Anything Goes?

[WARNING: This post regards some things which should be disturbing to many readers. Please proceed at your discretion.]

If you’re involved in this community for long enough, whether as a creator, a participant, or even just a simple voyeur, you will invariably come across some things that will shock you, and some that will even trouble and disturb you in a real and serious way. Things that challenge and things that truly offend. Or, as such things are known more popularly, “some real fucked up shit.”

It’s simply a function of how lumped together people of all tastes and persuasions are under the umbrella terms of “kink” and “BDSM”; there may be real distinctions between people and groups within those categories, but in a lot of ways we weirdos are stuck having to associate with each other, with even the ones to whose beliefs and behaviors we object. It’s a lot like being American, actually. A New York liberal and an Alabama good ole boy may repulse each other but they are, at least in one sense, countrymen. And believe me, the commonality is often a good deal less comfortable, and less familiar, than that.

In many cases, it’s a question of what else there is to call one thing or the other when they are most overtly joined in not being “vanilla”, which is to say, not being what can safely be called normal or usual for the majority. What do a foot fetishist and a furry have in common? Not a great deal in substance I should imagine, but they both can freak out the squares.

So unique to this “community”, to this landscape of strange and unusual sexualities, is the need to negotiate the territory with a little functional pluralism. There’s a bit of the Golden Rule in this, in a form that asserts, “Judge not the persuasions of others in the way that you would like not to be judged for your own.” I’ll return to this point in a minute, but for now it is enough to say that this sentiment is widely held among those who, by one standard or other, either are weird themselves or participate in the weirdness of others. It’s a good deal of “live and let live” with a dash of “hey, I don’t get it but good on you for being yourself.”

It’s a somewhat noble sentiment, laudable at least for its friendliness and its affability, and there’s a measure of solidarity in it too. It’s a reasonably good attitude to have, and it functions well enough in terms of preserving the dignity and humanity of our fellow human beings, at least for most of the time. Unfortunately, however, there are occasions when this sentiment is applied to a fault, and it is that which I intend to explore today.

As a kinky person you are uniquely challenged by the question of where you “draw the line”, both for yourself, in terms of what you are willing to welcome into your own sexual experience and fantasies, and, yes, though some would balk heartily at the notion, for others. What is good for people? What is safe? What is healthy? These are moral considerations, and ones which I think a great many people, despite their compassion and their sympathy, think very seriously about.

And before I get too much further into the exploration of these questions and these ideas, I should state very clearly that I believe that this moral calculus is indeed the sacred right and province of every thinking person. While I don’t believe in judgment for judgment’s sake, or in judging unfairly or unsympathetically, I do think it is important that we are willing to call some things wrong, when we are able to see true harm and exploitation. Without that, I feel that we would be every bit as lost and debauched as they say we are.

I have written before about the need to separate, in the popular imagination, what is kinky from what is pathological (such as authentic sexual sadism that conscripts the unwilling and the ineligible), but as I reflect on what I have seen this week, and what I have encountered not altogether rarely in the past, I feel compelled to illustrate this same need for those within the community to do likewise.

The case in point involves a young man [for discretion’s sake, all parties involved will be kept anonymous] whose kink seems to revolve around being a “homework slave” for young women in college; he writes their essays, does their assignments, and so on, for which he asks nothing in return.

The academic dishonesty of it aside, let’s suppose that this much is reasonably harmless, at least as affects himself. Let’s say he feels good about this role and enjoys seeking out the means to fulfill it, and in so doing he provides some measure of benefit to the “partner” with whom he engages. Even this much is certainly more complicated than that, but the purpose of bringing up this young man is not to analyze him or to put him and his desires under the microscope. What matters, is to look at what happened next.

[NOTE: The details here are a little fuzzy, due to their discovery revolving around an exchange of messages and Tweets on Twitter, some of which were deleted. The parties involved either could not be reached or declined to clarify.]

Apparently, the young man was unable to complete a particular assignment for a particular young woman and, overcome by shame at this, he decided he was deserving of some form of punishment. For a BDSM submissive, this in itself is not particularly unusual; punishment and so-called “funishment” often play a significant role in a healthy D/s relationship.

However, in his desire to correct the balance of his transgression, he elected a very extreme behavior which he wanted to be induced to perform: his suggestion was to boil a portion of oatmeal and pour the mixture over his face.

Now, I am not a squeamish man. But it seems it should be apparent to anyone that this is something which any person who wants to should in all attempts be prevented from doing, and that the motives to do so must be investigated because they imply a serious degree of mental pathology. If you yourself are unconvinced, let’s take another moment with it shall we?

Boiling water, so employed, would be bad enough, and certain to cause burns. The mixture, however, would render the substance not only gooey, but sticky, and this means that instead of the majority of it mercifully splashing away it would cling, almost certainly causing serious and permanent damage. This, again, could be bad enough if it were done to an appendage or some less fragile part of the body, but applied to the face we are now talking about disfigurement, and if it were to affect the eyes could potentially cause blindness. [TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR, this is highly extreme behavior which would fail to dismay only a small proportion of those who practice kink and D/s.]

So we must, to begin with, try to see his perspective, and ask ourselves what it would take in order for that punishment to fit the crime. In any case, no matter what we might think of that would cause us to think of this as appropriate for anything, the things that would, in any world, balance that scale are orders of magnitude more grave than failing to give a coed the means to skate through her education. In short, this person’s means to evaluate these things were so distorted that they contributed the worst thing they could think of in order to square what they could only have imagined to be the worst possible thing they could have done.

It certainly qualifies as cruel and unusual, and if it had been at someone else’s behest we could safely consider them a psychopath. To go so far beyond the pale, to so exceed any reasonable boundaries with regard for safety and wellbeing, and to inflict such a terrible degree of harm is self-evidently pathological, and if it were done to someone else it would be abhorrent. But sadly, the tale of a dangerous desire is not where this story ends.

Apparently, out of contact with and unable to receive the reprisal of his choice from the young woman to whom he had given this perceived injustice, he went in search of someone willing to administer the same. Imagine it; again, so out of whack and so distorted was this person’s reality that he was approaching strangers (online) in order to get them to induce him to commit this grievous act of harm against himself. And, I am sorry to say, he found one, who reportedly was willing to pocket $100 of his money for her troubles.

Now, personally, I am deeply dismayed and disheartened by this. It reflects poorly on sex workers and their clients, it reflects poorly on the kinky, it reflects poorly on young women… It troubles and sickens me that such a thing would take place, that this person would be unable to get the psychiatric help that they need and would find not only a venue for a terrible extension of their illness but would be indulged in it by someone who took time enough to profit from it before laughing all the way to the bank. It is nasty, it is twisted, it is wicked, it is evil. But I’m sorry to say, ladies and gentlemen, it does get worse from there.

What is supposed to have happened next is that, among those in this woman’s circle, another young woman in the community objected to this, it made the rounds with many who felt likewise, a backlash ensued from friends and supporters of the first one and then…?

