Web Rouser

Former Lusty Lady dancer Caity McPherson struggles to make a living on the oversexed Internet

But the computer industry still considers online smut an unfortunate byproduct of its wizardry. While mainstream Web surveys and awards completely ignore adult content, however, they can't deny that porn propels their industry to a large degree. Cyberporn has either originated or perfected many Internet gizmos, from click-through banner ads and live streaming video, to videoconferencing and e-commerce systems like secured credit cards and 900-phone payments. (Not to mention those annoying JavaScript "console" windows that pop up when you leave a site, crashing the browsers of even the most diligent journalists.)

Statistics about online porn vary depending on the source, but most agree that pornography constitutes an estimated 60 to 70 percent of Web traffic. The most requested search-engine keyword is still "sex." Nearly 30,000 adult-oriented Web sites are out there in cyberspace, generating an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue. Surveys show that 38 percent of American households are currently online, and 30 percent of those are clicking through the portals of porn at least once a month, usually between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. That's approximately 26 million Americans.

This surfeit of porn doesn't stop more from being pro-duced. Purveyors have learned to snag visitors with clever "stealth sites" that pop up unexpectedly. Pages titled "whitehouse.com," "whitehouse.net," and "whitehouse.org" all bring the surfer to adult sites like "Nasty Teens." Geeks hunting for free software at shareware.com may accidentally type in "sharware.com" and be directed to a porn page, as will soap-opera fans hunting for their favorite stars at "youngandrestless.com."

The newest trend is amateur Web porn, a loosely defined category of photo and live-cam sites that includes original, home-grown efforts by exhibitionist college girls and housewives, and professional models who pretend to be college girls and housewives.

Companies like the New Jersey-based TiarraCorp will even provide a would-be porn Webmaster with everything needed to get a fledgling site up and running, including page-design templates, billing systems, and stock-photo libraries.

This Henry Ford assembly-line method produces scads of similar-looking amateur pages categorized in various ways, such as "Texas Coeds" and "Georgia Peaches."

In a few short years, the online porn world has mushroomed from a handful of hackers to a billion-dollar industry. A couple of mouse-clicks yield an astonishing variety of smut to suit every taste -- Asians, blacks, cheerleaders, redheads, blondes, lesbians, housewives, teenagers, fatties, big boobs, skirts, pantyhose, feet, amputees, animals -- 24 hours a day, delivered to your desktop. How much porn the Internet can support, nobody knows. The market's sheer size and variety have made it harder for any one entrepreneur to make money. Some say the gold rush is over.

But that hasn't stopped Caity McPherson and Juicy Mango from staking their claim and hoping the mine hasn't played out.

Clusters of business types and tourists graze at Enrico's outdoor tables in North Beach. Caity (pronounced "Ky-tee") McPherson sips tea in the afternoon sun. Her miniskirt and blouse exude a healthy yet professional amount of sex appeal. The 30-year-old laughs easily, doesn't badmouth anyone, and seems the type who returns things she's borrowed. No surprise that Juicy Mango's catch phrase is "Look what happened to the girl next door." McPherson would be a good sister. You'd want to fix her up with one of your friends.

She grew up in a small, hippie community in the mountains near Santa Barbara. Dad was a self-employed tree trimmer. Nudity in the household was no big deal, and neighbors partied together in the hot tub.

In 1989, she came to the city and enrolled in speech and communication studies at San Francisco State University. On a dare from friends in a women's studies class, she auditioned for a job at the Lusty Lady Theater in North Beach and was hired as a peep-show dancer.

Working under the stage names Rubia and Sadie, she made good money while finishing school. After graduating, she took a day job at the American Language Institute on campus and continued dancing at the Lusty Lady to pay off her credit cards.

The women-owned and -operated theater was like a sorority, she recalls, providing a strong bond of sisterhood among employees.

McPherson sips from her tea, and looks halfway down the block to the Lusty Lady sign. It's been several years since she last worked there.

"At first it was such a turn-on. And it was so shocking. The first couple days, watching men masturbate and come, one after another after another after another." She mimes the male act of masturbation with a fist. "It was just so surreal."

Heads turn at nearby tables. The waitress lingers.
McPherson says she found she was attracted most to customers with eyeglasses and laptops. They weren't dumb jocks. They were intriguing, intelligent nerds. She found them so focused, on their jobs and their sexual goals.

But emotionally, dancing was a draining experience. Like most strippers, McPherson stopped talking about it entirely, except when she was around other dancers. She met a guy she liked and left dancing to work at a Silicon Valley semiconductor company as a human-resources manager. While surfing the Web one day at work, she came upon a site called the Post-Feminist Playground, put together by women who were tired of the usual feminist "crap" and wanted to enjoy men again.

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