What To Do When You Are Censored

Hi Everyone

A few years ago I posted this: http://elegancestudios.com/wordpress/?p=25736 about the censorship encroaching upon adult expression online.

Sorry to have been a prophet of doom, but a lot of this is now coming to pass. The latest wheeze is FOSTA/SESTA in the USA which has the big platforms running scared. Craigslist closed their personals section down, because people were using it to hook up for sex (sometimes involving money).

On the pretext of stopping trafficking, a nasty thing which is already criminal, and which happens in all sorts of industries, a resource for people to find each other for stuff they want to do, entirely consensually, has been taken away.

Amazon just started delisting and pushing romance down in the ratings- something they did five years ago for erotica, but which apparently someone decided now had to include anything with a sex scene. Romance writers were highly alarmed. Erotica writers were alarmed but hardly surprised.

We should protest, for sure. But are there any steps we can take to mitigate our risk? It looks like the censors are too canny to try outright bans on erotica or romance or sex scenes, they are sidling up on it and using not-so-subtle commercial pressures to do the job for them. They don’t need to ban it, just make it economically unfeasible for us to make it. (See age verification, UK).

As producers of erotica we’re a bit further along this road, so do we have any lessons learned to pass on?

Precious few, but what I have is here. I haven’t got all that far with all of these myself, it all takes time, which is a precious commodity for the self-employed creative. But at least this is my action plan.

  1. Have a diverse range of income from multiple platforms, in multiple countries. Even if 95% of your money comes through Amazon, take the time to set up sales via as many other platforms as you have time for. They aren’t for making money now. They are fallbacks for when your main supplier suddenly cuts off your whole revenue stream.
  2. Gather your fanbase yourself, and get their contact details in a place that can’t be taken away from you easily. Run a mailing list somewhere, on a server you pay for. Create your own Mastodon instance and ask them to sign up there. Run your own WordPress site and blog (NOT a WordPress hosted one! They’ve already started nuking the sites of sex workers). Get customers create accounts at your own site. You need to have a way of notifying your customers and fans when your main sales channel dies.
  3. Diversify your payment methods. Paypal can and will nuke you (it happened to website producers 15 years ago or so). Visa and Mastercard can and will nuke you if the political climate makes that happen. Even the banks will cut off your account (just ask sex workers and adult performers in the USA). Not to go all tin-foil hat, but don’t have all your eggs in one basket. Bank transfers are great for direct payment in Europe (the US banking system is much more fragmented). You need to have a fallback solution in place, ready to spin up when your main service provider cuts you off.
  4. Look for providers whose interests are aligned with your own. Amazon couldn’t care less about erotica or romance authors. (Except the big ones- you can bet Fifty Shades didn’t get this treatment). For erotic film-makers, Clips4Sale is a good example. C4S may be big and blundering and a bit rubbish, but they make their money out of you selling your adult clips. If they don’t protect that basic transaction, they are out of business. Their interests align more broadly with yours that say Craigslist or Paypal.
  5. Band together with other creatives, pool resources and start making platforms together, This is hard work, will be fraught with failures, but is ultimately the only way to generate enough commercial clout to survive. Basically I’m saying unionise? Ha, ha, good luck with the herding of cats. Co-operatives or creative-led platforms are the way forward, though. In the wake of the US sex worker censorship, new Mastodon instance switter.at generated 7600 users in less that 48 hours, instantly catapulting them into the top leagues of Mastodon instances. This might not come to anything long-term, and it is an example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. But it shows that these initiatives can work in the right circumstances.

In my opinion those circumstances are right. The big platforms have proved themselves untrustworthy, and are so big and powerful as to tilt this way and that with the political climate rather than stand up for any slice of the creatives who are working away at the base, making the whole edifice work. Amazon wouldn’t exist without book authors, but it is now so big in so many spheres that it can afford to treat them with cavalier disregard.

Make your own platforms. Sell everywhere, even places that are barely cost-effective for you now. Draw your customer base to you directly.

Good luck!