We don’t know. At the time of this writing the young man’s account has been silent since before the incident. We have backtracking and apologies from the whistleblower to the profiteer, and after a bit of gloating from the latter party both of their feeds have gone back to normal. And now what? Now I sit, writing this article.

Barring the even more twisted possibility that all of this is an elaborate “mindfuck” on us all, a hoax of some kind, presumably the young man is in a burn ward or (hopefully, at least) a psych ward right now, having to explain how he got this way, as he probably will have to for the rest of his life. The profiteer is back to being her usual self and not only feeling good but smug about it. The whistleblower has been embarassed into silence. And the catalyzing tweets were deleted, sweeping the whole thing under the rug.

So, supposing that nothing new comes to light, where does that leave us? What do we make of all this? What can we learn?

The first thing that must be said in response is that, as in the rest of society, mental illness, and in particular untreated or extreme mental illness, has to be addressed more clearly in the kink community. For all the dreck that you hear about kink being like or better than therapy, and for all that it is authentically therapeutic for the right people, the entire world of BDSM is not a substitute for mental health treatment and care. If anything, this example illustrates clearly how dangerous these things can be in the wrong hands, and when explored without conscious care and support, in isolation, without the connection to and engagement with loving and protective partners, all of which are conditions that apply in spades to those who are profoundly mentally ill. They are uniquely subject and vulnerable to versions of these things which are not just unhealthy or strange but which will cause them serious harm. You may as well send someone who is crippled and drunk to run with the bulls.

And those of us who struggle with mental health issues as a disability, who have the upper hand when it comes to managing it, we need to call it like we see it and encourage others into care when we see someone who is unwell, who is hurting themselves. We can’t let these social media tools become just television, with nothing but advertising, programming, and self-congratulation. Imagine the kinky social media universe being your only point of connection to other people and ask yourself what it would be like if no one just treated you like a real human being, and looked out for you when you were ill and confused.

The second thing to say is that we have to stop perpetuating the idea that this is all just a game, by which I mean that’s it’s just amoral playtime that exists in a vacuum. Kink affects people very deeply and very seriously at all kinds of levels and in all different ways, and you are playing with fire if you don’t have respect for that. We have to start saying that, along with consent and aftercare and all the other things we preach about so endlessly, what is inherent and indispensable in kink is at the very least a decent human respect and care for those with whom you engage.

And the third is to recognize that the InstaDomme mentality, which neglects in its entirety the whole of what I’ve just said, is more than just the offensive nuisance we’ve all come to live with it as. It used to be that a prostitute (because that used to be the only kind of sex worker there was) had to live in a town or a city and had to cultivate relationships with the people she worked with and with the environment in which she lived. It used to be we had to live with each other, and those who provided a service had to see and interact with their clients as human beings.

The good ones still do this today– they provide their services, they build a reputation, they participate in the community, they contribute to the welfare and the ecology of their worlds; they are upstanding people who care about what they do and what they put out there, and about how that reflects and feeds back on them as professionals and as people. But this modern incarnation, which is only achievable through the distance and disposability made possible by the Internet, is opportunistic, it’s shallow, and it treats the world like fast food customers; like hunger, that is just waiting to be turned into dollars.

And by the way, if you’re thinking that what they do doesn’t really have anything to do with the so-called “Real Thing” and that it’s not important enough for you to worry about, you’re wrong. Content creators and sex workers, whether you like it or employ them or not, are at the center of kinky identity and culture, and if you don’t think that feeds back on real people and especially the younger generation, you’re wrong.

What’s at stake isn’t just the fate of the lost ones, like the young man in this story. It isn’t just the “paypigs” and their money. The risk is that kink moves from this generation into the next as nothing more than another way to make a quick and dirty buck, that people use like a bad drug, with an attitude that makes it all just masturbation.

Please, whether you’re a creator, a provider, a consumer, or just a participant, please take kink and your kinky practice seriously. Don’t take it as a license to stop asking yourself if what you’re doing is good, or ethical, or real. Don’t use it as an excuse to stop being human, and to stop letting others be it too. If we don’t remember that what we do as kinky people matters, and if we don’t remind each other, then we’ll never be able to reconcile what we do with who we are, and we’ll never become what we’re truly meant to be.


[UPDATE: Apparently a third domme has been implicated and much of the confusion has revolved around the involvement of the domme who was originally blamed. Further bulletins as events warrant.]


© 2018

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

InstaDomme: FemDom and Kink on Social Media

It’s not infrequently that I browse the “FemDom” and related hashtags, particularly on Twitter because that’s where we at the SMUT Project feel there is the most to be done when it comes to connecting with those who think seriously about the topic. I look for things to share, thoughts and content to promote, things that inspire me or with which I feel a sense of common cause, things I feel connected with or represented by in a positive and meaningful way.

But more reliably than anything like that, what I find in much greater proportion is a slew of what is, in essence, merely advertising. Not for prodommes, not for pornography, but for a special breed of person that I only became unpleasantly aware of in the last couple of years, and which I’m fairly comfortable in believing not just did not but could not have existed until sometime around then: the “InstaDomme”.

She is, in short, at least as defines the typical case, a very young woman (I should say most often in the range of 18-22), with a relatively new account that has a relatively low number of posts, the sole purpose of which is to provide herself with 1) an income stream under the guise of what is called “financial domination”, and 2) an outlet for her distinct and abundant immaturity.

A typical feed reads as follows (quotes taken anonymously from actual tweets):

  • “Your just a looser #findom #femdom”
  • “Where are my #LittleDick losers? I know you’re lonely and feeling vulnerable. Come to me, weakling.”
  • “bow down to your superior and start $ending cucks”
  • “i’ll humiliate you, spit on you, take all the money you have in your wallet, then make you crawl to the ATM like the pig you are to give me the amount I deserve. and you’ll be begging me for more #findom”
  • “RT Game. $2/$2/$2. 1 Comment per 15 min. Drain this fucking loser #findom”
  • “makeups expensive. New foundation costs me £45. #reimburse me for it losers. #reimbursement #findom #paypig”
  • “money makes me so horny”

And make no mistake, there are accounts like these by the hundreds, even by the thousands.

And why not? Can you imagine the perverse simplicity of it? Imagine being that age and coming across the idea that instead of working hard, whether to produce content or cultivate relationships or even just to interact in a healthy and productive way with those around you, instead of suffering from the pressures that life puts on us all, instead of letting that pressure subject you to the pains of growing into a stronger and better human being, all you had to do to achieve success and provide yourself with cash is to create a couple of social media accounts and accounts on sites to process payment, give yourself a title like “Princess” or “Goddess” or “Queen”, fill your feed with bile, and wait for your rewards to come pouring in.

And oh, do those rewards ever floweth. It’s not just the evidence they post, in the form of screenshots declaring their account has received another $100 or $200 or more, the trophies of their “tributes”. It’s not just that they persist in a way that clearly indicates that it’s working for them. It’s the flood of dozens to hundreds of engagements with what they post; the likes, the retweets, the encouraging and prostrating comments, and followers, followers, followers.

