Crowdfunding for Adult Projects (NSFW)
[Note: As of 2/8/16, Offbeatr has closed its doors. Since Offbeatr is central to this article, I’ll need some substantial rewrites! Please ignore the “Offbeatr” material as it is not really relevant, except perhaps historically.]
(So, none of these links are worksafe. Just saying. I’m including a LOT of links here for projects I don’t necessarily endorse, to show the range of what has been acceptable in the past. Primarily this article is addressed to the furry fandom, but the attitudes Kickstarter and Indiegogo have toward pornography, nudity, and sexual content are universally relevant.)
Based on its reputation, It’s easy to see Offbeatr as the 900-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to gathering funds for a furry adult project. Furries have a strong relationship with Offbeatr, almost half their successful projects have been at least fur-friendly, and a high number–well over 20% or so–have been entirely furry.
But percentages do not a success story make: Offbeatr rarely has more than three or four projects funding at any point in time,Their voting system obscures this, but the number of projects funding on Offbeatr at any given time is pretty low. Right now, 2/17/15, it’s zero.) In terms of actual numbers, furries have seen more success on indiegogo and kickstarter, but you can’t fund adult stuff on those websites, right? If it wasn’t the only solution, why would Offbeatr, with 30% transaction fee, confusing prevote period, and creator cost even on a failed project, continue to exist?
Is Offbeatr even viable as a funding source? I’m coming to see it as more the 98-pound gorilla.
Let’s take a look at what I consider the Big Three options for crowdfunding general furry projects, and focus on how they handle adult materials. There are choices. I’m going to make a more in-depth study of Offbeatr, focusing on its strengths, because my argument here is that it’s the weaker option in a level playing field, but it’s important to know what keeps it in the game at all.
For those that haven’t been there, Offbeatr (OB) is the crowdfunding hub for adult and kinky projects. Its structure is a little different from Indiegogo (IGG) and Kickstarter (KS): projects are put to a vote and peer review to see if they are marketable, and maybe they get a critique from potential backers. When the project receives its votes (it needs about $XX/10 votes, there’s actual rules but that’s a ballpark) the project can launch, but OB charges a deposit (about 5% of goal), so if an artist is launching an expensive project and it took a while to get those votes, hey might still back out. Assuming the campaign is successful, OB takes a hefty 30% fee, the artist pockets the remainder, and the project proceeds merrily forward.
One place where OB is strong for visual art forms, and unique to this platform: OB has an online store for digital materials, and the artist can continue to sell their
porns art indefinitely through the site. It’s more expensive than going through Paypal, but a nice feature for someone looking for some hands-off, trickle revenue. You might be able to do better on, say, FurPlanet‘s digital storefront, but there’s always the question of whether they’d take your project on.
Is Offbeatr intrinsically furry-friendly? Yes…kind of. A digital product from the world of Furoticon was OB’s first and most successful project, and OB actually approached the Furoticon team to help create that joint opportunity. They have a “furry” category in their digital store–it’s thin, but it’s there. And in my experience, furry projects on OB tend to succeed. But the reality may be that furry is a really well organized (and net-savvy) kink. The amount of energy our web-based resources and con circuit let us throw at a project–and our porn-purchasing power–is totally out of proportion to our actual numbers. Since very few projects actually launch on OB, a successful furry artist’s ability to mobilize warm bodies may skew the results a bit.
For reference, here’s my numbers: scanning over the successfully funded projects–from 2012- 2014, there have been about 70 successfully funded projects on Offbeatr. Of those, 17 have been solidly furry/pony projects. Another 14 have been fur-friendly–fantasy/manga with nonhuman characters, pet-play, or fantasy with an anthro option. I haven’t looked at the unsuccessful projects.
What Offbeatr is, is sex-positive, reasonably anything-goes (barring some hardcore stuff–snuff, scat, non-consensual, zoo), and it’s a site that doesn’t mind a character showing some pink. Or neon green. Or watermelon-sized jubblies.
