Some Thoughts on the Fine Art of Content Trading

Some recent conversations (some positive, some trollish) with people about content trading prompts a review of motivations for trading, a review of the ecosystem, best practices for trading, and the kinds of nonsense you’ll experience with non-traders exposed to the ecosystem.

We’ll focus on the market of gay-male erotica. Because FMBN.

Motivations for Trading

People trade for various reasons, but because trading is a global phenomenon, different cultural imperatives come into play. In general, though, traders come in three different flavors:

  1. The Entrepreneur: It’s not just trading, but the active buying and selling of content, that drives entrepreneurs. Some people make real money doing this stuff, especially with baits. Others enjoy “collecting” content in the same way others enjoy collecting baseball cards or darning needles or vintage concert posters or dollar chips from a casino. Entrepreneurs usually put some cash into the mix (buying or selling or both). They often take the process very seriously and spend little-to-no time screwing around in discussion forums or Telegram groups except to scout the next trade.
  2. The Collector: Some dudes enjoy looking at dick, and if the dick is famous, they enjoy seeing it even more. Collecting, for them, is a hobby — a distraction — and nothing else, and certainly not a primary motivator or time-suck. In the United States, “looking at dick” is unremarkable, but in some parts of the world, expressing any sort of homosexual tendencies is a capital crime. Pic-and-vid trading, for these people, becomes one of the few outlets they enjoy to engage with their same-sex attractions.
  3. The Butterfly: Quite a few people in the trading space remain much less focused on the content and more on connecting with interesting people from around the world, with whom they share at least a few things in common. So they’ll trade, and sometimes have fun with it, but they much prefer hanging out in their private membership groups or secret chatrooms, laughing about memes or sharing jokes or discussing real-life struggles. The content pulled them together, but it merely serves as a filter for new-friend discovery.

It’s true that the content under discussion is … well, odd. In most cases, it’s collections of photos and videos of adult human males, for which the trader lacks clear intellectual-property rights to use commercially. Some of the content is legally fuzzy, consisting of images and videos that aren’t themselves IP constrained but may or may not constitute an invasion of privacy depending on how they were acquired — e.g., public Grindr profile photos.

It’s basically a black market, but one that the white market has largely accommodated. Look, in particular, at the way OnlyFans helpfully doesn’t argue with browser downloaders to facilitate the scraping of fansites. And look, too, at the way some of the people whose photos and videos get traded, use that exposure to increase their notoriety. From aspiring models looking for a casting couch to random InstaGays (lookin’ at you, Skoof) whose large endowment — widely circulated — makes a go-to lay, it’s probably not true that illicit content trading is always an unintended problem. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s a great ladder for an aspiring young gay man’s social climb.

So, yes — maybe calling it a grey market with a certain degree of mutual parasitism makes more sense.

The Trading Ecosystem

Think of the trading ecosystem as a series of layers, like an offshore reef wall in the sunny Caribbean. Pretty much everyone floats on the surface, but the deeper you travel, the more mysteries you uncover, but the higher the risks and rewards:

A schema of trading settings.

As a rule, the “value” of content scales with the level at which it circulates. Anything you’ll find on LPSG or MG, or in open-access Telegram groups, spreads like wildfire. As such, it’s intrinsically low-value; everyone who wants it already has it. For this reason, people with higher-value content don’t “share” in public forums or chat groups; as soon as they do, the material loses its value.

One way of assessing the relative value of content is to think about where it circulates:

  • Common: If it circulates in a Level I setting, it’s common by definition. This stuff is like any other porn. It’s fungible and, in context, worthless.
  • Rare: This stuff isn’t likely to leak publicly. Lots of more-serious traders have it, but your Average Joe doesn’t know about it. A lot of the higher-priced bait packages fall into this category, as does stuff like Grindr/Scruff content sent by DMs, sourced from people who live in the larger metro areas and viewed those profiles personally. Also, people who pay performers directly for custom content may share it with a few trusted people, but often this stuff never sees general circulation. (And the performers sometimes wise up and track these vids if they do leak.)
  • Elite: There’s still a subversive economy of people who leak material directly. A lot of the InstaGay and Broadway stuff nowadays sources from just a handful of people who are actually at the orgies and make coin by selling vid clips and photos. Elite content almost never leaks beyond a tiny/connected circle, because the nature of the content identifies the source in many cases. Insofar as there really is honor amongst thieves, people who trade in elite content generally keep their word and their confidence. They must; if they don’t, the source gets burned and the whole thing collapses.
  • Specialty: This stuff isn’t of general interest, but for the people who are interested in it, it sometimes commands a high price. Examples include people who specifically commission a baiter to get nudes from people they know in the real world who aren’t famous, but are relevant to the person who commissioned the job.

