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On Hiring Marginalised Folk

Posted at 15:00 on 19 Jan 2021 by Pandora / Blake



I saw a Tweet recently that caught my eye:

"One day I want to run a business big enough to hire disabled/marginalized folks. I want to create a business model designed to be flexible enough to accommodate accessibility needs, schedules, etc [...] So many disabled folks could work if they really got the accommodations they actually needed. And we should be able to get that without all the animosity and disdain that usually comes from employers when asking to be accommodated."

- @hedonish 


“Hey!”, I thought. “That’s my business!”

I’m not an employer, exactly; everyone who works “for” me is actually freelance, and I’m their client as much as their boss. But the point stands: all the contractors I regularly collaborate with belong to groups which are often discriminated again.

This decision wasn’t a deliberate strategy; more of a gut preference. One way or another the team I’ve assembled is a diverse one, a majority of us are LGBTQ, and there's a range of mental and physical disabilities represented, as well as a wide variety of neurodiversities. Not all of us are able to maintain full-time jobs for various reasons, and I suspect none of us thrive in a traditional office environment. We all have different preferences, different needs and different working hours. Now that I’ve tried running things like this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For one thing, I include myself in this. I have yet to pursue a formal diagnosis (there’s sort of an apocalypse on, and all that), but I've known for a few years now that I'm ADHD, and the more I learn about it, the more I suspect I may also be autistic. It would explain a lot about my history, my childhood, my personality, and the things I struggle with on a daily basis. I live in a creative and stressful tension between my desire for structure and clarity, and my impulsive enthusiasms, the ideas and fascinations that come to me in a flash and can carry me away for days if I let them. I feel lucky to have put together a group of people who can roll with those two contradictory modes, who can handle new ideas and sudden changes of plan while also managing to maintain an ongoing schedule. Some of our best work has come out of being able to maintain flexibility within that framework.

This flexibility obviously doesn’t only work one way. I’m proud to provide a working environment in which we can accommodate each other’s needs. Sometimes people need to take a mental health day or even a mental health week, and they can’t always give a lot of notice when that happens. Chronic health conditions can fluctuate at unexpected times, and make working difficult with little forewarning. Not to mention the constraints of parenting and childcare. I make an effort to regularly check in with everyone on the team to find out where they’re at, what they need and how they’re feeling about the work. It’s a bit like what I do when I’m in charge on set; as the “director” it’s my job to make sure that everyone is as safe and happy as possible, and that we’re all on the same page about what’s going on.

I guess it’s kind of natural that I’d run my business this way. I’m neurodivergent myself, my mental health hasn’t always been exactly pristine, and I’ve never thrived on doing things the way the proverbial “everyone else” does them. But what it’s taught me is that almost any organisation could benefit from adopting some of these practices - if only they’d see past their preconceived ideas of what a working environment should be like.

We rarely have face-to-face meetings at a preassigned time; almost all of our communication takes place over Asana and Slack. This means we can accommodate everyone’s working hours no matter what they are - one person can start at 6am, another can stick with a standard 9-5 structure, and our night owls can turn things in at three in the morning, all without anyone being either judged or inconvenienced. 

This in turn has been good for my own working practices, as it encourages me to plan ahead - something that reduces my stress levels significantly. It’s also helped me to get better at documenting processes and condensing things into clear requests, as I know I won’t always be available to answer questions at the precise time someone needs to ask them. I’ve been more organised and better able to maintain my own boundaries as a result.

We’re trying to establish a working culture in which we can be honest about how we’re feeling, where we’re at and what’s going on for us. This not cultivates respect and empathy, and helps me stay connected to my collaborators as human beings, it also means I can plan around life stuff when it comes up. It means that if someone meets an unexpected trigger (which is always a possibility, given that I’m making kinky porn and writing about deeply emotive politics) they can just tell me it’s not the right day for them to be working on that content, or that they need someone else to take over on a particular project so they can step away. The work still gets done, I’m not left in the dark as to why something is delayed, and nobody is putting themselves through unnecessary stress.

Keep reading »

Tags: business ethics, business strategy, equality, leadership, oppression, social justice, work

1 comment

Special Offer - Ends 23 January

Posted at 14:27 on 16 Jan 2021 by Pandora / Blake



It's a new year, a new lockdown, and I'm pleased and excited to announce a new Patreon special offer for January, making it more rewarding than ever for you to support my work! One of these rewards has been up my sleeve for quite some time...