A great many of these accounts have followings from the hundreds well into the several thousands, and the phenomenon is within itself a little subculture. There are promotional accounts solely devoted to circulating this kind of dreck, there are similarly devoted “slaves” who do likewise. The little communities play “retweet games” where their “finsub” or “paypig” has pledged a certain amount of cash for each engagement, and over a certain period of time the girl will delight as notification after notification signals the growth of her payoff.

Supposedly this is an outgrowth of BDSM. It’s a kink, we are meant to believe, and surely, the whole ridiculous sham wouldn’t perpetuate itself without a lot of people somewhere jerking off to it in earnest. But to someone who grew up before and in the early days of the Internet, someone who is old enough to know any different, and someone who knows the kinky persuasion to have the capability of being profound and sacred and deep (namely myself), this characterization reads as both cheap and abundantly cynical.

Calling findom a kink asks us to believe that, for all time, there have been people with a quiet desperation to walk up to a stranger, be spewed upon, give them money, and call it a day. While I find that hard to believe, I find it even harder to believe that the procedural aspects of the practice make any sense before the combined existence of the Internet, social media, cashless finance, and the ability for both parties to be isolated in the exchange. It’s true that we don’t have another word yet for something that arouses a person sexually without some relationship to formal sex (one that while making that distinction could further distinguish something like this from that which corresponds to real BDSM), and I don’t dispute that the whole thing revolves around being a turn-on for people. I’ll even go so far as to recognize that the roles and power dynamics at play bear some resemblance to the practice of kink. But to whatever extent it is an authentic extension of D/s, it’s one that, in my estimation, completely misses the point.

Let’s concede for a moment the assumption that at the heart of all of this lies a true appreciation of something and a deep desire to glorify, adore, and promote it. Let’s suppose that that drive animates the whole process, and that at the end of it all both parties are satisfied and fulfilled in their true and essential nature. What, then, can we say that this particular process hinges upon? What, if we even broaden the idea to include the whole “brat” persona, can we say is really being set on the altar of worship? In answer, I can only find some of the most hollow, vacuous, and ultimately contemptible things.

I feel we must take as read the self-evident proposition that these attitudes and behaviors are not things that most of us would honestly support or encourage in real life and in the real world. I think most of us, even the tolerant ones, would say that these things are reprehensible in and of themselves, and that they are really only tolerable to the extent that they represent a phase through which we all must pass. These are things for which we forgive our loved ones because for a time they are incapable of knowing any better. But instead of waiting politely and sympathetically while they grow out of it while enforcing the social discipline that they need in order to learn that that mentality is not a suitable or appropriate one for dealing with other human beings, this so-called kink thrusts it into the spotlight, showers it with praise and both tangible and intangible benefits, and then prostrates itself before it and presents it with the most essential biological approval.

“And so what?” you may say. “They’re just playing. Why can’t they just be left alone with their kink?”

But kink is supposed to be a mutual thing, an exploration of two or more parties’ selves that lead them all to be in touch with the way that they best are able to be, and there is no way for her to participate in this kink without lowering and debasing herself until she is petulant and abusive and exploitative and divorced from her sensitivity, her care, and her love. The practice is, on its face, one-sided, but it is as though we are looking at it through a mirror; the imbalance doesn’t favor her simply because she is in receipt of something as pathetically hollow as money. No, in fact it is the other way around; it enables a man to pay her to get her to be her worst self.

But what’s worse than that, supposing that we can imagine that these things do not take place solely within the ejaculatory vacuum and that it actually has an effect on this young woman’s life, how can she ever grow and develop into an authentic, self-actualized, profound human being who is in touch with and in control of her highest and best self when the world specifically rewards her for doing the opposite? Does the supposedly unassailable right of her counterparts’ exuberance come at the cost of her future, and of the quality of her life and relationships? Does the willingness to idolize her adolescent misapprehension of the means by which to assign value to herself and her world arrest her development into adulthood? I think these are fair questions, and worth asking.

Women shouldn’t be celebrated for being brats any more than they should be celebrated for being bimbos, or bitches, or any of the other things that are less than their most engaged, fulfilled, and powerful selves, that’s why this species of what is called findom has no relationship to the practice of FemDom, despite the supposed interchangeability of their hashtags.

The women who can rightly call themselves Goddesses or Princesses or Queens, the ones who are truly worthy of the adoration and worship they receive, are inspiring. They’re something to be proud of, something to be admired because of what they have achieved in themselves. They have a glory and a majesty that isn’t free, and that you don’t get for nothing just by being female. But if we teach these young women that it’s only because of their anatomies and their gender, they will never know that that level is theirs to pursue.

In all of these accounts and these personas there is a common thread that the domme should be worshipped for what she is rather than who she is, and we have to let FemDom be about more than that.

A woman’s true divinity is something that is explored, and developed, and nurtured, and earned. It’s what elevates her beyond the mundane, the pedantic, and the cheap, and submission is supposed to be about getting in touch with that, both for her and for the sub. But if we continue to let young women believe they can have it for nothing, and keep paying to convince them it is so, the only thing we will buy is that the real thing will be rarer, and all the fewer will be those who possess it.


NOTE: It is true that some men also participate in the practice of financial domination, in a fashion almost entirely similar to what I have described here. I don’t know how this relates to members of the gay or bisexual communities, but I expect there are adequate parallels. The whole thing reeks to me of a similarly exploitative charlatanism and nonsense, but I haven’t begun to explore the dynamics there, nor am I inclined to personally.


© 2018

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

Gender Blending: On Feminization, Sissies, & Sharing

When I think about what I generally think of as regular people, and when I think about the views and the image they might have about kink (to whatever extent they might think about it at all), I imagine how much of it would be a complete shock and surprise to them if they had any idea it existed. I think for most people, their knowledge and understanding of the territory begins with rumors and insinuations and ends with the moment in that scene in that movie, right before the camera cuts away and we’re all left to use our imaginations.

To put it simply, what people refer to under the blanket terms of “kink” and “BDSM” covers an incredible variety of practices and interests, most of which, I would speculate, would be complete news to the uninitiated or the plain vanilla. There are a lot of people for whom 50 Shades of Grey is the textbook, and believe me, it doesn’t cover all that much.

Describing oneself as kinky, then, could mean almost anything in practical terms. It’s one of those things you can tell when you see it, but the fact is there is no spectrum, no grades or levels. There are all kinds of kinky people who are into all kinds of different things that may or may not have anything to do with what other kinky people are into.

But then there are areas where these aspects and territories of sexuality overlap, and it becomes harder still to make sense of things when two categories of people do the same things (or some variety thereof) for vastly different reasons, with different motivations, with different goals and objectives, and with very different ideas about who, what, how, and why.

