Ruby on Writing Archives

I love Woodhull. I usually come back with a completely invigorated mindset and a feeling like I’m ready to tackle the world. But that didn’t happen this year. A big ugly rain cloud has been following me around since Friday afternoon, in the form of a session called The Truth About Body-Safe: a frank, evidence-based discussion of what body-safe really means. The session description irked me enough beforehand to send an email asking for clarification of the content. I tried to have an open mind, I really did. But that quickly was laid to rest, so much so that I couldn’t even be bothered to hide my disgust.

And days later, I’m still upset.

Was it the nit-picky vocabulary lesson mixed in with the tone-policing when we were told not to refer to toys as ‘toxic’?

Maybe it was it the moment when someone on the panel said that ‘everything was toxic’ – even water in order to make it seem that the body-safe movement makes a big deal out of nothing?

Was it the outright misinformation about putting a condom on a toxic toy in order to make it ‘safe’?

It could have been the obvious potential for bias, given that the panel was made up of the scientist who was involved in the testing of Screaming O’s toys, the PR person for Screaming O, and a high-school classmate of that PR person who works in the biotech industry?

How about the fact that the presenters on the panel couldn’t even agree between themselves if the flame test used for silicone toy detection was accurate or not?

Or the repeated messages time and again about how washing your toys is all you really need to do make them safe?

And just airing out the stinky ones will make them body-safe.

Maybe it was the fact that they had said that the term ‘body safe’ is just flashy buzzwords used by manufacturers to get sales.

Possibly the complete lack of any discussion on what things other than porosity and toxicity makes a toy ‘body safe’, like flares on anal toys or lube ingredients.

It may have been repeating the myth over and over that body safe toys are overly expensive and inaccessible to those on a budget.

I know that I was upset that not everyone who was in that room knew what they were spewing was complete garbage.

But, I think I figured out what exactly had me so flame-throwingly upset about the session. I feel like they came into ‘our’ space – our gathering that all of us bloggers and educators take part in to make ourselves better – and gaslighted not only our responses and push backs, but the very work we do ourselves. All the hard work we do, all the sacrifices that many of us put our minds (and bodies) through, all that was thrown back in our faces as something to ‘not make a big deal’ about. All the spoons we spend trying to get companies to change their products, and retailers to support the good ones who do. It’s all wasted energy according to them – or so it seemed.

And even after the session was done, the gaslighting continued. They dismissed us, they lied to us, they pretended to care – and it was all in a place we thought stuff like that didn’t happen.

It upset me.

UPDATE Aug 16 2018: On August 16th, YNot published Successful Screaming O Sponsored Body-Safety Panel presented at Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit which I would assume was a press release from Screaming O. This was the first confirmation that I can recall that Screaming O did in fact sponsor this panel at Woodhull.

UPDATE 2 Aug 16 2018: Later that evening, Woodhull released a statement in relation to unauthorized recording of the Bodysafe panel conducted by Screaming O and published as part of their press release. In that statement Woodhull clarified that Screaming O did not sponsor the panel, stating in part “[…] Woodhull does not permit sponsored workshops, and Screaming O had refused all invitations to actually be a visible sponsor of Woodhull’s 2017 Summit.” The press releases published have since been edited to remove the audio recordings, and edit the language around the sponsorship issue. Why Screaming O would state they sponsored an event without actually sponsoring it us unclear at this time.

On Cliques & Gaslighting

I was having a conversation / thought stream on Twitter today, after seeing days and days of discussion on the concept of ‘blogger exclusion’. Specifically, the idea of a ‘clique’, feeling left out, etc. This is something I know me and other folks want to work to fix, and my best way of handling huge issues like this is to break it down into smaller parts.

We talked about the understanding of the word ‘clique’, as it was being thrown around as both a general descriptor and an insult. The consensus was that a clique was a group of individuals that actively, consciously, purposely reject others from entering into their social circle. It was not a catch-all phrase for a group of friends or like minded individuals. Once we got that out of the way, we zeroed in.

I came to the conclusion that we were talking about two sets of individuals in this excluded group. The first group are those newer/smaller/quieter folks who haven’t actively been excluded, but for some reason feel left out. Many attribute this to their own self esteem and mental health, but the overwhelming voice was this group just feels left on the sidelines. I think this would be the easiest group to help – it will take effort that some might not have, but it’s simpler things like encouragement, signal boosting, conversations, etc.

