Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator-focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
This week’s Creators Going Pro featurees aren’t like the others. They’re our very first pros to be removed from the YouTube Partner Program and thus have every single one of their videos demonetized.
What did they do to merit such censure? It’s simple: on their channel, they talk about sex.
Florence Barkway and Reed Amber started their YouTube channel, Come Curious, in 2015. The two met when they were both fresh out of university, with newly-minted film degrees in hand. Both (obviously) were interested in film in general, and in working in production. But both of them also shared a more niche interest — sex on camera. Particularly the kind of sex on camera seen in the world of ethical pornography, where sex workers are treated with respect and compensated fairly, diversity and inclusion are celebrated, and porn is made for the pleasure of everyone involved and everyone watching (rather than just for straight men). When Barkway and Amber separately got the chance to work behind the scenes on the same indie ethical porn set, they leapt at the opportunity…and that’s how Come Curious was born.
The two quickly discovered they also had a shared love for dispelling the shame and stigma so commonly linked to nearly every aspect of sex. After a number of frank conversations with one another about the topic, they decided maybe other people would appreciate hearing chats that were honest, open and, well, curious.
They built an audience on YouTube by sharing information about everything — first dates, oral sex, recovering from abusive relationships, safe BDSM practices, mental health, birth control, the nuances of having sex while wearing braces, what happens when you have a low cervix, and coping with anorgasmia.
While Barkway and Amber have a small YouTube audience compared to some of our other CGP pros (they have 87K subscribers and net about 800K views per month), their presence on the platform was enough to garner viewers so loyal that they felt confident expanding to other mediums. So, in January, they launched their weekly podcast F**ks Given, where they tackle topics similar to what you’d find on their YouTube channel, but with special expert guests who offer expert advice.
But Barkway and Amber weren’t yet done expanding the Come Curious empire. In February, they announced a deal with the BBC to star in digital shortform series Sex in Seconds, where they further focus on dispelling myths about sex by speaking with young people about their sexual experiences.
Looking to the future, Barkway and Amber hope to enlist their respective film degrees to push from a digital series to a traditional TV show — and possibly beyond.
One thing’s for sure: wherever this duo ends up taking their sex-positive escapades next, it’s sure to pique one’s curiosity. Check out our chat with them below.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about each of you! Where are you from? What did you do in ye olde days before YouTube?
Florence Barkway: Oh, the days way before Come Curious…I’m from Brighton. I lived there until my early twenties, having completed a fine art degree in moving image at Brighton University. I initially began a career in the media industry working on feature films and TV dramas. I’ve done everything from making tea and coffee on set to being a camera technician to clapper-loading for a TV show with Jack Whitehall.
I’ve actually continued in this line of work alongside Come Curious, as I’m a director for an online TV show now. Some of my work has even been shown at film festivals! YouTube has never been a full-time job for us, because unfortunately with the content we make, we can’t monetise it.
Reed Amber: Well hello, lovely YouTube lovers. I’m Reed, probably the less professional one of the two of us (in all the right ways, of course), and together we make up this sexually honest duo defending the world from embarrassment and loneliness. I’ve always been a Londoner, but kinda a mix of pretend posh/earth lover/slang sucker who was given the advice by my mum to just “do what you love.” I’m sure you can guess from the nature of Come Curious — I’m doing just that!
I did the uni thing (which I hated), then tried to become a great director like everyone interested in film wants to be, but had a one-track mind to create porn, as I had been obsessed with it. While running around the U.K. taking any job in the adult entertainment industry, from director, camerawoman, editor, and script extra all the way to runner, I bumped into the person who would help open up the next new exciting chapter in my sex-obsessed life: Florence.
Tubefilter: Tell us more!
FB: We both always had a love for sex on camera, maybe in different ways. Reed was interested in porn and how it was made, which was drawn from her teenage years. When I did my degree in moving image, I found a love for erotic art, sex in cinema — the beauty you could see when sex was onscreen. I knew I wanted to direct porn, porn that I, as a woman, would like to watch — so my first step to get into this as a job was finding somewhere I could experience filming sex on camera.
RA: I concur. Beautifully shot porn — and not just for the male gaze — was a great concept we both strived for. We both worked behind the camera filming amateur porn scenes for a couple of months in the summer of 2014. Florence was still commuting from Brighton to London, andthen I had a spare room going in my flat…That’s when it all happened.
FB: We moved in together and became really good friends. All we spoke about was sex, the hang-ups we had as teenagers (and still had at that time!), new things we were interested in. That’s when we decided that maybe we should film our conversations for other people to hear. We felt like talking so openly about sex had really helped our confidence in the bedroom, and made us feel normal for once! Everyone has all these hang-ups. It was about time that people were talking about sex openly.
RA: Little did we know how quickly it would hit off and how many people we would unknowingly help.
Tubefilter: Why did the two of you choose YouTube as the place to share your content?
