BDSM Burnout

Hi Everyone,

This is a really tricky topic to post about. I guess it could have some professional implications, and it certainly has some personal ones. But Ariel and I have been trying to be more forthcoming about the ups and downs of being kinky, so here goes. This is a big down, unfortunately.

I am burned out with BDSM and with my job as a bondage producer.

I think I can turn this around. I’ll describe later what I’m going to try to do about it, and why I am optimistic that this will work.

With Ariel finishing her book which has a fantastic happy ending of us meeting and living happily ever after, it feels cowardly not to talk about an unexpected road-bump: we’re suddenly not doing BDSM because I’ve got burnout.

I have, hopefully temporarily, lost all my “kinky inner life”, the lively fantasy existence that’s been whirling around in my head for literally as long as I can remember (my earliest memories are kink-related).

Having read up on the phenomenon of work-related burnout, I have self-diagnosed myself and I’m pretty damn sure that’s what I’ve got. I’ve been within a hair of walking away entirely, despite being hugely proud of the site and the kinky community we’ve built.

It is particularly tricky because kink is also one of the foundations of my relationship with my wife, as well as being my passion and my profession. I guess it is a danger that if you build a job around your sexual fantasies, if you burnout in the job, your fantasies might be annihilated in the fallout.

Before anyone jumps in with advice, and PARTICULARLY before anyone jumps in to crow or sneer or imply that Ariel and my relationship is on the rocks, I’d just like to say- bollocks. We love each other, we support each other, we’re having a great time on a working adventure in Ireland together and we will get through this together, as we have got through some other crises which have badly affected one or other of our careers before.

We’ve been finding it gradually harder to do wildly adventurous and ambitious BDSM scenes together without the impetus of a shoot. But we have still been enjoying our regular fun sliding into DS roles and doing impromptu spankings and little bits of play, so we’d just attributed the decline in adventurous scenes to us being busy.

It’s suddenly reached a crisis point for me and it is spilling out into making those things feel inexplicably disconnected from my inner life. That in turns has suddenly stopped them leading to hot improvised BDSM scenes together, and to me being devoid of ideas to shoot as well. Which is a bit shit, frankly.

I’m not looking for sympathy (although it won’t be unwelcome, especially if you have been through something similar).

I’m just trying to be honest and document a more recent part of our journey as it is happening to me. Maybe it will be useful to someone someday (possibly even if only to me).

The best parallel I can think of is an injury. A few years ago Ariel got injured at an art nude shoot and had to stop working for a while because of damage to her knee. The physical injury was bad enough but the mental and emotional fallout was horrid, especially so as I was away filming a mainstream movie at the time, because her identity and sense of worth is quite tightly wrapped up in her career, her ability to earn and be independent, and her devotion to being able to make shapes with her body. She’s already gone through one shattering injury age 18 which terminated her prospects as a dancer and this seemed like it might be the end of the one substitute she’d found which gave her some of the same spiritual and emotional satisfaction.

If I’d broken my leg and couldn’t shoot or do BDSM for a few months, we wouldn’t be thinking too much of it. It would be a problem to get past, and we’ve got plans in place to deal with such a thing were it to happen. (Indeed those same plans are the ones I’m going to put into practice for the duration of my burnout-induced shooting blackout).

But because I’ve broken my brain, we have a bit more cultural baggage around getting through the problem. Mental health problems are still health problems, and I want to be honest about mine. It’s shit, but no more shit than wondering whether Ariel and I were ever going to be able to go hill-walking again as I wheeled her around Bristol Zoo in a wheelchair on her birthday a few years ago.

Speaking from the inside, what I think has gone wrong is that a combination of low-level stresses has built up in my job over the last few years and has slowly slid me into a downward spiral of working harder but less efficiently. I’ve prided myself in working hard, but there have been too many days working until midnight to get the month’s updates processed. And most of all there have been too many attempts to extract water from the well of kinky ideas and inspirations that let me start a career as a bondage photographer and BDSM producer in the first place. The site has just celebrated its 18th birthday, and in the time I have been involved in creating over 5500 fantasy scenarios, each one brought to life with models, locations, props, cameras, lights, emails, production schedules, web pages, tweets, textural descriptions. Each one represents several hours work at the bare minimum. Add in general overheads and it’s not so far off one day per set.

Put another way, for the last 18 years, I’ve demanded of my brain one kinky idea every working day. I’ve then pummelled and pulled each of those ideas into a commercial product. And the next working day, I do it again. I’ve had a few periods of lack-of-inspiration before but only ever very temporarily and it has never before affected my inner fantasy life.

Added to that were external stressors, and my responses to them.

Like most fetish websites, we hit our peak sales in around 2008-9. The aftermath of the financial crash, the rise of tube sites and the lack of disposable income for most people means that I presided over 8 or 9 years of seemingly inexorably declining sales. It’s only in the last 18 months or so that it is has turned around and got back onto a level-to-very-modestly-rising slope again.

This meant almost a decade of slowly taking all the jobs I’d outsourced back in house, including ones which I find disproportionately draining on me.

We’ve also been labouring under increasingly incoherent and irrational government interference in our business, starting with the corruption of ATVOD (literally corrupt- even the government spotted it and rolled the organisation up). Now we’re in the uncertainly of the badly-thought-out age verification regulations which are sufficiently bad that the government has delayed them multiple times. Brexit adds more huge uncertainty: as I write this on Wednesday, as EU citizens legally carrying on our businesses in Ireland, by Saturday the legal basis for all of this might evaporate along with our citizenship. It’s nowhere like as stressful a situation for us as for many of the EU-UK 5 million, but it’s still a fucking bad joke.

As a result of all this sort of stress, stuff which would have been a minor problem to resolve for me in the past can seem insurmountable.

Throughout it all I’ve been continuing to draw on the well of kinky inspiration for idea after idea, one a day, every day. But I’ve stopped giving the well chance to fill up again, and the well has run dry. Talking to Ariel made me realise it actually ran dry about 18 months ago. But I’d been coasting along on the water still left at the bottom. I’ve finally reached the point where the modest seepage is no longer sufficient to refill the bucket for one last mouthful for today and just hope there’s a trickle left for tomorrow.

Right now, I am completely done with BDSM, I have no sexy ideas, no kinky inspiration, and the narrative thread that usually takes me through those things is just… gone. Dead. There’s nothing there. The number of orgasms I have has plummeted, and it’s not physical impotence or anything, it’s mental. The story that I need running in my head to have a successful fantasy or play session, the narrative voice that’s been there since I was four years old and probably before is… just gone.

