Can you point to the moment when pornography became more acceptable in the indie world?

Well, you could argue [that it arrived with] Blue Blood magazine or The Probe--but absolutely, they were very underground and very demonized by the general scene. I would say that if you're going to be totally honest about it, it doesn't have so much to do with the scene accepting sexuality on a larger basis as much as it has to do with society as a whole accepting sexuality on a larger basis. You know, like six months ago I was watching Friends, and the plot centered around Monica making a porn video with her [ex] boyfriend and Chandler finding out. I mean, is there anything more mainstream than Friends? I also think you can credit some of the scene's appreciation of sexuality to things like, which is really--though I don't think they like to be billed this way--sort of an "emo" dating service. And the proliferation of webcams has certainly made girls more comfortable with their bodies. I think that since a lot of the sexuality of this scene does transpire online, certainly that's paved the way for us to do this as sort of an online venture.

What do you make of the question of exploitation?

I'm not gonna say that we don't exploit the girls, because I don't know. I think that five years from now I will know. Because then I will see how they've reacted to it over time and what a difference it has made to their lives. I don't believe we are. But I don't feel like I'm qualified to say that. Does that make sense? Like, I don't know, I'm not posting on the site, I don't know.

You don't feel like that's sort of a cop-out, saying you're not qualified to say?

I just don't know. I really, honestly don't know. I would like to say we're not exploiting the women. They take the pictures we put up on the site. They choose how they're represented on the site entirely by themselves. I mean, there are girls who have literally never met anyone who works here--who take pictures of themselves, submit them to us, [and] beg us to put them on the site, [and] then we do. They chose the pictures; they did the Photoshop; they chose exactly what they wore, how they were represented; they wrote their description; they write their journal entries--I mean, it is totally them, we just give them the forum.

But at the same time, in five years, is that girl going to regret doing this? I sincerely, honestly hope not, but until that time is past, there's no way to know whether what we're doing is right or not. We all hope there are no negative ramifications, and we all are trying to run the business as much as we can to make sure there aren't. I mean, the hoops you have to jump through to become a Suicide Girl are insane. You fill out an application; you answer a series of essay questions that are so long and complicated, and that you have to put so much effort into, that this better not be something you're doing for 100 bucks.

So what's the crucial difference between this site and any other standard-issue porn site on the web?

A lot of people focus very much on the scene--on the fact that it's goth girls, and punk rock girls, and these emo girls, and these rocker chicks, and all that kind of stuff. I really don't think that's our point of difference--I think that's our style, and those are the kind of girls we like.... But I think that where our site is really unique--and this includes the other sites that are of the same genre--is our whole attitude toward the process. You know, we don't recruit girls. We have put ads in the paper, but we don't recruit.

And we have this thriving community. I mean, we have a community that's bigger than any other community of this ilk, adult or not. Since we started our site, I think 27 sites have popped up that look very similar to us. And that's the nature of the adult business: You do something, and everyone else tries to do it, too. But there's no community on any of these sites. There's no way for the models to speak for themselves. The girls are just pictures on the other sites. On our site, they're people.

Interview by Sean Nelson