Is Porn Darling Kink.com Ripping Off Its Webcam Girls?
Under the old system, cam workers were guaranteed $150 for a four-hour shift in which they brought in $500 or less from customers paying for private sessions. Above $500, commissions ranged from 30 to 50 percent. In the new payment plan, which becomes official July 1, models get a 30 percent commission for shifts below $300, 40 percent between $300 and $1,500, and 50 percent if they bring in more than $1,500 on a shift. "That's one of the reasons that KinkLive is -- was -- such an awesome place to work," Fairfax said. "It's one of the very rare things where you can make consistent money as an adult performer."
Without that minimum to support them, Holloway and her colleagues are afraid that models are going to feel pressured to push past their personal limits, to always ramp the kink up to 11 and beyond just to make the rent. In addition, changes have also been made to what KinkLive models are allowed to do in the free chat channels. The free chat channels are kind of like the antechamber of KinkLive, where viewers come to see which models are available and engage in some light chat before signing up for a private session.
Until recently, models were restricted to relatively mild, playful behavior while in free chat. Those guidelines were discarded in favor of allowing every model to be as explicit as she likes. At first, that might sound like an opportunity for the models, but Holloway sees it differently. "I think the significance is that now you're on this commission-only system, and there's this big new policy change that will affect how much money you make. If the girl next to you is spreading her legs in public for a couple [dollars], and you're like, 'No, I can't do that,' or 'I can't do that for that low an amount,' she's going to make more money than you." In other words, the models will be forced into a race to the bottom to see who can be the kinkiest for the least amount of money, just as their base pay has been eliminated.
But Peter Acworth says that without making drastic changes, there won't be a KinkLive. "The product is not profitable in its current form. We're losing somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 a month, and it's because of having these model minimums in place," he says. "There's no other cam company that does that. The business is incredibly competitive and cutthroat. The webcam sites all compete for models by offering them better and better deals. Our deal was to compete by offering them a minimum. Unfortunately, that didn't work for us, so we're reverting to what the entire industry does, which is commissions only." In addition to the payment policy, Acworth expects to have most models doing their shifts from home by October 1, instead of in studios at the Armory.
It's certainly unreasonable to expect Acworth and Kink.com to commit
financial suicide, but at the same time, it's somewhat jarring to hear
him cite industry standards to rationalize the new policy. The entire
Kink.com brand is built on customers who expect them to invent new
standards, not follow them. However, Acworth thinks that, in this case,
the industry standard will provide KinkLive models with fair and safe
employment. He wrote in an email to SF Weekly: "If I thought the
industry standard for the webcam business was exploitative or endangered
the model in some manner, I would advocate we just close KinkLive....
Since numerous webcam companies compete for the same webcam models, this
ensures the model receives a substantial cut of the revenue."
For Coral Aorta, the fact that Kink.com is such an exception to the standard practices of the industry is the very reason that confronting them on this is so urgent. "I think it's the only company where models come into the studio and work only in the studio for a wage. I don't think that there's ever been any company like this, which is why it's such an important issue to set this precedent now, that if you're going to be operating like this, you have to pay your models."
At the same time, Aorta is not unsympathetic to the financial woes of KinkLive. "It's my goal to see a compromise between the models and Kink.com in which everyone's making money, KinkLive is able to continue operating, and they treat us with respect. I would love to keep working with them, as long as I'm getting some kind of a base pay that makes it worth my time to work there."
The models say that the work they do for KinkLive is also unique from any other company in the industry. "It's the hardest job I've ever had," Wendy Fairfax says. "I've worked as a pro-domme and stuff, and I find that the KinkLive experience is way more intense than doing anything like that. It's partly because you have to do it for multiple people, but also because they expect so much. It's because these are Kink.com customers." Holloway agrees: "I've never done any other kind of cam work where you are doing anal, electrocution, bondage. You are like a BDSM porn magician. You're shifting gears, you are giving it your all. You might be doing 20 minutes of anal, and then back in public and then 10 minutes later doing hardcore pain endurance or corporal punishment. You are doing a much more intense level of work than any other webcam company ever, I think."Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.