Among the most significant and timely examples of this is the question of activities and play that bend the genders, whether in physical terms or in terms of role or appearance.

We’ve all heard things about them, or at least insinuations. The “crossdressers”. In the early 1900s the term referred mostly to women who wore trousers (when they weren’t being called “bifurcated women”), but today it’s something we think of almost exclusively as the province of strange little men, the J. Edgar Hoovers and god knows who else. The Silence of the Lambs character “Buffalo Bill” comes to mind as well, but as unfortunate as that association is we’ll leave it well aside for the moment. In short, outside of the world of kink it is certainly considered abnormal, and it’s not necessarily something you want to be associated with.

But now, gender issues at large are, of course, some of the most pressing and salient social questions of our time, and while in public there is still (always) the fight for the rights and empowerment of women, and now for trans and queer people as well, in private there are all kinds of activities and play that take place in the uncharted waters of the interplay between them.

Gender identities and gender roles are often amongst the most central aspects of kinky sexuality. Almost everything that interests a kinky person will take place within a context of their relationship both to their own gender and to the genders of others. Their sexual orientation comes first, whether straight, gay, bi, or some combination thereof.

The architectures of these relationships can be deeply complex. For example, you might have a cis-woman, who is bisexual, who may be dominant with men but submissive with women, but she may further be dominant towards women who are submissive, and along the way there may be exceptions to the rules according either to a particular person or a particular circumstance. To truly account for all the variations you’d also have to account for both the sexes and genders of each person involved, and you would have to consider that in some cases the gender is non-fixed, meaning those dynamics were subject to change under depending on the circumstances.

I can tell I’ve lost a lot of you already, but for a moment let’s look at the subset of people who are kinky, who are cis-gendered and heterosexual, and who engage in female dominant play with a gender-bending aspect. Now, these people usually come in a couple of different varieties, but what they get up to typically revolves around three symbolic and, both psychically and physically, pleasurable acts: 1) some element of crossdressing, whether mutually or on the part of the male, and 2) anal penetration of the male by the female’s use of a wearable strapon dildo.

That much is common to each of the sexualities I will describe here, but that much is about all the similarity there is.

The most overt and recognizable form of this particular kink is the practice of “sissification”, in which “sissies” are essentially transformed into living Barbie dolls in wigs, heavy (and heavily exaggerated) makeup, and garish, over-the-top clothing, whether in specific costumes or particular outfits in latex, fishnet, etc., with an ostentatious preference for both hot and powder pinks. There is often a large amount of both humiliation and degradation involved, specifically revolving around the sissy’s now debased status, and very frequently there are two additional elements: 1) the inclusion of situational or permanent male chastity, through the use of a (usually pink and effeminate) locking chastity cage, and 2) the implication or actual inclusion of some element of “forced” or “coerced” bisexuality.

Now this, I think understandably to most people, represents one extreme of gender play, one particular, specific fetish that appeals to one specific subset of kinky people. But what about the rest of us?

For a lot of people, even within kinky circles, the whole dramatic, hyperstylized, and fairly surreal business, though perfectly tolerable in keeping with the “live and let live” culture of BDSM, is somewhat confusing and disorienting, even philosophically objectionable, and personally I’m inclined to agree. It’s one of those things that rings false to me when I see it, that just isn’t for me, but there is a way in which it approximates (to some degree) some elements of things that I find valuable to explore and consider.

For starters, let’s address the two elements I first described, and I’ll take them in order:

Crossdressing

Let’s take as read the prevailing cultural assertion that men’s underclothing is ultilitarian and women’s is ornate, that men are supposed to think about and involve themselves in this aspect of their dress as little as possible while a woman who does the same is considered less feminine.

In a way, the female purview and prerogative in this regard has an element of luxury which is theirs and theirs alone. Women are supposed to have exquisite, carefully crafted, beautifully form flattering and accentuating underwear that entices and arouses, while men are supposed to be basic, and if they put any thought at all into it it should be around the question, “Boxers or briefs?”

And, too, it must be said, that when a man wants to put a little effort in and find something sexy that suits his anatomy, the options available to most men are either plain, sporty, or in the case of what is sold in most sex shops, abundantly childish and tacky. It can be very difficult to find something tasteful, well-made, and attractive, even when you want to.

But what, then? Do the men who want to feminize just have “lingerie envy”? Perhaps, to some extent, but there are other aspects of the interchange as well.

For me, there is a particular element of wearing something sexy for my partner that is not only a representation of my desire to look good and be attractive for her, it’s also a desire to honor and do justice to her femininity by observing a certain amount of decorum. That much of it is an extension of the same desire that leads me to clean and groom myself before we interact or to make sure the sheets are clean and that the house is tidy, and so on. It’s being a gentleman. It’s the desire to be and act a certain way that reflects well on her and shows a gratitude and appreciation for her and her presence and attention.

To put it simply, if you have sex as if you’re interacting with and in the presence of a sublime natural divinity, whom you admire for her spiritual grace and sophistication, are you going to do so in a saggy pair of Wal-Mart Fruit of the Looms?

Moreover, if the underclothes in question are hers (or picked out by her), whether particularly feminine or not, there’s an element of sharing in her unique sensibilities of taste and style, of having that projected onto you. It’s letting that perspective and that disposition conform to you and letting it govern you. In the queen’s court, how does she dress her servant?

But let’s concede that, yes, there is something more to it when you add in the element of actually being represented as feminine or female yourself on top of wanting to be presentable, well groomed, and well dressed. How do we interpret donning feminine clothing for a partner on the grounds that it transmutes you in some way as to your own gender?

Leaving aside the possibility that you are genderfluid and that this act enables you to express that and sets the stage for a more accurate or appropriate version of your lesbianism, suppose first that it can indicate a measure of gender solidarity, meaning to say the desire to be “on the girls’ team”. It’s wanting to be accepted as one of their own even if that’s not what you are, and the underwear can be totemic of that, almost emblematic. That represents a lot of trust that they have for you as well as the trust you have for them.

That’s why, in feminization, panties are often a privilege, not a punishment. [There are valid and compelling ways of making them either.] They’re a way of saying, “You get to be this way because you’re special and this is something I want to give you access to and for us to share.” It’s an invitation, and a way of being included in something exclusive. And that’s being recognized as something special.

But there’s also something to the idea that it involves, by the same token of solidarity, a measure of symbolically taking on the woman’s unique burdens and strains, the idea of asserting that, “Whatever a woman is, I want to be that too.” Whether it’s being emotionally aware and involved, whether it’s being sensitive and vulnerable, whether it’s strength through resilience and compassion, whether it’s any of the things of which women are wondrously capable, a feminized man wants to express his desire to share that.

[I mean, I don’t know of anyone whose feminization involves imitating childbirth or the menstrual cycle, but the sentiment is there.]

Pegging

Which leads us to the other hallmark of feminization, or gender sharing, and that is the man receiving anal sex from his female partner, via the use of a strapon.