I'm super stoked to have some new merch to give away - the SHAME LESS enamel pin. We had to pick just one pride flag for this one, out of the three options on the t-shirts, so I went with my favourite colours, purple, pink and blue - which just happen to by the colours of the bi pride flag.

Of course, you don't have to be bisexual to sport this pin. The Shame Less slogan stands for everything we're working towards: challenging shame culture in the fight for better sex education and greater empathy for each other's uniqueness; more open conversations about sex, kink and consent; and greater personal freedom and bodily autonomy for all. Let's shame each other less - and be absolutely shameless!

Keep reading »

Tags: book, Dreams of Spanking, merch, reward, rewards, Shame Less, shame resilience, special offer, Watch Me Write

20 comments

SISEA: The Fourth Horseman of the Pornocalypse

Posted at 15:00 on 4 Jan 2021 by Pandora / Blake

Recently I published a post discussing the substantial change to Pornhub’s community guidelines which has seen millions of videos removed from the site, and Visa and Mastercard removing billing from PornHub during their investigation into illegal content, which will hit content creators hard.

In what appears to be a response to these changes - or perhaps to the anti-porn fearmongering that prompted them - an invasive bill has been put forward in the US Senate with extensive regulation proposals for adult sites. The bill - known as the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA) - proposes regulations such as a requirement for platforms to operate a 24-hour telephone hotline that you can contact to request removal of a pornographic image if you haven’t consented to its upload, and remove flagged videos within two hours of such a request.

Tackling unconsensual images is important, but this bill would represent the end of online porn. The privacy implications are terrifying (a global database of individuals who have indicated they do not consent, accessible by anyone uploading porn? Really?) and the impact on independent porn sites would be devastating. Show me a single indie producer who could staff a 24hr phone line, because I don’t know any. The full list of restrictions that SISEA is looking to bring in is alarming. Most online sex workers rely on platforms like OnlyFans and Clips4Sale, and advertise on Twitter. It seems likely that OnlyFans and Twitter would stop hosting porn rather than comply with these expensive and burdonsome regulations; and platforms dedicated to porn might well lack the resources to comply. If the umbrella term ‘platforms’ includes indie self-hosted porn sites as well, it's the end of online porn as we know it.

I don’t say this lightly - if this bill gets through it's the end of porn on Twitter, and the end of fan sites, clip sites and membership sites. Sex workers are already being squeezed out of most social media spaces by commercial regulations making it harder and harder to advertise. Selling sexual content online is accessible, COVID-safe work. In a pandemic, destroying the online sex industry means taking much-needed income away from struggling individuals. The callousness is staggering. Do they want people to be mixing households by meeting clients in person, and putting themselves at greater risk of violence and arrest by selling sex outdoors, instead of performing in the safety of their bedrooms? Because that’s exactly what will happen with the introduction of this bill into law.

Even if SISEA doesn't pass, the threat alone is enough to put us in our place - as our governments desire so much. Porn creators are in an abusive relationship with financial institutions and governments. They can ruin us any time they care to -  and they like showing it. Bills like this remind us of our precarity, and it's humiliating.

In my sex positive online bubble, working hard to build my business, I sometimes forget that  much of the world thinks I should stop doing what I'm doing. This bill serves as an unwelcome reminder that the mood out there is hostile. 

It is absolutely essential to the health and diversity of our sexual culture, not to mention the survival of sex workers worldwide, that we prevent this from becoming law. If you're in the US, write to your senator - and I encourage you to donate to the Free Speech Coalition to support them in their battle against SISEA.

This isn't the happy tidings I hoped to start the year with. It's a timely reminder that porn censorship never goes away completely - it just recedes for a while.

This post was funded by my 110 Patrons. To power my activism and my writing on sexual freedom and social justice, join my Patreon community here

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Tags: censorship, Free Speech Coalition, independent porn, law, Porn Censorship, porn law, Pornhub, pornocalypse, SISEA

10 comments

Comparison is the ladder

Posted at 15:00 on 29 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



A few weeks back I wrote a very personal post about body shame, gender dysphoria and bodily autonomy that is up there amongst of the most raw and emotional things I’ve written for this blog. It was difficult to write and a little nerve-wracking to post, but it felt important both to me personally and as a wider topic for discussion.

While all that was stewing in my brain, my therapist and I talked about the things I was struggling with . She recommended a book called The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, and an episode of Brené Brown’s excellent podcast ‘Unlocking Us’, in which Sonya Renee Taylor comes on as a guest to speak about the book. I’ve not had a chance to read the full book yet, but the podcast alone has blown my tiny mind. All of the questions I asked in that post have been addressed simply by hearing Sonya Renee Taylor speak.