What it’s NOT is a place to fund physical goods. The cost of PP&B (Print, Publishing & Binding) for a book, or…uh…however you go about producing a silicon dragon dong–I’m sure I don’t know and haven’t spent time thinking about it–plus 30% transaction fees, plus shipping. All that adds up to a very low profit margin.
So there are work-arounds. The big obvious is to just go digital. Hard to do with a butt plug, easier with an art portfolio. Another workaround is to use Offbeatr for Stage 1 funding and building an audience (donors get their name the book or their character in a crowd scene, but don’t receive the product until Stage 2–maybe they get a discount coupon in the amount of their donation, or just swag and perks and producer’s credit, leading up to a later project lauch.) But any fundraising professional would tell you: the more complex it is to take your customer’s money, the less money you’ll take. Several projects on Offbeatr have artificially lowered their goal to get around the minimum deposit fee and reduce the voting requirements, but that seems like a disaster in process if you needed that $10K. Since most of the furry projects on Offbeatr are digital art portfolios, goals are more wishes than solid needs. “Deposit Scaling with Goal” is still a deep flaw in Offbeatr’s model.
Representative projects: all projects on OB are adult, but here are some that are particularly fur-relevant: Any of the “Hardblush” projects by Onta, anthro manga-esque bois; “Ex Gender,” a gender-bending wolf with hyper elements; “Go Kemono,” furry/cosplay video projects; “52 Pick Up,” a gay card deck themed portfolio; the whimsical FAPP hyperporn tabletop RPG; and, of course, Furotica Online. Also may be worth seeing Tojo’s Offbeatr shop, but I’m not sure this really counts as “crowdfunded.”
IGG has always had an “anything goes” ethos, but there are rules. In general, IGG welcomes all kinds of projects–art, technology, nonprofits, begging for handouts, small business startups. And they are okay with adult projects. Their Terms of Service don’t actually address adult content, so the apparent rule would be “as long as you don’t scare the horses.” But there’s evidence that IGG does have rules. This recent article on Crowdfunding from Sydney has a quote from IGG’s Australian representative: ““We have some restrictions – we don’t allow fund-raising for pornography or violence – but otherwise you can raise funds for whatever matters to you.”
Since IGG crowdfunds horror movies–I’m in one–and Dr Dubz has had a lot of success with his rockem-sockem fighting manga “FERAL“–it’s clear this policy is one that they don’t enforce, except as required by negative member feedback.
It’s hard to find specific rules against adult materials in campaigns (but see below). However, when I contacted IGG’s customer service to ask for clarification, I received this response:
Request: #343837, 12/17/13.
Thanks for reaching out. People all over the world use Indiegogo to raise money for all types of campaigns. Indiegogo was founded in 2008 as a global funding platform to help anybody, anywhere, raise money for anything. We provide a technology based platform that enables anybody with an idea (creative, cause related, or entrepreneurial) to create a funding campaign, offer perks to their contributors, and ultimately get their idea funded.
We are not completely opposed to adult content, but as our site is visible to minors, we require that all adult-themed campaigns be discrete. We do not allow nudity or other explicit or graphic content.
While customer service support is rarely official policy, I think this gives a pretty firm guideline for IGG’s approach to adult materials: yes, we allow them. Please be sensible with the amount of nudity in your IGG project page, kthx. Weirdly, Kickstarter actually does allow nudity, at least artistic nudity, but prohibits pornography. More on that later, but it’s an interesting point of contrast. It seems like IGG would have no problem with a pornographic project, as long as it is appropriately black-barred or the images used were selective.
I received some feedback from Kit, the director of The Effing Foundation for Sex Positivity, and had some back-and-forth discussion after they wrote their own article on pornfunding. She suggests that IGG’s Terms of Service have evolved over time: in February 2014 they removed language to the effect of “do not offer, sell, or distribute…obscene or pornographic items, sexually oriented or explicit materials or services…” and then in April 2014 added the language, “do not..post [images] that are sexually explicit or post links to sites that contain sexually explicit material.” This is very much a contradiction to most of what I say here, and she is correct, that language is still in IGG’s Terms of Service. However, evidence suggests that this rule is only enforced as needed.