To me, and to many, the practice of “pegging” is the single most symbolic and profound form of gender exchange that a couple can engage in, because it’s the thought-completing foil to what I described above. It’s the yin to the yang, and the other side of the coin.

I once talked to a new Domme who expressed an anxiety that men who want to be pegged want, “to be dominated by male energy.” In fact, I would submit that the opposite is actually true. Pegging is about a man voluntarily and deliberately removing the masculine prerequisite for penetrative sex, or conferring that privilege to his Mistress. It’s abdicating what less enlightened minds would describe as his anatomical and biological birthright, and ceding that to her.

Giving one’s Mistress this power is a way of saying, “She has all of her own divine power as a woman, and now she has whatever I also possess as a man.”

And again, it allows the man to take over what it means to receive penetrative sex, which is the solidarity aspect combined with the desire to demonstrate his gratitude for when the tables are turned, and it’s a chance to physically submit himself to the burden of that as a way of showing love.

Additionally, the act of being penetrated as a submissive is further enhanced when viewed as a form of worship. In other words, just as a slave delights in worshiping their Mistress’ body with their hands or their mouth, being penetrated can be a way of embracing that extension of their partner’s body with another unique part of their own anatomy.

Humiliation and Punishment

Now, with everything I’ve described, it could be hard to imagine that erotic humiliation and punishment might play an important role. Like domestic servitude, like chastity, this is a persuasion unto itself for many, but it’s important to discuss the differences in approach between the humiliation of gender sharing from a D/s perspective and the more aggressive denigration associated with sissification.

In many depictions, humiliation is an aspect of any erotic feminization, and more often than not the feminization is forced feminization. Nothing wrong with this exactly, because who doesn’t like being forced to do something they love, but too often this centers around the feminine itself being what there is to be humiliated for.

This is present in what’s also called bimbofication, where apparently once one has arrived at their closest approximation of femininity, they resemble in both appearance and utility, a garish blow-up fuck doll. I, for one, object to that construction as symbolic or representative in any way of the female, and I also don’t know why if I was going to be feminized I wouldn’t want that experience to feel like it was an expression and extension of my self. It’s caricaturizing and depersonalizing, and I’ve never personally gotten on board with that.

But suppose for a moment that in submitting to feminization as an element of power exchange was really a question of enabling one’s Domme to assert control over the gender expression of their sub at her whim, whether as punishment or reward (and, of course, either gender expression could be characterized as either one). In essence, she takes on an almost shamanistic control over how you express yourself sexually, and that has enormous potential.

If she happens to amuse herself with this power, all the better! Imagine some transgression for which you lost either your masculinity or femininity privileges, or that participating in one or the other came with specific consequences, or that being one or the other entitled or dictated your circumstances and privileges. There are lots of ways to explore all kinds of kinky feminization without having to lower or berate the idea of femininity itself.

Conclusion

In all, I think I’ve illustrated what I meant at the beginning of this effort, which is that people have little or no idea how complex all of this is, and we shouldn’t rely on the highly visible trend of sissy pornography to account for it.

There are so many ways to explore this form of intimate companionship and dominance, and it deserves more respect than we give it.

In closing, because I’m a word nerd, I’ll leave you with a simple linguistic distinction between these two forms of gender exchange. An “-ification” comes from the Latin ficatio or ficare, which means “making equivalent to”. Think gratification, purification. An “-ization” comes from the Latin izare, meaning “to render or transform”. Consider crystallization, actualization. I think there’s something to that, but I think the latter has a better ring to it.


© 2018

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On Matters of Taste

Whips, chains, gags, restraints, and atmospheres of supposed cruelty and duress, these are the trappings of what is commonly referred to as “S&M”, or “kinky sex”. To the uninitiated, and to the naive, these are shocking, frightening things, invoked usually as some inevitable extension of “pornography addiction” (a final point of debauched chaos on the addict’s errant journey) and occasionally in the same breath as the most twisted, barbaric varieties of sexually infused murder and torture.

The bizarrities of some people’s sexual lives are held up to others, or perhaps it is better to say waved frantically in front of them, as a warning. Tread not this path, brothers and sisters, or like this you shall become; lost, debased, and capable of anything. I, for one, am sick of being referred to in that tone of voice.

I am sick of being equated with serial killers and psychopaths, or of having it even implied that they come from the same place as me. I am sick of the implication that only my personal brokenness and misguidedness could account for my affection and taste for these modes of erotic interaction. And I am sick of the idea that I slid into my current state, down a slippery slope of self-destructive, poisonous hedonism, and that I need to be redeemed.

What I can’t help feeling when these subjects are raised, as invariably they are when the topic is publicly discussed, is a sense not of defensiveness or guilt or embarrassment, but of anger, alienation, and disgust. I feel insulted, offended even, and deeply mischaracterized and misunderstood. I feel accosted and plagued by Philistine ignorance, and I feel too that those who make such equivalences and assumptions have no business commenting in the first place.

But since a large number of people seem to find these characterizations and assertions convincing, compelled as I think they must be by disorientation and fear, and because these attitudes are perennial, exhibited with unsurprising ghastliness whenever the prudes and Puritans deign to afford my ilk the time of day, I feel that I should take a minute or so to confront them. While I’m sure it will make little difference to the attitudes of those who would like to see the world subsist on the sexual equivalent of hard tack and gruel, I think that I can at least make the subject clear to those who might be willing to accept what other people do if they could be sure that those people weren’t withering or imploding before their very eyes. As distasteful as it is, I can believe that a great many people think and feel the way they do about the way people like me have sex because they are worried about us, and I would be more than glad to put their minds at rest.

To begin with, I really do believe it’s a matter of taste. Put simply, we all have to start taking for granted the assumption that some people are different than us, and that they might respond differently than we do to things that we perceive in different ways. This much, I think should be easy.

In other matters we are perfectly happy with this. “I don’t like spicy food,” we might say, but we hardly think of people who do as having a corrupt moral character. In matters such as these however, you can imagine someone driven to distraction by the concept. How on Earth, we can imagine them saying, can anyone subject themselves to that sort of thing? It hurts! Food is supposed to be lovely and sweet! It’s disgusting! In this, we neglect a number of things, important things, about the consideration of those who do.

To say first, I think we can all acknowledge that there is a difference between a person who likes eating a nice jalapeño or habanero, and a person who wants a diet that involves molten lava, or broken glass. The serial killer Albert Fish, for example, took frequently to hammering rust-covered nails and other unsavory objects into the area around his groin, and this habit is generally considered to indicate his masochism. I realize that, as yet, there may be no word or term to distinguish the sexualized pleasure he derived from the practice and what one gets out of being spanked or trampled by a loving partner, in the way that there certainly is for the fact that his urges also revolved around children rather than adults, but it should be clear that there is a distinction to be made.

