By David Bernstein
NEW HAMPSHIRE — At a time when most news/talk stations are seeking two things to keep the format vibrant and growing – 1) relevant topics that go beyond right-versus-left politics and 2) programming that would be attractive to more female listeners without turning off men – Angie Rowntree is finding appreciation among hosts and producers as the perfect “change-of-pace” guest. Simply put, Angie Rowntree’s business is communicating about sex.
As the operator of the world’s largest “porn for women” site, Sssh.com, Angie has spent the last 14 years doing a lot of what you might assume someone running an erotic website does – like writing and directing adult entertainment movies – but a good deal of that time has also been spent doing something you might not expect from a pornographic entrepreneur: listening.
She tells TALKERS, “When I first started Sssh, there was just about nothing in adult entertainment that truly had been made with female viewers in mind,” reflecting on how she first got the idea to create Sssh.com. “There was just about every kink and specialty fetish you can think of that a man might be interested in, but aesthetically and thematically, there was basically no appeal to any of it from the female perspective.”
Angie decided she was going to change all that, single-handedly if need be. The first obstacle was a doozy, however: she had to figure out what women wanted… a question that “has flummoxed men throughout the ages,” the talkative pioneer notes with a wry smile. “I knew right away that the way to figure out what sort of visual stimuli would appeal to women sexually was not to ask other pornographers, all of whom were men,” Angie recalls. “After all, men trying to figure out what women want hasn’t worked in thousands years of human history; why would it be any different when it comes to erotica?”
That epiphany inspired Angie to set up Sssh.com as a kind of sounding board for women’s sexual thoughts, a safe and non-judgmental place to explore and express themselves among like-minded women. Drawing input and ideas from the women who visited the site in every way she could, from message boards hosted on the site to surveys and direct feedback via email, she essentially built Sssh.com to the specifications of her intended audience.
“I really couldn’t have done it any other way,” Angie says, reflecting on the crucial interaction that brought Sssh.com to life. “I knew I couldn’t speak for all women, or assume that my own preferences represented theirs.”
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is: To find out what women want, whether it’s from their careers, their marriages, or even their pornography, the best approach is to just come out and ask them, Angie says.
“Of course, once you’ve asked, you then have to actually listen to what we say – and that’s the part where men tend to come up short,” Angie laughs.
Some of the things that Angie has learned along the way highlight not just how men and women differ when it comes to the subjects of sex and pornography, but fundamental differences in values and preferences that cross over into other areas of life, like career, ethics, family and finance. Evidently, Angie Rowntree has all the elements that make a great talk radio guest – and who knows – perhaps the host of her own show some day?
“Sex is just a fundamental part of life, one that’s bound up with every other facet of your persona in ways that you might not even realize, consciously,” Angie says. “Just getting people talking about sex can lead to some amazing self-revelations, and bring people to an understanding about themselves that they might not reach any other way. Some people go through life tense, frustrated or angry and they don’t even know why. Often, the answer is rooted in their sex life, but they’re never going to get to that answer until they start asking the questions. Over the years I’ve come to realize that’s my purpose, that’s why I’m here: to help people ask the questions they might not be comfortable asking on their own.”
The success of Sssh.com speaks to how well Angie has listened over the years, growing from its original small audience of perhaps dozens of women into a thriving subscription-based business with thousands of active, loyal members.
Along the way, Angie has also expanded her forum to include a Twitter-based discussion show, #SexTalkTuesday, a lively group chat session held every first and third Tuesday of the month, in which a special guest moderator leads the discussion, asking thought-provoking questions that invite an open and sex-positive discourse.
“Sex Talk Tuesday is another extension of what I’ve been doing all along,” Angie says, “and Twitter is a fun platform to do it on, as it really makes people get creative in how they communicate, since they can only do it in these short bursts of 140 characters at a time.”
Angie assures TALKERS when it comes to direct discussion, however, her favorite forum remains radio.
“There’s something so immediate and human about radio that other formats just can’t duplicate,” Angie says. “Being able to hear the inflections of someone’s voice, the tone, the cadence, these things add a dimension that is literally not there in texts, instant messages and email. Radio also doesn’t have all the distractions that you get with TV – there’s no camera to worry about looking good on, which can be a real source of anxiety – and a lot more flexibility and space to work with than you typically get on TV, too.”
In her past appearances on the Jay Thomas Show, Playboy Radio, KBPI’s “Your Morning” show and other popular programs, Angie has dealt with the potentially explosive topics of sex and pornography with grace, professionalism and humor, putting listeners and callers at ease, and responding to criticism with calm, well-reasoned rebuttal. Equal parts articulate, personable and entertaining, Angie is an ideal guest to book when the subject is sex, as her comfortable, familiar manner puts callers at ease, enabling them to open up and freely express what’s on their minds.
To contact Angie, call 603-318-1404 or email email@example.com.
David Bernstein is general manager of TalkersRadio and a member of the TALKERS editorial board. He is a legendary talk programmer having served as PD at such stations as WOR, New York; WBZ, Boston; WRKO, Boston; WTIC, Hartford; and WPRO, Providence among others. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org