“We’re trying to remove the stigma,” says Brian Sargasso, founder and CEO of NaughtyFootnotes.com. “I remember when I was young, taking one of my dad’s magazines on advanced quantum physics and looking at all the long, immaculately formatted footnotes, so elegant and beautiful. Of course, I had to do it furtively, since it ws frowned upon back then.”
NaughtyFootnotes.com boasts a slick and highly organized interface, one that allows customers to customize their experience to view footnotes that are most in line with their personal kinks. Sargasso points out a number of filters: one allows customers to filter by citation type, for instance. “There’s no judgment here,” he says. “We understand some that people are turned on by MLA-style footnotes even if they’re a historian what has grown up looking at Chicago footnotes. It’s not a prejudice, it’s a preference.”
One popular option is footnotes in foriegn citation styles, which Sargasso calls “exotics.” “The Brazilian National Standards are some of our most popular footnotes for discerning fetishists,” he says. “They have a very diverse style that is just what a lot of people are looking for with their citation kinks.” But perhaps the most popular subset of Sargasso’s site is the “Humiliation and Agony” area, which shows footnotes with major errors of formatting, spelling, and style.
“It’s a crossover, really, betweeen my interest in BDSM and my intense fixation on APA style footnotes,” says NaughtyFootnotes.com user HangingIndent66, speaking on condition that only their screenname be used. “I love all footnotes; they’re beautiful and the italics really get my blood pumping. But to see one that’s being humiliated by bad spelling and terrible formatting? Tie me up, I’m done.”
Some, largely in academia and on the political right, have accused operators like Sargasso of exploitation. The authors of the footnotes, for instance, are often paid a flat rate for their work regardless of how popular it becomes. Writers who have done footnote fetishist work say that it has had a strong impact on their ability to do serious academic work. Some even claim that their footnotes, especially ones that fall into the “humiliation” category, are taken from other sites and used without permission.
“Look, we are on the up and up here,” says Sargasso in response. “All our writers are paid and get a percentage of overall traffic as royalties. And if I see an amateur with really good footnotes, I’ll only put their goods up if they sign the waiver and get paid. Some of the other fly-by-night places might not do that, but not NaughtyFootnotes.com.”
In addition to footnote fetishists, a number of sites have arisen to cater to those who fetishize endnotes, like TheBackNineEndnotes.com, or in-text citations, like HotMLAInjection.com. Asked about these sites, and whether NaughtyFootnotes.com would ever expand its offerings to compete with them, Sargasso dismissed the notion out of hand.
“Look, no judgment in my line of work,” he says, “but those people are just sick and wrong.”