It’s a bit scary.

It reaches tendrils into a lot of other parts of my life. I’ve been struggling to get enough exercise, to force myself to go out into the hills. In the past I’ve had to hold myself back from bunking off work to do that; now I’m having to force myself to do it, feel guilty when I do do it, and check twitter and emails as soon as I get signal half-way up the mountain, and again as I eat lunch at the top, and feel guilty and hurry down to sit at the computer. Then I sit until midnight working in a hugely inefficient way to do work I could probably polish off in half an hour were I working at my usual level of efficiency.

It’s drained the pleasure from most of my other fun activities too – I twitch guilty in my seat at the cinema, I can’t concentrate on books the way I usually can and my reading speed has plummeted along with increased guilty inefficient attempts to do site publicity when I should be trying to fall asleep.

I’ll leave it your imagination how being in a state like this feels and how puzzling and potentially hurtful it can be for your partner to see, especially for the year or so when it was slowly getting on top of me without us really knowing that anything unusual or bad was happening.

Again, to forestall crowing idiots, it’s no reflection on Ariel or me or our relationship. It’s not like I’m fantasising about anyone else. I’m not fantasising, full stop. It is like that part of me has just shut off, which is entirely different.

On to the more hopeful things and the positive steps I’m going to take about it.

The most positive thing I know is that on reflection I *HAVE* been through this before, not once but twice, in somewhat different areas of my life.

The first time was actually what launched me into bondage photography- I was totally burnt out with physics at work. I’d achieved the ten-year goal of anyone going into science to do their PhD and achieved a permanent academic position. Job security at last! No more three year post-doc positions, having to move again. I could stay there in the department until the day I retired, if I wanted to.

But making the transition to being a lecturer isn’t plain sailing, especially if you got a streak of perfectionism and pride in your work. I’ve spoken before about the multiple competing demands on your time: being a line manager, being the breadwinner doing grant applications, writing and delivering good lectures, departmental admin, mentoring PhD students, pastoral care for students generally, writing and marking exams, and somehow doing all of that whilst keeping your own personal research (the thing that had got you there in the first place) alive.

What I now recognise I should have done if I wanted to stick with it is to be awkward, like the members of the department who just plain refused to pull their weight in some parts of the job. At the time I thought they were arseholes.

Now I recognise that it’s probably the only way to sustain being an academic long-term. You have to work out which parts of the job you can do really well and at reasonable cost to yourself, offer to do a good job of those, and refuse to take on tasks and roles which extract a disproportionately large amount of energy from you for the net good they do you, the rest of the staff and students, the department and the progress of physics in general.

What I should have done was said “Look, I’m a bloody good lecturer. My two lecture courses have the highest student approval rating in department history, and not by a small margin. I’ll take on a higher teaching load if you protect me from grant applications, line management and departmental administrivia, which I hate, I suck at and which cost me more energy than it takes me to write a kick-ass lecture. Give it to someone who’s actually good at it, or at least someone for whom it is a minor chore rather than a major drain on their mental resources.” Even Richard Feynman went through this, as he describes in his autobiography. He got over his by no longer taking anything seriously about his job (except teaching his classes) and eventually just having fun with physics again.

Maybe that’s what I would eventually have realised if I’d stayed in-post, rather than having a completely-by-chance second career already making me as much money which I was at the time doing and enjoying as a hobby at the weekends. Which was bondage photography.

Note that back in 2003 when I quit my lecturership, I was able to run Restrained Elegance in my spare time. It genuinely took less time- far fewer shots per update, I don’t know if we’d even started video at that point, and a single fantasy idea could make four or five updates. It’s not just that I’m older and less efficient- the ambition has really grown. Compare the workload of one fantasy split into daily updates of 30 shots in 1200 x 1000 pixels with the workload of delivering 4 sets of circa 100 shots plus a 15 minute video, all to professional standards, at 4K or 42 megapixels per week. Even with the help of all the regular RE collaborators, the workload is objectively much larger than it was in 2003.

Anyway, the tipping point of me leaving physics was getting through developing all my lecture courses, getting on top of all the admin and managerial duties, and FINALLY getting to the point of being able to restart my personal research – and realising I didn’t want to. The curiosity and love of physics which had driven me since I was about 4 years old and learning about science in books given my by my parents’ university colleagues had just gone. The well was dry.

But right now I am reading a graduate-level textbook on astro-particle physics by a previous colleague of mine from DELPHI for fun.

The well hadn’t really run dry. I’d just extracted too much from it, too quickly, under too much pressure from under stresses of the job. Given time, it refilled and it is now back to normal.

I went through a similar arc a few years ago with running roleplaying games for my friends, something which had been the basis of my social life and the other foundation of my imagination (along with kink, science and mountains) for over 35 years.

Running games had turned into a real chore which I dreaded, and I just didn’t have any ideas any more.

But I restructured things a bit, ran some low-effort commercial games and stopped trying to extract water too quickly from the well whilst under too many stresses from other places (ATVOD in that case). And one day an idea popped into my head and we’re now into our second sweeping new-world, new-magic-system campaign. The well refilled.

So what I need to do is to allow the well to refill. I am confident I can do so. What I’m not so sure how to do is to manage this without hurting the business side of things, especially now that the business has finally stabilised and seen some modest growth again.

Fortunately, I’ve always had break-your-leg contingency, and hopefully this will let me get through break-your-brain.

We have over a year’s worth of content already shot and on disk. Six months’ worth of videos are already edited and uploaded to the site ready for scheduling Ariel and I are currently powering through editing stills so by the end of this trip we will hopefully have a similar amount of them too.

Collaborators are still producing work for us which won’t need much in the way of imaginative input from me (technical stuff like doing the colour correction takes a lot less out of me, it turns out).

We have shoots in the calendar, but because I’ve been aware that something’s been wrong with my brain for a bit they’ve been booked deliberately so as to maximise my chances of getting good stuff out without drawing too heavily on my inspiration. For example, finding the first five ideas to shoot in a new room is easy; finding the fiftieth is hard. So, lots of location shoots. Shooting with friends is easier than shooting with new models just because of the social energy it takes to meet and work with and tie up a stranger the first time. And having collaborative photographers and riggers around lets me set up the lights, help with the cameras, and then slink off for a sit down outside for a while as they develop the storyline without me.

So I’m OK to do the shoots I’ve got in the calendar, which added to the input from other collaborators means I’ll easily make it though the end of the year without needing to book anything else- and it won’t even run my stock of sets on disk down to a point I consider “perilous”.

