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Tits and Ash: Why Weed Sites Cater to the Male Gaze 

Wednesday, Aug 21 2013
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When six frustrated pot entrepreneurs got together to launch TheNug.com, an Oakland-based site dedicated to "weed, women, and other important stuff," they thought they'd stumbled on an Internet gold mine. Who knew that weed sells better when it's accompanied by pictures of hot naked women? And who knew that, by larding a website with boob pictures, it's possible to jack up traffic and maybe even yank your product from the snowy hinterlands of the Internet?

Everyone did, apparently. Including Nug content curator "T Bone," whose most recent Nug article discusses the objectification of women — or rather, innocuous, bikini-clad promo girls — at cannabis events. In fact, cannabis sites have a long history of pandering to the so-called "male gaze," trying to hook readers in with nude model pics that have no apparent connection to the product at hand.

That actually makes very little sense, says "PMad," co-founder of a San Francisco site called GGDub, which touts itself as more progressive and woman-oriented than most of its competitors. When you think about it, he says, weed is just like lavender. It's a light, feathery herb; feminine, even.

Yet most weed sites seem unapologetically tailored for a male demographic: boob slideshows, bikini chicks, inane action-figure cartoon shows featuring characters like The Nug's "Master Kush." PMad blames their advertising model. Since Google Adsense prohibits sites that sell drugs or drug paraphernalia, weed sites have long had to use alternate avenues, he says. Many of them courted porn advertisers because they occupied the same taboo zone.

"Adult Friend-Finder, or any of those types of ads ­— they'd always accept you," says PMad.

But it doesn't have to be that way, he says. When PMad ceded day-to-day operations of GGDub to his wife, she helped add many feminine touches, including a "weediquette" video cribbed from Vice Magazine, and a Health & Living section with posts on breasts — advice about them, rather than pictures of them — and a recipe for vegan chocolate mousse. Even the web fonts seem softer, girlier, and more pastel-colored than they are on other sites. There are photos of girls, but they're less overtly sexualized than The Nug's, even, nearly, artistic: Shots of women smoking from bongs, close-ups of buds, smoke tumbling from mouths. The focus is different, more relevant; here, the pot is the porn.

Granted, the acronym "GGDub" is a reference to the "Girls Gone Wild" franchise. PMad says their site began as a spoof on 420 Girls, a 20-year-old webzine featuring 15,000 pictures of naked girls smoking weed (updated weekly). He and his wife got serious after they started receiving fan mail and submissions from female readers — not just girls looking to start a nude modeling career, he says, but actual real-life potheads with a keen interest in pot paraphernalia. It turns out there's plenty of them.

About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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