, at least creatively. I’ve learned that our assumptions, however solid we might believe them to be, are just about always arguable, so it’s best not to assume, especially when the tools are right there in front of us to ask. It’s also taught me it’s dangerous to generalize. There’s still this idea out there that women all want the same thing from porn, and it’s just not true; our tastes are just as wide, varied and diverse as those of male porn viewers.
Angie Rowntree – Each of us who makes movies, porn or otherwise, have our own vision. What I try to do is respond to the requests we get from our members and be as true to their fantasies and desires as I can, while still maintaining my own creative paradigm. I also want to make movies which approach sexuality from a different angle than you typically find in most porn these days. “Gone,” which we released late last year, is a good example. It’s based on a story submitted by a member, but within that, I infused it with emotional content and imagery which appealed to me as a filmmaker. I think it worked out very well, based on the feedback we’ve received. How many pornographers get comments from people talking about how their movies made the viewer cry at the end? Not too many, I bet.
C.J. Asher – What makes for compelling and enjoyable erotic fiction for a female reader?
Angie Rowntree – At the risk of offering a total cop out answer, I’d say it depends entirely on what that individual female reader responds to, and not some convenient formula. This is not to say there isn’t a lot of popular erotic fiction which is formulaic, just that in the same way it would be a mistake to think all women who watch porn are looking for the same things. It would be a mistake to think all women who read erotic fiction respond to the same thing. Not every woman loves “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in other words.
C.J. Asher – What are women these days looking for to enhance their sex lives, either with an established partner or with multiple, casual partners?
Angie Rowntree – Again, the answers vary greatly from individual to individual. That said, in the aggregate, there’s a lot more interest being expressed in BDSM these days, and other areas people describe as “kink.” No doubt, a lot of that is driven by the popularity of Fifty Shades, but over the years, we’ve seen more and more women using the web to explore their sexuality, even long before the book became a hit. I think it’s important to realize a lot of people are turned on by depictions and descriptions of sex acts they would probably never try in their own lives. The images inspire and excite them, but in some cases, it’s just the fantasy which enhances their sex lives, not acting out what they’ve read about or seen.
C.J. Asher – Sssh.com members vote monthly on a charitable organization to support. Tell me about some of the organizations that you’ve raised funds for.
Angie Rowntree – The charitable organizations we work with love the support, but not always the publicity which comes with it, so we’ve stopped publicly announcing which charities are receiving contributions. As for us, it truly is about philanthropic work and not publicity and exposure for the company.
C.J. Asher – You have a lot of other quizzes and polls on Sssh.com; what have been some of your most exciting questions for fans and what have been the most surprising answers?
Angie Rowntree – We do conduct a lot of surveys, but as much of this information is very personal, we insure our members complete anonymity and confidentiality in their contributions.
C.J. Asher – What questions do women in your online community most commonly have about men?
Angie Rowntree – Communication. There is a lot of discussion on how to best communicate with your partner, specifically about being sexually adventurous, and trying new things. We also see a steady stream of conversation about how to set boundaries and proactively let your partner know you don’t like something.
Angie Rowntree – There’s a list of our awards and nominations on this page:http://www.sssh.com/press/ The ones of which I’m most proud are the 2015 XBIZ award for Best Alternative Site and the induction into the AVN Hall of Fame Internet Founders Division, in part because they speak to how far Sssh has come, from a site and content genre nobody thought would succeed, to winning major awards from the adult industry’s biggest trade associations and media outlets.
C.J. Asher – What new products and services can we expect to see soon from the Sssh.com website?
Angie Rowntree – We’re shooting all of our movies in 4K now, meaning we’ll have a very high quality source archive to work with as the quality of video which can be delivered online improves in the years to come. We have many other things in the works, but keeping those cards close to our chest. Stand by for innovation!
About Sssh.Com (@SsshForWomen)
For the last 17 years, Sssh.com has been the web’s premier destination for porn made from a woman’s perspective. Drawing on survey responses and other member feedback, Sssh creates erotic movies based on its members fantasies and desires. Their movies communicate true passion and mutual pleasure, always striving to be equal parts intelligent, sexy and entertaining. A feature rich site, Sssh.com also offers a large selection of erotic fiction, podcasts, an extensive virtual world, educational videos and articles and contributes to a variety of charitable causes which benefit communities all around the world.
In addition to its primary website, Sssh also produces Mindbrowse, an interactive online live show, and the Twitter-based chat program #SexTalkTuesday, which has had such guest moderators as Margaret Cho.
Adhering to the highest ethical standards, Sssh takes pride in treating all its employees, performers, customers and business associates with fairness, compassion and respect.
About Angie Rowntree (@AngieRowntree)
Angie Rowntree is the founder of Sssh.com, the web’s premier “porn for women” site and winner of the 2015 XBIZ Award for Best Alternative Website. An inductee to the AVN Hall of Fame Founders Division who also has been named as one of the industry’s top female power-players, Angie got her start in the adult industry’s online sector in the early 90s, making her one of the adult Internet’s true pioneers. In addition to directing Sssh.com’s original films, Angie is also the producer of the Mindbrowse.com online discussion series, which brings together directors, performers, academics and critics to tackle some of the most incendiary and controversial topics surrounding the Adult Industry.
Known for her light hearted and straightforward approach, Angie is a frequent participant on panel discussions at adult industry trade shows, and has been profiled by a variety of major media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline, CNBC, Fox, Cosmopolitan, NPR, the BBC, and TIME magazine. Most recently, Angie became the first member of the adult industry to speak at a Sundance Institute event, appearing at the “Creative Tensions: Sex” experimental interactive discussion event in Brooklyn.