I’ve got a few annoyances coming up which I will have to deal with – age verification, and a move to a new version of PHP on the websites. Hopefully I’ll cope although those sorts of things are feeling disproportionately difficult right now I think it is more because of the overall burnout than inherent demands of the tasks.

I’m going to step back a fair bit from online presence, keeping going more with scheduled tweets and similar for a while. What I REALLY need to do is to be able to leave my phone behind for a few days at a time- something I used to manage in the early days where a trip away might mean no internet connection for a week. I have to stop checking multiple times a day. I’m going to be much less accessible as a result but will of course still deal with customer service issues as promptly as I can.

I may institute an “I answer emails only on Fridays” rule while I get through the crunch part and start recovery.

I find writing the text that goes with the sets disproportionately difficult. I’m going to outsource some of this (initially to Ariel) and the text may get a lot more curt for a while.

I’m also not going to take on any more custom videos beyond what I have already accepted, as I find them quite a drain creatively at the moment.

Similarly, I’m not going to take on any tutorial or teaching activities beyond what I have already accepted.

I’m going to give myself as much space and distance from the business as I can, particularly in terms of the need to extract fantasy storylines from my brain. I’m going to be going to the mountains a lot more, and I’m going to try to have an actual holiday from contact entirely over the summer (unlike all holidays for the last 10+ years, which have included daily checks of emails, twitter, websites).

And by putting all this in a blog post I’m trying to be honest with you and with myself and commit myself to taking the drastic steps I need to do to get my inner fantasy voice back.

Hopefully, this will all work, and I will be able to reset myself and get the job back to the efficient flow it mostly has been.

I guess there’s a risk that I fail and that I have to make more drastic changes but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it- as I said I have at least a year’s grace from the break-your-leg contingency already filmed so I’m hopeful that as customers you’ll hardly even notice. But it would have been disingenuous of me to keep pretending everything was fine when actually I’ve had a bit of a meltdown.

Hopefully this might be reassuring to read (for you and me) and I’ll look back at it and think “well, thank goodness you took steps back then when it all seemed pretty bleak, ‘coz now you’re fine. Let’s not let that happen again, shall we?”

Urg. That hasn’t been the most pleasant of things to write. But here we go, maybe it’ll help someone, maybe even Hywel-of-tomorrow, and I’m nothing if not honest to the point of stupidity.

Hywel

Happy Birthday Restrained Elegance!

I’m not often lost for words (as you can probably tell).

But today’s 18th birthday of my little website-to-help-cover-shoot-costs website leaves me a bit gob-smacked and unsure what to say.

I’ve said a lot of it before- how I never expected the site to turn into a business or to make my living doing this. I certainly think I would have been astonished at the sheer technical progress that we’ve made – from crude scans of slide film to the first digital SLRs to cameras which routinely now deliver results far superior to those of the highest end film medium format cameras of 2001.

We’ve gone from 30 second videos shot on miniDV tape (and thinking that was remarkable- a TV-quality recording from a small box) to 4K footage that equals what Hollywood was shooting on just a couple of years ago. From flaky Jessops-own-brand flash lighting with a recharge time of several seconds to portable studio flat packs capable of overpowering direct sunlight and yet which can be carried in one hand. From tungsten hot lights from the stone age to large LED panels delivering colour-tuneable and dimmable light of delightful quality.

In bondage terms if I’m honest I’ve made less progress, but I’ve still gone from home-made cuffs and ropes from B&Q to tying awesome suspensions and travelling the world with a collection of brightly coloured ropes and heavy metal bondage, locking up 250 of the world’s most gorgeous women.

I think the thing of which I am most proud, though, is this page from the RE maintenance pages (a system written for my by one of my University friends, drafted in as most of my friends have been in one way or another):

This is the list of people who have contributed to the site behind the scenes or behind the camera. In 2001, I would never have thought that I’d have worked with over 50 people on my little website project with them contributing everything from ideas and bondage gear through to their time and energy and even donating material they have shot and paid for because they feel that Restrained Elegance is a safe, respectful environment where their creative output can have a home.

I’m quite shy, terrible at small talk, forget to smile and consequently off-putting on first meeting. People think I hate them. Plus I’m a weapons-grade introvert, so after a few days I shut down and have to go and hide. All of which makes a miracle that we’ve managed to sustain a BDSM community around something I created, really!

That Restrained Elegance is still here today is a testament to the power of the collegaite, collaborative model of doing business. Even if that business is making erotic art.

I prefer photography to drawing BDSM because of the opportunity to collaborate with models. I have some idea how to light and how to frame a shot. I’ve got some idea of how to tie safely in a way that’s relatively flattering. But that’s all for nothing without the skill and technique of a model who knows how to work with that and pose herself towards the camera, with exactly the right sort of sexy-but-scared bondage emotions projecting on her face, putting dynamic tension onto the ropes that translates to eroticism on the screen.

I’ve got some idea of what makes a cool story-line, but nothing beats working together with other creative people in a stimulating location to come up with ideas that are superior to anything we’d have come up with on our own. That’s why the highest point of a very high plateau of good experiences for me are the Restrained Elegance location trips, where we all pool our ideas and have a week-long frenzy of creative output.

And the other thing which I would never have imagined in 2001 is how lovely our members would be. That’s not to say I imagined you’d all be horrid- I don’t think I had any preconceptions. Indeed it was a surprise that there were any people out there who would be interested enough to sponsor the creation of more BDSM erotica. I don’t think I expected to meet so many people, discover that so many couples enjoy the site together, find people whose exposure to the site led them to explore BDSM in their personal lives, maybe even catalysed them to realised that they were kinky.

I really didn’t expect so many of them to turn out to be photographers, authors, artists and film-makers, either. If you’d suggested to me back in 2001 that my future fetish model wife would be travelling the world working with people who have been members of the site at one time or another, I’d not have believed it.

Well today is the first day that the website might be older than some of its members, and that’s a huge privilege and responsibility. We’ve got two big location trips coming up, and we’re adding more sets to the total created by the Restrained Elegance collaboration. We’ve got a new contributor, Drago Bee, whose work you will be seeing here over the coming months and hopefully years (Ariel will tell you more about that in her piece on the site’s birthday).

As always, this is only possible because YOU support it. The money you choose to pay to us goes directly to making more BDSM erotica (literally: 80% of the site’s turnover goes straight back out on shoots, models, locations and equipment. The rest allows me to eat and keep a roof over my head while I manage all this creative effort from so many people). Restrained Elegance will keep going so long as you think our output is good enough to support. Maybe another 18 years, who knows? I hope so!

