Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


December 4, 2008

The Sex Blogger's Sex Blogger editor Lux Alptraum believes quality porn will survive the Internet free-for-all. Here's why.

Matthew Patin

“Lust's passion will be served,” wrote the Enlightenment’s most notorious hornball and proudest sick bastard, the Marquis de Sade. But the ways in which lust’s passion is served have come a long way since the Marquis got his rocks off, when Not Safe For Work was Not Safe For Anywhere (except maybe in France) and when porn’s only outlet was literature with a scandalous bent. The Internet has secured pornography’s ubiquity—and hastened desensitization. Amid the porn plenty, who’s there to do the sifting for the discerning consumer? Who's there to make sure that lust’s voracious hunger is sated? Lux Alptraum, editor of, is who.

Fleshbot is Gawker Media’s porn stash. Its sticky sock. Its hard drive full of cookies and history that you forgot to delete. And Alptraum—veteran of brainy online sex and dating magazine, “altporn” aficionado, and founder of several adult blogs—has the cred to run the show. Fleshbot, however, isn’t the usual porn dump, littered with links that go nowhere or with flashing banner ads depicting someone putting something somewhere. To the contrary, it’s a mindful collection of links and articles, chosen by bloggers who don’t seem to be interested in porn as a five-free-minutes, means-to-an-end affair, but interested in sex itself, and all the joys, humor, and absurdities that accompany it.

"Porn stars make substantially less than, say, mainstream movie stars, for work that I'd argue is vastly more challenging."


Gelf spoke with the 26-year-old Alptraum about technology’s effect on the adult-film industry, how sex will continue to be monetized, and other such naughty topics. You can hear Alptraum and others speak about entrepreneurship in porn at Gelf's free Non-Motivational Speaker Series event on Friday, December 12, in New York's Lower East Side.

Gelf Magazine: First things first: How'd you get into the business of writing about babes, boobs, and inverted nipples?

Lux Alptraum: It's actually a long, complicated tale—but I'll try to give you the short version. Almost 12 years ago, I took my first-ever sex-education job, working as an HIV/AIDS peer educator for the Greater Buffalo Red Cross. That high-school job ignited my interest in sex, sexuality, and anything related, and more or less put me on the track to becoming a sex professional (as opposed to, say, an investment banker).
About seven and a half years ago, I discovered a fledgling movement not yet known as "altporn:" independently produced porno with an "alternative" aesthetic. My fascination with it led to me starting my very own altporn site (, which I ran for a little over two years. When I shut it down, I basically quit the porn biz and went on to do wholesome things like keeping teenagers from getting knocked up and playing roller derby. Not at the same time.
Which brings us to a little over a year and a half ago: Frustrated with the lack of diversity among sex blogs, I started my own blog devoted to smart writing about sex (Boinkology), which caught the attention of Fleshbot staffers, who brought me on as a contributor, which led to a position as associate editor, which, finally, led to a position as editor.

GM: Is there a track to becoming a sex professional? You're a career-guidance counselor; how would you advise someone wanting to pursue this career, and what would you warn against?

LA: The thing is, there's no one type of sex professional, so there's really no one, typical path to becoming one. Even among the people who become career sex educators, there are a ton of different paths—there are people who get their masters degrees and go work at an after-school program because they want to help kids; there are people with very little education who are self taught and working at a sex-toy store because they want to help couples have better sex lives; and there are people who work at hospitals and write books on the side. I could go on and on and on. I think the biggest thing that binds us all is that there's a certain stigma to the work; we're still not at a point where sex-related work is seen as a "normal" career.

GM: You worked at Nerve for a while, too. How'd that experience inform your thoughts about the business of sex, love, and writing about it?

LA: Yes, I did—I was an intern there from August '02 to April '03—and the experience definitely taught me about the business of sex writing; in particular, sex writing on the web. Fundamentally I learned that it was possible to write about this kind of thing and make money (and attract advertisers, too!), which gave me the courage to pursue my career.

GM: You mentioned “altporn.” What's the state of altporn today? Has "alt" obtained a mainstream sheen since its infancy?

