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How Afterglow is Reinventing Studio Porn for a New Age

Tube sites have dominated porn for years now. Afterglow is trying to show how a smart, ethical studio can take it back

One of the most revolutionary things about OnlyFans is that it’s allowed creators to thrive in adult content beyond the confines of porn studios. But when OnlyFans revealed its precarity after announcing — and then reversing — its ban on explicit content in August, the stability of porn studios once again seemed like an attractive option. 

Afterglow, a female-founded porn and sexual education site established earlier this year, is especially focused on how such a traditional set-up can work for the modern age. As founder Lilly Sparks tells me, she believes that there’s room for creators to maintain the autonomy provided by OnlyFans while also pursuing the security of a bigger production company like hers. 

Much of Afterglow’s content is cinematic in nature, filmed thoughtfully with soft tones and alluring plots. Some of it is designed to be sensual and intimate, but rougher scenes are an option, too. A mix of genders and orientations are on display as well, as are a variety of kinks. What makes Afterglow’s content truly different, though, is that it shows the realities of sex — its messiness, the time spent on foreplay, the fact that penetration isn’t always necessary. The Afterglow site also hosts a blog that covers topics like how to pleasure a pregnant partner and offers guided-masturbation audio intended for people with vaginas. 

“We believe our target audience doesn’t want the experience of going to Pornhub, seeing all this racial fetishization, MILF and teen tropes and dick pill ads,” Sparks tells me. “That’s not a place where you feel hot and sexy. The stereotype is that you go to it in incognito mode, and you shut your computer and you push it away when you’re done masturbating. We’re trying to offer a different experience.”

Part of that involves a novel effort to allow creators to license their content through Afterglow. In doing so, creators have both the chance to distribute their work and promote themselves, getting paid in the process. “We’re trying to figure out cool, innovative ways to work with creators,” Sparks continues.

Afterglow functions sort of like Netflix. Subscribers pay an annual fee of $69.99 — or $9.99 a month — for full access to the site. Currently, Afterglow is allowing performers to create content directly with them as they would a traditional studio, but they can also become site ambassadors or affiliates. Interested performers apply online, and can get a free month on the site to better assess whether Afterglow is right for them. 

Like any other porn provider, Afterglow must verify the identity, age and consent of everyone who appears in their videos. But despite being an adult company, they’ve yet to deal with any of the major issues with financial institutions that Pornhub and OnlyFans have. Part of this, Sparks believes, has to do with the clarity of the consent displayed on the platform. 

“We really have a lot of behind-the-scenes content,” she says. “I think the real problem is that people watch some porn and they have these misconceptions about exploitation and trafficking. By showing the performers and their actual views on their work, it helps make the content more relatable and reduce the shame and stigma around sex, which is our mission.”

This is one reason Sparks hopes performers might be interested in putting their trust into Afterglow. Another is that, unlike OnlyFans, they have no qualms about branding themselves as a platform for porn. “Supporting performers is one of our core values,” she says. “We’re a porn site, and we’re not going to pretend that we’re not.”

There is a hitch, though, with Afterglow’s licensing arrangement — it’s only a one-time fee. Which means that, similar to how porn stars working with studios are often only paid for their time on set, creators don’t receive any royalties from the views the Afterglow scene may amass later. At the same time, in fairness, earning a guaranteed payment takes away the guesswork and hustle of self-distributing content. So at least there’s a balance. 

Either way, if OnlyFans’ success (and recent disruptions) has proven one thing, it’s that creators should be in charge of their own content. So, as with joining alternative fan sites and minting NFTs, collaborating with a porn site like Afterglow could be another useful way for performers to protect their future in the industry. 

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