Hywel

Ariel’s Thoughts

I asked Ariel to share some of her thoughts on today’s update featuring the work of Drago B, and on 18 years of Restrained Elegance.

This is what she said:

To celebrate Restrained Elegance’s 18 Anniversary, we’re very happy to welcome a new artist to the Restrained Elegance family, and to show you what I hope will be the first of many of his lovely movies to appear here. Welcome, Drago B.

I’ve been working with Drago since 2014, when he first hired me for a stills shoot. His interests include corporal punishment and exploring Dom/sub dynamics, so naturally, I loved working with him, and was delighted when he moved into movie production a couple of years ago. In the intervening years since we first met we’ve become friends, and I’m a huge fan of his work.

Initially, Drago made his films available for free on Vimeo, but like Hywel before him, his account was shut down for being too pornographic. I was offended on his behalf, as I’d been on Hywel’s. Though both of them are, I’m sure, perfectly capable of shooting excellent porn, neither of them had uploaded anything onto Vimeo that’d have been out of place in a Hollywood film. Hywel, of course, has Restrained Elegance to host his work, conveniently behind a paywall, and under his own control where it can’t be censored. Drago had no such place to for his movies. So both Hywel and I were grateful and honoured when he offered his films to Hywel, to appear on Restrained Elegance.

I’ve always been impressed by the way in which Hywel has welcomed contributions from other artists on Restrained Elegance. It reminds me of what a decent, collaborative and community-minded human being he is. And it speaks very highly of Drago, that he offered his work to Restrained Elegance for free, because he wants it to reach an appreciative audience.

And I do hope that you, like me, will be part of that appreciative audience. Drago’s work doesn’t feature a lot of bondage, since it’s more focused on CP, but to my mind, what he does especially beautifully is to make work that conveys how BDSM feels from the inside. The way in which it can feel like the most complete, satisfying form of communication. The sense of connection, warmth and affection between the participants, which is easy to overlook in favour of the more obvious elements of BDSM. I especially like the way Drago concentrates on the enjoyment of the submissive, which is an almost entirely absent theme in traditional CP productions.

Drago’s work is romantic, and sensual, and he’s one of my favourite people to work with. As, of course, is Hywel, who has carefully piloted his little personal project to commercial maturity over the last 18 years, with all the integrity of an artist, and with the bare minimum of business sense (Really. We have a lot of lenses. There’s no possible commercial justification for them. Ditto all the extra cameras. It’s a puzzle). Restrained Elegance was one of the first websites that gave me the feeling that my sexual identity was ok, and over the years, we’ve heard from many people who’ve said the same. That feels valuable, and I hope that we can continue to help people feel this way for many years to come. Censorship and regulation have been an ever-increasing threat to Hywel’s venture over the last few years, as has industrialised video piracy. The support of honest people like you who’ve been prepared to support our shared vision of romantic, beautiful BDSM, is the reason that Restrained Elegance has reached the age of 18. Thank you to you all.

And with Drago joining Hywel, Kate, Steve, Merlin, Sheep, me, and our other friends and colleagues from around the world, we’ll hope to keep bringing you work that will delight you, as it delights us.

Happy Birthday, Restrained Elegance. And congratulations to Hywel, who is braver, and kinder, and more full of integrity than any man I’d ever have dreamed of being able to marry. And who is, I think you’ll agree, a remarkable BDSM producer. May Restrained Elegance enjoy journeying towards middle age, just as its crew are.

Ariel Anderssen

Tutorials for 2019

Hi Everyone!

Many thanks to everyone who filled in our survey on bondage and photography tutorials. The survey is now closed and we are setting to work to create new photosets, videos and documentaries to fulfil your requests. I thought you might be interested in knowing the survey results.

First of all, we were very encouraged by the sheer volume of responses. We had 71 in total, of whom 66 people were interested in tutorial materials on RestrainedElegance.com.

This in itself is a huge boost for us- that’s a significant fraction of the membership, something we didn’t really know about before running the survey. It is great to know that people are really interested and it has definitely encouraged us to put significantly more time and energy into the tutorial material on the site this year.

I’ll aim for at least one tutorial feature a month, two if time permits.

Tutorial Subjects

(On this chart 1 = everyone hates the idea, 3 = everyone loves the idea. Sorry for the odd axes, blame Survey Monkey or me for being too cheap to pay for upgraded presentation options).

From this I take away that pretty much everyone is interested in tutorials on bondage ideas, how to tie and bondage techniques.

There’s a strong interest in stills photographic technique, model-related technique (posing, makeup, how to direct a model, etc.) and in post-production.

There’s some interest in video-centric tutorials. For some people that’s their main interest (reinforced by individual comments) but quite a few people are only interested in bondage and still photography.

The least interesting overall was industry-related technique like selling your work, hiring models, etc. but even that had plenty of people who would be very interested if we did do something on this.

Action points:

We will aim to prepare tutorials all of this in due course, since nothing proved absolutely uninteresting to everyone.

We will prioritise bondage technique first, then stills photo technique, then video specific tutorials.

I’ll try to cross-over video technique and stills technique where I can (eg natural light lighting and equipment is useful for both) to broaden the appeal.

It’ll take a while to prepare some of this eg some tutorials require a day’s shooting, where others (eg equipment advice) just needs me to sit at the computer for an afternoon. But thank you that sets our broad agenda for 2019!

Style of Presentation

Slideshows are clearly the least popular. I will continue to put up slideshows where we have given invited talks but will not use them otherwise.

All the other formats have their adherents, but people clearly value a better-constructed tutorial video or behind-the-scenes over a video-log talking head YouTube video style. In some ways that’s sad because talking-head videos are easy to churn out quickly. But I shouldn’t be surprised that RE members would prefer us to do fewer tutorials but make them more comprehensive and better presented!

Annotated stills sets with text are clearly appreciated too, which is nice for me as that’s often the most natural way for me to discuss technical issues like the aperture/depth of field series.

Action Points

A mix of materials is good, so we can choose the format that most suits the subject. Behind the scenes, documentary-style videos and annotated photosets will be the three main formats.

Can the Model sometimes be untied?

We are conscious of course that we are primarily a bondage site, so where we can have the model tied up we will. But sometimes if a technical series is being done with explanations or with us shooting documentary video, that could take a very long time and require her to be bound for longer than is safe or efficient.

