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!

Art “versus” Porn?

This week there is controversy in the Adult Content world regarding changes to the crowd-funding platform Patreon’s terms of service, which include restricting the creators from offering certain kinds of rewards (webcam sessions, Snapchat access, subscriptions to other services) and from funding certain efforts (website creation/maintenance, erotic video). The new TOS also omits a paragraph from the previous iteration which affirmed the value of erotic expression in an artistic context, and which explicitly declared such content an acceptable use of the platform, and it is that perennially prickly distinction which I should like to address in this essay.

[In an effort at full disclosure, I should submit that The SMUT Project has a page on Patreon, that we are a signatory to a circulating open letter that responds to these moves, and that the content we produce may or may not be subject to Patreon’s self-censorship depending on how that process is conducted.]

It seems that Patreon is the latest in a long line of those who would undertake the role of chaperoning eroticism in the arts, and while the effort is certainly nothing new in itself the modern twist is that its role is one of facilitation; they are not a governmental body dictating how people can be punished for what they produce, and they are not a publishing entity determined to curate a specific cultural brand, they are simply a means of connecting creators with patrons, which puts them in the unique position of being able to dictate both what people are able to support and what content is able to be supported through their platform. (This is, of course, their privilege. While the internet is a public utility, its services are not, and Patreon remains a private organization that can do what it wants to manage its affairs.)

Let’s take as read that I am not arguing for the facilitation of what anyone in their right mind would consider authentically obscene. To my mind the emphasis on strengthening the language against depictions of sexualized violence and the victimization of children and animals is some combination of low hanging fruit, red herring, and pushing the open door. What’s more it’s a tired cop out, which always prefaces these discussions, the assumption that that sort of bilge somehow comes with the territory of respectable pornography.

What we’re really talking about is a matter of taste– what is art, and what is porn? — and my question is: Why does it have to be one or the other?

We all know that there’s a difference. If you imagine one scene with soft lighting and violin music and another with platform heels and constamoaning you probably would assign them to different categories. But the aesthetics of it aren’t what I’m talking about; David LaChapelle’s photography is more garish and tacky than most porn and he’s still considered an artist.

What I mean to say is that something specifically designed for arousal, something meant to push one’s buttons, shouldn’t be written off as being without appreciable artistic merit. The point of art is to affect and stimulate the human soul, and I don’t think we should demand that sexuality be separate from that. Our response to the erotic is part of our humanity, and so is the way we address that response in others.

We have to stop pretending that a thoughtful, enlightened, sophisticated approach to life and to human expression is necessarily a chaste one. It’s bad for art, it’s bad for sex, and yes, it’s bad for society.

Video porn isn’t the same as cinema, erotic writing isn’t the same as literature, and I don’t know that either of them need to be indistinguishable from their more accepted counterparts. But I do think that they are both art forms unto themselves. They have traditions, they have genres, they have periods and movements, they have icons, they have practitioners great and small. And just because a good deal of what’s produced falls flat or rings false in the sophisticated ear doesn’t invalidate the medium, it just means it’s bad art.

I think if we started treating and thinking of and criticizing pornography that way it might rise to the occasion and prove itself worthy. Maybe if we treated it with respect it might really become respectable.

FOR THE RECORD: As I was writing this article I received an email sent to Patreon’s Adult Content creators by their CEO Jack Conte. It emphasized Patreon’s implicit support of its erotic creators and committed to working with them on a case-by-case basis in the event of a policy violation.  It also reiterated that the changes are meant to address the obscene and declared that they affect very few of their NSFW accounts.  I found it genuine and we will have to see how they handle things from here on out.

© 2017

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

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

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

25 Questions for Camgirls

Hello Camgirls!

We at TSP are interested in you and what you have to say about your work, about sex, about life, and anything else you’d like to share with us. We’re hoping to use your answers to the questions below to inform a series of think pieces we’re developing about sexual professionals, from prodommes to camgirls to pornographers and more.

Feel free to answer as few or as many as you respond to, either here in comments, in our DMs on Twitter, or via email. Answers will not be published directly but we may be interested in quoting from them later (in which case we’d approach you for your permission), and whether your words were identified or anonymous would be up to you.