LA: It depends what you mean by the term. If by alt you mean porn that represents an alternative subculture (tattooed people, goths, whatever)—then that's certainly alive, well, and totally mainstream. There are even big companies that have "alt" imprints. However, if you mean independently produced porn created outside the studio system, well, that's a little more hard to come by, largely because of financial and legal restrictions that shut a lot of people out of the business of adult entertainment.

"These things are worth talking about with words more eloquent than, 'Hey, look! Titties!'"
GM: It's not too difficult to understand why someone would want to watch porn. But the motivation to read about porn is less clear. Who is Fleshbot's audience, and why do they come to Fleshbot? But, then again, Fleshbot's not just about porn, is it?

LA: There are people who come to Fleshbot solely for the naked pictures; for some we act as a content filter, picking out the hot bits so you don't have to do all the searching. But for others, Fleshbot is proof that there is a there there, as it were: We exist to raise the discourse around sex and porn, to demonstrate that these things are worth talking about with words more eloquent than, "Hey, look! Titties!"

Lux Alptraum at Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series (Part 1 of 2)

GM: "Porn is recession-proof." This might not be as true as it once was, which says something about the current economy. But maybe it says more about the evolution of the adult-film industry—just as VHS signaled the end of the era of peep shows and porn theaters, the Internet is doing the same to DVD. What, then, is the future of the adult-film industry? How will it continue to monetize sex when so much of it is free?

LA: I think the porn industry is going through the same issues that the mainstream media has been going through for years: The Internet makes pirating content easier, which makes it harder for companies to continue to turn a profit. Additionally, companies have to deal with the competition from free amateur stuff. That said, I think porn companies will still be able to monetize pornography by creating a product worth paying for: high-quality, personality-driven fare like the stuff put out by Digital Playground or Burning Angel, or porn that serves a niche that's not broadly served.

GM: What's the downside to all of this development in the adult industry over the last decade or so? And what in the industry doesn't work anymore that used to?

LA: The downside is that it's harder to make money. As to what doesn't work—I think that's still being figured out, but I think there's going to be a trend towards higher-quality, better-produced material. If you want something crappy, that's easy to get for free; quality, on the other hand, is generally worth paying for.

GM: Is the era of overpaid porn stars over?

LA: Was there ever an era of overpaid porn stars? Porn stars make substantially less than, say, mainstream movie stars, for work that I'd argue is vastly more challenging.

GM: I guess by "overpaid," I mean the archetypal Porn Star—the one with contracts with big studios, the ones who have become household names (at least with the adolescent males at home). Has the marquee Porn Star been replaced by the plethora of options afforded by the internet?

LA: Oh, absolutely not—in fact, if anything, the big stars are the ones who will survive any downturn, because they have enough of a fan base to keep the money flowing. Look at Digital Playground, which just put out the most expensive porno movie of all time. They run on contract stars like Jesse Jane and Stoya. Look at Sasha Grey: She's huge, and I don't see her going anywhere. The only big difference, I'd say, is the types of girls who are becoming the big stars; big fake tits and lots of cosmetic surgery are way less popular, while girls like the aforementioned Stoya and Sasha Grey, with their natural beauty and appeal, are gaining traction in the industry.

GM: The big draws for amateur porn are its utter ubiquity and the fact that so much of it is free or cheap. What are some other draws?

LA: People are attracted to the presumed "realness" of amateur porn, and the idea that the people who are making it are doing it out of a sheer love of exhibitionism, rather than the need for money.

GM: When does Fleshbot generate the most traffic? Are there more visits than you'd expect between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday, or is it exactly what you'd expect?

LA: Our traffic patterns are pretty flat, actually. We see some increase over the course of the day, but—owing in part to the fact that we have international appeal, as well as the fact that there are people who look at Fleshbot during work hours—there's no real "peak" time for Fleshbot.

GM: On the screens of Fleshbot bloggers, is anything Not Safe For Work (NSFW)?

LA: I have a job that requires me to look at things like In short, no.

Lux Alptraum at Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series (Part 2 of 2)

Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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Article by Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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