For example, the recent Paul McRope/Ariel series. The early technical lessons involved a lot of fiddling around with lens changes and f/stop changes – there was too much going on, and each series took too long to shoot, for me to really be comfortable having Ariel tied up for all of it.

But once we stopped doing the methodical learning exercises with lights and camera in each of six places and were putting it into practice, something more like shooting a normal set, of course we went back to having her in bondage.

So thank you for this, it’s a significant consideration in shooting some of these tutorials. Especially the popular documentary-style videos. It means we can continue to do stuff like the aperture tutorial series and the lighting tutorial series without needing the model to endure potentially two hours or more in bondage.

A few highlights from individual suggestions

Thank you to everyone who contributed suggestions as well as just answering the questions. We’ll try to cover as many of them as we can. I particularly plan to cover:

  • How to achieve sharpness in your photos
  • Shooting on a shoe-string budget
  • Shooting on a camera phone (ironically, I’m not qualified to shoot this one. So it’ll be more of a “photographer challenge” – spend the day shooting with my iPhone, can I get anything worthwhile? I’ll film it and let you know!)
  • A basic all round videography tutorial
  • A basic all round stills tutorial – which I’ll follow up with more advanced videos on sub-topics
  • A basic all round bondage technique tutorial
  • A basic all round bondage safety tutorial
  • A basic all round working with models tutorial
  • How to approach post-production (one for stills, one for video)
  • Using light and shadow to make it seem real
  • Showing emotion
  • Sets, equipment, environment and production design – how do they contribute?
  • The hogtie (multiple requests here!)
  • Posing ideas for models in bondage, especially when the bondage is not so restrictive (eg collared and chained, but quite free to move)
  • Developing mutual understanding with models (suggestion mentioned studios and other photographers, too, but I think there will be less interest in that)
  • Effective shooting methods – which I’m going to take to mean “I have a model booked for a few hours. How do I make sure I get some good shots?”
  • Building up – from full auto to manual on the camera
  • Metal bondage technique
  • Moving from simple floor bondage work to more advanced ties
  • Doing your first bondage shoot
  • Doing your second bondage shoot
  • How to step up your game with some basic extra equipment
  • Progressive ties – ties that can start as one thing and turn into another without untying

That’s already WAAAAY more than a year’s work to cover everything, but I’ll do the best I can!

There are a few things that I will not be covering any time soon. Self bondage – while Ariel does sometimes tie herself up, and models do it on camera with metal bondage, it isn’t our area of expertise, especially since we ALWAYS have other people present when we do it. So I’m not qualified to speak about this I’m afraid.

Suspension – we don’t currently have a safe suspension point in our house/studio, and we’ve always been very cautious with suspensions anyway. So while we could put something together it would need a lot of resources, and I’ve already got my work cut out for me covering the above!

An updated lexicon – I think we can update the pages, but doing a whole extra lexicon shoot is a massive undertaking, so may not happen any time soon.

And Finally… Tutorials in Person

We have a very small number of slots for one-on-one dedicated tutorials this year. Take a look at the sort of thing we laid on for Paul McRope in the recent tutorials with Ariel. If you really want to kick-start your bondage photography or level-up your skills, this is by far the most effective option. We will construct a tutorial program to your individual specification, for one or two days.

We won’t have time to offer small group tutorials this year (although if you wanted to book us for a dedicated tutorial with yourself and a friend or partner we could totally put together a dedicated program for you).

If you are interested email webmaster@restrainedelegance.com. And if you happen to be interested in some of the above topics and are willing to let us use the resulting shots to put together tutorials for RE members as Paul did, we can definitely give you a break on the costs of the tutorial.

If you are interested don’t hang about, as we will likely only be able to fit in two or three people at most as we’ll fit them in around existing RE shoots and Ariel’s modelling, so we’ll need to get dates in the diary SOON.

Cultural Appropriation (Again)

A few days ago I was somewhat taken aback to find a judgemental, authoritarian attack, a racially-motivated anti-sex-worker post appear on my Twitter timeline, re-tweeted by a friend.

The retweeted post was this:

Hey white sex workers.

Dreads are not your urban, hippie, or punk accessory.

It’s cultural appropriation. And for you to be making coin of your stolen look while actual black sex workers are fetishized/ignored/devalued for the same thing makes you fucking worthless.

I don’t habitually jump into arguments like this, but it behooves us to try to call out this sort of hateful invective when it pops up on our timelines.

So I replied as follows:

Hey human beings.
Wear your hair any way you fucking want.
It’s your hair.

By so doing I was deliberately echoing the aggressive and hateful language of the original tweet, trying to make a counter-argument in a pithy way.

This post is my attempt to advance that counter-argument in detail, and a challenge to the whole “cultural appropriation” idea.

First, let’s look a bit more at the original tweet.

“Hey white sex workers” – a hail to a group who the poster is then going to address as homogeneous on the basis of their career and skin colour. That’s not an especially promising start. There is no such thing as a “typical” white sex worker- every single human being is different, with different circumstances, and fall more or less closely into a huge number of overlapping groups. It’s a bit of a sticky wicket to start ascribing motives for behaviour to a large number of heterogeneous people on the basis of one or two groups they happen to fall into to a greater or larger extent.

“Dreads are not your urban, hippie or punk accessory’ – factually speaking that seems dubious. They could be exactly that. Or they could be any number of other things. A practical response to their family spending three years in Nepal, which they’ve grown used to now. A way to fit in for an inner-city kid whose social group mostly has them. An attempt to recreate a favourite character from a roleplaying game. A tribute to the way grandfather (who came from the Caribbean) wore his hair. A loving thing done for them by their black partner. One can think of many, many reasons why a person might choose a particular hairstyle. So far, I’m not seeing why that’s anyone’s business but their own.

“It’s cultural appropriation.” – I’ll deal with this at length below, let’s move on for now.

“And for you to be making coin of your stolen look while actual black sex workers are fetishized/ignored/devalued for the same thing makes you fucking worthless”.

The poster is now making accusations to a whole heterogenous group of human beings – specifically a group of human beings who share one circle in the Venn diagram of human beings (making a living as a sex worker) but who fail to fall inside a second circle in the Venn diagram that the OP falls into (being black; from context in this case I suspect specifically African-American in the USA) and instead fall into another one: being white, presumably in this case white Americans. The failure to qualify this latter point is an interesting symptom I noticed the last time the whole cultural appropriation thing cropped up on my timelines. There’s an unstated assumption that the local situation is universal. There’s more than one cultural gradient in the world, and anyone who lives in America and is tweeting and posting video clips is right up an one end of a pretty huge one. In fact there are millions upon millions of cultural gradients, privileges and disadvantages, all co-existing all of the time. It’s fine to pick on prominent ones for your own situation- but appreciate your own position on other gradients too. In short, have a bit of empathy and be kind.

