Editor’s note: The interviewee wished to remain anonymous.
Q: When did you work for the porn industry?
A: I was just out of college. It was 1999; I was 23.
Q: How did you find out about the job?
A: In the New York Times classifieds. It said “Internet Promotions, adult-oriented.”
Q: What made you respond?
A: I had a job for a week out of college. I graduated on the 23rd of December and went home. By the 26th, I couldn’t take it anymore and I moved to Brooklyn. I worked for an environmental-engineering firm doing data entry on outdated computers and typing on carbon-copy forms. I quit after a week. Then I was out of work for a month. I was buying malt liquor with nickels.
Q: What kind of malt liquor?
A: I can’t recall the make of the malt liquor. However, I do remember that it was cheaper to buy two 22-ounce bottles of it than to buy one 40-ounce bottle. I was truly thrifty.
Q: So you replied to the ad.
A: I was broke, so I sent my resumé. They called me and I went in, and the woman and I went to the same college, and lived in the same town, so we had a lot to talk about.
Q: Where was the place?
A: It was run out of a brownstone on the Upper East Side. Twenty to thirty employees. The woman I talked to was in operations. There were stacks of porn all over her office.
Q: What kind of porn?
A: Magazines, videos. But other than that, the conversation was all very businesslike. They had 28 different websites. Whatever you were possibly looking for, they had it. She said, “You’d be managing and editing the sites.”
Q: Where did they get the content?
A: This was pre-lawsuits, so everything was public domain. A lot of it was content they purchased. Some of the supposed live video streams were just videos.
Q: And so you got the job.
A: They called me back that same afternoon and I started a couple of weeks later. I would go through the sites, make sure the links worked. Fix the code if they didn’t.
Q: Did your parents know?
A: They knew it was some kind of Internet thing, but they didn’t know specifically.
Q: Do they know now?
A: If they do, it’s not because I told them. But to my knowledge they do not know the full extent of the job.
Q: The company made money by charging people to get onto the site?
A: Yeah, you needed a credit card to view the site. But they had all kinds of revenue streams.
Q: Did you ever get sick of looking at porn all day?
A: Yeah, you become desensitized to it.
Q: But your friends must’ve thought it was cool.
A: They did. I had my own passwords, so sometimes, if my friends were over, I’d say, “You gotta check this out.”
Q: What was the office like?
A: My office was in the basement. The other coders would say, “It still smells like transvestites in here.” The walls down there were all painted black. So I guess they used to film stuff in what was my office. It was weird. Everything had to go through a switchboard there. You couldn’t get a direct call. I think they got their start with phone dating. I shared the basement with three other guys. They were all Howard Stern freaks. I went to the Erotica convention at the Javits Center and the other guys didn’t go. Gary Dell’Abate was there. While I was at the opening-night party before the convention, I was talking to this woman. She looked so familiar but I couldn’t figure out why. She gave me her card and I realized that she was always on the cover of Heavy Metal magazine and that she was a secretary for Kiss; she dated Paul Stanley.
Q: Did you go by yourself to the convention?
A: We had a booth there. I went with my roommate to the opening-night party. She was the only one I could take—I couldn’t take a guy with me.
Q: Why not?
A: They wouldn’t know how to behave—they might not have known how to handle it.
Q: Was there anything else that the job entailed?
A: I had to give suggestions on how to improve the sites.
Q: What kind of suggestions would you give?
A: Well, we had a celebrity nude site, so I would say, “You should get these people on there.”
Q: And your recommendations were from research and a detailed decision-making process?
A: No, I just knew who I liked.
Q: What made you leave?
A: The pay was awful. It was around $8 an hour and no benefits. Every week, I had to do a report on how much money they were making. And I wasn’t getting any of it, and they wouldn’t give me benefits …
Q: How much money did they make a week? Do you remember?
A: A couple million.