Over the past week there has been a slew of cultural commentary about Passionflix, a video streaming platform with content so cheesy it could give a vegan a heart attack at ten paces.
Headed up by Tosca Musk, the younger sister of Tesla chief and would-be Twitter owner Elon Musk, Passionflix features romantic and erotic videos straight from the Mills & Boon stable of storytelling. Generic hunks woo willowy women, with acting standards in the videos produced by the platform (which also licenses externally-made films) soap opera-level, at best.
On Passionflix’s ‘NSFW’ section you’ll find videos showing bare skin, but the site has a policy of no nudity below the waste. The platform has raised $22 million in funding, with Musk saying she’s aiming to raise up to $10 million more.
Many of the videos on Passionflix, which costs $5.99 a month for a subscription and launched in 2017, are short, at around four minutes long. This can be interpreted as the videos catering to busy users wanting short entertainment hits to watch on their phone, or as being designed to be a visual aid for a quick self-fumble.
“Passionflix is really just Pornhub for women,” writer Louise Perry recently declared in The Telegraph.
With Passionflix producing and licensing video content (often adapted from existing romance novels) that is considered lowbrow by many, the platform occupies a very different ground to other female-focused erotic and porn platforms. Porn sites such as [both very NSFW] Bellesa and Lust Cinema often describe themselves as feminist and tout LGBTQ credentials, with buzzwords such as “empowering”.
Passionflix might not tout itself as overtly feminist, with its traditional ‘boy meets girl’ storylines, but Musk has said that her platform does not enforce negative stereotypes. “Nothing we do is about being a victim or women in jeopardy or the domestication of women,” she told the New York Times. “Whether second-chance romance or Cinderella story, at the end of the day it’s two people who connect, communicate and compromise.”
The action in Passionflix’s videos is far, far tamer than that seen in sites such as Bellesa or Lust Cinema, but arguably has a far larger potential market.
Mills & Boon has been making romantic fiction aimed at women since the 1930s, finding an enormous global market for its fluffy tales of dashing doctors and whatnot. Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps the ultimate ‘Powerful man sweeps woman off feet, nudity and commitment issues ensue’ success story, became a big-grossing —if often-mocked— film series following the whirlwind success of EL James’ original 2011 book.
Distilling this formula into short, phone-ready content chunks seems a logical move in the ‘pivot to video’ age. Passionflix’s content is laughably cheesy, but if it goes on to tap in to its potentially enormous audience, it’ll be Tosca Musk who’ll get the last laugh.