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An interview with SuicideGirls.com owner/founder "Spooky"
sadie

sadie

Want to see more photos? Or just more? SuicideGirls.com.

You may have encountered the word "alternaporn" in recent media or during your late night, soda and chips-fueled net browsing (you dirty dog). Though the words "Naked Goth Chicks, Naked Emo Chicks, Naked Punk Chicks" greet you at SuicideGirls.com's entry page, this is not your big brother's porn site. Yes, there are naked girls (and guys as well), but it follows a more classic "pin-up" style format. In addition, members of the site create profiles, interact with other members, post and reply to journal entries, subscribe to boards and groups and have access to other features...goth related. Had a bad day? Post it to your journal and hear what everyone else has to say about it. Want to host an SG party in your hometown? Form a group, accept local members, then party until your eyes bleed.

As one might imagine from the rockstar facade, the SG community is music intensive. Members' journal entries seem to have a lot to do with the bands they're listening to, recent concerts and artists they've met. A calendar of events and shows is posted on the homepage and everyone uses the boards let others know about upcoming local events.

I recently spoke to SG founder/owner Spooky (via e-mail) regarding the status of SG's present and future and opinions on what inspires people to forget about buying that deleted Cure single and fork out a few bucks to become a member of SuicideGirls instead...

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Splendid: When did SuicideGirls begin? How many members are there now?

Spooky: SuicideGirls started in the summer of 2001, and we launched the site in September of that year. We never reveal our membership numbers, but we get about 300,000 unique visitors a day.

Splendid: How did you get the idea for SuicideGirls? What took it from a cool idea to reality?

Spooky: Missy (SG co-founder and model) and I had thought for a long time that Internet porn was too explicit and cookie-cutter boring. We wanted to create something that had the class and grace of Playboy and the style and ethics of our favorite indie record companies. So we just went to work. All success, I believe, is 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent luck.

Splendid: What's your official title at SG? How many "hats" do you wear during the course of a day?

Spooky: No official titles around here, we just do whatever comes up. I do tech support, graphic design, business and legal affairs, marketing and some of the community management and development.

Splendid: What sort of background (design, music, etc.) do you come from? What qualifies you to run the site?

Spooky: I have built quite a few websites in my life -- in fact, I'd be hard-pressed to think of anything else I've ever done in any sort of professional capacity.

Splendid: What sort of interaction do you have with the community? Your working relationship with the other "founders"?

Spooky: I have as little as possible interaction with the community. The community really prefers to see and talk to the girls rather than me. I'm the grumpy bouncer/cop to the community, the guy who has to kick members off the site when SuicideGirls complain about them. My relationship with the girls who work on the site with me is great, though, I love them.

Splendid: I can imagine what most might think when they read the words "Naked Goth Girls" emblazoned on the splash screen, but there is much more to SuicideGirls. What would you say is the site's motto? The goals? How would you describe the site to a first-time visitor?

Spooky: I have no idea how to properly articulate what exactly SuicideGirls is. I think we trick people into joining our cool little community/journal site by showing them pictures of really beautiful goth, punk and emo girls. I guess our mantra is never stop changing. We love changing the site, adding things, refining it, etc. It will never be finished and that's a great thing.

Splendid: What sort of research did you do to distinguish yourselves from being just another girly site?

Spooky: None really, we always built it for ourselves and hoped other people would dig it.

Splendid: Anyone can join the site (for a fee), but there are also a number of actual Suicide Girl models who all kind of embody the spirit of the site. Could you please talk about the process of how you select a Suicide Girl? How many applications do you see per week?

Spooky: We get about 200 to 300 applicants a week. We try to only pick the girls that have a great unique style and who have something interesting to say and have an interesting reason for why they want to be on the site. We also try to find girls who are fans of the site and get what we are trying to do with the site, or at least get how they can use the site.

Splendid: Who photographs the models?

Spooky: Missy used to do all the shoots, but now quite a few SuicideGirls shoot pictures for the site, including Mitten, Veronica and Anais. Also, some professional photographers have come in and shot sets of some of the girls, because they were fans of the site. We like that the style of our photography is quite varied, it keeps things interesting and fresh. I would hate for us to have only one style of images.

Splendid: Is each set the model's idea or does someone at SG decide, "Okay, we need a Bible set and a Virgin Mary set this month"? How do you decide who gets a new shoot?

Spooky: The models come up with their set ideas. We shoot girls based upon them asking to do another shoot.

Splendid: The photo shoots of the Suicide Girls are pretty tasteful. I read that you took a community poll on whether or not to allow sex-toy penetration on one shoot. How far is too far with an SG set? Do you see that changing depending on the community's response?

Spooky: We never took a community poll. We don't really care what the members think, we do the site for ourselves and for the girls. When a girl decides she wants to do a sex-toy penetration shoot, shoots it, and then sends it to us, we will decide whether or not we want to put it up.

