Throughout his journey from Ph.D. student at Columbia Business School to CEO of a bondage-porn empire based in San Francisco, Kink.com's Peter Acworth has had his finger on the pulse of sexual proclivities in America. Here, we ask Peter a few questions about his unlikely rise to Internet-sex power player and what the future holds for a public seemingly addicted to online porn.

Details: Okay, so how the hell did you end up running an Internet-porn empire?
Peter Acworth: I was a Ph.D. student at Columbia Business School studying finance, and on vacation in Spain during the summer of 1997 I came across an article in the Sun entitled SICKNOTE FIREMAN MAKES £1/4M PUSHING INTERNET FILTH. I realized at that moment that this would change my life.

Details: A breast-shaped light bulb went off?
Peter Acworth: It was suddenly clear to me that the Internet was not a gimmick, but rather a platform for genuine business—and that it was going to be enormous. I realized that finance had become saturated with researchers, and that the Internet stood relatively untapped and underdeveloped. I realized I was in the wrong field.

Details: Early Web porn, if we remember correctly, was pretty lame.
Peter Acworth: Actually, it was filthy. Upon returning to the U.S., I checked out xtreme-perversion.com, the website operated by the individual selling "Internet filth." It included scat—sex that heavily involves feces!—but the website wasn't very user-friendly—you would pay 30 pounds to receive a list of about 300 images which didn't even have thumbnails. Additionally, it was advertised as "filthy," but it also included consensual bondage pictures, which I was sure there was a wider market for.

Details: Internet bondage porn, a thriving marketplace . . .
Peter Acworth: I have had a lifelong interest in bondage fantasies, so I registered the domain name Hogtied.com and set about figuring out how to make a go of it. I bought images of licensed material on CD-ROMs, found a company that would host and another that would bill. I learned to program in Perl and HTML. The site went live some time around October 1997, and it started making $120 per day in sales immediately. By Thanksgiving, it was up to $1,600 per day. As you can imagine, this income was quite a change for me. I found myself going to fewer classes, and by the following August, I had left school and moved to San Francisco, which I perceived as a fetish capital in addition to having outdoor activities and windsurfing.

Details: How is Internet porn changing how people have sex?
Peter Acworth: As a teenager, some 20 years ago, I remember looking for a fetish community in London. I sent a hand-written letter to the "Rubber Nipple Club," the address of which I had found on the back of a bondage magazine from a seedy London sex shop—such shops would be raided regularly by the police since bondage magazines were illegal at the time. I never heard back from the rubber nipple club, and there ended my attempt to contact other kinky people in London. Today I would have had a very different experience! With the Internet, it's very easy to be part of a huge online community and to find out about fetish-centric events and gatherings. And even mainstream sites such as OKCupid categorize people by how "kinky" they are.

Details: What are your thoughts on the big stories of infidelity and men like Tiger Woods or Jesse James?
Peter Acworth: I certainly don't think that the prevalence of Internet pornography or the accessibility of communities advocating alternative sexual lifestyles in any way justifies this kind of infidelity—indeed, quite the converse. Today, a couple can negotiate non-monogamy and meet other couples who are similarly wired on sites such as LifestyleLounge.com. In my mind, this fact makes breaking a mutually agreed rule with your partner still less acceptable. Whereas it might once have been seen as "perverted" or decidedly unconventional to partake in an alternative sexual lifestyle, I think the time is coming when it will be much more accepted.

Details: How is marriage changing, how has it been changed, if at all, by the advent of so much sexual content available for free? What's your definition of a healthy marriage?
Peter Acworth: We are all very different. Some people are wired for monogamy, some not, some are kinky, some gay, some need sex several times each day, some once per week. The diversity of pornography on the Internet is fueled by demand, and the diversity of our sexual tastes has never been clearer. For those of us who are wired to be monogamous—the majority, I suspect—I do not see how marriage has changed. Since we are all better informed now, I suspect there are growing number of married people whose commitments to one another do not include strict monogamy. Lastly, I think the eventual legality of gay marriage is inevitable, and that is a good thing.

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