Her approach centres around a concept that she calls ‘the ladder’. The ladder is the hierarchy of bodies upheld by our oppressive society: the colour of your skin, whether you’re thin or fat, whether you’re disabled or not, how closely you conform to society’s beauty standards, your age, your transness or cisness. I hadn't realised it before, but most oppression in our society is based on the body, and on judging other people based on what they look like. Even wealth and class is often rooted deeply within the body; our size, appearance and how free we are to climb the ladder and gain status based on our body varied depending on our financial and social power. 

Keep reading »

Tags: body image, body positivity, body shame, feminism, food, gender, hierarchy, oppression, patriarchy, power, self-acceptance, self-love, shame, social justice, social transformation

0 comments

Pornhub, Censorship and the New York Times

Posted at 15:00 on 27 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



About a week ago, PornHub announced they were banning uploads from unverified users - meaning that only verified performers and content creators signed up to PornHub’s model scheme would be able to upload videos to the site.

In and of itself, this is a fantastic piece of news and something people in the industry have been calling for for a while. PornHub is a huge player, and it’s almost impossible not to engage with it on some level if you sell porn online. This change will go a long way toward ensuring that professional content creators are not in direct competition with people providing free porn (which was often pirated). It will also help massively in reducing the instances of uploads that are not porn so much as they are abuse, such as so-called “revenge porn” and content including people who have not (or could not have) consented. It’s good for performers, who will get paid more; it’s good for consumers, who will see a higher calibre of content; and it’s good for PornHub, who will have a less mammoth task ahead of them in terms of eradicating illegal and immoral uploads.

Or it could have been, anyway.

These changes were implemented as the result of a lengthy and extremely sensationalistic op-ed recently published by the New York Times. XBiz described the article as “emotional pornography”, and I can see their point - it’s extremely emotive, not particularly evidence-based, and ignores some basic facts about the dissemination of content depicting child abuse online. The sad truth is that this content isn’t a porn problem - it’s a people problem. There are more images of child abuse posted on Facebook than there are on PornHub. Anywhere that receives a large amount of potentially anonymous user-generated content (which is to say - the internet) will have to tackle this problem, but for some reason the anti-pornography campaigners never talk about that bit.

So now we get to the real issue: this change in PornHub’s policy isn’t the only impact that article had. Visa and MasterCard also decided to respond to it: they’ve launched an investigation of PornHub, to find out whether or not they are indeed facilitating the publication of illegal pornography. While this investigation is underway, they’ve frozen all card use on the site, both credit and debit. And if Visa and MasterCard both do it, that really is all card use: in much of the world they’re the only two kinds of cards anyone has, and as a result they’re the only two kinds of cards most places will accept.

The real kicker is that PornHub - and Mindgeek, the umbrella company who own them - are not the people most badly affected by this decision. Card payments aren’t their only source of revenue; they make money through affiliate links (when someone clicks through from PornHub to another site and eventually purchases something from that site, PornHub get a cut) and advertising (which they tend to put on pages containing free porn, ensuring those ads get a lot of views and are therefore extremely valuable). They definitely take a hefty cut of the card payments for PornHub Premium, but ultimately those card payments mostly go to pay the content creators, models and performers who publish on the site.

So once again - and as fucking always - it’s the little guys getting screwed over by this, not the massive conglomerate run by people who aren’t exactly broke. (I did have a go, while researching for this post, at finding out the rough net worth of the people who own Mindgeek. It’s not information that’s readily available online, indicating that they’re not on quite the level of the people on the Forbes 1000 or whatever. Still, though, I doubt they’re hurting for cash.)

The most worrying thing this highlights is just how much power Visa and MasterCard have. Whether we like it or not, the internet is operating under an unrecognised and unacknowledged form of global censorship that is outside of any kind of legislative process. It's not possible for any member of the general public anywhere in the world to vote on or influence it, and it's run entirely for the benefit of its own CEOs (and those CEOs really are on the Rich List). At any moment, Visa and Mastercard could effectively destroy the entire porn industry - and there’s nothing we can do about it. All it would take is for a few sensationalistic articles like the one recently published in the NYT to make them decide that they stand to gain more from being seen as anti-porn than they would lose in revenue from porn sites.

