While S/M has grown in popularity, it's still a niche market. But with 1700 members (and growing), Ashley Renee's bondage site has done pretty well. "A lot of girls see my site and say 'Wow you're so successful at this, I'm going to start a Website too,'" Renee says. "But it's not just about putting a site up. I've been around for 10 years and people know me."
Renee began her career as a Playboy bunny during the late 80s. From there she became a covergirl for several other men's magazines and worked as an adult film actress. While Renee says she enjoyed her time as a Playboy bunny, she liked the more erotic venues - such as Penthouse - much better. But it wasn't until she did bondage shoots, though, that Renee says she found "her real home," and why she has dedicated her personal Website to bondage. "Bondage is something out of the normal range of acceptability and I think a lot of women have a curiosity about it and that's why it's doing so well on the Net," she opines.
The www.ashleyrenee.com site went online last year when an ex-boyfriend constructed it as a present for her. "We picked out the colors and we designed it ourselves," she says. Renee has a Webmaster who performs site maintenance, but she maintains creative control. Her site features many of the same areas that most adult star sites have - news and biography sections, an area to buy personal items, a video log, frequently asked questions and of course, lots of images. Most of the pictures show Renee tied up (she's a submissive) and many pics have "friends" in them, such as Stacy Valentine and Eve Ellis. "My goal is to have a site like Danni Ashe's," says Renee. "I want to bring a lot of other girls into it and I'm just the centerpiece."
When Renee discusses her Website she often uses adjectives such as "genuine," "real" and "honest." She doesn't like to work with girls who are in it just for the money and she only places her banner on Websites that she "thoroughly believes in." Renee likes featuring big stars as well as lesser-known amateurs, and when she conducts interviews with potential models for her site, she asks very personal questions and encourages them to be honest about what they really like. Renee says the need for this truthfulness developed when she worked for adult film studios and their publicists would speak for her.
"Often I would read things that supposedly I said and they were things I would never say," Renee says. "I was so sick of the illusion that I wanted people to see the reality on my site."
Not surprisingly, Renee divulges a lot of personal information about herself on the site. She writes about her feelings and experiences in an online diary and personally answers 50-70 E-mails per day. She has such a loyal following that CBS's 48 Hours ran a segment about Renee's fans being too addicted to her and to hearing about her life.
While this "fan addiction" may sound strange to some, Renee actually enjoys it - especially since she has never received a degrading letter on her site. "Bondage fans are really different than other porn fans," she says. "They're totally respectful and they put you on a pedestal." When Renee's mother passed away recently, Renee found her mailbox full of flowers; another fan even paid for part of her mother's funeral.
Beyond her Website, Renee stays very busy. Currently she writes articles for Hustler magazine's "Bust and Beauties" column and also for Fetish Connection. She just finished a photo shoot for High Society magazine and is starring in her own line of bondage videos, Twisted Visions, directed by the Master Ernest Greene. She is also working on a remake of The Story of O, which, appropriately, is about a woman's sexual awakening to her submissive side.
"Bondage is becoming more mainstream, and it's more than sexual, it's an art form," says Renee. Through her videos, the film, and her Website, she hopes to show the public what bondage is really all about.