Five Minutes To Save Your Twitter Following: Why you should be on Mastodon, Too

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume that you are interested in adult entertainment. You’re a model, a photographer, a website producer, a cam-performer, a sex worker, a fan or a devotee of kinkiness and erotica.

The chances are you are already on Twitter, and you’re probably using it to keep in touch with your customers and fans, network with other adult industry people and kinksters, promote your website, OnlyFans or Clips4Sale or because you’re a fan and you like to meet up with the people who make your favourite porn.

Twitter is pretty good for this. Pithy tweets, actual conversations, and the ability to post pictures and videos for people to share and enjoy. And up until now, Twitter has been pretty good at sticking to their “free speech means adult entertainment is OK on our platform” principles.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that any monolithic platform run by one company is one CEO decision away from the Pornocalypse. First they mark everything as “sensitive” or “NSFW”. Then they silently censor it or move it down in search rankings. Then, when they’ve got erotica all corralled in a nice little area, they can just cut it completely.

Now I don’t KNOW if Twitter will do this. But I’ve been on enough platforms that have done it in the past that I’d rather not trust to luck. Paypal, Google AdWords, Patreon… I’d like to be a little bit more prepared this time around.

Which is why I started looking around for alternatives. I think I’ve found a decent one, and I think you should be on it too. It’s called Mastodon and it is like Twitter but based on open-source code and is distributed.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It’ll take five minutes, tops.

  1. Sign up to a Mastodon instance. Ours is at https://kinkyelephant.com. The big one, https://mastodon.social/about, is fine so long as you flag adult content. Switter.at is a sex-work friendly one (again community-run). There are other free ones, or you can host your own for 5 EUR a month.
  2. Set up cross-posting on https://crossposter.masto.donte.com.br/. Your Mastodon can automatically echo what you tweet. You can set content warnings here, worth doing for maximum reach (see below).
  3. If you want a phone app, install Amaroq (iOs) or Tusky (Android).
  4. Encourage your followers to sign up and follow you.
  5. Be smug when Twitter bans you but you are already up and running and have lots of followers on a new platform with almost zero effort.

OK, five minutes is just to set up your Mastodon feed, echoing your Twitter feed. It’s getting followers to sign on and follow us to assemble a critical mass that will be the hard bit. That’s why I’m posting this in the first place. The sooner we start, the better chance we have of staying ahead of the curve.

NOTE: When you sign in after verifying your email, you need to log in with email address, not the username you chose for the instance. This is annoying.

In more detail

Mastodon is Distributed. What that means is that you can run your own server, called an “instance” which communicates with other instances (“federated”, in the jargon). They company can’t shut you down, because there’s no one central company in control of the servers. With enough people running instances which talk to each other, you get a look-and-feel very like Twitter, but without the “CEO decides to cut porn today” risk. It runs on open-source protocols. Each instance talks to other instances to build up a social network, rather than having Big Brother at the top snooping down. Privacy is better protected, more under user control, up to and including running your own single-user instance with no-one else having ANY privileged admin access to your private data.

There’s got to be a catch, and there is. Right now it is tiny. The main instance, https://mastodon.social/about run by the dev who is developing the system, has only got 136,000 people. Some of you may have that many followers on Twitter. Right now, you probably won’t get NEW customers from Mastodon.

But we can bring them. As producers of adult entertainment we do have pulling power. People have always followed the porn, and as porn gets harder and harder to access on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, they’ll follow us wherever a critical mass of erotic artists and performers ends up. They followed us from Usenet newsgroups to websites to Yahoo groups and they will do so again.

Prepared For Losing Your Twitter Account?

If one day you lose your twitter account for one nipple slip too many in your profile, how will your fans be able to reconnect?

If you’ve started posting on Mastodon, and encouraged your fans and followers to come with you, you’ve got a ready-made fallback. The platform isn’t perfect and this may not work. But it’s better than sitting around waiting for the axe to fall on us AGAIN from social media companies.

I figure it is worth five minutes.

STEP ONE: SIGN UP

It’s super-easy. The first thing you need to do is to sign up to some Mastodon instance. Which one?