Thanks very much in advance for your input!

  1. What’s important to you about your work? What do you find most personally gratifying?
  2. How did you discover camming as a source of income?
  3. What made you think it was something for you?
  4. How did you get started and build a following?
  5. How do you find you are treated by your viewers/supporters?
  6. How important is your personal anonymity? Do many people in your personal life know about your professional side?
  7. Is camming your main source of income?
  8. What do you think of the platforms that enable you to engage in your work?
  9. How does social media affect or influence your work?
  10. To what extent do you rely on the support of other camgirls?
  11. How has your professional life affected your relationships and dating life?
  12. Has your job had any subtle, mundane effects on your daily life that people who aren’t familiar with your world wouldn’t be aware of?
  13. What’s something about your work, life, or lifestyle that you think an outsider might find surprising?
  14. Is there anything that you think you think about or respond to differently because of your work and experience?
  15. What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to confront in your professional life?
  16. What advice would you give to new camgirls starting out today?
  17. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your work or your lifestyle?
  18. What keeps you coming back to the job?
  19. What’s the best thing your work has brought into your life?
  20. What’s something you wish more people knew about your work or your lifestyle?

[Fetish Friendly Cammers]

  1. What are your thoughts on the particular fetish or fetishes you indulge?
  2. To what extent do you share or enjoy the fetish you support outside the context of your work?
  3. Do you find you relate differently to the fetishized object, act, or body part because of your work?
  4. Are there any fetishes that camming has introduced into either your professional or personal life that you probably wouldn’t have come to otherwise?
  5. How do you think your experience as a cammer would affect the way you would relate to or deal with a partner who shared the fetish(es) you indulge?

25 Questions for Prodommes

Hello Dominatrices!

We at TSP are interested in you and what you have to say about your work, about kink, about sex, life, and anything else you’d like to share with us. We’re hoping to use your answers to the questions below to inform a series of think pieces we’re developing about sexual professionals, from prodommes to camgirls to pornographers and more.

Feel free to answer as few or as many as you respond to, either here in comments, in our DMs on Twitter, or via email. Answers will not be published directly but we may be interested in quoting from them later (in which case we’d approach you for your permission), and whether your words were identified or anonymous would be up to you.

Thanks very much in advance for your input!

  1. What’s important to you about your work? What do you find most personally gratifying?
  2. How would you describe the path that brought you to where you are today?
  3. Do you have an appetite for kink outside of your work life? What about kinky fantasy (pornography, erotica, etc.)?
  4. How is your kinky side different in your personal life than in your professional life?
  5. To what extent do you think of your professional activities as roleplay?
  6. How has your work been affected by the internet? What do you think has changed about kink in general because of the internet?
  7. To what extent do you involve a formal dungeon setting in your work?
  8. Do you think the persona of a dominatrix is a fetish unto itself, apart from the acts and attitudes involved?
  9. How has your professional repertoire and/or your sexuality evolved because of your work?
  10. How do you find you are treated by your clients? What about by the public?
  11. What do you think motivates someone to seek out your services? What do you think makes a submissive a client?
  12. What do you think of the way people in your line of work are portrayed in media? Are there any depictions of your work or lifestyle that you find accurate?
  13. How has your professional life affected your romantic or dating life? What do you have to say about dating and relationships as a kinky person apart from your work?
  14. To what extent do you rely on the support or guidance of other Dommes?
  15. What’s the thing you talk about the most with other Dommes?
  16. Were you mentored or helped out by anyone in particular as you developed your business?
  17. Has your job had any subtle, mundane effects on your daily life that people who aren’t familiar with your world wouldn’t be aware of?
  18. What’s something about your work, life, or lifestyle that you think an outsider might find surprising?
  19. Is there anything that you think you think about or respond to differently because of your work and experience?
  20. What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to confront in your professional life?
  21. What advice would you give to new Dommes starting out today?
  22. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your work or your lifestyle?
  23. What keeps you coming back to the job?
  24. What’s the best thing your work has brought into your life?
  25. What’s something you wish more people knew about your work or your lifestyle?

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

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!