FB: We knew that YouTube had the biggest audience of any video platform. We actually started on Vimeo and YouTube, uploading to both sites every week, but eventually, we closed our Vimeo because YouTube was reaching a wider, more diverse audience. It seemed like the perfect place! We didn’t really ever set out to be vloggers…We just wanted people to have a safe space to find the answers to all their sex questions.
RA: We also loved the community that came with YouTube, and the fact that a comment system could become its own forum and database of real people’s opinions, stories, and emotions was something that we were missing. Being two white cis women from the U.K., it was a wonderful thing to be able to get other people from all over the world talking about topics we were posting!
Tubefilter: You mentioned above that you’ve had challenges monetizing your YouTube content. Can you go into that a bit more?
FB & RA: We really don’t earn money from YouTube. I think it took us a full year to make $67 from our channel. We never created our YouTube channel to make money, so it wasn’t a priority for us. Our content isn’t advertiser-friendly because it’s all about sex, so we cannot make a living from our channel alone. Even though some of our videos have millions of views, we earn practically nothing.
Our channel has actually just been completely demonetized because the content discusses sex — even though we cover everything from body image, sexual health and wellness, sex education, mental health and viewers’ Q&As across our content. We’ve also been removed as a YouTube Partner because of this as well. Which is scary, because it probably means our videos will disappear under all the other videos the YouTube algorithm favors.
The first time we got sponsored and got our first proper paycheck for Come Curious was when we made some videos for Lovehoney! They reached out to us to get involved with an ebook they had coming out called UNI:SEX, which covered how to have safe sex at university. They also paid us to write the foreword for the book which was really exciting! After that, we started getting sponsorship video jobs from Lovehoney and other brands like Lelo.
Tubefilter: How have you worked to structure your content in a way that’s different from other sex ed material? What’s the most important thing about Come Curious’ content?
FB & RA: We never wanted to be just a “sex ed” channel. I think what we’re giving is way more personal. We’re giving our sexual stories as part of the package. By making it personal, it makes the content resonate with our audience so much more. Whereas people would be likely to click away from a cheesy sex ed video about how to put on condoms and why STIs are scary.
We wanted to talk about everything — the important things like STIs and condoms, YES, but also about the fun and the pleasure sex can bring! So we make tips videos and “how to make your sex better” type videos! Things that people can take and then bring to their own lives to make them feel more confident about sex. The most important thing is that we’re talking about PLEASURE and how to build viewers’ confidence, not just scaring people into thinking they’ll get hundreds of STIs if they have sex.
Tubefilter: You have a podcast called F**ks Given! When did you hit the tipping point where you knew you had an audience who would come to you for podcast content? How is your podcast content different from your YouTube content, and how are your strategies for each platform different?
FB: We always had our audience on YouTube asking us to create a podcast, or even just to put our videos up on a podcast platform, because mostly all we do is just sit there and chat about sex — we didn’t even need a camera on us! So last year, we decided it was about time we actually made one! With the help of Studio71 U.K. and Moxie, we launched F**ks Given in October 2018.
I think we’re reaching a different audience with our podcast. YouTube feels like it’s for a younger — gen Z — sex-curious audience, while F**ks Given is for a slightly older audience that loves listening to sex stories and wants to hear people talking about sex openly. The more you hear people talking candidly about sex, the more it opens your own mind up to the possibilities and breaks down that stigma surrounding how many people you’ve slept with. That’s what the podcast has always been about: getting rid of that stigma! Talking about sex is not taboo, it’s extremely fun and also super educational! I think we learn something different from every guest we have on.
The podcast also gave us the format to include more voices, more opinions, and more amazing people in our Come Curious world. Which is what makes it even better for breaking these stigmas. I think our videos do that in some way, but with the podcast hearing SO MANY people talking about sex so freely, that’s what hits the audience and makes them feel comfortable with sex themselves.
RA: Having the podcast allows us to open up the conversation to everyone from all different backgrounds and opinions. Sex isn’t just there for one type of person — everyone comes across sex-related issues no matter their walk of life. We’ve spoken to sex workers, DJs, models, writers, fashion designers, porn stars, artists, and sex educators who have all given something honest and something different. Everyone is welcome, no matter their gender, sexuality, or culture. Having a range of guests on F**ks Given has given us voices we never thought would be heard.
I also just think people love listening to sex stories…especially on podcasts, where no one can know what they’re listening to. It’s their fun little secret on their commute! No one knows how raunchy it’s getting in their ears!
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time each of you realized you were a professional creator?
FB: I think it was when we reached 50K subscribers on YouTube, which was probably a year ago. We’d been creating the content for three years previous to that, just because it was something we were passionate about. When we hit 50K, it hit us that people were actually watching our stuff and interested in what we do!
RA: We were being interviewed and asked to write articles for some big names, then we got nominated for ‘Best Vlogger’ at the Cosmopolitan Influencer Awards, which was totally unexpected, especially as it was the first year they had gotten rid of the ‘Sex and Relationships’ category.