One place that IGG tops Offbeatr–sex toys. This is likely because of the fees OB charges that makes funding physical items less appealing. Most of them aren’t terribly successful, but in fairness, there aren’t any successful adult toys on Offbeatr, period.
And I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: IGG takes Paypal, and that’s important. In a security-conscious world and with a young and twitchy demographic, non-credit card options are a compelling feature. And the furry demographic is pretty young. So it’s worth noting that Paypal is a definite plus, one of IGG’s advantages over Kickstarter.
I have a theory that Indiegogo Life—I guess it’s Generosity now—might be a way to sneak past Indiegogo’s project restrictions. Generosity takes “just give me money” type projects offline and puts them in a lower-traffic area, and greatly reduces fees (no platform fees at all!) However, projects in Generosity can’t have backer rewards, so getting around that will require some finess. As far as I can tell, adult projects only get “dinged” if someone sees and reports them, and nobody’s going to accidentally stumble across a “Generosity” project. Nobody’ll stumble across any Indiegogo project, though, so you’re not losing much there.
In short: IGG is not specifically sex-positive, but it’s sex-permissive. Their “anything goes” policy allows for adult content, as long as an amount of intelligent discretion is used. As per always, your mileage may vary, depending on who finds (and reports) your project, but IGG buries projects pretty deeply. With a little judicious photo-pruning, IGG’s a perfectly serviceable funding platform for most non-hardcore projects.
Also, please see “Paypal” in the discussion of Patreon, below.
Indiegogo: What Other People Have Gotten Away With:
- Joyboxx: a very successful campaign for an adult toy storage device. Some delightful, brightly-colored strap-ons.
- Porn Star Motel Nude Photo Project: Ladies in a motel, not wearing much. Lots of careful black bars in this one.
- Puppy Pride: A puppy-play project, with lots of tails that do not attach via belt loop, and a close-up of someone wearing said tail.
- The Asian Male: Putting the “no nudes” idea to the test, this B&W photo project has plenty of torsos and backsides. So clearly we are selectively defining “nude.”
- The Glov: Next Generation Sex Toy: You know, that’s pretty clearly a penis, although they’re not usually purple and glossy. Also, stick figure sex, which is just strange.
- TriVibe: Big Things come in Small Packages: A toy that syncs up with your smartphone, for extra fun at airport security.
- Porntopia 2014: An indie erotic film festival, and conclusive proof that porn can be carefully crowdfunded.
- Transfinite Productions: A tastefully done project page for a transsexual erotica and possibly advocacy production house.
- Autoblow 2: The animated GIFs for this male masturbation device are hypnotic. Also, a very successful campaign.
- Playbow: This is not the only project I’ve seen on Indiegogo featuring scary animal dongs in loving detail.
- Everyday Cock Ring: If you like cock, the entire content of this page is one very nice cock. There is also only one backer, and it was me. This isn’t a real project, but its lack of popularity is a useful proof of the theory that Indiegogo will only pull a project if it’s reported.
Really, what set me off on this entire article was Kickstarter deregulating its content. Previously, every project on KS was reviewed for business viability and appropriateness of content. Now, it’s a big soup of “what the hell.” However, members can report projects they find offensive, and KS still has stricter policies than IGG, with more prohibited content. And high on that list is “offensive material.”
I have no idea what Offensive Material is. It’s not a meaningful descriptor, it’s a catch-all for anything that might squick grandma. Like all policies, this is not a useful guideline or even one that’s necessarily going to be enforced, but it gives KS’s execs something to point to in the event of a Situation.
They have a rule against offering a genetically modified organism as a reward, but I’m not sure that specifically applies to anthropomorphic foxes.
They also prohibit pornography–and unlike IGG’s “just keep it off the page” attitude, this rule applies to Kickstarter rewards, too. So that’s a pretty stern limitation. However, artistic nude? That’s totally okay. Probably. Maybe.
Once again, I contacted customer service for clarification. The conversation wasn’t very authoritative, primarily because the line between “artistic nudity” and “porn” is in the heart, not on paper. But perhaps this will be helpful.
