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Silicon Valley hates smut. 

Silicon Valley is wary of touching anything that contains the slightest whiff of sexuality. It’s why an app store can remove a cartoon female masturbation app, but approve a game that lets you click women’s boobies. It’s why a crowdfunding platform can delete the account of an adult performer fundraising for her medical bills, but not a campaign raising money for Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

And it’s why the Worst Drug (NSFW), a site that shares the most popular GIFs—and thus comprises nothing but porn—might shut down due to lack of investors.

According to Betabeat, which initially reported on the popular porn GIF-sharing site last spring, the Worst Drug might have to shut down on Oct. 7 because of the costs of hosting, despite the fact that the site has a devoted fanbase and gets decent traffic (it has an Alexa ranking of 25,335 in the United States.)

When the creators of the site reached out to investors to see if they could lend a hand, they were met with radio silence.

“Investors purport to find [porn] sinful, apparently, hence the term ‘sin stocks,’” Katie, the Worst Drug’s COO, told Betabeat. “I’ve spoken to dozens of VCs, some from very prestigious firms. They say they appreciate our tech and design, and ask us to contact them with our next project. Investors may have different preferences, like biotech or renewable energy, but this is $13 billion of annual U.S. revenue they’re leaving on the table.”

(Note: This $13 billion figure [often the number cited is $10 billion] is likely based on an unsourced study from Forrester Research, and is widely considered to be an inflation of the porn industry’s revenue. The actual value of the porn industry is thought to be a lot less.)

The Worst Drug is not the first startup to feel the effects of discrimination from the tech industry at large. Over the past few years, social media networks like Vine and Tumblr have implemented stringent restrictions on adult content, despite the fact that both platforms are extremely popular among adult performers and sex workers.

The anti-nudity community guidelines on Facebook and Instagram have also led to the creation of separate social networks for such content, such as Pinsex, Pornostagram, and Mixxxer. It’s a result of what Make Love Not Porn founder and tech entrepreneur Cindy Gallop says is the ghettoization of sexual content on the Web.

“All of the dynamics that make Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. so successful are dynamics that actually can be leveraged in the whole area of self-expression and self-identification through sexuality,” Gallop told me earlier this year. “The tech world is refusing to allow that. It’s ghettoizing [user-generated sexual content] and bracketing it mistakenly into porn … there’s this artificial distinction.”

Although there’s no denying that the GIFs on the Worst Drug fall into the latter category (porn), the creators have reached out to Gallop and others to lend a hand. But what’s particularly ironic about the site’s struggles to attract investors is that the Worst Drug wasn’t intended as a porn site to begin with: It started out as a general GIF-sharing platform, evolving into an adult website as the result of high user demand for porn GIFs.

The fact that their website is simply catering to high user demand is precisely what The Worst Drug’s creators find so frustrating about their current dilemma. “We didn’t choose the pornographic content, we simply held up a mirror,” she told Betabeat. “The site pulls the most popular content, and this is it. It’s a survey of human behavior which happens to be built on some of the best technology on the Web.”

The Worst Drug is currently trying to solicit donations from fans on Twitter. If its creators manage to scrape together the funds necessary to keep the site up, they’ll prove what nearly everyone else already knows about the Internet: that it’s almost exclusively for porn. For the sake of adult content creators and real-world sex entrepreneurs everywhere, hopefully smut-shy Silicon Valley investors will arrive at that realization as well.

H/T Betabeat | Photo via NeoGaboX/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.

IRL
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