I think we are safe in calling someone like Fish a pervert, in a way that we are not in describing sexual masochism itself as a perversion. What’s more, I don’t believe the two are even remotely similar except in ways that are ultimately meaningless. While there may be formal parallels between the sexualization of pain and distress, there is no extent to which I would find it adequate to describe the pain of an act like that and the “pain” of some forms of kink in the same way, and, importantly, I refuse to take for granted that the pleasure is similar as well. When dealing with a character like Fish, we are talking about extreme pathology that extends far beyond what enabled him to get his rocks off, and it is flippant simply to say that he “liked” or “needed” extreme pain in order to get to the same place as the rest of us when his needs came calling. It should be clear, and it’s safe to say, that someone like that needs things none of us would want or choose, even if they were offered to us on a silver platter.

Even Ghost Pepper aficionados and people who like experimenting with the famed Carolina Reaper or the Trinidad Scorpion (the world’s two hottest peppers, which are said to induce “thunderclap headaches” and cardiovascular distress in those who ingest even the smallest of doses), while perhaps a bit foolhardy, can’t usually be accused of a psychologically dysfunctional constitution. They may be causing themselves pain, yes, even, at the extreme levels, putting themselves in danger, but we concede that for them there is something worthwhile about the experience, and even if we call them crazy we don’t really mean it. We think of these people as perfectly capable of making what to us is an abundantly stupid decision, and I think at some level we also believe they must have gotten something out of it. We validate the experience itself, and we show respect to the ability of these people to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be involved. At worst, we tend to think, and say, something along the lines of, “That’s nuts. Must be a crazy experience. I certainly wouldn’t do something like that.”

The point is that we don’t think of these people as inherently disordered, least of all morally, and it’s also that we don’t accuse people who like spicy food in general of participating in Carolina Reaper-level behavior. In fact, I’d wager that most people don’t even know that such peppers even exist, in the same way they would be unacquainted with the many extreme acts and behaviors available to people of kinky persuasions. Those who are overwhelmed by a simple green chile are unlikely to comprehend how far what’s out there really goes.

But even at the fringes, we don’t consider the thrill-seeking, daredevil recklessness of the devotees of spicy food to be the result of some inevitable progress which began with the person’s first exposure to Tabasco sauce. We don’t think of people as being hopelessly addicted to spicy food, seeking out (as the accusation goes) greater and greater pain like a drug because they’re sick enough to like it.

To whatever extent they do it’s because they are curious and open, and willing to find their own limits and to explore the varieties available to their experience. Because what must be said of all of this is that eating and liking spicy food doesn’t just revolve around different levels of capsaicin and the accompanying endorphin rush that is produced upon consumption; there’s flavor too.

A jalapeño and a habanero don’t just burn differently, they taste different too, and there is a whole cuisine the world over that has evolved around the subtleties that separate serranos, poblanos, chipotles, Thai chilis, even paprika or cayennes. You have to concede that, in forgoing spicy food because you can’t take the heat, there’s something you are missing which not only involves the (often) comparatively minor sensation of pain but also a range of pleasures that have nothing whatsoever to do with the pain itself. You have to concede that to those who can stand it, these things might be more than a head rush; they might actually be delicious.

The point also raises another, which is that all of these peppers and their distinct qualities have connections to other, non-spicy foods, which have, again, encouraged the development of all manner of recipes in which the spice is indispensable. What would pico de gallo be if it was just chopped up tomatoes and onions? What would pho or pad thai be like without what most would say is the key ingredient? Fine, I’m sure, but to those who like it, something getting dangerously close to bland, or boring.

And there’s nothing wrong, of course, with liking bland and boring food. I’ve had many great meals that revolved around cabbage and potatoes, boiled this or that, and I’m not immune to the pleasures of a simple bowl of oatmeal on occasion. But that’s always been part of the confusion. No one says you must like or involve yourself in the eating of spicy food, just because other people relish it immensely. No one is forcing you to enjoy or even pretend to enjoy things you find aversive. But it’s important to stop pathologizing and insinuating nasty little things about those who do.

Which leads me, unfortunately, into the territory that contains my impetus to construct this piece in the first place. The next time you hear about the innocent victim of a murder who was hogtied and violated before being killed, be very careful before confusing the perpetrator of such a despicable act with a member of what might very loosely be described as the kink community.

Ted Bundy was not one of us, no matter what kind of porn he liked, and whatever may have thrilled the awful bastards that can do that sort of thing has nothing to do with kinky sex. Liking spicy food has nothing to do with what might prompt a monster to shove a Carolina Reaper down the throat of a 13 year old girl, and you won’t find anyone who approves of or relates to that impulse, not even amongst the weirdest in our rank. While we might all, ourselves, regularly tolerate a bit of indigestion, every one of us maintains the ability to have our stomachs turned, and don’t you dare suggest that that that kind of rot and filth is a part of our buffet.

Kink is an element of humanity, of culture, and if you’re confused by or uninterested in that aspect of our world you are more than within your rights to say so and act accordingly. But it is more than just unfair to suggest that, Man, those people will eat anything. It’s worse to say that someone who likes food you don’t is capable of chugging gasoline, and it’s terrible to suggest that, when someone found doing something evil had a twisted, perverted sexual side, they have anything in common with the legitimately sexually adventurous.

We don’t know, yet, what drives the despicable to do the horrible things they do, any more than we know what makes someone enjoy spicy food. But to grab a pile of festering shit and wave it in front of someone, saying, “How about it, pervert? You want some of that?!” is very nearly as disgusting as the act implied. And suggesting that it’s where we all might find ourselves if we stray beyond white rice and crackers is pathetic.

We need to stop using the kinky as scapegoats, just as we need to stop using them as bogeymen. Being kinky isn’t the same as being twisted, and it’s wrong to pretend that it is.


© 2018

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What’s Wrong with Porn?

Last night my partner and I came home, got cozy, and settled in with our toys and our lube to watch some porn together. Sounds hot, right?

It’s a fairly normal occurrence for us; we both like to watch it, and when we watch it together we like to mutually masturbate or have intercourse with each other once something gets us going. And most of the time it’s fun and it’s exciting, and oh yeah, it’s plenty hot. But last night we ran into something that in the past has been fairly easy to navigate around: the fact that, lamentably, most porn just flat-out sucks.

It didn’t ruin our night, but afterwards we got to talking about why that is and we arrived at a number of things that I think are worth sharing here:

We started off talking about how we felt like most porn isn’t made with us in mind, that it seems to cater (and really, to pander) to those without much sexual experience or sophistication, who don’t know, for example, that touching someone’s knee isn’t likely to evoke a heavy, gasping moan, or who can’t tell when two women aren’t actually all that thrilled about having sex with each other. It also, consistent with its reputation, either goes right into the deep end or it belabors itself with aimless buildup for buildup’s sake that doesn’t resemble real foreplay in any significant way. Put simply, most of the time it doesn’t feel like watching real sexual people having a real sexual experience, it feels like watching porn people do the porn thing.