Keep going…I want more…

YKINMK But Your Kink Pays The Bills

YKINMKFor a lot of folks, I have one of those ‘dream jobs’. One of the major income streams I have is watching porn and writing descriptions for the actions involved. I’ve watched and written about a number of different porn genres, some of which falls into the ‘taboo’ realm. I’ve worked on revenge porn (scripted and consensual porn flicks designed to look like the non-consensual and often illegal version), rape porn (again – scripted and consensual that looks otherwise), and prolapse porn. Your kink is not my usual kink, and it kind of intrigues me, but your kink is certainly something I’ll work with.

Then there are certain niches that I outright refuse to work on. I won’t do anything with children (even the computer generated child movies), dead bodies, animals, or consumption of blood, scat or urine. Luckily, they are ether illegal or difficult to get payment processing for, so I don’t get much demand for them. Your kink is not my kink, and your kink won’t ever appear on my invoices.

But – there is a grey area for me. Where your kink is not my kink, I’m actively turned off by your kink, but I will still work on that material. I’m not talking just a dislike for the material. I’m talking about working with these niches gives me a physical reaction that is not only unpleasant, but constantly makes me question if I’m charging enough money for my time. There are three that hit the top of that list that seem to come into my inbox on a somewhat regular basis.

Keep going…I want more…

Trigger Warnings – Is Your Privilege Showing?

Image courtesy of “fawad’s art, sketches, etc.” http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php/32855-fawad-s-art-sketches-etc

Before I started writing this, I picked up the closest book to where I’m sitting. For me, it happens to be “Star Wars – Tales from Jabba’s Palace” that toddler brought me from my bookshelf. This book has a number of features that helps classify the writing inside.

There’s the title in the characteristic Star Wars font across the top. If I didn’t like Star Wars, I probably wouldn’t have read this book. That title on the cover page in no way disallows me from reading it. I would simply choose not to.

There’s an editor name – Kevin J Anderson. If I didn’t like Kevin’s work, I probably wouldn’t have read this collection of stories. His name on the cover in no way disallows me from reading it. I would simply choose not to.

There’s a price on the back – £4.99. If I didn’t agree with that price, I probably wouldn’t have bought it. That price listing on the cover in no way disallows me from reading it. I would simply choose not to.

While this collection of short sci fi stories does not contain a trigger warning, just like the other descriptors listed above, it would not disallow me from reading it. I would simply choose not to.

Even if I did choose not to, those descriptors wouldn’t prevent you from reading it, either.

Listing a title, author’s name or book price is not censorship. Listing a trigger warning isn’t censorship either. It’s simply a way to classify the text inside. For some, this ‘controversial’ descriptor is more necessary than for others.

A lot of what I’ve said above is echoed in this post from “Sometimes, it’s just a cigar”, where jemima2013 goes on to say that “The idea suggested by the Guardian that trigger warnings are censorship is just laughable…” I’d take it a step further – to say that it’s insulting to those dealing with actual censorship (the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts) issues.

I think that’s what’s upset me the most about the ‘anti-trigger-warning’ posse. You’ll keep your WordPress blogs and Facebook accounts and post your videos to YouTube, but heaven forbid if someone wants to get a warning that there’s a rape scene in the text they’re about to read.

But there’s another argument that I’ve seen echoed in some circles – the ‘slippery slope’ of trigger warnings as a future method of censorship. Adding that descriptor as possibly triggering to rape victims, military veterans, child abuse survivors, or any other group which may have an adverse reaction to the material could be used to suppress the material from the general public.

Sure, that could happen. So could book burnings based on a title, or author name, or price range. Why do we not call for the removal of those descriptors, as well? It’s because those descriptions serve a valuable function, just as trigger warnings do.

I also worry that the specific issue highlighted in the Guardian & New York Times piece is getting blown way out of proportion. (I’ve called it the Chicken Little Syndrome in the past.) Groups of students at some American universities are asking that trigger warnings be placed on the course syllabus.

They are not asking for these books to be removed from the course or from the university itself.

They are not calling for publishers to have mandatory trigger warnings on all texts.