This is exacerbated by the fact that it’s not just PornHub affected by this. Other major players in the industry have already made their own changes out of fear that Visa and MasterCard will come for them next: Clips4Sale, for example, have silently deleted a lot of tags and categories that previously saw plenty of use. Some of them make sense: It’s obvious to us that things like ‘forced orgasm’ and ‘forced stripping’ are just roleplay, but I can see why they got the chop - especially as they were removed alongside many other categories including the word ‘forced’. But some are just bizarre - ‘limp dick’? Really? ‘Resting fetish’? Good grief. You can see a full list of the categories deleted here. (I'll confess to getting a small smile out of 'abused shoes' - those poor defenceless shoes!)

I’m all in favour of the recent decision made by PornHub to switch to verified content only, and it’s massively important to me - as a feminist, as a content creator and as a parent - to fight against pornography that is abusive, exploitative and unconsensual. But this isn’t about that. This is about the power held by a tiny number of unchecked companies and individuals over the freedoms of the entire world: sensationalist journalism that happens to be published in the New York Times, and the de-facto lawmakers in banking and billing institutions who can be influenced by it, to destroy hundreds of thousands of livelihoods on a whim.

Links

PornHub's updated Commitment to Trust and Safety 

XBiz: PornHub Removes All Unverified Content 

Keep reading »

Tags: censorship, corporate censorship, freedom, freedom of expression, MindGeek, PornHub, pornocalypse

8 comments

A spanko's guide to long-distance relationships

Posted at 15:00 on 22 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



I am no stranger to the difficulties of a long-distance relationship. I now live with my long-term partner and child, but there was a large chunk of my life where I lived alone and travelled to see my partners. Sometimes it was a bus ride, and sometimes a long train journey. 

I've learned a lot and I'm still continuing to learn - the pandemic has introduced new obstacles for us to overcome, and has forced us to come up with ever more creative ways to stay connected. Particularly as spankophiles, it can be challenging to feel close to your partner when your usual way to connect is taking them over your lap. As Erica Scott puts it, we have a fetish that is not exactly conducive to social distancing.

I was therefore delighted to be asked by Jillian Keenan to be involved in her educational film on long-distance dynamics. This two-parter features so many spanking celebrities it'll make you spin - Princess Kelley May, Stephen Lewis, Ariel Anderssen, Pharaoh Spanks, Madame Samantha B, Cassidy Lau, Miss Rachel, and Erica Scott. It was an honour to be featured alongside my esteemed peers in this film, and I would encourage you to check it out. You may even recognise some of them from the Dreams of Spanking catalogue...

For my contribution, I spoke about the importance of communicating about your communication. This may sound redundant, but you would be surprised how quickly dialogue can break down when you're operating in a medium that one party isn't comfortable using. 

Keep reading »

Tags: collaboration, educational, long-distance dynamics, Patreon, video, Youtube

0 comments

Will there be sex work in utopia?

Posted at 15:00 on 15 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



Do you ever play the utopia game? Sometimes I like to imagine what the world will be When The Revolution Comes. Not just any old revolution, of course - my revolution, the one where everything happens in accordance with my ideals. It helps me to clarify my core beliefs and principles, and figure out what I should be fighting for here in our increasingly dystopian reality. Plus, it's kind of feel-good - we all need to do a little visioning now and then. 

One question I’ve been mulling over from a few different angles lately is: would there be sex work in my utopia?

Well, would there be work in my utopia? 

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Tags: labour rights, privilege, reviews, sex work, sex worker's rights, sexuality, social justice, social transformation, utopia, work

1 comment

Next Watch Me Write Session: 19th December

Posted at 10:00 on 14 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



It's time for another Patreon Watch Me Write session! Otherwise known as an opportunity to be the first to read my new writing, and to share your perspective on the topics at hand. Which is a pretty big deal, because for the first time I'm inviting you to watch me write my book, live in real time.  

For those who don't know, here's how my Watch Me Write sessions work. On the date and time of the session, you will be given access to a Google Doc where I'm working on my manuscript. Think of it like a live writing hangout. You can nosy at my draft and follow my revision process - moving around big chunks of text, deleting, formatting, and sometimes starting all over again.  You can add comments and interact with my writing in real time, or you can be a lurker and enjoy the process. 

I've done Watch Me Write sessions before with drafting articles, but this is the first ever opportunity to take a look inside the cover of my manuscript. Draft zero of my manuscript is at 20 chapters, and I'm working to distill it into 12. I'm currently working on a chapter exploring where our fantasies come from, so during this session I'll either be working on that or the next chapter, which is about what happens when you try to suppress those fantasies. This is my first time opening the cover of my book to you, so be gentle! 

