I am somewhat notorious for doom-and-glooming that the pornocalypse comes for us all. The aphorism is shorthand for my observation that companies and social media platforms evolve through a life cycle in which porn, adult sites, and persons interested in these are initially welcome while a platform or internet business builds out its internet presence, and then — slowly or rapidly — these outfits purge all the porn from their platforms in response to various pressures. Often, there’s a hypocritical element, especially when the company or platform retains a business model that’s porn-adjacent. In such cases, the porn purge looks like greasily disingenuous posturing: “What we do here is a matter of healthy pleasure. We’re not pornographic, oh no! And to prove it, we’ll exclude all those stinky pornographers — yes, the very ones that we courted for their traffic and money when we were younger, newer, and more desperate for traffic.”

The #pornocalypse comes for us all. I’ve detailed dozens of examples since 2013 and — without the catchphrase — going all the way back to 2004 when LiveJournal started cracking down on the sex bloggers who helped make it great. I’ve been on this beat a long time.

You want to know who has been on their beat even longer than I’ve been on mine? The legendary sex toy sellers Adam & Eve, who these days style themselves the “#1 Adult Toy Superstore.” They’ve been at it for fifty fucking years — an entire half-century. They got their start selling condoms and lube in brick-and-mortar stores, then branched out by starting a highly-successful condoms-by-mail business at a time when this was still technically illegal because of the Comstock Act. At some point they added sex toys and began franchising their brand to more than sixty sex shops nationwide. Prior to 1996, they put up a website they called “a collection of the finest erotic catalogs on the Internet.” Yeah, they’ve been at this game for a minute or two.

Now, let me tell you the story of how Adam & Eve the sex toy selling mega-chain first came to overlap with my little operation here at ErosBlog. Cast your mind back sixteen years, to 2004. There I was, blogging happily along, when I got a lovely email from Libby. “Libby from Adam & Eve” was a genuinely nice person who later became a sex blogger in her own right. In 2004, she greeted me with kind words complimenting ErosBlog for being “chock full of wickedness” and being “one of the most popular sex blogs in the world.” (That last was the best kind of flattery, since it was, at the time, essentially true.) Here’s Libby’s entire email. (Yes, I still have it.) You’ll need to click to make it big enough to read:

adam & eve affiliate pitch 2004

The essence of Libby’s pitch: Adam & Eve wanted to “start a brand new e-lationship” with ErosBlog. (Aren’t you glad that neologism didn’t catch on?) Our new “e-lationship”, boiled down, was intended to be a sort of primitive affiliate deal:

20 percent affiliate share for DVD offer

Wasn’t that nice?

In truth, it wasn’t. In those halcyon days, most affiliate schemes offered more than a 20% revshare. And although sex toy affiliate programs have always been notorious for not offering useful stats that an affiliate can use to track sales, Adam & Eve basically had no stats at all; it was my impression that their program was a “trust us” deal where they periodically paid out revenue without any visibility at all into the number of sales, the referring links, or anything else that affiliates need to verify that we are getting fairly paid.

So I wrote back, and, long story short, pitched them to buy a banner ad instead. Which they did, maintaining it on and off for the next year or two. My stinky-porn sex blog traffic was worth paying for, and pay they did:

adam & eve 2005 banner ad on erosblog

Note the content the Adam & Eve banner ad is running next to in this screenshot: it’s a brutal spanking photo from this post, featuring an interview with a spanking model about the experience of modeling for one of the most severe/BDSM spanking porn producers of her day. In 2004 and 2005, Adam & Eve was happy to advertise against this raunchy porn content.

But, you know: the pornocalypse comes for us all.

Fast forward to 2020. I am, for various reasons, currently in the market for a good sex toy affiliate program. I went to Adam & Eve to see what their offering might be these days. And it instantly became clear that they have succumbed to the pornocalypse. Their affiliate program these days has two layers of content screening for potential affiliates. A potential affiliate has to satisfy not only Adam & Eve, but also their third-party affiliate program operator, a company called Ascend.

Adam & Eve, who used to be totally fine running their banner against painful spanking content, now say they won’t allow their affiliate links to appear on any website that publishes bondage, pain, or urination content:

no bondage, pain, or pissing

Well, fuck. ErosBlog sometimes offers pissing stuff. bondage, BDSM, and pain content, too. After all these years, I still have zero fucking clue how a photo of a bondage scene is supposed to “depict” the “consent of the participants” — is the model supposed to hold an “I consent” cardboard sign, or what? Indeed, I’ve blogged at length about the actual ways to confirm consent in the BDSM porn we enjoy. Ironically, one of the first posts in which I did so was the brutal-spanking post that appears next to Adam & Eve’s banner in the 2005 screenshot above.

But that’s not all. Adam & Eve have some sort of working agreement with an affiliate program operator called Ascend. To become an Adam & Eve affiliate in 2020, you’ve also got to satisfy the content requirements that Ascend imposes:

porn verboten

That’s right, folks. To sell sex toys for Adam & Eve, you’ve got to do it from a website that doesn’t have any “pornographic, obscene, sexually explicit, or related content.” I dunno how you’d do that, but them’s the rules. I didn’t make ’em.

I call terms of service like this “porn-hostile TOS”. It’s my policy not to do business with anybody that has porn-hostile TOS. But, sometimes, the porn-hostile TOS are just for show. Sometimes, they are intended to cover butts and look good, but they aren’t enforced. By the time I got this deep into reading the rules, I had become curious whether Adam & Eve (and Ascend) could actually be 100% serious about all this porn-hostile nonsense. From a sex toy retailer! So I went ahead and filled out an affiliate application, just for the pleasure of seeing my inevitable rejection letter.

I was not disappointed. Here it is:

affiliate rejection letter

That makes it all nice and offical! My website does not meet their quality standards. It contains “inappropriate content”. Sixteen years ago, they pitched me to join their affiliate program, and when I said no, they bought advertising. Now? The pornocalypse comes for us all. Nowadays, you can’t sell sex toys for Adam & Eve if your website has “pornographic” or “sexually explicit” content. How the fuck does that even work? Sex toys are sexually explicit by fucking definition. Putting the Adam & Eve link on your website makes your website sexually explicit! What the actual fuck? It doesn’t make any sense.

The pornocalypse comes for us all. It fucking ate Adam & Eve.

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