They are not asking for these books to have ‘ratings’ which prevents the sale of these books to certain age groups, demographics or locations.

They are requesting additional information so they can make informed decisions about their reading.

For those who are saying “well surely no one needs trigger warnings on the classics / well known authors / usual college standard fare (because everyone already knows what’s going on with those books)” – check your privilege.

For those who think that trigger warnings aren’t necessary because “life is traumatic” – check it again.

Trigger warnings have a valid place in written material, just as the title, author name, and price listing do. I do find it rather strange that those who want to banish trigger warnings from existence are doing so on the basis of those warnings censoring the works. The ones making the fuss are in fact suppressing what they have deemed ‘unacceptable parts’ themselves.

Doing my community duty and giving you a head’s up to something I came across today. I was contacted today by a sex toy retailer that I use as a sponsor for some of my affiliate sites. They were switching tracking programs and moving to Webgains.com, and I had less than 24 hours to swap out my links. I hurried over to the signup page on Webgains and their TOS was displayed part way through the process:

Webgains

The highlighted portion of the TOS was my concern. Let’s review the two main hiccups.

Pornography – I know quite a few sex toy blogs also feature porn site advertisements. (And why not? Sex toys and porn go together so well!) If you have porn clips, porn sidebar ads or anything else deemed ‘pornographic’, you’re violating this TOS. If you have sexual images of yourself using said toys, this may be considered pornographic.

Obscene – What a huge grey area this word is! In the past I’ve seen this language in a TOS used to violate sites that have full frontal nudity and sexual imagery – even erotic texts.

Nevermind “offensive“. Anything can be offensive, can’t it?

So what happens if you violate a TOS on Webgains?

Webgains 2

Pretty self explanatory. You’re booted out of the program with zero obligation for Webgains to send you any unpaid funds it holds. (This is a common clause in most affiliate program TOSs, by the way.)

At any rate, if you planned on joining Webgains you may want to keep this in mind. I did get in contact with the sponsoring program to discuss my concerns with this TOS. I was told “you will be fine – Webgains have said they will push through all account requests that come through…”, but I’ve heard this song and dance before. Shortly afterward, Webgains did email me directly, reiterating the fact that they would “ensure that [I was] accepted onto the network”. My worry isn’t getting into the program – it’s staying in it and getting paid, even with the pornography and obscene material on my sites!

While they did mention that  “they are in the process of updating [their] TOS to allow more flexibility for […] our adult publishers”, I know that these TOS changes can certainly take some time, especially when lawyers are involved. I’ve asked them to let me know when this TOS change is in place, and will update this post accordingly.

 

June 10, 2014 – UPDATE: After being contacted once again by Webgains asking me to swap over my links I emailed asking if the TOS was now allowing pornographic materials. The affiliate manager confirmed that this is the new language in the TOS.

“5.4.         You warrant that the affiliate website does not display or transfer any material which is obscene, racist, offensive, defamatory, threatening, blasphemous or in breach of any third party Intellectual Property Right(s), provided that websites and campaigns that include pornographic or adult content which is not obscene are permitted but only where affiliate’ products and/or services are also categorised as pornographic or adult content, but not obscene, and only such affiliates are permitted to join such programs with such advertisers.”

I then asked for clarification as to what the word ‘obscene’ means to Webgains, and got this reply.

“So obscene for us is the following; under-age content, racist, offensive, defamatory, threatening or blasphemous.”

It appears Webgains is now allowing websites with pornographic materials, but with a few catches. First, you can only use your ‘adult’ sites to promote ‘adult’ products. You cannot use your adult site to promote ‘mainstream’ products. This might get iffy when it comes to items like lingerie and performance-related pharmaceuticals, as they straddle that adult / mainstream divide. But, for purely sex toys, I’d look at this updated TOS and be comfortable using them.

It Always Starts With A Kiss

“Suspenders as well, or just stockings?”

“Stockings are good. Don’t worry about underwear.”

“Dress? Bra? Shoes?”

“Stick with the skirt. Black bra & high shoes.”

My instructions came through a series of text, with my head still somewhat cloudy from the previous night – and the previous weekend’s events. She wasn’t satisfied with what we had done the night before, and wanted to push me further.

“An hour until I can feel how wet you are.”