I may be wrong- the poster may be Canadian, say. I’m not that closely attuned to accents. But the point stands. The situation for British or Irish or Spanish or Lithuanian sex workers might be entirely different. Many cultural gradients. The whole thing is hugely multi-dimensional and every individual sits in their own place on every one of the relevant cultural scales.

They are accusing that group of making coin off their stolen look – i.e. making money as a sex worker. Of course they are making money as a sex worker, by definition. They’re in that circle because you’re drawn it to include them. All sex workers make money at least in part from how they look, it doesn’t mean that they’ve stolen the look in order to make coin. There are as many reasons for an individual to choose their hairstyle as there are individuals in the circle.

That’s not to say there isn’t an issue here. There is, and it is huge and structural and a massive, massive problem for humanity which we need to sort out as one of the most pressing issues of this or any other age. The discriminatory treatment of black women in the USA for wearing their hair in certain ways is vile and needs to be tackled.

But the issue is one of racist discrimination against people with a certain skin colour (in general) being forced to change their hairstyles (in specific).

I fail to see how we solve that by forcing people of a certain skin colour to change their hairstyles.

Culture as Stealing?

The only way a look can be stolen is if a specific individual starts a genuinely new fashion and lots of other people copy them against their wishes, and even then I’d argue that it is swimming against the whole existence of culture – all culture has been appropriated, appropriation is what creates culture.

Seeing something someone else does and doing it too, or taking inspiration from it and putting your own twist on it. Language, cuisine, art, science, fashion, commerce, farming, sewers, internal combustion and the days of the week. All culturally appropriated, all the time, all around the world, by all human beings in every single aspect of their existence. You might as well forbid English people from using the word “British” because it is culturally appropriated from the p-Celtic language (Brythonic) that was spoken in these islands when the Angles and Saxons first arrived.

There are only so many ways to create a hairdo, and dreadlocks are a recurring theme in multiple cultures spanning the globe and dating back to antiquity, at least to circa 1000 BCE. It is a moot point whether this represents independent invention or cultural transmission of the idea; the point is that human beings have been doing this to their hair across many cultures since before the founding of Rome. We’d be foolish to assume that they don’t predate that- absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreadlocks

That’s reaching back to the sort of era where all humans share a common ancestor (The exact dates of which are model-dependent, but a reasonable estimate is circa 1400 BCE: http://steveolson.com/uploads/2009/04/nature-common-ancestors2.pdf). It’s not outrageous to trace back to the time of identical ancestors, when the refolding and recombination of family trees that happens as you go back through the generations means that amongst all individuals living at least that long ago, each present-day human has exactly the same of ancestors. (The IA point, which simulations put at circa 5500 BCE). I’d hazard a guess that some people somewhere in the world probably had dreads in 5500 BCE, despite the lack of archaeological evidence (hair doesn’t get preserved all that well in a lot of climates). And if they did so… the ancestors of the person making the complaint wore dreads, and the ancestors of the persons being complained about wore dreads, because they were THE SAME PEOPLE. So who has culturally appropriated from whom, exactly?

So what is actually meant here is that on the basis of skin colour, the original poster and those in similar circumstances in one particular culture in the modern world are being discriminated against. Absolutely vile, and something I again say we need to make every effort to remove.

But the tweet is itself guilty of all the things that are worst about the thought patterns which created that discrimination in the first place. Stereotyping human beings on the basis of skin colour. Requiring different behaviour from human beings on the basis of skin colour. Castigating other human beings for sex work, “making coin” from the way they look. The unspoken assumption on universality, in this case that the American situation is universal. (Maybe there’s a group somewhere where black people and white people are trying to get along and encouraging each other to adopt each other’s cool hairstyles. Let’s hope so, it sounds like a better place to live.)

But all of this I would probably have let flow by me – gently disagreeing with the specifics whilst sympathising with and doing my best to work towards an improvement in the discriminatory situation that lead to the tweet in the first place… were it not for those last few words.

“makes you fucking worthless”. If there’s any group under persistent attack for being worthless right now, it’s sex workers. That sex workers with one skin colour have it less bad than sex workers with a different skin colour is piss-poor, but it doesn’t make it OK to decide that the people involved are worthless. That’s just vile. No human being is worthless, especially not on the basis that they are of a certain skin colour, that they make money from sex work, and they happen to wear their hair a certain way.

The OP is presumably disgusted at the lack of awareness and solidarity from white sex workers for the plight of POC sex workers, on the basis that if anyone ought to understand the struggle, it is people with a fair degree of overlap on the Venn diagram. Which is probably entirely true. But to then attack those people in such dehumanising terms is not OK.

It represents is a victory for the sort of us-and-them, race-is-a-real-thing*, stay-in-your-box, authoritarian othering that got us into this whole damn mess in the first place. It’s saying that the bigots are right- there’s a significant difference between human beings on the basis of their skin colour, and human beings should act differently and expect to be treated differently on that basis.

(* ref: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-History-Everyone-Ever-Lived-ebook/dp/B01D8ZZWHO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1534236261&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3AAdam+Rutherford short version- there isn’t a scientifically-defensible definition of race amongst human beings; the bigots are wrong. )

The Cultural Appropriation Distopia

Let’s move on to the broader point. Let’s say we accept that cultural appropriation is a real thing, that it is an undesirable thing, and that by great concerted effort we manage to reduce or eliminate it slowly, nation-by-nation, across the globe.

A few years hence; North America. It is unacceptable for a white sex worker in Detroit to wear her hair in dreads. The cultural appropriation authority assess that her degree of racial purity is inadequate to be allowed to adopt that style. Her friend, whose father has white skin and whose mother has black skin, is allowed to do so, but if she had a white great-grandfather that would tip the scales into nope.

Their friend whose grandparents were Japanese-American, African-American, Chinese-American and European-American is not allowed to adopt dreads, nor to wear a kimono. She is insufficiently racially pure. But nor is she allowed to bleach her hair blonde, or watch Chinese action movies- oh, pity for her! She is not racially pure enough to belong in any category! She’s not even allowed to eat German sausages. She’s allowed Cantonese food (the cultural authorities have decreed that her racial purity is adequate for that) but not Sichuan, because her grandfather came from the wrong part of China.