And unfortunately, there’s more wrong with that than just my partner and I not being able to get off to that sort of thing. It also lies about sex to those people who don’t know any better, and it confuses real sex for those who are just starting out. Because after all, it’s not like we live in a world where porn exists in a common, relatable context that we all understand, and that’s one of the things that promotes such poor quality as well.

Porn is far enough outside of the mainstream that there’s no culture that holds producers accountable. They get away with churning out flat, half-assed, insincere content because they know no one is talking at all, let alone critically, about their work. They know it’s a ‘get in, get off, get out’ mentality, and mediocrity thrives in that climate.

We turn our response to flavor into cuisine, our response to noise into music, our need to be clothed into fashion, our love for narrative into stories and films, but while almost every other one of our natural instincts has been developed into a rich, complex, familiar world, full of character and criticism and humanity, our sexuality has been so repressed that it’s prevented us from treating its exploration and indulgence with the same respect.

So there isn’t a culture of appreciation for porn, but the other problem is that there isn’t a culture of creation for it either. What so many pieces exhibit is an obvious lack of discipline, and it’s hard to imagine an actor or director being interviewed thoughtfully about their method or their philosophy. It’s hard to imagine some pornstar equivalent of Inside the Actor’s Studio, or art school, or a master class. It’s hard to even imagine them rehearsing. There’s a congratulatory body that gives out awards, yes, but is there any equivalent of the AFI or BFI’s 100 Best Films lists? Or 1,001 Pornos You Must See Before You Die? Is there anything that would even start making the list and truly deserve a place there?

I’ve written before about the artificial distinction we make between art and porn, and about our willingness to settle for such substandard fare, but what’s salient about that to me is that nothing and no one enforces the current state of things; there’s no mandate in any form saying it must be this way.

Call me crazy, but I see the potential for a bright and glorious future for the pornographic form, and I’ve said before that I believe that the only way for that future to become a reality is for our attitudes and our level of esteem towards it to change. The only way we’ll have great porn that both shows us and validates us as human beings is for us to start treating it as an extension of our humanity. But the point is that that’s true for all of those it involves, from its creators to its audience to all of those who care one way or the other.

Failing that, we’ll be stuck not only with this hollow, inauthentic drivel, but also everything that it feeds back to our society. We’ll continue to have men, both young and old, to whom sex is something between a foreign language and garbled gibberish. We’ll continue having women who have to deal with those men, romantically or otherwise. And we’ll continue not being able to talk about sex because the image we promote shows something no one in their right minds would ever admit to participating in.

Erotic stimulation deserves a much fairer shake than we give it, and we deserve an awful lot more from it in return. For too long we’ve perpetuated an arms race between its denigration and its misrepresentation, and it’s time for both of those things to stop.


© 2017

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The Strange, Twisted World of Erotic Financial Domination

Picture this: Night has fallen and a furtive pair of figures approaches an ATM. They look over their shoulders and with quickening pulse the man inserts his card. His companion smiles as he enters his PIN. She watches him get down on his knees as the slot opens and he raises his hands as $300 emerges from the machine. It has barely touched his palm before he passes it off, and she smiles again, or maybe she doesn’t… And that’s it. That’s the whole thing. What’s more the guy is thrilled.

It sounds unusual, certainly, but it happens more often than you would think, and it’s a regular occurrence in the lives of so-called Findommes, or Financial Dominatrices, and their counterparts (who are lovingly referred to as “Paypigs”).

Simply put, there is an apparently abundant realm of people who get a sexual thrill off of giving away their presumably hard-earned money, in sums ranging from $50 on up into the $1,000s at a go, specifically for nothing in return. The process is referred to as “wallet rinsing”, or in less genteel circles “wallet raping”. Findommes will play “retweet games” on Twitter where, in a version of the old x number of dollars for every mile I run for charity kick, their “victim” will pledge a certain amount for each time a specific post is liked and shared. They will post biweekly catcalls reminding their benefactors what to do with their paychecks. And they will flood their feeds with screenshots of posted transactions and transfers, gleeful announcements of having secured access to a new line of credit, and a constant, unerring stream of incitements for more.

It’s not hard to find them. A Twitter search for any kink or fetish invariably turns up hundreds of posts from these accounts, and if you’ve seen one I guarantee you’ve seen them all. The girls are almost always in their quite early 20s, pretty enough to have been one of the pretty ones in high school. They like to take pictures of themselves giving the middle finger. Any fetish or kink that they indulge is done so only with the utmost in ridicule and condescension, and only as a means of attracting attention that will drive more cash their way.

In general, too, it must be said, (almost universally) the whole thing is colored with the worst kind of utter antisocial bile. You might think that someone making such blatantly easy money might appreciate their fortunate station in life, but no. Any inherent gratitude or appreciation you might imagine is replaced in double measure by scorn, entitlement, and derision. (You might also think, by the way, that your author is merely unacquainted with the attitudes and style of sexually dominant women. I can assure you both that this is not the case and that what you see from a garden variety Findomme is a lot closer to actual loathing and contempt than you ever see from a real, honest Domme.) And apparently that’s part of it too.

Now I’m an open-minded person, and sex, kink, and fetish positive as the day is long. I can accept that some people have powerful turn ons that I do not share. I even try to see the persuasions of others as empathetically as I can, and there’s very little which I can fail to accept that isn’t inherently unacceptable. But I can’t for the life of me appreciate why anyone but the one getting the money gets off on this. It’s rampant exploitation for the sake of it, and it’s abuse. It’s ignoble and scammy and dishonest. And it’s nothing to do with kink which, despite the way it might look to some, is a mutual and inherently selfless act on both parts.

As a creator and supporter of erotic content I find the whole phenomenon particularly troubling, because my personal goals are not only to give people something worthwhile for their money and to elevate erotic expression in general but also to promote and encourage enriching attitudes toward sex. The idea, therefore, that the erotic equivalent of panhandling is apparently so popular, and that there are so many people who perpetuate and participate in it in spite of its toxic nature, is a unique kind of depressing. And maybe it’s because I work so hard on the content I produce (in the very limited spare time I have when I’m not working even harder at a full time job), or because authentic kink and femdom have so much meaning and significance for me, or because it completely undermines the basic idea that the worthwhile is what deserves to be rewarded, but it also makes me angry.

Gifts of any kind are a way of showing affection and an act of love, and there’s nothing wrong with a Domme receiving “tribute”. There’s nothing wrong with generosity towards those a person values. But when tokens and sums of such significance change hands in such a personal context, someone in the equation ought to feel good about it.

People deserve esteem and a feeling of pride in their erotic interactions, regardless of the roles they play and the way they interact. Wanting to feel subservient shouldn’t make you servile, and being treated as priceless shouldn’t give you the idea that others are worthless.


