Recently, crowdfunding giant Patreon updated its terms of service to prohibit formerly allowed content, including cam shows and porn content that do not include illegal depictions. Responses to the changes were vocal and varied, ranging from panicked to annoyed-yet-not-surprised to celebratory.
Regardless where one falls on the response spectrum, erotic artists want and need a service like Patreon. The site’s TOS change opens the door for the emergence of a service provider with less-discriminatory policies. In poking around the interwebs, I came across PrivatePatrons, a developing platform for sex workers spearheaded by Mistress Emelia and Unobvious Technology.
Prior to March 2017, Emelia worked as a software engineer specializing in data engineering.
“Essentially, I look at data and how it’s communicated both by machines and people and then work to improve it,” she explained. “I’m a pretty big believer that most companies underutilize data or under-think it, and this leads to subpar products.”
As a “full stack developer,” Emelia is a jack of all trades whose tech expertise runs the gamut from real-time web infrastructure development to social networks, from advertising and business-management technology to music streaming and internet of things services. She’s spent time everywhere from rural Australia to San Francisco, London and now Berlin.
We spoke to Emelia about PrivatePatrons, sex media and sex worker discrimination, and the open door for technology development.
I’m back 👋🏻 pic.twitter.com/wJcVXLfOwe
— Emelia (@ThisIsMissEm) October 14, 2017
YNOT Cam: I am super un-savvy when it comes to technology. So, can you tell me in very simple terms what PrivatePatrons is and will be?
Mistress Emelia: In very simple terms, PrivatePatrons isn’t a Patreon clone. PrivatePatrons is the first product from Unobvious Technology, and the driving force behind it is a number of different trends or issues I’ve noticed that are affecting sex workers and people in the adult industry.
One of those issues is the fragmented nature of the industry. Everybody has a million different places to buy content or connect with them, but there’s no one place to find all of those. We’re solving this by giving [performers and models] a very simple, clean profile on which you can list all the different services you’re on, along with a brief description of yourself.
This will be what we release first in December. Next we’re adding profile verification — essentially a way for consumers to know that your profile is really you and not just someone pretending to be you. This profile verification will also be used to enable the monetization and content publishing features we’re building.
Can you share more details about those functions?
For monetization and content publishing, we’re trying to make sure we focus on the features that’ll benefit people using PrivatePatrons the most, rather than just features that will be useful exclusively to one subsection of sex-workers.
One such feature we’re looking at is monetization around messaging, in particular pay-to-send and pay-to-view. Inspiration for this goes to @sweverywhere and their tweets about “I’ll teach you to charge $1 per message.” The idea here is to reduce the noise reaching sex workers’ inboxes and to also create a new passive revenue stream. We’re also looking at subscriber-only content and ways in which we can convert more casual visitors to subscribers or paying customers. This is where we’d start to be similar to Patreon and OnlyFans.
— Mistress Emelia (@MistressEmelia) October 22, 2017
PrivatePatrons is part of the wider Unobvious Technology space. Can you share a bit more about that?
I’ve been working on ideas for Unobvious Technology going back almost three years… I had a major hurdle to cross in developing the idea, which was finding a decent payment processor. At the start of 2017, I found a payment processor and decided I’d focus all my energy on making the ideas I had into actual things.
Over the past nine months, I’ve had various flirtations with business ideas similar to Patreon and OnlyFans… I’ve been working on PrivatePatrons now for approximately two months. It really grew out of frustration at existing companies, particularly with regards to subscription content. I’d been using OnlyFans for quite a while, as both a consumer and publisher, and had grown unhappy with the lack of transparency around them. To me, the way they operate is the exact opposite of what the adult industry needs right now. They try to operate in the shadows. There’s no public face to the company, and they act like they’re not really adult –- just check their homepage talking about chefs and makeup artists just so they could get an app in the Apple AppStore –- whilst everyone knows that they absolutely are.
— Emelia (@ThisIsMissEm) September 18, 2017
I’m sure you’ve heard sentiments like “A free and/or private platform is allowed to change its TOS as it sees fit” regarding Patreon, as well as Twitter, Facebook, PayPal and others. Any thoughts about this?
I think it’s important that companies should be able to change their terms of service as they evolve. That said, though, there is definitely something to be said about sticking to your words and not turning your back on those who helped you build your business (ahem: PayPal, Patreon, etc). There should also be complete transparency as to why the terms were changed — I like to call this a “social responsibility” — even though you could also see companies as little dictatorships.
What about the idea that making a porn-only Patreon-like platform simply serves to further isolate and stigmatize? Or, the idea that an all-inclusive Patreon-like platform, if coming from inside the industry, automatically would get branded “porn” by wider society and isolated anyway?
This is a tough question to answer. I think this actually is a larger question, which is “How do we create an inclusive and accepting society, in particular for sex workers?”
Like any question on societal issues, we need a multifaceted approach to create change, from grassroots action to political change, from open and transparent business practices to increasing our social power by holding companies accountable when they actively marginalize sex work and sex workers. I agree that we may end up creating a new walled garden, so to speak, but the fact is that a walled garden already exists. But it’s not us walling ourselves in. Rather, it’s us being walled out. Until we have social change, I think, sadly, we’ll keep seeing this.
What can people do to support or help you with PrivatePatrons and other Unobvious Technology projects?
Right now, other than sharing the registration of interest form, the best way to support is to spread word.
I’ve been trying to bootstrap Unobvious Technology by doing freelance work to pay the bills… I’m a skilled software engineer, so if you’ve technical work, then you’re more than welcome to take a look at my LinkedIn and then get in contact with me about part-time opportunities. I’m also looking at taking on one or two angel investors to help kickstart things. Additionally, I’m looking at running a seed investment round; however, that’s likely to take some time to come to fruition.
This image just popped back into my mind, and it has me thinking. pic.twitter.com/svT6QPcRi0
— Emelia (@ThisIsMissEm) October 18, 2017
Why now? Why PrivatePatrons? Why you?
I always find this sort of question hard to answer. “Why? Why you?” We have the responsibility as individuals to create the world we wish to see. For me, that’s a world in which sex work is de-stigmatized and decriminalized and is seen as just another job.
I’m inspired by people like Isaac Schlueter, who’s the founder of npm, Inc. They host packages of code that people use to make things. In particular, I’m inspired by Schlueter’s approach to diversity, inclusivity and open communication.
This approach of radical transparency is the same as the one that I’m endeavoring to have for Unobvious Technology. The level of openness that I’m entering the adult industry with seems to be quite foreign, where everyone seems to hide. The only way we’ll bring the adult industry out of the shadows is to stop acting in the shadows. We need clear, transparent, and easy-to-understand communication about what we do, how we do it and the effects of what we do.
As can be observed on Twitter, I’m talking about a lot of different topics, from issues with existing services to technology to prevent piracy and increase sales. PrivatePatrons is just the beginning. Not to sound like some visionary, but I do have a lot that I want to see done. It’s just a matter of picking what to do first. I’m also not a stranger to giving ideas away or working with my competitors. After all, a rising tide raises all ships.
My mission with Unobvious Technology is to empower sex workers and advance the adult industry in an open and transparent manner, and I’m dedicated to doing that.
Follow PrivatePatrons on Twitter at @PrivatePatrons.