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Tags: draft, editing, manuscript, Patreon, writing

16 comments

How to come to terms with a kinky sexuality

Posted at 15:00 on 10 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake

As I'm revising my manuscript, I'm cutting out sections that don't fit and posting them here. Become a Patron to get access to cut sections about my personal kink journey, and excerpts from what I'm keeping.

Coming to terms with yourself is a lifetime’s work. For me, it took twenty five years to reach the point where I started to really accepted the kinky sides of my sexuality. Since then, I’ve spent a decade deepening my enquiry, and introducing more complexity and nuance as my understanding has evolved. Rather than killing my desire, this deep dive has had the opposite effect. I’m pleased to say that my kinks have survived the process - in fact in some ways I'm kinkier than ever.

When we embark on this enquiry, we might trip over areas where our sexual desires seem complicated by our politics and our values. “I used to enjoy weird sex, then I became woke and stopped” would be a sad story. Luckily, that's not my story, and it doesn't need to be yours. I enjoy kinky sex, my wokeness is a work in progress, and the combination sizzles with delicious complexity.

The book I'm writing is a call for social and self-acceptance of kinky sexuality, and it’s a manifesto for consensual sexual expression and ethical erotic practice.  I’ll come straight out and say it, because you’re going to find out in the first chapter anyway: my sexual fantasies often involve coercion or violence. I've struggled with the question of how to relate to them in a way that feels aligned with my values. Even the thought of enjoying some fantasies in the privacy of my own imagination has made me uncomfortable at times.

If you don’t have these fantasies, and you feel horrified at the idea of someone getting turned on by such a thing, trust me: it doesn’t make us monsters. Just complicated humans, with complicated wants.

If you do have them: welcome. You’re in the right place.

Maybe you have sexual thoughts that you bury because you're worried about causing harm, or because you don’t want to perpetuate violent social patterns. I've met many principled, compassionate kinky people are concerned by the apparent disconnect between their ethical principles and their dirty fantasies. Tops worry that they are terrible people, and bottoms worry that they are self-destructive. But our ethical principles and our dirty fantasies are not only compatible, they can actually mutually support each other.

How kinky fantasies and interpersonal ethics intersect is a complex and fascinating topic. It’s not as simple as “Free expression means I can do what I like”, and nor is it as simple as “Hurting people is wrong”, or “Violent fantasies mean you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy”. The truth is, it’s more complicated than that.

I want to inject some nuance into the conversation. Self-acceptance - and even self-love - doesn’t have to be blind or uncritical. It doesn’t have to be based on the idea that ‘anything goes’. The most productive self-criticism comes from an exploration of our own ethics and values, rather than from comparing ourselves with social norms.

I reject the narrative that says because my fantasies are deemed ‘unconventional’ by the risk-averse mass-media entertainment industry, I should feel shame. I am queer, I am trans, I am kinky, and I am not ashamed.

It’s okay to be kinky. It’s also okay to critically examine our sexualities in their social context. Let’s do it together! I’m eager to discover what we can learn by situating our fantasies in wider culture, and using that analysis to develop healthy boundaries and ways of relating.

Creating a more functional, compassionate society starts with the self. Understanding, accepting and loving our whole self, including our sexual desires, is a necessary step to become whole, balanced humans.

Being kinky and principled isn’t a weird accident, or an unresolvable paradox. Rather than contradicting our principles, kinky fantasies can support them by providing a release valve for repressed desires in a controlled, consensual, and pleasurable way.
Kink offers us opportunities to learn about consent, intention setting, negotiation and boundaries - all of which are essential parts of the toolkit for healthy interpersonal relationships.

This is just a taster cut from draft 1 of the introduction, which I ended rewriting in different words. If this tickles your interest, join my Patreon and keep an eye out for updates on the progress of my book. I'm revising 12 chapters which fully dive into the details of how to come to terms with kinky fantasies - watch this space.

Keep reading »

Tags: drafts, excerpt, kink, manuscript, Patreon, patron

0 comments

Why we need to talk about sex - and why it's hard

Posted at 15:00 on 4 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake


 

For many people, sex is uniquely confronting. Many of us carry trauma, baggage or shame about sex. These difficult feelings make sex hard for us to talk about.
 

Where do this traumas and discomforts come from? They come from a society which is deeply dysfunctional about sex. In this post I'm going to talk about the post-colonial Anglophone culture of North America, Canada, the UK and Australia, but some aspects of human culture are distributed throughout the globe, and a lot of it applies to other societies and countries too.
 

Keep reading »

Tags: BDSM, boundaries, communication, consent, kink, queer, sex positivity, sexual freedom, sexual liberty, sexuality, shame resilience, trans, trauma

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