  1. Easiest option: https://mastodon.social/about. Adult stuff is allowed so long as it is tagged. You can see the full terms and conditions here. Tagging is just like twitter- set a flag in your profile to mark your media posts as sensitive. If you’re a fan, reading rather than posting, this is a no-brainer. As a content provider, I’d say sign up on there too as a first step. You can always have another account on another instance and it’ll help if you do create your own somewhere down the line.
  2. Middling option: Find another public instance which supports the stuff you want to post, via https://joinmastodon.org. Here are two examples:
  3. Friendly kinkster option: I’ve made an instance myself, https://kinkyelephant.com which you are welcome to join. Email or message me for an invite. I intend to make this a resource for BDSM and Fetish producers, photographers, models and fans.
  4. Sex-work friendly option: switter.at.
  5. Harder option: Make your own instance, hosted via https://masto.host. That’s what I did. Basic plan costs 5 EUR a month for unlimited space and max 100 users, and you’ll be in control. Hugo had it up and running for me in a couple of hours.
  6. Hard techie option: or you can go the full monty and install an instance on your own hardware if you know what you are doing. If you are worried about “who pays for it, am I the product?” this is your answer. YOU can pay for it, directly, and have control over your instance and all the code on it. This way you’re not even beholden to a hosting company.

STEP TWO: Cross Post with Twitter

If like me your main publicity tool on social media right now is Twitter, you may not want to curate another feed on another platform. Fortunately, you can set up automatic cross-posts between your Twitter feed and your Mastodon.

Go to https://crossposter.masto.donte.com.br/. Log in with your Twitter and with your Mastodon. Set to cross post. You can do it so tweets appear on your Mastodon, or vice versa, or both. Set it to ignore retweets, replies, etc. for a clean feed.

Mastodon has a content warning system, one for text and one for pics.

For pics, the easiest thing is just to set Preferences -> Always mark media as sensitive in your Mastodon control panel.

Supplement that with text saying what the warning is about. When posting you can click the “CW” button as you compose and flag it with words: NSFW, Nudity, BDSM in my case.

You can set the cross-poster to add these automatically on stuff from your Twitter feed: scroll down to “Twitter content warning” and add a few words (I have NSFW, Nudity, BDSM on mine as that covers 99% of what comes up on my twitter reposts).

I gather that will make it more likely that our posts will be widely shared and our instance happily federated by other admins.

STEP THREE: Apps

The most common recommendations seem to be Amaroq (iOs) or Tusky (Android).

Of course you can just use it in a browser, which is what I do. (So I can’t speak for the above apps personally).

STEP FOUR: Tell Your Followers

Now get your current followers to sign up to a Mastodon instance and follow you.

This will grow the network and get us towards a critical mass. But more importantly, it means if and when Twitter gives you the chop, you’ll already have at least SOME of your followers up and running and ready to keep in contact on a new platform.

Follow a few admins and other producers. Post with hashtags (because that’s how search works on there).

STEP FIVE: See What Happens

I got all this set up from scratch in about 24 hours, including my own instance and a bit of reading around to understand how it works. I put this post together so the most important info is in one place so you don’t have to go looking.

I have no idea if this platform will have any longevity, but it has got a lot to recommend it and I figure it is worth a go. Especially since getting an “echo feed” of your Twitter onto Mastodon is literally a few minutes work, tops.

HINTS

You find other people by their handle, which is (@)Username(@)instance. So I am
@RestrainedElegance@kinkyelephant.com
for example.

When you get in, the interface is Twitter-like. (And even more TweetDeck like, if you’ve used that).

If you are on your own instance, you need to start following people on other instances to get “federated up”. Google it- basically follow a few admins of other instances, and tell your fans. If they sign up and follow you from a big public instance, job done.

Use hashtags, that’s the only way to search. We need to establish stuff like #BDSM #bondage #adult #erotic #footfetish etc. so new people can find us if this does all take off.

Annoyingly, right now there’s very limited scheduling facilities for queued posts. There’s one in beta but it doesn’t allow pics yet. But while we’re still allowed on Twitter we can use their queued tweets to schedule stuff via cross-posting which is a workable solution while we build followings. But at least they’re working on it.

