Angie Rowntree, is the founder of Sssh.com, an erotic website made for women, by women that just celebrated its 15th anniversary. On January 18th she was inducted into Adult Video New’s Hall of Fame, Founder’s Division. Last week, Angie, a married blond in her late 40’s, sat down with Romance Beat to share her story.
RB: Why did you start Sssh, and what kind of feedback did you get when you were first starting out?
Back in the late 1990s, I was always curious as to why there were no adult sites catering to women. I would ask other webmasters, and they would simply say that “there’s no market for it,” “they won’t buy it” or “women aren’t visual” (which is the biggest hogwash I’ve ever heard). I suddenly realized that I was asking men, and men haven’t been able to figure it out for two thousand years… You know: the proverbial question of “What do women want?”
When I approached the women at the office to see what they thought, I received a huge amount of support, an equal amount of curiosity and again that question “What do women want” and “where do we go from here?”
We had to answer that question, “What do women want?” in order to make Sssh work. It couldn’t be about me or what I wanted or the specific desires of the women I worked with. We also didn’t want to alienate anyone, which was a very tall order! We realized that even in our small group, our tastes were so diverse that there really wasn’t a global answer because there really isn’t one thing that all women want.
What we did agree on is that we’re all individuals and all have our likes, dislikes and personal fantasies. They’re all real and they’re all right for us. Not all women like missionary-style. Not all women like storylines. One of my friends really likes rough sex, and another doesn’t – that doesn’t make either of them right or wrong. They are just being true to themselves.
We looked at the mainstream magazines for some hints as to what they thought women wanted. We didn’t want Sssh to be your traditional adult site, but rather something broader, something all encompassing, something that could appeal to women from all walks of life. A peek into mainstream was at least enlightening to some degree (as well as pointing out some things to AVOID!).
We realized very early on in the process that in order for Sssh to prosper and grow, she needed a community. Today Sssh not only has a community, but also a virtual 3D world for real-time interaction between our members, live events such as #SexTalkTuesday and even a radio station along with the more traditional features such as movie channels, novels and articles.
But I digress LOL. So how did we answer the question “what do women want”? We asked!
When we first launched we started a survey – which still goes to this day – asking women what they want. “What do you want to see?” “What don’t you want to see?” “What do you like?” etc. That survey is now in it’s 15th year and thousands of women have answered that question “What do Women Want.” After all these years, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is the same as it was back in 1997 when we were
siting around trying to figure it out. There is no answer, what women want is as diverse and as different as the women you ask.
RB: That definitely fits with one of your site’s banners: “What do women want? Everything.”
That sums it up nicely and it’s true. There seems to be this horrible misconception in today’s society that you need to choose between a career or family. Why can’t we have it all? I know many women that do and they do a fantastic job at both. The other interesting aspect of this is, we have many women members that feel they are not desirable or sexy anymore because they are mothers. That is crazy. All women are beautiful,
sexy and desirable. We won’t even get into the whole “smart or sexy” labels. I have a whole rant on that [laughs]
RB: What distinguishes an adult site made by women, for women from other adult sites geared towards men?
There are a number of things that set us apart from traditional adult sites geared towards men. Primary the fact that we are a dynamic site, each user’s experience is different. Our content is diverse and not niche specific and our members dictate the content, so the site is truly theirs, it’s a product of their desires. Sssh also has a large community.
In addition to original movies, Sssh has articles, novels, stories and even a real-time avatar-based virtual world. We have monthly live events.
One of our more popular ones is Sex Talk Tuesday, which is held twice a month. Each show is lead by a sex expert, comedian or celebrity. On February 18th we are having renowned adult filmmaker and director Erika Lust. Our members get to interact, ask questions, discuss, gush [laughs] with our guest speakers. This kind of interaction and depth is what makes us different from a traditional website. Even though we have some of the same elements as the traditional site, like movies and photo features, we also have all the other things I just mentioned which really ramps up the member experience
of being actively involved in the process, be it the films we create, or live events we host.
Another thing that makes Sssh different is that the member area is very carefully laid out into categories of content with clear markers as to how erotic or sexual each section is to provide members with ways they can enjoy the content they are interested in, but avoid anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Sssh was made to help members feel good about themselves, and to respect their boundaries. It includes a couples section, a kinky section, a bi-curious section and more. In each section, all content is rated with lips, one lip being very soft, up to 3 lips being hardcore and explicit. So, if members don’t feel comfortable seeing something hardcore, they can easily avoid stumbling into it.
This makes us very, very different from most traditional sites.
RB: Your site taps into the more psychological elements of sexuality. How does that enhance your members’ experience?
I definitely think it helps create a new experience, but everyone’s experience is still going to be different. We ask our members what they want and we create content based on that feedback. If someone wants to see a spanking movie, then we’ve got spanking movies. If someone wants to see a full, plot-driven fairy-tale – we have that too. Sssh truly is a product of its members and their desires and fantasies.
I also think there is a level of camaraderie at Sssh that you will not find at other sites.
Whatever your desire, the community really answers a lot of questions because the members know that they all help to drive the content. So when they see it (specific content), they often respond “Oh that’s so cool! I really like that too!” And all of the sudden you really feel that community. So, yes, I really think the experience is a lot different.
RB: You were recently inducted into the Adult Video News Hall of Fame, Internet Founders Division.
A Huge honor. To be inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame, Internet Founders Division to start with is such an honor but to be recognized for my work on “Porn for Women” and to be the first one inducted for that work – that just makes it a double honor!