Toronto
3 min

Internet porn’s hard work

Toronto-based websites root out the good stuff.

ON-LINE. Trevor Henning has the links. Credit: Joshua Meles

Trevor Hennig chases porn so that you don’t have to. And if there’s a measure of discomfort to be endured, well, that’s just the kind of guy Hennig is.



After 11 years as a librarian with the Ontario civil service, Hennig is now the proud owner of the Banana Guide (www.bananaguide.com), a gay guide to porn on the ‘net. He launched the site in December 2000 and started working on it full-time last summer. Now he spends his days in his east-end Toronto home, trolling the ‘net, just him and his high-speed connection. His boyfriend helps with the marketing, but the transition to working at home has not been entirely without incident.



“Sometimes,” he says, “I get a little lonely.”



Well, lonely, schm-onley. With 7,000 unique visitors a day, Hennig has pulled off the rarest of feats, a website that makes money. His site is free but thanks to the adult web’s byzantine revenue-sharing system, he makes a tidy living off referrals.



Hennig writes, summarizes and links to some news stories, chiefly about censorship and pornography, but the most popular part of his site is a guide to free porn on the ‘net.



“I wish it was otherwise,” he says ruefully, but with so many free pictures out there, it’s difficult to convince people to pay for adult content. Hennig, however, is a on a mission to promote the advantages of membership sites – and not just because he makes money off them.



Finding the good ones, however, can be difficult. “If somebody puts in ‘big cocks’ in Google,” says Hennig, “they’re just going to get screwed around.”



If one of his visitors takes out a membership on one of the recommended pay sites, Hennig gets a cut of the action. Typically, he receives 50 percent.



He’s not earning as much as in his previous job, but revenues are growing and he expects to equal his civil service salary before this summer.



The Banana Guide joins a thriving local business niche.



“There’s a fairly healthy Internet porn industry in Toronto,” says Hennig, pointing to Bedfellow.com and MenofSteel.com.



But porn is not the only thing that’s paying off for Toronto webmasters. When Shaun Proulx (who contributes to Xtra) and his partner Sean Leber started Gayguidetoronto.com, a guide to Toronto arts and events, they deliberately avoided overt sexual imagery. The site, launched in April, features no nude imagery and the innovation has drawn accolades from many first time visitors.



“They don’t open it up and there’s some six-pack lounging on rocks while the waves lap at his toes,” laughs Proulx.



“I love buff beautiful boys,” he says, but his site is for the entire community – both sexes, all races and every shape and size.



With monthly features on gay icons like Brad Fraser and Carole Pope as well as listings, the site is designed to cast a wide net. Proulx hopes to draw both Torontonians and tourists alike. He has established reciprocal links with 25 other web sites around the world, including Gay Amsterdam (www.gayamsterdam.net) and South Africa’s GayNet Cape Town (www.gaynetcapetown.co.za). And eventually he hopes people will be able to book hotels and buy tickets to parties on his site. “You can plan an entire trip to gay Toronto,” says Proulx.



Xtra and Fab cover some of the same territory, but Proulx felt there was still a niche to be filled, by providing suggestions on what to do and where to go.



“The beauty of the Internet is that we can update that on an as-need basis,” says Proulx. The features change monthly, the listings (which are free to local organizations) as need be.



Leber, who is a ballet dancer and web designer (Rebel Web Design) designed the site. Proulx, who was a stockbroker before turning actor/writer, oversees the content. Neither one has quit his day job, but they hope to break even or start making money within a year. They had 4,000 unique visitors in their first week of business.



“It’s a lot of work,” say Proulx, who notes the site is far bigger than they originally envisaged. “And sometimes I’m stunned when I look at the clock at the end of the day but I’m loving it.”



For Hennig, however, it’s still more labour than love. He seldom gets turned on by his labours, he says.



“When I want to jerk off I use the VCR. To me Internet porn is work.”