The Perfect Custom Video

Hi Everyone!

I’ve just been answering a stack of emails about custom videos. What makes a script a “great” custom for us, and what makes it a “groan”? If you give us a perfect script, we can give you a perfect custom video!

A great custom script is clear about the details which are important to the concept of the film, without going into paralysing detail.

Too Much

An actual screenplay, with stage directions and scripted dialogue is usually too much.

Models aren’t actresses, they don’t budget time for each production to learn lines. Many don’t really have the skill of learning lines (they are models, after all, not actresses). If you want word-perfect dialogue, you need to budget for time for the performers to learn the script by heart.

Furthermore, unless you’re a professional writer, scripted dialogue rarely sounds as natural as letting the performers ad lib around a guideline.

So…

INT CAFE, DAY.
The cafe is busy, with tables laid with white tablecloths and silver cutlery, with Swiss cut glass crystal glasses on every table. 
ARIEL enters, wearing a boho sweater and boots and carrying a red leather book and a 
long thin case.
ZOE is already seated, waiting for her. She's half-way through a plate of fettucini with grated truffle. A WAITER brings them drinks.

      ARIEL
Well I must say you are looking very beautiful this morning if I may so say so Mistress Zoe, very beautiful indeed.

     ZOE
Thank you! And I cannot wait to see what your diary says we will be doing today. And
which implements are coming out of the corporal punishment case you have with you.

…is absolutely overkill. Note the extraneous detail (Swiss cut glass crystal glasses, fettucini with grated truffle). In a Hollywood script, this is standard scene setting level of detail. For us, you’re giving us a problem. Do we need to source Swiss cut glass crystal? Are you going to pay for it? What if we can’t get truffle, or we don’t have fettucini in the house?

Setting all of that up would probably take an hour or more on shoot day, and several hours of pre-production time. Is it critical to the vision for the custom video? Would we be OK to just have our posh glasses on the table, and whatever food we can easily source from last night’s dinner on the plate?

We end up wasting ages on set worrying over what details we are OK to change, or doing our best to slavishly follow directions which the customer doesn’t actually care about.

Just Right, Goldilocks Zone

Focus on the details which matter. Leave the rest as vague as can be so we can fit it in around the resources we have available. But suggest as much as you can, and let us know the intent. If there are details which are vital, spell them out. In this scene, let’s say the important things are that Ariel has to bring the punishment book and CP implements with her to meet Zoe.

Ariel and Zoe meet for coffee. As usual, Ariel has to bring the case of CP implements and 
the punishment book with her so Zoe can go through the week's events with her and decide
punishment. Having to do this sort-of in public is humiliating for Ariel, and Zoe does her 
best to embarrass her.

That hits the sweet spot. It’s nicely non-specific about the details of the place they meet for coffee, but says it is semi-public. Great, got it, we can set that up in a few minutes and tell the story very effectively.

We’d ask for some guidance on what the girls are wearing- a paragraph like this covers it for the whole film, rather than detailed descriptions scene-by-scene:

Ariel is a repressed and hardworking career girl. In public she always wears a white blouse, 
pencil skirt and glasses. 
In private, Mistress Zoe always makes her strip naked.

Zoe is a free spirit, even though she is a domme. She wears loose boho-style outfits like a
loose sweater and beaded skirt, but with a corset over the top.

Again- just right! It even suggests some shots and mini-scenes (like Zoe forcing Ariel to strip) which we will probably be inspired to shoot to improve the film, even if you don’t specifically mention that. Would you like a bonus couple of minutes humiliation and enforced stripping, for free, with your custom video? Most likely yes!

When to spell it out

If there’s something complex to describe like a bondage position, a picture is worth a thousand words. But do emphasise anything which you really like to see (e.g. neat ropework at the back).