Splendid: Which came first, the girls or the members?

Spooky: The girls.

Splendid: There is a community calendar, boards and you recently added "groups" to the site. What are some other things you have planned?

Spooky: We do not comment on future features. However, I will tell you we have three major new features we are working very hard on, two of which I think will be really groundbreaking and unique and the other one I think the members will just love.

Splendid: In the member profile, there is a section to list AIM accounts. Will there ever be a Suicide Girls chat-line?

Spooky: Again, we don't comment on future features.

Splendid: One member lists his reason of why he subscribes as "my journal talks back to me". This is very much unlike your typical blog or LiveJournal style site. Why do you think the idea of someone reading your journal is so appealing?

Spooky: From the beginning, we wanted to treat our journals a little differently from how other sites did. They presented their journals multiple entries at a time with the comments linked to from the page of journal entries. I think this presentation lends itself to less of a dialogue and more of a stream of thoughts from one person. We focused the journals on one entry at a time with the comments always visible, I think this encourages people to contribute to each other's journals and creates a tighter community. I think people enjoy having an audience, having people listen to what they say, and the journals on SG are a place for that.

Splendid: I mentioned the groups that you added last week. One can subscribe to anything from vegan and cat lover to thrift shopping groups, and these groups seem to increase at an exponential rate (I noticed a bunch of new ones today alone). Does the growth of the community on SG surprise you?

Spooky: It's pretty shocking. We certainly got very lucky. We never expected SG to grow to the size it already has, and even though we're a bunch of goofy kids having fun with a website, it somehow manages to keep growing and growing at a faster and faster rate. I honestly don't know why we do so well, but it has let us pay our models more and drop our subscription prices, so that's nice.

Splendid: Do you think that SuicideGirls is a place for those who don't really "fit in" to find sanctuary? A clique for the misfits?

Spooky: Maybe. I've never really met any members, save a few, so I don't know what they're like and why they're here. I think for the most part they're just people who enjoy the idea of being a part of an online community, something I have never really done before myself, so I'm not sure I'm the best at analyzing the motivations someone has for joining one.

Splendid: Though the spirit of SG seems fairly playful, cynical and spiced with teasing (i.e. posting "Vegan Cum" under the "what gets me hot" section of one profile), I imagine there are a few jerks on the site who harass members and the girls. What are some of the less spectacular things you've seen people do to other members on the site? How do you decide who gets the boot? Besides simply banning them from the site, is there any other punishment you deal out?

Spooky: Members do the stupidest shit to get kicked off the site. The most common things they do to get the boot: insult the SuicideGirls, start fights with other members, solicit people for their weird sex cult activities, creep out one of the SuicideGirls or female members. It's interesting to note that while our members are about half female and half male, I have kicked off hundreds of male members, but only 2 female members.

We decide on a case by case basis whether or not to remove someone from the site who is being complained about. Anytime a SuicideGirl complains about a member we remove the member, no questions asked.

Splendid: I read about SG gatherings all the time. How do SG get-togethers come about? What can one expect at a get together? Is it just a bunch of wannabe starfuckers who think they have the right to ogle some girl just because she wrote a reply to their journals? Any memorable events from an SG party you'd care to mention?

Spooky: The members organize the get-togethers. I have never been to one, and have no idea what goes at them. I think they post pictures of them in the respective groups (photos from the LA Events in the SGLA group, etc.). Some SuicideGirls have gone to the events, although I always ask them not to for their own safety; they never listen to me. They've mostly had a good time from what I understand, with a few bad experiences being the exception, not the rule.

Splendid: There are a few boys all the girls seem to swoon over on SG. Do you have plans to add a "Suicide Boys" section?

Spooky: Check it out: http://www.suicideboys.com.

Splendid: What kind of criticism do you get about SG? From whom?

Spooky: Not enough bigger girls, not enough racial diversity. We mostly get the criticism from feminist groups or writers. It's fair criticism. We're working on the ethnic diversity right now, trying to encourage more non-white girls to apply.

Splendid: Music, especially punk and indie, seems to play a huge part at SG, both with the members and the site in general. You're even doing your own interviews (i.e. Mooney Suzuki). Any plans to host upcoming shows, sponsor bands or start a SG record label?

Spooky: We have been asked by a major record company to put out a Songs From SuicideGirls compilation record with them. We're still talking in general terms, so it may be a while before we do it.

Splendid: Besides getting the chance to revel in beautiful and clever people, what have you gained from the site?

Spooky: Piles of cocaine. Millions of dollars. Trashed hotel suites. Gold plated hot tub in my living room. The white Bentley. Orgies with hundreds of beautiful women. Boy Band-member quantity of hot sex. You know, the usual.

-- Dave Madden




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