However, Canada has been very progressive and forward thinking, and has managed to reduce structural inequality to the point where white girls are now allowed to wear dreads. Hooray! World-wide celebration! But oh no! There’s still structural inequalities between the French-speaking Quebecois and the English speaking majority! No Parisian fashions for you, English-speaking Candian sex worker! No meeting up for a culturally-insensitive “rendezvous”! No matter what the colour of your skin, your personal circumstances or your personal preferences. There’s a cultural gradient, and you’re at the high end of it, no matter what other cultural gradients you happen to be experiencing. Black sex worker? White sex worker? Doesn’t matter- English-speaking, you’re at the wrong end of the gradient. Eating French food? Exploitation! Shame on you! You’re fucking worthless!

It’s an authoritarian, distopian, racist nightmare. Who decides on another human being’s entitlement to a certain style of dress or hairdo? What degree of racial purity is required? How disadvantaged do you have to be for it no longer to apply? How finely-balanced do the scales of cultural inequality have to slide before you allow free transfer of ideas? What do you do when multiple competing groups claim a single cultural idea? Are people of Indian descent in the USA allowed to wear dreads? How long ago before a particular thing is allowed as part of “your” culture? What determines what is “your” culture in the first place? Sex? Gender? Skin Colour? Place of birth? Does a person who was born in Africa have a greater claim to dreads than someone born in Carolina? What if they moved when they were six months old?

There are many huge problems in the world, and many of them are the result of endless in-group/out-group othering. Doing more of that, however well intentioned, is not likely to help. It’s perpetuating the thinking that led to the problem in the first place. And as demonstrated by this thread it most frequently manifests in exactly those contact areas of shared experience where one would most hope for building bridges – and slams down a wall. A metaphor I choose with care.

So, by avoiding wearing dreadlocks is a white person combating racism? No. They are subscribing to exactly the thinking that leads to racism- that there’s a them and us, and what’s for them isn’t for us, or for me. Wear dreadlocks and kick up fucking hell about black sex workers being discriminated against for that or for any other reason.

The “Not-Being-An-Arse” Corollary

There is a corollary here, which I call the “not-being-an-arse” principle.

We should strive to be kind to one another. Part of that is not to ignore discrimination being poured down on people and to do our best to address it. Part of it, for sure, is to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

Buying a piece of mass-produced plastic tourist tat patterned on Native American designs being made and marketed by a non-Native-American person and treating something that one culture has regarded as something of reverence as a disposable children’s toy could very well run the risk being an arse.

Buying a piece of hand-crafted Native American art sold to you by a Native American person. Is that being a bit of an arse? It entirely depends, doesn’t it? On the one hand, it might be that the huge structural inequality towards Native Americans means that that person has no other way of making a living and finds it demeaning… but is it helping NOT to buy it? If they are happy to sell it to you and you are happy to buy it, can it just be as simple as two human being conducting an exchange for mutual benefit, whatever the larger picture may be? By all means do whatever is in your power to help reduce the structural inequality. But whether or not to buy this piece of art, today, from this person- that’s surely not a matter for anyone but the two of you, and your personal tastes?

What if the buyer had a Native American great-grandfather? Does that suddenly make it OK? What if the seller had a European great-grandfather? Is that suddenly not OK? Who decides?

This applies to both sides of the equation. Attacking the person buying your art for buying your art because it is cultural appropriation is being an arse, too. By all means gently explain to a fellow human being what the situation is, what the circumstances are, the shape of the structural inequalities. Suggest what they can do to help. But having a go at the people who are interested enough to have stopped at your place to look at your art in the first place is slamming down the wall exactly where you should both be building a bridge. And with exactly the sort of person who is interested enough that have taken the first step across the bridge, to boot. Othering, us-and-them.

As Reginald D. Hunter opined “you can’t always make people come to where you at. Sometimes you have to go to where they at.” I’d say we should strive to do that.

Culture is Cultural Appropriation AND IT IS GLORIOUS

Culture is GLORIOUS. It is the amazing feat made possible by human language and the transmission of ideas from one person to another person, greatly assisted by leaps forward like writing, commerce, the printing press and the internet.

Culture is one human being learning something from another human being and storing it away, making use of it in their own way, in their own terms.

ALL languages are an amazing, ever-changing, always evolving collection of grammatical structures, verbal fashions, words taken from here and there and everywhere, ideas folded and changed and subtly shading in meaning over the years. Wherever humans come into contact, new language and new culture and change springs into being. It’s unstoppable. We can’t stop it. We shouldn’t even be trying to.

(Ref: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Magnificent-Bastard-Tongue-History/dp/1592404944).

If we’re to stop cultural appropriation, this sort of thing has to stop. High status humans in positions of power shouldn’t adopt the vernacular- that’s failing to take account of the cultural gradient and appropriating from those at the bottom of the scale. The English aristocracy should still speak French. Pure, unchanging 1066-era French. The Angles and Saxons should get their hands off words yn Gymraeg, and stop using our “I did do” constructions all over the place. We certainly shouldn’t wear pyjamas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pajamas.)

More prosaically, the British kid who is a fan of Hong Kong Action movies should stop wanting to be Jackie Chan, and absolutely shouldn’t pinch the cool bits of Mr. Vampire to make their own first film when the inspiration has carried them through film school to their first directing role. They should take artistic inspiration only from the same sources as their fathers, and their fathers before them. (Except that you only need to go back a few thousands years before that’s the same set of ancestors as every human being on the planet).

I’m Welsh. I was born in Wales. I’m learning to speak Welsh. It’s glorious. Should English people be allowed to do so? What if they start competing in the Eisteddfod and start winning prizes (they do, by the way). That’s cultural appropriation in the existence of a long-standing structural inequality. (Reference the treachery of the blue books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treachery_of_the_Blue_Books. )

Actually I have q guilty secret: despite being born in Wales, with Welsh ancestry on my Father’s side, my Mother is English. And a great-grandfather was Scottish. Am I Welsh enough to partake of Welsh culture? Should my English wife be allowed to do so too, given that she’s a colonialist?

Of course she should. And I should. And anyone else who wants to should. Welsh language and literature is enlivened by contributions from anyone, whatever their country of origin or native tongue or colour of their skin or whatever other dubious basis we are using to decide upon us-and-themness today.

Share! Revel! Tell you story! Make friends! Treat them as equals! Fellow human beings, hello! Have this! I’ll have your video games and your telescope! (“Your?” did you invent them? In what way are they yours?)

