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Kate Sinclaire is the founder of Ciné Sinclaire and Cherrystems, two Winnipeg-based websites that offer what she calls feminist porn.
Kate Sinclaire is the founder of Ciné Sinclaire and Cherrystems, two Winnipeg-based websites that offer what she calls feminist porn.

Canadian porn producers face an increasingly competitive marketplace Add to ...

Wholesomeness isn’t a word that’s usually associated with pornography, but that’s how Kate Sinclaire describes what she does.

“I’ve often compared what I do to the organic movement,” Ms. Sinclaire says. She’s the founder of Ciné Sinclaire and Cherrystems, two Winnipeg-based websites that offer what she calls feminist porn.

“We’re really concentrating on making sure that performers are well respected while doing the work,” she says.

Her product is inclusive, featuring body types and gender identities that aren’t often found, or aren’t treated with respect, in traditional pornography.

While Ms. Sinclaire says it’s just the right thing to do, it’s also good business.

The Internet has led to a drastic increase in porn consumption, but creators haven’t benefited, and it’s been a struggle to figure out how to get people to pay for something they easily get for free.

For Ms. Sinclaire, the answer is to offer something different.

“The way that I’m doing that is by trying to document experiences that are as close to authentic as possible, to cater to people who are really looking for something that looks like the kind of sex that they would have.”

Getting paying customers isn’t the only business challenge faced by small Canadian porn producers.

“Processing payments as a porn company is incredibly difficult because I can’t use PayPal, I can’t use Square,” Ms. Sinclaire says. There are only two payment processors who work with the porn industry and they charge higher fees.

Even simple bank transactions can take longer if the teller knows what industry her small business is in.

“It’s this thing where you are allowed to do it, but every step of the way people don’t want to let you,” she says.

That’s a feeling that André De La Seine is familiar with. In fact, it’s his favourite part of being in the porn business.

He’s the owner and chief executive officer of Montreal-based porn producer AD4X. His films have featured a performer dressed up as Bonhomme Carnaval, while another referenced a controversial Montreal police officer. That one, Agent 728 XXX, got him sued by the officer in question. The case was dismissed. He also organized a “sex marathon” in Gatineau that drew condemnation from the city’s mayor.

“This is what I love most, when we do something legal and normal and for some reason, I don’t know why, people say ‘oh my god,’ ” he says.

For the most part, Mr. De La Seine’s products are decidedly within the mainstream. The key difference is that they’re mostly filmed in Quebec, in French, with local talent.

Mr. De La Seine says he thinks it’s similar to Québécois music, movies and TV: His customers want to hear performers speaking their language and using local slang.

AD4X operates seven different websites, each with its own niche, and he says the movies he makes are less formulaic than those made by the big studios.

“I think we have to offer a little bit more,” he says.

But even so, he’s still feeling the pressure.

He says DVD sales have dropped by 50 to 75 per cent over the past decade.

“It’s definitely very hard to stay in the business now,” he says. “If I was to start AD4X now, I’d have to be very lucky.”

He says he thinks that as people who grew up with free porn get older, and have more money and less time, they’ll be willing to pay for something they know they like and to watch it without ads.

“The business model for us, it looks like Netflix,” he says.

He’s also investing in virtual reality. He recently launched a site that shows movies shot with 180-degree cameras.

Toronto porn producer Scott Rhodes, who started making home videos with his wife 15 years ago, says that with fewer people paying for porn, he’s been forced to diversify.

Along with his wife, who performs under the name Maxine X, he has a sex toy store, Maxine’s Adult Playground, in Windsor, Ont.

“We just keep diversifying and trying all kinds, all manner, of revenue,” he says. “Instead of having one or two sources that do well, you might need 10 or 20.”

Mr. Rhodes puts much of the blame on so-called “tube sites” – YouTube-like websites where anyone can upload porn videos.

While those sites make money through advertising, none of that goes back to the creators.

Ironically, eight of the 10 most popular tube sites are owned by Montreal-founded MindGeek (it’s now headquartered in Luxembourg), which also owns some of the largest mainstream porn brands.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Rhodes says he has no plans of leaving the industry.

“We’re not in the business just for money,” he says. “We did it because we like it.”

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