Bellesa bridges the gender gap in the porn industry


Montrealer Michelle Shnaidman is attempting to bridge another kind of gender gap in the tech industry: by showcasing female-oriented adult entertainment on her digital platform, Bellesa.

Bellesa (NSFW) launched this past February 15th as a platform where women celebrate their sexuality without feeling guilty. Shnaidman noted a distinct lack of feminist content, and set out to help improve on the gender disparity in the industry.

“We got started on it about two years ago. We were kind of looking at the porn industry as a whole, and we were really shocked at what the experience was. I had one time, it was a very daunting and sobering moment, where I was looking at one of these websites, hopping around to see what the options were for women, and I was hit with one of these male-oriented pop-ups. It’s a funny story I tell, but it was a very sobering moment where this was clearly not meant for women: the messaging, the pop-ups, the videos they were showing were very very violent. And so I thought to myself, there can’t be women who are accepting this. We saw that a lot of women obviously are watching porn. A lot of my friends watch porn, I watch porn, and so we kind of thought to ourselves, if we could offer a platform that was actually welcoming to women, that is empowering, where they don’t feel like they’re alienated or intruding or they have to clear their browser history, if we could offer them something that empowers them, that would be really special,” Shnaidman told MTLinTECH.

Since launching, the team has already grown to nine people, and the unique visits has topped 300,000, with an estimated 3 or 4 million page views at the time of the interview.

“The biggest difference, I think, is that women want to see things that are more realistic. If you look at the content that’s on our website, the bodies look more real, the orgasms sound real, the sex looks more real. We call it ‘fantasy fuel’, because it can still be fantasy but it’s things that could happen. Women like more of a storyline. Traditional videos are really focused on the male gaze, so you’re not really seeing male bodies, you’re just seeing female bodies. The videos we have on Bellesa are a lot more female-friendly.”

Since porn is considered a vice, Shnaidman couldn’t go through VCs and other more traditional funding routes. Instead, she got creative and found angel and private investors to get the venture off the ground.

The platform is made up of three pillars: the videos, uploaded and upvoted by female users, the collective, and erotic stories.

“The collective and erotic stories are both completely original content. We have some really awesome writers that have been contributing to Bellesa. I think we probably have around 50 contributors now. We call the collective the voice of our company. It echoes Bellesa’s mission of female empowerment. So it’s not things that are strictly sex, it’s articles you could read at work. We call them ‘sort of safe for work’. They always have a message of female empowerment and sex positivity, body positivity, culture stuff, all things for females.”

The company is currently focused on putting up an e-commerce store, but for their next project they plan to start producing their own content, likely within the next 10 to 12 months.

“We will be producing within the year. For now it’s kind of like a Reddit process. Users upload the videos, and then they get upvoted and downvoted. So by nature the best content will rise to the top. And that’s one of the key pillars of Bellesa right now is that all the content that you see on there has been upvoted by women, so you know that at least one woman saw this content and thought it was good.”

+ There are no comments

Add yours