If your fetish is for exactly the right sort of black satin blouse and a candle-lit dinner, with tight white rope over the blouse in a box-tie chest harness, please do be as specific as you can. Diagrams! Photos! Cut out any extraneous details (a candle-lit dinner we can do, but leave the rest of the staging to us). And be physically realistic- if you want an elbows-together tie for a film with a 30 minute run-time, be aware that we’ll likely need to shoot that in several different takes, untying the model and retying her each time.

Too Little

At the other end of the spectrum are scripts like this.

I want a 30 minute video of Ariel being caned with different implements by Mistress 
Zoe. At the start she humiliates her in a cafe. Then she beats her hard for 30 minutes 
with hard strokes.

Here we’ve got nothing to get our teeth into, no detail to guide us. We can guess that the customer imagines lots of CP, given the emphasis on hard strokes, and there’s humiliation in there which gives us a bit of a hint. But why? Who are the characters? What’s the story? How do they feel about it?

Ironically, it is the scripts like this which most often result in customers a bit disappointed that we didn’t get it right- they may even complain that we didn’t tie Ariel up or gag her for the beating. Well, if the script didn’t even MENTION it, we have no way of knowing that there was bondage in your head when you commissioned the video.

The “30 minutes of hard beating in a 30 minute video” even though there’s a set-up mentioned is also a warning flag of a customer expecting video filmed by the yard, and in my experience they are the most likely to go off on a rant about stuff they’ve not told you about not being magically right. It doesn’t happen often, but often enough that I’m starting to recognise the signs.

Be aware that a story takes as long to tell on screen as it takes- sometimes it ends up shorter than expected. More often, it ends up longer because we like to underpromise and overdeliver, but we won’t really know until we edit the film together.

Inspire Us

If you’ve given us an inspiring script with lots of evocative story and opportunity for the models to improvise, visual details we can focus on like how the bondage should be, emotional details we can show like how the characters feel about being humiliated in public, you’ll very likely find we end up making you a 25 minute video when we budgeted for 10. And you know what? It’ll be a better film, we’ll have had a blast filming it, and it probably won’t have taken any longer for us to shoot than a tricky 10 minute film would have.

We’ll even go the extra mile for you like filming pick-up and establishing shots in our own time to enhance the storytelling if the film is really fun. Everyone wins!

I’ve probably made it sound scary as hell and like an exam now. Sorry. Just bear in mind:

  • Be careful to distinguish between set dressing you don’t care about, and fetish details you do. This is the most important point.
  • Leave the set dressing to us. A few words of general description “posh/elegant/expensive” are enough.
  • If you really care about a detail, spell it out. Send pictures of bondage, or buy the item.
  • For specific clothes, you sourcing them and send them to us is sooooo helpful!
  • A brief description of the characters- what they are like, what they wear, who they are.
  • Have the characters react to things in the story, give emotion hints to guide the models.
  • For dialogue, let us improvise the exact words, just give us the gist.
  • Whats really important to you? Face? Feet? Boobs? Tight ropes? Where should the camera linger longest?
  • Even fetish films are better with a beginning, a middle and an end. We can establish a character and back story in 30 seconds if you guide us, and we love it best when we can!

Cinematic vs. One Rolling Take Shooting

By the way, I shoot customs in the RestrainedElegance.som/EleganceStudios.com cinematic style. That’s as much like a Hollywood movie or a BBC costume drama as it is possible for me to do on a budget of hundreds instead of millions of pounds.

I know I’m unusual in the fetish world for shooting this way. We ran a video tutorial for @FoToRo a few years ago and at the end he said it had been very interesting, but he couldn’t possibly shoot that way- it was way too slow and therefore far too costly for his business model.

He’s completely right. The way Ariel shoots simple custom videos is to read the script, remember what she has to do, point a very wide angle lensed camera at herself, hit record, and stop once she’s reached a bit over the allocated run time (to make sure she doesn’t short-change the customer).

When she can’t do everything herself (e.g. when she needs to be tied up) she’ll hire me or another model or a friend to rig, and for really complicated stuff she’ll hire a camera operator as well, whose job is to make sure that the action is visible- so if the rigger is blocking the view of the model, move the camera. Possibly call cut, but not if it can be avoided, because that requires less time when she comes to edit the video.