Content packages are funny things. Some people tightly curate what they have while others put zero effort into it at all. Folks like FMBN’s administrator hand-select images and rename all videos, while other FMBN members are happy sharing OnlyFans scrapes that are 30 percent stuffed with unsorted duplicate or promo nonsense. To each his own, but a targeted content package often proves more attractive, especially when storage space becomes a factor.

Dealing with Traders

Traders come in two basic flavors: Honest and dishonest.

The honest ones keep their word and their confidence. They share screenshots of what they have in advance of a trade and keep their end of the bargain.

The dishonest ones refuse to offer proof of what they’ve got and make a point of refusing to “go first” in a trade. There are a million fish in the sea; don’t swallow the hook of a rotten one.

The biggest rules of working with traders?

  1. Don’t appear too thirsty. The more you telegraph your lust for something, the higher the “price” you’ll end up paying, and the more suspicious other people become. Accept a yes or a no with grace; never prod when you encounter a no.
  2. Start small and review each other’s catalogs. Build some trust with some low-level trades before you advance to higher-stakes conversations.
  3. Never burn bridges.
  4. Keep a record of good and bad traders, and share it if you join a trading community.
  5. Never buy content if you’re not comfortable getting scammed. Best case, you won’t be, but always assume the worst case and act accordingly.

Dealing with Non-Traders in Public Spaces

Picture it: You’re in a thread on LPSG and a question arises about posting, or not-posting, something about the subject of that thread. Turns out, these patterns are highly predictable, staffed by a few key archetypical roles, which I present in order of relative frequency of appearance:

  • The Anti-Trader: A person who responds vituperatively when a person suggests he’s got stuff to trade. Anti-Traders demand that all content be publicly posted — that people share — despite that they often display no obvious history of sharing when you dive into individual profiles. They sometimes say they have nothing to share, which is odd if they’ve been around for a while. More frequently, they try to occupy the moral high ground by acting as if trading were somehow “gross” or dishonest or disrespectful or similar to children collecting Pokémon cards, despite the cognitive dissonance engendered by their own behavior. In general, the louder an Anti-Trader complains, the more likely it is that (a) he doesn’t share as much as he implies, (b) he’s super-pissed you won’t give him what he’s thirsting after so he’s trying to browbeat you into it, and/or (c) he’s probably a bitchy bottom with daddy issues.
  • The Thirsty Bitch: Always wants more, but never seems to give as good as he gets. Not only does he want more, more, more, more, more — but he also demands the necessary context to organize his own collection, like what’s his insta? or who’s that with him? or where’d you get that pic?, expecting that others tee up data without bothering with his own research.
  • The Porn Photocopier: Either totally silent or a frequent “share, please” poster, the Porn Photocopier takes content supplied in one place and posts it in another place — e.g., the Telegram/LPSG/MG/Discord cycle. The Porn Photocopier tends to be loyal to one place and for whatever reason (usually, group status), siphons from all other places to feed content to his home base. These people are the inveterate leakers; you cannot trust them. Don’t post valuable content in threads or chatrooms filled with Porn Photocopiers — and assume that any public forum features at least one lurking in the shadows.
  • The “DM Me Plz” N00b: Whether it’s a forum or a chat, you’ll find folks who keep asking that you “DM” or email them stuff, instead of … DM’ing you with a respectful question. Similarly, these people prove incapable of reviewing prior posts in a thread or using the Search tool. A sliver of these people are not highly English proficient, so their behavior is understandable, but it’s a too-common phenomenon that ought to be ignored 100 percent of the time.
  • The Leech Bumper: Always shows up with a bump in a thread, even when threads are an hour old, hoping someone will show up to feed him fresh porn. When you check this user’s profile, most of his most recent posts are a variation of thread-bumping and one-to-three-word requests for content or information. They’re in it exclusively to leech content without offering meaningful reciprocal contributions.
  • The Mysterious Inboxer: Common on LPSG, the Mysterious Inboxer is a long-established account with few or no public posts, who slides into your DMs with content requests. Often, they’re quite polite. With them, propose a trade and let them go first; don’t offer valuable stuff for free. The trick is to structure the conversation so that you agree and the next logical move is for him to post something. If he doesn’t, you’re not out anything, but often these guys lurk and leech but will trade if the context is right. Be cautious, but not dismissive.
  • The Sherlock Holmes: This person suggests that some content is fake because of the orbit of the moon or the alignment of a freckle pattern or something similarly esoteric. He’s rarely pleased unless he can debunk — and if he can’t debunk outright, he’s happy to sow chaos and doubt.
  • The Phantom Menace: Some people suggest that they’ve got access to rare or desired content but they elect not to share it. Or, they suggest that they know the subject of a thread personally or have been physically intimate with him, yet decline to provide receipts. Others then inevitably either demand that the Phantom Menace share, or accuse him of being a liar, thus igniting the desired conflagration. The Phantom Menaces are usually trolls there for the lulz and may be safely ignored. As a rule, accounts that are new or have very few public posts generally (a) don’t have the content they’ve mentioned, and (b) don’t actually know the person they’re talking about. Conversely, an established account with a history of substance probably earns at least a superficial benefit of the doubt.
  • The Emoji Contrarian: This person drops in with one-liners punctuated with emoji, seeking to upset the conventional wisdom of a thread. Often, this person suggests that a sought-after or well-received content post is actually fake because “I happen to know that no nudes of this person actually exist :),” without providing evidence or argument.
  • The Butthurt Superfan: A person who’s infatuated with the subject of a thread or discussion reaches out to an original content creator, spilling the beans about the sharing of content. Often, these Butthurt Superfans get upset with requests to share, insisting that the Thirsty Bitches ought to pay for an OnlyFans subscription or whatever, and not share what they see. Other times, particularly with teen TikTok fans, you start to hear elaborate backstories from these brand-new accounts about how everyone’s a liar and a hater. These people are a core referral source for DMCA claims, and an excellent reason why posting material in public spaces is an intrinsically risky behavior.
  • The Child Pornographer: Seems to be super-interested in someone who “just turned 18” because he’s “legal now, let’s see the nudes.” Even when people credibly suggest that some 16- or 17-year-old TikToker got baited, the Child Pornographer finds reasons — no matter how implausible — to ignore the claim. They also seem to think that if a person is 18 today then it doesn’t matter when nude photos or erotica were recorded. Avoid these people at all costs and report relevant threads where there’s a high probability of under-age content.
  • The Stealthy Performer: Either a performer or sometimes an agent, the Stealthy Performer remains on the lookout for rights infringement. Secondarily, he (usually clumsily, and with a new fake account) suggests that the performer is great and worthy of subscription. Often, brand-new OnlyFans performers create accounts seeking this kind of validation. It’s easy to see through the ruse of that ham-fisted self-promotion; it’s less easy to see someone on the lookout for DMCA complaints, which is why posting material in public, Google-accessible places is a dumb move.

For the most part, any of these archetypes may be safely ignored. Your goal as a trader is to engage in behavior that elicits future trades. That behavior may include seeding a public discussion with something useful — or not. As a rule, people who aren’t serious about trading may be safely ignored. Don’t let the trolls bait you into raising your blood pressure or in becoming excessively bitchy, lest you lose out on trading opportunities with people who seek low-drama situations. It’s typical that even when a thread spirals into chaos, one or two people will reach out by PM to talk more calmly and more profitably. Don’t alienate them in a flame war.

Your goal as a trader is to (a) establish your bona fides, (b) hint at what you’ve got, and (c) don’t run afoul of the rules of whatever platform you’re on.

And never let ’em see you sweat.

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