Ruby Goodnight

Her words kept me on my toes all day long. My over-preparing mind started going into gear. Pull out the thigh highs you didn’t wear this weekend. Dig out that garter belt from the back of the suitcase. Which skirt? Something short that she won’t need to move that much. I only wore that cream colored one for a short time this weekend. Maybe that will work? Her toys are cleaned and ready. Is everything there it should be?

My cunt ached looking at the items she didn’t use last night, but I wished she had. The clover clamps. The purple Tantus. Her new Rodeohs. The ankle cuffs. There was the new flogger that was sat there as well. I knew for sure that she wasn’t going to use that any time soon. She needed to get used to it first, before my flesh was its target. That didn’t make it any harder to look at. Keep going…I want more…

Thank you, sun, for staying out all weekend.

Thank you, sun, for staying out all weekend.

The end of the weekend has arrived. Even though it’s Monday, I’m coming down from the high of Eroticon2014. In the five hours it’s taken me to get home, I’m probably written this post in my mind a few times over, making sure that I balance out the seriousness of the weekend, the absolutely joy I felt being there and the unwavering gratitude I have towards a few select individuals. This will be slightly mushy in parts, as I am going through drop, but I also want to be somewhat constructive.

So why did I go to Eroticon? Why have I gone to any Eroticons? I straddle that weird world that’s not quite blogger, not quite erotica writer. Sure, I write blog posts, run blogs, but it’s not for the same reasons that a lot of other bloggers at Eroticon do. I also write long form erotica and have done for the greater part of my adult life, but as I don’t deal with publishers (well, anything at all after I hand the manuscript over to the buyer) as the majority of erotica writers do I don’t feel like I can use label as well. You’d think someone like me would wonder around in an aimless circle wondering where I fit in.

Not at Eroticon.

Keep going…I want more…

Read The Fine PrintIn the last week, I’ve had a series of unrelated discussions that all seem to go back to the topic of an affiliate program’s TOS, or Terms of Service. These interactions have hammered home the importance of actually reading and understanding these documents and not just clicking the box at the bottom of the wall of text. One series of discussions was with an affiliate program in the making, and wanted my input on their TOS. The other was in relation to a very well established affiliate program that I had recently joined.

TL;DR version – read your TOS, and even if you get the OK from a program to go against the TOS, don’t. You’ll be screwed. 

We all are aware of the selective enforcement of these documents at times (as the case with WordPress’s freehosted blog service and their view on adult materials). While a program may be “unofficially” allowing a TOS to be broken by not enforcing it, there usually does come a point where that document is enforced, resulting in anything from a minor annoyance to the full fledged shutting down of your web site. This was the issue I was faced when joining this already established program, taken to another level.

Keep going…I want more…

After some rather…intense…twitter discussions on the recent actions by Blogger and WordPress in relation to hosting adult content I thought I’d put a more positive spin on things. After speaking with John D Stories, he reminded me that there is a lot of actual ‘good’ to come out of this whole thing. So in typical blogging style, I’ve decided to throw together a top ten positive results that I feel will come out of the mass adult exodus from those two services.

Hosts that do support adult materials will get a boost in their signups and sales. In a free market system, if you don’t like a given service provider, you head on over to one that you do. I would imagine that Blogger and WordPress are now losing blogs by the thousands. I would also imagine that the majority of those leaving wouldn’t be simply dropping their blog for good – they are either moving to an adult friendly freehost, or spending their money with a company that does support their desire to write about adult themes. These adult-friendly hosts are now benefiting from the moronic move that was made by their largest competition.

Keep going…I want more…

 

This blog post is in response to the (It Girl. Rag Doll) Podcast called “First they came for the pornographers“. I was going to originally leave this as a comment, but it got too long to flood the lovely ladies’ page. Go check out the podcast in full! 

Great podcast Harper, Molly and Signs. When this whole thing blew up a few weeks ago, I’ve got to say I’m one of those people who didn’t run around thinking the sky was falling and that the “Pornocopolis” was upon us. I think there are three issues that you all touched upon that I think should be discussed more – the rights of a ‘private’ company (ie Google/Blogger, WordPress, Yahoo/Tumblr, etc.) to run their business as they see fit, the issue with using freehosts at all, and government censorship. This turned into a huge post, so I’ve put it up on my own blog.

Keep going…I want more…

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