This is by far the most sensible way of shooting, and it results in the “website video one rolling take” look which you’re probably very familiar with, although you’ve probably never thought of it as a definite stylistic choice. It still takes a lot longer to shoot and edit the film than the run time would suggest- there’s usually at LOAD of time in pre-production to source the location, the clothes, the people, etc. not to mention all the emails back and forth with the customer to get all of this right beforehand. Then there’s editing, maybe a bit of colour grading, uploading, and finally the video is done.

Would that I were business-minded and sensible enough to be able to shoot in that style the way I once did. But I’m not. I am cursed with having learned more of the grammar of movies than that because I was fascinated by it, and now I can’t go back to one rolling take filming as anything other than an unusual stylistic choice. My default setting is lots of shorter shots, each trying to tell you something new as the story progresses. I’d love to put motivated moving camera work into more films, too, although I’ve been struggling for years to figure out how to do that sensibly.

This is a slower, more deliberate way of shooting. It take longer- we often spend three minutes setting up a shot (moving camera, changing lenses etc.) and then the shot contributes a few seconds to the final run-time of the film. A five minute clip can easily take over an hour to shoot, and a 30 minute clip takes all day. This is why the customs shot in the RE style are more expensive to produce than Ariel’s rolling-take ones.

It also means I can spend a lot longer on each custom, which makes it even more important to get an evocative, interesting script to work with. This is why I sometimes turn down customs, especially “too short, shot by the yard, 30 minutes of a tight hogtie and not a second less” scripts. I may end up investing days or weeks of creative time on your film, and I want to enjoy it. I also want to be able to sell it to other customers afterwards, like the delightful Pony Girl series (which are some of the best customs I think we’ve ever been lucky enough to make: just enough details and novel ideas to inspire and evoke storyboards, enough freedom to get creative with it and really enjoy). Bliss.

Hywel

Aha! I didn’t think I could do it, but I can!

I didn’t think it was possible to put a blanket discount on the old RE Classic shopping cart, but I can! It’s not as obvious as on the eStore cart because it’s applied only when you get to checkout, but it is there!

The special offer last weekend on the eStore worked so well that I wanted to do something for actual Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend, and here we are! 50% off everything on the Classic Restrained Elegance shopping cart – literally THOUSANDS of photosets and videos, going back to the very beginnings of the site in 2001, are now available at HALF PRICE!

Why not take the chance to catch up on some sets of your favourite retired models from the early days like Fi Stevens, Paige Robbins, Petra Morgan or Charisma Cole? Check out super-hot early play sessions with Ariel Anderssen, like Bondage Driving Test and Long Term Bondage, or complete your collection of Jasmine Sinclair!

Add the sets to your cart and usual, check your basket for checkout and you will see a 50% discount applied!

Faye Taylor returns to RestrainedElegance.com

Faye Taylor

Kate B RE full quality still

A full sized shot of Kate in the same studio, but using studio flash and the full “RE quality procedure”. This is from an RE stills set, we didn’t shoot a video of it as well.

50% off everything on the new eStore, this weekend only!

Hi Everyone!

This weekend only, everything on our new Surfnet eStore is 50% off!

This includes all the most recent RE updates for individual purchase- which RE members already have access to of course!

But it also includes our EleganceStudios.com long movies, 50% off for the first time only, this weekend ONLY! Check out the trailers: I just put them back in the archives for RE members, or you can watch them at EleganceStudios.com

Don’t miss out on this 50% saving! Check out https://estore.surfnetcorp.com/store/EleganceStudios now!

Slave Auction

Day In The Life

Hannah Claydon, Sophia Smith, Scarlot Rose and Ariel Anderssen

The Pony Girl Trilogy

Bastinado

Acquiesce

Haunted

Highwayman

Amelia’s Sunday Spanking

The Underground

Plus Ariel’s Bastinado and Femme Domme Monologues

Don’t miss out on this 50% saving! Check out https://estore.surfnetcorp.com/store/EleganceStudios now!

Hywel