Request #371073, 8/5/14. (summarizing a bit for brevity, I was chatty in this email string.)
CORBEAU: “I have a question about how KS’s new policies would apply to adult projects…is it safe to assume that, like IGG, a project is acceptable as long as the image is broadly worksafe?”
KICKSTARTER REP: “In terms of adult content…it would likely need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Generally, as long as a project’s content is not too extreme or offensive in nature, it can be acceptable…I would suggest that your readers reach out to us directly! We’re always happy to discuss potential projects and whether or not they would be a good fit for the site. [Note: “request a staff review” is a function within the Kickstarter project launch process. You can always ask for a review.]
CORBEAU: “Thank you! So there’s no specific rule against adult content but ‘use your common sense.'”
KICKSTARTER REP: “I would agree with that statement! While adult content can be looked at on a case by case basis, our rules do specifically prohibit pornographic content. Although, as I’m sure you know, everyone’s definition on this can differ. For this reason, I encourage people to reach out directly so that we can discuss each individual project.”
So Kickstarter leaves us with the classic, and unanswerable, question of “what is porn/what is art?” But they do have some good staff resources for review and feedback. And to the best of my knowledge, KS has no rule specifically prohibiting nudity, on its pages or otherwise.
I haven’t been able to find quite as many adult projects as I have on IGG. There’s a dearth of adult toys on KS. For a long time their rules specifically blocked medical/health stuff (including eye glasses!) so broadly that may have excluded that sort of thing. But here’s a modest selection of projects from Kickstarter’s red light district.
I really wanted to include The Naked Truth in this this article, because it depicted full frontal male nudity (not erotic at all, but it was the only page I’d seen that went there.) But it doesn’t go there anymore. At some point the artist edited away the image in question, which was AFAIK a selfie of the photographer reclining on his bed, possibly having a happy thought. The Naked Truth was in part a protest project–the artist contended that it was hypocritical of Kickstarter to allow female nudes, but no male nudes, on their project page. Is that true? I don’t know. But the project was cancelled after only a few days and the page edited to redact the offending member. So…there’s that. It was about as sexual as a medical textbook.
- Snowflake: The World’s First Customizeable Adult Toy: This one was cancelled after almost a month of funding time, so I suspect the low returns ($350 of $85K) were the cause, rather than KS’s administration. Very abstract toys, not explicit.
- The Naked Hustle: Documentary of the world of exotic dancing. Not actually explicit, but worth noting because of the sexual subject matter.
- Oh Joy Sex Toy!: A whimsical webcomic about sex toys, and sex. Really more educational with a side of risque humor, but it is, again, highly sexual in content. Plus, I really like this webcomic, and they worked with Kyell Gold and Keovi on a furry episode. So this may just be a callout for callout’s sake. “Amanda Lafrenais’s Erotic Comics” is more sex-focused, and still awful cute.
- Bare Strength: Muscular male nudes, the coffee table book. The original video had several strategically placed rocket ships and starbursts, but was (sadly) taken down by the creator, Michael Stokes, for marketing reasons. In a brief email exchange Mr. Stokes confirmed that he had consulted with Kickstarter about the project, and beyond a request not to post graphic material, were supportive.
- Bela Nuda Art Nude Photography: Like the title says, a collection of art nudes. The page is heavily illustrated with, well, female art nudes. It’s classy, but the models aren’t hiding anything here.
- Pornzine: Queer Feminist Erotic Comics. This B&W artporn comic magazine, “a feminist response to pornography,” may be the only product that states that it’s pornographic on Kickstarter. I can’t say for certain.
- Women Draw Penises: Well, I think the title summarizes it. A celebration of cartoon penises as gender commentary.
- The PNS Book: A young man’s guide to his junk, illustrated with so many happy penises.
- Gay Men Draw Vaginas: If this is a joke, it’s a $60,000 one…
Aand, one thing that someone didn’t get away with:
- Soft Paws AB/DL: An adult diaper for diaper play and babyfurs. I’m unsure of exactly why this was cancelled and have contacted the project creator for more information. It seems like the sort of project that would play better on Indiegogo.