© 2017

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On the Monetization of Sexual Content

This week supposed Feminist porn paradise Bellesa got in trouble with Adult content creators because, despite billing themselves as an ethical, forward thinking, and (importantly) grassroots platform for sex positive, pro-woman pornography, and despite being steeped in self-congratulatory media fanfare, it was found that a great deal of its content, particularly its featured content, was actually pirated content from studios. Moreover it was reported by some that the site failed to properly credit those involved, and it also appears that the company had failed to avail themselves of affiliate programs that would enable the original content producers to share in the benefits of the traffic to that content via Bellesa’s platform.

The site is, albeit with more pomp and branding, a glorified tube site, and you don’t have to look far to find Adult content creators emphatically decrying the existence and popularity of the Web 2.0 model’s salacious extension. They cry “exploitation!”, they cry “violation!”, they cry “theft!”, and it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. Too often they have to remind people that their efforts aren’t just a means for getting people off, it’s how they actually make their living.

It should be said immediately that yes, creative professionals in the Adult industry deserve to profit from their endeavors, they deserve to profit solely (excepting those with whom they have entered into formal agreements), and they are entitled to reap the benefits of engagement with their content, even if those benefits are not directly monetized. Bellesa for example does not include ads on their pages and they do not offer paid subscriptions, so it’s a mystery to me how they’re currently making their money, but there’s nothing stopping them from doing either of those things and, in this modern age where traffic and engagement equal business viability, if they were to enter into any other profitable arrangement to monetize their platform they would have a bargaining position that rightfully belongs with the creators.

In a well-articulated article from 2015, Queer producer and performer Jiz Lee (who has helped spearhead the backlash against Bellesa on Twitter) spoke for much of the industry when they laid out the case against “free” porn or, rather, free access to paid porn, and it’s a valid one. In summary, paid studios rely on the money they make not only to remain profitable and to continue producing content, but also to treat their performers ethically and to comply with laws that govern their industry; paperwork regarding STD and STI testing, age certification, and so on.

But unfortunately, while the case has merit, and while there are plenty of stand-up, independent, hard working studios that are worthy of support and yes, even reward, for the content they produce, I believe that little will change for a long while regarding the consumption of erotic content, for several reasons which have nothing whatever to do with piracy and its supposedly compromised ethics:

For starters, we live in a culture that is so abhorrently, pathetically ashamed of our relationship to erotic media (you only have to hear the tired old joke about clearing one’s browser history for the umpteenth time) that it promotes a furtive, skeevy, back-alley way of dealing with the content in the first place. The prevailing attitudes toward an engagement with sex and sexual media turn such a great many of us into scavengers, lurking on the periphery, trying to sneak in, get off, and get out as quickly as possible. How likely is someone to make a wise and ethical purchase of any kind when the overarching goal is to make sure that no one knew they were ever there in the first place? How likely are they to tie something like their credit card to the experience, however discreetly the charges may appear on their statements, when they couldn’t bear to have themselves associated with it at all?

The second major obstacle is related to the first, and while I agree it’s one of attitude I don’t think it’s quite the one I’ve seen presented; I think the prevailing relationship that most people have toward pornography, when they can bear thinking of themselves as having a relationship to it at all, is an abstract one. Essentially, when most people browse and engage with erotic material, especially with the breadth and variety on offer, the only things they’re conscious of are 1) whether or not they respond to it and 2) whether there’s something within a few clicks that they will respond to more, and then by the time it’s over they’re moving on to something else. Content creators are asking them to have a more practical relationship with the media they engage with, a relationship that recognizes it as something that is as involved in the fabric of their lives as any other media, which I agree would be a good thing but which I also think is unlikely due the compartmentalized nature of most people’s relationship to sexuality in general, let alone porn.

I think these two points are sufficient to indicate that the problem is not that we live in a freeloading culture that is determined to exploit anyone in a sexual role, it’s that we live in a society that is hell-bent on making sure that no one think of erotic content as a part of their real and regular lives.

It’s a long shot, I know, to the point of being laughable, but what if we lived in a world where we were able to relate to this material as candidly and as avidly as we relate to music, books, movies, and TV shows? What if we celebrated and benefited its creators? What if we criticized, analyzed, and shared our thoughts and feelings about it openly? What if we could actually call ourselves fans of it and of the people involved, in the unashamed way that people do with almost anything else?  It may seem like this attitude is impossible, and that may very well be the case, but the distance between the world I’ve just described and the one that pornography exists in now should tell you a lot about why people don’t spend the money they should to support it.

But another reason I don’t think much will change without a considerable shift in attitudes and perspective, and I’m sure it’s one that most Adult content creators will be reluctant to hear, is that painfully often, for most people, the cost is simply too high.  Personally, I have paid and I was happy to, but it was to a site that offered a quite significant amount in return for my yearly subscription.  Many of the creators who groan most loudly about tube sites, and those most susceptible to being ripped off by them, are the ones who are still married to the $1/minute Clips4Sale model that prevailed 15 years ago.  Why, in this age when one of the most popular and profitable media companies on the planet offers unlimited streaming of literally thousands of titles for, at most, $12/month, should porn producers think that many people will pay $1/minute for anything?  I know that not every content creator is capable of running their business the way Netflix does, but that ratio of cost to benefit is what has come to prevail, and I can say categorically that the age of tiny little studios churning out 15 minute clips for $15 a pop is over.

Furthermore, the average consumer who gives their money to the likes of Spotify and Netflix has an existing relationship to the content to which those services enable access that many porn producers seem to do everything in their power to prevent.  Simply enough, people already know they like the movies, TV shows, and music on offer, and they are willing to pay for a service that streamlines their ability to interact with them.  But another antiquated attitude that so many porn studios have toward their customers is that they can hide everything away and charge a fee at the door before their customers have been able to make up their minds about what the studios have to offer.  The most successful media business models today don’t force people to take their word for it that the content they provide is worth anything, they let them make those judgments separately and then get paid after that has been established.

There is also a short-sighted mentality that declares, “If it’s not inside my paywall it does me no good.” But one only needs to look at the success of a real sex positive, pro-woman, Feminist platform, Suicide Girls, to see that that is far from the case. They would be nowhere if they had pulled out the DMCA takedown requests every time someone outside of their domain posted their content, and if anything it has drawn enormous amounts of traffic (paying traffic I’ll add) to where it ought to be going. What’s more, when that traffic landed on their site there was a good offer waiting, and between that attitude and their production of books and other media objects, their merchandising, their touring Burlesque show, I would say that Suicide Girls is an exceptional example of how a smutty business should run in the 21st century.

Ultimately, I think the world will continue to be a difficult place for Adult content creators until we and society can find common ground, and I think expanding the conversation and continuing to work towards a more open, sex positive society is the first step towards that, but maybe if at the same time we were more realistic about the way our culture relates to the frankly massive amount of media in general, and who knows, maybe even tried to be more creative about how we carve out a niche within that, we wouldn’t have to talk about our audience like they were miserable pariahs, or thieves.


FOR THE RECORD: As I was finishing this article I found that Bellesa has announced a complete redesign of their video section and is vowing to partner with studios whose content they feature from here on out.  You can read their CEO’s entire statement here.


© 2017

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