(Note: Zivity, the adult content site on Friday, Oct. 17, said it was cutting a third of its staff. Here's an interview I did with Cyan back on May 12.)
Capturing the female body in an artistic form can be tricky. The subtlest of adjustments can move a piece from inspirational to offensive. The former attracts a female audience, the latter – more likely males. Zivity wants to attract both, raising questions as to whether men and women, when dealing with “art” that dallies in moral obscurity, really want the same thing.
Seems to me that there is a reason that men read Playboy, women read Cosmo, and men read Playgirl. Essentially, men tend to like photos that help them get right to point while women generally like photos to show them how to be beautiful. Plus, women like to spend a bit more time on the experience. Zivity may have its work cut out for itself trying to please both.
If Zivity slips to the wrong side of that fine line between smut and beauty, it risks losing the female audience. And, it'll be pretty obvious if it does slip. As Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart prophetically stated about obscenity vs. art “I know it when I see it.”
Zivity is a new experience oriented, subscription site for females to share risqué, provocative and sometimes nude photos. It’s attracted about 100 amateur female models, including Zivity’s founder Cyan Banister, as well as Bella Sioux and Doll (both can be seen in Zivity’s Vator profile). Many of the models bare it all, though Zivity keeps the ratio of nude to non-nude to 50%, said Cyan in her interview with me.
The outer edges of entertainment
While many articles have referred to the site as one verging on pornography, Cyan likes to think of her site as a “photo-sharing site for art and fashion photography.” Another way to look at Zivity is to think: “Playboy meets MySpace meets American Idol,” she said.
It certainly is an intriguing idea: Allow any woman to create a profile page and share provocative photos (the current batch range from 19 to 40). The models earn money through votes cast. Each vote being worth a $1, with the models and their photographers get 80%, the model theoretically entitled to 60%. One woman has already earned $500, said Cyan.
Cyan’s goal is to, by the end of the year, have 100,000 paying subscribers paying $10 per month to look at scantily clad women and voting for them. The $10 gets you five votes, with each additional votes costing $1. Even though she anticipates a largely male viewership, she’s expecting women will make up over a third of the audience.
With so many nude women already available on the Internet, why bother creating Zivity?
According to Cyan, Zivity was borne out of the fact that many women actually want to “express themselves,” and too often, they’re either censored because certain sites, like MySpace can’t allow for such nakedness due to the fact that it may offend advertisers – or – they’re presented in the context of male oriented entertainment. Pre-Zivity there hasn’t been a well lit place for women to present themselves in their way. And, basically, women want an audience.
I recently learned that a friend of mine has a number of tastefully-shot photos of his girlfriend in his iPhone. It made me think of all the women out there who enjoy having their beauty appreciated. Sure, the average women in this country may be intimidated to bare it all or even a portion, but it probably doesn’t diminish their desire to want to feel or be acknowledged as being beautiful. In most cultures and throughout the ages, the female body has been an object of affection, art and poetry. Feminine beauty has always been celebrated. And, it’s hardly just a cultural construct. It is innately ingrained in who woman are.
Author Nancy Etcoff puts it this way: “Beauty is a universal part of human experience… it provokes pleasure, rivets attention and impels action hat help ensure the survival of our genes.”
Indeed, beauty is a universal part of our experience. It’s also universal that people love to look at beauty, and more often than not female beauty.
But nudity for nudity sake is not the same as nudity for arts sake. Zivity is going to have to resist the siren’s song that has washed so many other publishers against the rocks of obscenity when the opportunity came to sacrifice their long-term mission for short-term success.
But it won’t be hard to tell which direction Cyan steers the site, in the end, we know it when we see it.