This Week in Kink, October 28, 2017

A common safety measure in the kink community is to “silo” your social media. You don’t use the same photo on Fetlife that you do on Facebook or Linkedin, because Google’s reverse image search may allow a stalker to follow you from one site to another. But, as facial recognition technology becomes accessible and affordable to more and more sites and apps, it could be opening up new privacy threats for kinksters.

You’ve probably seen it in action on Facebook already, when the site gives helpful suggestions for who should be tagged in your photos. It’s hard to tell how Facebook works its algorithm magic, because as Gizmondo reports in How Facebook Outs Sex Workers, “Facebook insists on concealing the methods and data it uses to link one user to another… its not a question that Facebook is willing to answer”.

We already know from recent botched attempts to use facial recognition technology to determine if someone is gay or not that companies are willing to open up their databases for others to use. Our advice is to take precautions to safely separate your online kink and vanilla spaces, and remember that digital footprints don’t fade.

image from Homosexuality in America, LIFE, 26 June 1964

September saw San Francisco’s Leather Pride Month and Folsom Street Fair (the world’s largest Leather event), and it’s been the launchpad for a couple of recent articles that take a good look at BDSM and Leather history. SFWeekly pegs 1964 as the year “Middle America discovered the Leather underground”, with an expose in LIFE magazine by Paul Welch that found him in leather bars in SoMa and the Tenderloin. This history is now being embraced by local government partnering with residents, business owners, activists and historians to shore up Western SoMa as SF’s “Leather Cultural District”.

Like all of San Francisco, the neighbourhood is under increasing pressure from gentrification, and pushing back against that won’t be the first battle that the district has fought. The Folsom Street Events page has a lengthy and indepth look at SoMa’s colourful history, and the many times it has resisted pressure to “clean up”.

A little known fact — Burning Man and Folsom Street Fair are close cousins. Burning Man (founded in 1986) began on San Francisco’s Baker Beach inspired by the Folsom Fair (founded in 1984). If you’re interested in the way the fair has influenced and reflected changing Leather culture and the fashion, personal lives, sex play and community that surrounds that,  Leather’s Burning Man is an older article by Dr Jack Fritscher that explores the changes from the dawn of HIV/AIDS to today’s tourist attraction.

There has been some showbiz news that is already causing some controversy. Oscar and multi-Grammy winner Sam Smith came out as gender-non-binary in an interview with The Times of London. The Times article is behind a paywall, but The Advocate reports on the interview, where says he doesn’t identify as a cis-gendered man and talks about his gender-bending days growing up, when he would wear full make-up to school. Gender fluidity is a trickier topic than sexual fluidity, and conservative website The Daily Wire was quick to attack the idea that someone who does not identify as intersex could claim to be gender non-binary, saying:

To suggest that membership in the female sex is applicable to genetic males is anti-biological; to suggest that your “gender” is “female” because you feel that way is both sexist (in the sense that it equates feminine males with women), and anti-logic (in the sense that you can’t know what it’s like to feel female, because you aren’t a female). To reduce womanhood to “whatever makes Sam Smith feel feminine” is irreducibly idiotic. You may be a man who feels “effeminate”; you may be a man who feels “different.” You are still a man.

There’s also been a lot of support. Teen Vogue says: “any way that Sam chooses to identify, whether or not it has a label, is great as long as it’s what makes him comfortable and happy”, and PsychCentral calls him “a great example for anyone who finds themselves feeling similarly”.

Somewhat related to the “can he or can’t he be fluid” issue, Archer just published Deconstructing Binaries: Forever on the Fence, a moving personal story by Alex Massey that looks at constructed identity and the barriers that hold back our sense of self.

We had a short-lived Flipboard magazine which we shut down when their moderators wrote to us to say “we have marked one or more of your magazines containing adult content as private”. They referred us to a vague set of community guidelines which offered no guidance on where the line between sexy and offensive was drawn, and noted that “if you continue to post inappropriate content on Flipboard publicly, your account may get suspended”. We stand by our decisions in curating that magazine, which had no pornography and looked at issues and news of interest to the kink community, but Flipboard is a great little app and we use our accounts for other things, so with no way of knowing what was appropriate or inappropriate content we just took the magazine out into the field behind the barn and shot it.