FB: I think also when we were approached by brands like Lelo and Lovehoney. It was all around the summer of 2018. Things just started happening for us! We signed to Studio71 — then became part of Moxie! This is when we suddenly felt like this was actually a job for us! We knew that this was the start of something really exciting.
RA: The reactions and responses we get from our audience are so heartwarming. I’ve had people recognise me in public a few times before. This one lovely girl asked to have a selfie with me at the museum, and said that our YouTube channel had really saved her through uni, and she feels way more confident about herself because of us. It blew my mind to know these people aren’t just a view count or comment, they are real people with real lives and problems. Being able to empower others on a greater scale has really made all our time and energy worth being unpaid.
Tubefilter: What’s your YouTube production schedule like? Do you have a set filming and uploading schedule?
FB & RA: We film one day a month and create four to five videos that we discuss together in advance. We upload religiously every Saturday at 12 p.m.! Then we record our podcast one day each week. We both have other jobs too, so we always work around our other schedules. Even though we both have two jobs, we’re always finding ways to fit our Come Curious work in, whether it’s making videos, recording our podcast, replying to our followers, or reaching out to new F**ks Given guests.
Tubefilter: You were chosen to front the BBC’s series Sex in Seconds. Did the BBC approach you? How did that come together?
FB: We are very lucky to have an amazing team at Studio71 behind us. When we started working with them, we all brainstormed to come up with some video format ideas that we could pitch to more traditional broadcasters. The team came up with the amazing idea for Sex in Seconds and pitched it for us. The BBC loved it! So, we then started working with the team to create the best sex questions for the format. We wanted it to be directly referencing some of the questions we frequently get from our audience.
Tubefilter: Speaking of brainstorming…Everything you guys put together has a clever name. What’s your name creation process?
FB: It’s probably not the best thing to say, but we don’t really brainstorm for title ideas. We just come up with them on the spot when we’re uploading! And for our podcast, we have the brains of our lovely producer, Jack Claramunt, helping come up with the titles for each episode as well. When we started the channel, we were sitting in our living room thinking about the name for Come Curious, throwing ideas back and forth until we were 100% happy! Come Curious had a great ring to it. It’s cheeky, with the play on “come,” and explains why people want to hear about sex…they’re curious! It was perfect. Most of our idea-making sessions involve us sitting on a bed, tossing ideas back and forth (pun intended!).
RA: I do remember us sitting together in the living room in our fluffy pink-and-black dressing gowns, trying to come up with our YouTube name. I think it took a few days — we both agreed on “Curious,” but Florence wanted “Come” and I wanted “Cum,” probably because of my erotic brain! I am glad we decided on “Come” — it’s elegant and certainly makes you think twice.
Tubefilter: You’ve mentioned working with Studio71 and Moxie. Who else works with you behind the scenes on your various productions — that is, your YouTube channel, F**cks Given, and Sex in Seconds?
FB: We have an amazing team behind us with Come Curious now! We started off just the two of us for years. But when our schedule got busier we hired an editor, Alex Rae, to edit our YouTube videos. He’s been working with us for about two years now!
At Moxie, we have our lovely manager, Rebecca Dowell. Phie McKenzie works on our PR strategy. We have our podcast producer, Jack Claramunt (and exec producers Tom Payne and Jody Smith), and we had an amazing team to help with the BBC project, led by Jody Smith.
RA: So right! These are all such wonderful people we are extremely lucky to work with. There was no way Florence and I could do all this with our other jobs too. Life itself gets more hectic the older you get, and I hope that the team continues to grow in every which way as much as the healthy spread of all-important sex knowledge does. We hope one day we can go full-time with it so we can help more people feel more comfortable about their bodies and lives regardless of their sexual choices.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you each possess as a creator?
FB: We both came from TV and film degrees and continued in the production field in various ways since studying. I think this has been incredibly vital to how we make our content. It’s all about having the ideas and the creativity and then the determination to push forward with it all. Even if you’re not earning money, it’s always been about how passionate we were about opening up the conversation around sex as well. Even though we didn’t study sex education past what we had at school, it’s about researching and being open to learning new things all the time. And then being comfortable enough to talk about it. We’re both video directors, which is definitely our biggest skill going into being creators.
RA: Among all the technical stuff, an element of fearlessness is a skill you cannot study for. We feel completely comfortable being open and honest about most things people keep locked away secret. Being in front of the camera has been a huge help in creating who we are today, and being open to judgment has given us a huge insight into how people see the world. I feel we can pretty much take on anything!
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and the whole of Come Curious? What are you building toward?
FB & RA: We’re working on some really exciting things with Come Curious. Hopefully, we’d venture more into TV. Much more from F**ks Given. More from Come Curious. We want to be able to build ComeCurious into a sex-positive community where everyone is welcome to come and find out anything they want to know about sex! And then also just have a safe place to listen to different people about their sexual experiences. Hopefully, in the next five years, we can call ourselves not just creators, but businesswomen! The future of Come Curious is super exciting, and we can’t wait to create more amazing content about sex, bodies, and mental health.
Header image from Ezekiel for Studio71
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