Patreon and Paypal?
I’m not clear on Patreon’s policy toward adult projects. According to their TOS, Patreon allows nudity and suggestive imagery, but not pornography. In March, 2014 there was a big uproar when Paypal threatened to pull support for Patreon if they funded pornography. At this point, Patreon asks members who produce adult content to mark their page as “patron only” and use the “private” settings so that the Patreon page doesn’t turn up on search engines. Adult content creators are either unable to or should avoid–I don’t know which–using Paypal as a payment method through Patreon.
Again, the classic question of “what is art/what is pornography.” According to Patreon porn is “material designed with the sole intention of eliciting sexual arousal,” but we here in the Great State of Texas reclassified sex toys as “educational devices” to get around our state’s sex laws (and some people needed a lot of education.) So that’s a pretty much meaningless identification tool. It’s clear that their policies are designed to respond to member complaints rather than any actual pornometric analysis.
Paypal’s actual policies are seriously up in the air. According to Paypal’s terms of service, they reserve the right to pull funding for “certain types of sexually oriented materials or services.” One online article suggests that they might only be policing the Big Illegals like rape, incest, bestiality, and child pornography, and that only if it’s a major theme in a work. An article on Reuters confirms this, but both articles leave some awkward questions.
As far as I know, Paypal has no specific tools to determine the amount of pink showing in a transaction, and that this rule is pretty much unenforceable without the active participation of customers. There’s some brisk discussion of that over on the FurAffinity forums. It’s important for Patreon to say things like “NSFW content cannot be funded through Paypal,” but I can’t see how they’d police it.
So Patreon is in a bit of a gray area. Broadly speaking, creative expression through graphic art and writing seems to be okay if it’s hidden behind curtains, and Paypal’s definition of pornography leaves a lot of safe harbors. Check out the fun fun categories on “Ebay Adult” for some of those safe harbors, I believe Paypal and Ebay are still the same company,.
I personally feel that as long as you’re keeping your extreme materials off Patreon’s servers–either by providing freely available content outside of a Patreon pay-wall, or by providing links to restricted portfolios and using Patreon to provide indirect access to backers–you’re probably okay, Paypal isn’t directly trafficking in pornography, all’s right with the world. But the threat of a Paypal lockdown is a terrible weapon on its own.
There’s no reason to view Offbeatr as the only resource for pornfunding. A lot of web commentary has described Offbeatr as “The Kickstarter for Porn,” but that’s inaccurate–Kickstarter had 19,911 successful projects in 2013 alone, Offbeatr had 70, total, in its 2.5 years. I’m not being flippant: so far as traffic goes, Offbeatr can’t compete. Kickstarter is a quantum shift in terms of scale, and Indiegogo’s right up there with it. But Offbeatr is sex-positive and actively encourages porn, nudity, kink, and furries.
No crowdfunding site will advertise for you. Most of the traffic any project receives is going to be from the sweat equity of its artists, and their extended network. Sure, Offbeatr funds pornographic projects, but is that meaningful? Their most successful project, Furoticon Online, took in $40,000 (subtract Offbeatr’s hefty 30% fee, $29,000). Bare Strength broke $70,000 and the creator’s going to take 90% home with him. Granted, they’re not the same product, or the same market, it’s not a fair comparison (well, it is, because Bare Strength is doing better than any Offbeatr project, ever.) But it does show that an adult product can get some serious traction on Kickstarter.
If you have a project that can sell without relying on explicit nudity to draw eyes, the 20% difference in fees alone makes Indiegogo and Kickstarter a compelling option, and in their own ways both platforms are friendly to adult content. Offbeatr gives the creator a chance to be open and honest about sex, even weird sex involving dog-people. But that openness comes at a high cost.
Furstarter is an occasional blog focused on anthropomorphic and furry-friendly crowdfunding through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Offbeatr, and more. Follow us at @furstarter on twitter for more updates!