Crowdfunding is huge right now. If you have an idea, a problem, a project, or a charity, you can go to GoFundMe, Indiegogo or other similar sites and start a campaign to raise the money you need. It’s the ultimate DIY strategy that gives someone an option to obtain the means to properly achieve their various goals — providing the plan’s outline inspires others to donate and help out.
But while this strategy has been working wonderfully for many different kinds of causes worldwide, some of the porn-oriented projects in need of funding have encountered a significantly less friendly environment around their campaigns.
Last year, adult star and nine-time AVN Award nominee Eden Alexander tried to use the online payment services provider WePay in order to raise money for some needed medical treatment, only to watch the site shut her campaign down, as they claimed she was going to “use the money for porn” — even though in the description she clearly stated the donations would be used only for living and medical expenses, while also providing some of the illness’ specifics.
Alexander had developed a rare and potentially life-threatening skin infection called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. The painful skin condition left her without being able to work or having any available income.
Alexander’s case made headlines because it was a medical need that was being unnecessarily rejected, but make no mistake, she wasn’t the only porn star to start a public crowdfunding campaign that eventually got suspended. Her campaign was revoked essentially because she was an adult actress, and many other starlets or companies that had any kind of porn affiliation had their own causes shut down, as well.
So, just like with any other prejudice that the adult industry has had to deal with in the past, the solution was pretty clear: Develop your own. That’s how CumFundMe.com, a crowdfunding platform specifically dedicated to the adult industry, was born.
“It just hit me one day, I wanted to create a platform that the industry could use,” company founder and CEO Ricky Booker told BaDoink. “The good thing about CumFundMe is that it’s exclusively and specifically for the adult industry; whether you’re a porn star, a webcam model or a company. For anybody who’s got innovative sex ideas, this is a way they could raise money to fund their project. Anything you can imagine, you could raise the money for.”
Anything, you might ask?
You bet. It could be a medical emergency, college tuition, a brand new production or just a playful idea. Any porn-related venture is welcome. Say a porn star is looking to get breast implants, she can ask her fans to fund it. Maybe a small adult company has a great idea for a film but their budget is grossly insufficient? The public can donate and make it happen. What if someone comes up with a great sex toy design whose production costs seemed far too steep from the start? You’d be surprised about how many people might want to help it see the light of day.
It will also be a great way for fans to connect with their favorite adult stars, as they get to interact with them, help whatever cause that needs funding and hopefully feel like an integral part of the plan. It brings the relationship between starlets and their loyal followers a little closer; not to mention that the costumer’s money is going directly to the cause or benefit of their choice, eliminating any unnecessary middle men.
“It’s going to be a cool thing for a lot of fans to be able to tell a friend, ‘I helped Lisa Ann with her boob job’. Everybody wants to be a part of something, especially with crowdfunding on the rise — not just porn-related but crowdfunding in general — everybody wants to be a part of something,” said Booker. “Everyone’s used to seeing (adult performers) have sex on camera, but when they see that same performer that they’re in love with go through a normal problem just like anybody else, it brings out the emotion in the person. People can see a different side to them; not just doing porn.”
Indeed, that extra contact and feedback that fans nowadays get to have with the porn stars of their fantasies is one of the few things that pirated pornography hasn’t been able to rival. A very active social media presence can do wonders for a girl’s brand, but a dedicated crowdfunding system gives them a platform to counter the devastating effects of piracy within the business, and effectively take matters into their own hands.
It’s no secret that the accessibility of free porn has been hurting the very industry that produces its material. Piracy has sparked a lot of debate, and although many people have campaigned for consumers to pay for the adult material they frequently view, only a small percentage of the people watching porn actually spend any money on it.
“Free porn is actually killing the industry,” said Booker, who also owns a couple of webcam sites and has firsthand experience with the debilitating adult business. “It’s sucking away a lot of funds from production companies, so CumFundMe is actually going to help the industry out.”
Considering how many people watch porn, it’s still amazing how hypocritical many of its critics can be when it gets to publicly advocating for something they actually use pretty damn regularly (in some cases, some would say excessively). A lot of porn consumers are also quick to judge it, and perhaps a little embarrassed by their own obsessions. It seems like it’s fine for them to relieve their tension with smut, but once that moment’s gone, they continue to look down on it. Porn can be dazzling at first glance, but when it comes to accepting it as an art form, or even a simple brand of entertainment, even its most fervent users are surprisingly non-committal about their own stand.
“If you keep things classy and professional it’s going to make people pay attention. I think once it goes hardcore, that’s when they put you into a little box,” Booker continued. “People look down on adult performers because of their line of work, but they have needs just like any regular person. They may get into a car accident, they may get cancer…”
Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything tragic — and hopefully there will be none of those cases. Porn will always exist, because there will always be a demand for it, but the way the business side of it works needs to be in constant re-invention in order to survive and remain profitable.
Thankfully, a lot of niches are open for those who are looking into specifics. As some people are more enthusiastic and unapologetic about their preferences, the production of new and original material should be able to sustain a healthy output.
Some projects — while still linked to the adult industry — may not even really be considered “porn” in the way you’d imagine, as some expand their horizons into creative and unexpected new ventures.
“This guy, Moe the Monster, he sent me a screenshot of a cartoon that he’s trying to do of himself, and it’s pretty cool. He’s trying to raise $250,000, which is pretty much the cost to make it happen,” said Booker. “There are performers out there who have tremendous ideas. Using Moe as an example, that’s pretty creative. It’s going to be cool to see people actually bring their visions to life and not be looked at as just an adult performer or company. People have visions to do a lot more things, so when they have the funds to do it, it’s going to be awesome.”
The CumFundMe website started a countdown to its official launch (that’s today by the way, April 14), and since they’ve had it, CumFundMe has quietly but steadily gained over 5,000 followers on Twitter.
“Everybody’s excited. Not just performers, but companies as well,” Booker says proudly. “It feels good to bring that positive energy to the industry. A lot of big companies — news companies — have been reaching out. It’s cool to bring a positive aspect to the industry.”
Booker expects CumFundMe to become the number one platform for the funding of adult entertainment and all of its needs. “It’s going to be a bright future,” he said confidently. “It’s something that’s new in that I built it, envisioned it, structured it… It’s going to be exciting, not just for me or the company, but also for the industry. The industry needs a crowdfunding home.”
Well, it seems like it may have found it.