So hold up. By what reasoning can Welsh possibly be “my” language? I didn’t invent it. I wasn’t born able to speak it. I picked up some of it from where I happened to live by an accident of birth. Should that have any bearing on whether or not I should be able to learn it? If I’d been born somewhere else, I’d probably not be interested in it. If I’d been born in a city in the USA, I might be interested in some of the other cultural stuff bubbling around me every day. Like… hairstyles I think are cool. That my friends have. That someone picked up from somewhere. Maybe their black neighbours. Maybe their mother’s trip to India. Maybe their friend.

Lucas, the kid with black skin in Stranger Things shouldn’t be messing around with a white person’s game like Dungeons and Dragons. Even though he likes it. That stuff is the tool of the colonialist oppressor, yo. It’s not for you! (He’s a fictional human being living in America. He’d have every bit as much right to purchase and enjoy Dungeons and Dragons as his school-friends were he real… wouldn’t he? Shouldn’t he?).

British chefs should absolutely not have bastardised Indian cuisine to make Chicken Tikka Marsala, no matter how nice it tastes. Fusion cuisine is cultural appropriation to its very core- shut that down, or at least conduct racial purity tests to see which human beings are allowed to create it. Or eat it.

These are not really reductio-ad-absurdam arguments, because this is exactly the argument being advanced. It is the same argument as “white sex workers shouldn’t wear dreads”. It’s taking your own parochial world view and your own parochial situation and trying to extend it to other human beings against their will, in ignorance of their own personal situation. White sex workers in Russia, say? White sex workers in Poland, who might even be doing it in tribute to or solidarity with their own tradition of exploitation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_plait). There may be exactly no Polish white sex workers doing this. But they’d have every bit as much right to do so if they wanted to.

Dreads may be associated specifically with black people in one particular culture, at one particular time, with one particular structural inequality looming large and crying to be put right.

But claiming any sort of exclusiveness of culture to one sub-group of humanity is meaningless, authoritarian, othering, unkind and furthermore vastly ignorant of the glorious history of the whole of the rest of humanity outside the parochial bubble.

What about the entire Indian sub-continent, where dreads have been a thing for a very long time?

Maybe taking a step back and challenging the idea that any cultural thing really truly belongs to any group of human beings would be a better idea.

Yes, it is bloody annoying when yet another white artist grabs inspiration wholesale from a black sub-culture and makes a million from it. But the problem is structural inequality that prevents the black artists from being commerically successful. Make it possible for them to do so on a level playing field! Absolutely, we should strive for that! But at it’s basic level, at least there’s some cultural contact. Some way of starting a conversation between the multiple groups, the different overlapping circles on the Venn diagram. Ways to start realising the commonalities, and the horrible differences, and ways to start addressing them together.

Would you rather than white kids were forbidden from listening to rap because it is “black music”? Or would you rather they listened to and started to think about the lyrics, about how life might be like on the streets of Compton? Watch movies about it. Learn about each other. Think “Man, that’s fucked up. We’d better do better than that”. Maybe the white kids and black kids in Detroit might realise that they have more in common with each other than either of them have with the billionaires who run the country.

No idea, no culture, no fashion has sprung into existence by immaculate conception. All of it comes from the unceasing churn and mish-mash of ideas across the whole of humanity, across the whole of human existence. NONE of it is exclusive to one human being, not even in cases of “invention” or discovery. All of it rests of the huge shining palace of human cultural achievement.

Einstein created the theory of relativity- in an environment constructed by other scientists. That’s why Newton didn’t create the theory of relativity. The necessary fore-runners to the idea simply hadn’t bubbled up through the hundreds and thousands of minds exchanging ideas; he didn’t have enough culture to appropriate. Instead he had to synthesise what was around him to create his theory, which was subsequently revised and extended by Einstein is a grand act of culture-in-all-its-finery at work.

Emmy Noether came up with possibly the single most profound theorem underlying all of modern physics. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noether%27s_theorem). She did so on the basis of the previous work by hundreds of scientists, and mathematicians, mostly men. Should we not use her theorem because she was a woman, and women are still shockingly, horribly discriminated against in STEM in many (maybe all) countries?

Or should we glory in it, revel in it, spread the word, celebrate her and it and simultaneously try to address the structural inequality?

The whole idea of cultural appropriation falls apart the moment you begin to examine it and think through the consequences.

Like- Emmy Noether could only do mathematical research because of innovations in farming in the Middle East which allowed people to shift from nomadic to sedentary living, and an increase in efficiency which left some people free to pursue activities other than simply finding enough to eat. The benefits of culture. Let’s celebrate it, not try to stop it.

We’re all human beings, and we share a single culture- human culture. It was created by all of us, we share common ancestors much more recently than one might think, and none of it came into being in isolation- it was ALL informed by other culture, all of the time, all of the ways. By any meaningful measure, every single human being on the planet has as much right to grab some bit of culture and run with it as any other human being. We should encourage it, revel in it, celebrate it! Invent stuff! New stuff! Old stuff with a fresh twists! Love stuff because it makes us happy, whether you’re a black kid who loves Anime and Manga, a Russian kid who loves Oceanic fairytales, an American kid who loves Tolkien and gets led to do a PhD in Celtic studies and come to Aberystwyth to learn to speak Welsh, a seamstress drawing inspiration from Han court clothes via Japanese cultural appropriation, or whatever the hell you like.

Let’s work together to remove the inequalities that prevent some human beings taking full advantage of it, especially when that’s done on as spurious a basis as skin colour or geography of birth. Let’s not reinforce the endless division of human beings into ever-smaller sub-groups of us-and-them, bickering over who is the most persecuted and who should be allowed access to which bits of human knowledge.

By all means choose not to wear dreads if you want to. Bleach your hair. Cut it, shave it, curl it, and work against people who discriminate against human beings on the basis of hairstyle and skin colour and everything else.

Be rightfully pissed off that people with brown skin get treated differently from people with white skin if they wear their hair that way- be angry, and to try to change that, and to use many means to get that point across.

But don’t call other people “fucking worthless” because they’ve made a different decision about their own hair. You don’t actually “own” dreads. You don’t own the style personally in any meaningful way. You don’t even own the style in any broader cultural sense that stands up to a moment’s examination in the broader context. You are making unwarranted judgements about fellow human beings on the basis of their job and their skin colour and their personal fashion choices.

Which I thought we pretty much agreed was a bad thing.