That wasn’t such a tough decision for us, because we weren’t meshed with it in any financial way. Power always goes to those who hold the means of production, and for many content-producers and content-platforms on the internet, that means of production is money. As Electronic Frontier Foundation reports, earlier this year PayPal, Visa and Mastercard withdrew service for Fetlife. The site now needs to use a complex workaround involving giftcards to sell memberships, and that has surely affected their bottom line. This week we heard from XBiz that Patreon, the crowdfunding site used by many independent content producers in the kink community to fund their work, has published new community guidelines:

The new policies, published last week, threaten to shut down campaigns of those who “produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies or providing a private webcam session.”

Patreon’s new guidelines further spell out the boundaries for campaigns that might be defined as having a BDSM edge.

“We also do not allow other fringe sexual fetish content, such as incest, necrophilia, or fetish content that is hard to distinguish from non-consensual sex,” the guidelines said.

The guidelines go on to say that not only can Patreon block content and projects it deems inappropriate from being funded, but that it may also block users from receiving any funding at all through the site. What it doesn’t do is define what “pornographic” or “fetish content that is hard to distinguish from non-consensual sex” are. Would shibari be hard to distinguish? Are breasts pornographic? Where exactly does the line get drawn?

London-based sex blogger Girl on the Net gives an example of one of her projects that is likely to be scuttled by the new restrictions:

Another day, another avenue of income that slams its doors on adult content providers. Recently Patreon announced a ‘clarification’ of its terms and conditions which means that sexy content providers are – to put it bluntly – fucked…

As some of you might know, I’ve recently been using Patreon to help fund the audio porn project – turning sexy blog posts and stories into audio porn, to make them more accessible for people with visual impairments. As a couple of blog readers told me a while ago, few things are sexy when read aloud in the monotonous voice of a screen-reader. Thanks to a bunch of kind people, I was able to use Patreon cash to buy a little of my time (that would otherwise be spent on contract or freelance work) to spend a few hours each month recording these stories. They are all live at the audio porn hub, and they are all free to access.

Adult content creators are banding together to fight back, but Vice’s Motherboard reports that it’s getting messy and Patreon seems to have doubled down on pulling the rug out from under them. Liara Roux, who spearheaded an open letter from content creators to the platform mysteriously had her Twitter account suspended with no explanation, and finds it a “suspicious coincidence”.

image from Mel Magazine – The Kinkiest Place in America is Suburbia


Metro has my favourite headline this week, with their article Woman who married herself give in to temptation and cheats on herself.

Hit & Run Blog reports that in the US apparently the FBI and Homeland Security are spending a lot of time and money operating stings on Massage Parlours. The operations often return very little in the way of results.

According to sex-toy sales, the kinkiest place in America is suburbia. Figures don’t seem to be available, but appraently South Miami Beach residents like ball stretchers, many of the men of Katy in Houston Texas wear cock rings, and in Wake Forest in Raleigh NC they like their dildos extra large.

Maxim wants you to know that you can Learn a New Language in No Time With Help From These Smoking Hot Cam Girls. Thanks to the internet, now we can all indulge our hot teacher fantasies.

Janice Zarro Brodman’s new book Sex Rules: Astonishing Sexual Practices and Gender Roles Around the World explores how different cultures around the world practice sexuality. In an interview with Vice she concludes that : “Americans are uptight about sexuality, and we have this perception of genitals and sex as scary and private”.

If you’ve heard of people making big bucks on social media and wondered how they do it, Metro has the story of Miss Scarlet Vixen, a foot fetish FinDomme who is estimated to make £55,000 (USD72,000) per year on Instragram.

Daily Beast has the intriguing story of The Mysterious Death of a Tantric Sex Guru. Psalm Isadora escaped a Christian cult and became a sex and healing guru. Many of her disciples aren’t convinced her death was a suicide.

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