Contingency Planning

So it looks like the UK has elected a Conservative government. Of the possible outcomes for freedom of expression and freedom of sexual identity in the UK, this is one of the gloomier ones. The attitude of other parties was unknown, but we KNOW the Tories brought in the December 2014 regulations and promised to expand internet censorship to non-UK websites as one of their campaign pledges.

If this had happened two years ago, Ariel and I would now be house-hunting for somewhere to live and work outside the UK. Our friends in Britain might not have been able to see our work, but maybe the rest of the free world could still enjoy our romantic BDSM fiction uncensored.

But a year ago, we found a place and fell in love with it. We have a beautiful, slightly crazy, slightly tumbledown old house which Pandora Blake says is like Narnia. We live in a friendly little town. Not sure exactly how friendly they will remain if we are majorly outed in hysterical right wing local press, but so far all visitors to the house have been entirely unfazed by what we do.

We also pulled the financial trick of moving from the very expensive South East of England to a cheaper and much more beautiful part of the country. The upside is we could afford a house which feels like a mansion to us, complete with a stone dungeon under the bedroom. It couldn’t be more perfect for us. But it sat unsold on the market for 18 months before we bought it- so even if we wanted to sell up and move out of the UK, that is not a viable proposition for us on a sensible timescale. By the time we managed to sell it, we may have had a referendum and no longer even be in the EU!

I’m the first to admit I’m no hard-headed businessman. I’m a bit of a dreamer, a scientist-turned artist, not a practical man, and I suck at salesmanship. Nevertheless, even a rubbish businessman like me managed to build Restrained Elegance up into a thriving cottage industry.

I’m proud of that. I’m not going to let it slip away without a fight.

But, pragmatically, I need to have some contingency plans in place for if we get closed down by the censor. If you want an idea of how heart-wrenching this is, all I can say is read Pandora’s post about her site being censored. She puts it into words more articulately than I can. It’s heart-breaking.

I want to be completely open and up-front about this. So although I’ve not yet taken legal advice, and the censor’s letter has not yet come thudding through the door, here are my thoughts as to what we might be able to do.

Right now, the regulations only apply to sites offering a TV-like video on demand service. In the last few days a challenge has been made to the way the UK is applying this to anyone and his dog who posts a video online.

The best case scenarios- one of the current challenges works and the EU makes the regulator behave sensibly. Or they decide we are without the scope of the regulations as RE is all hosted and run by a non-UK company.

Slightly worse but positive would be that we get regulated, but that the individual censor looking at out work agrees with us that our work is romantic fiction, and doesn’t require us to take everything down. We’d have to pay the blood money to be allowed to continue, but maybe they would apply the regulations sensibly. (We are not hopeful of this. Consider the sort of person who wants make a living stopping “ordinary” people watching other people’s art.)

If the regulations still only apply to video, we could hive off the video parts of RE. Maybe a combination of GeoIP blocking and credit card address verification would allow us to block all video to the UK, or even just videos featuring banned subjects (which we’d guess would be gags and CP, but who really knows? It is up to the censor).

If the axe falls we might have to take all the RE video offline, I guess, and slowly bring it back up as the censor allows. Previews will get massacred, I assume, but maybe the core of RE would be allowed to remain.

The worst case scenario is that the regulator gets the extra powers they want to cover ALL media (so stills as well as video) and ALL websites, regardless of where they are in the world. In that case, the only options would be to leave the UK or close the site. Obviously we really, really hope it doesn’t come to that.

The real bugger for us is that as Ariel and I both rely on fetish work for our income, our ability to pay the mortgage, pay the bills and eat would be greatly threatened if any of the more drastic scenarios come to pass.

We’re not the sort of people to sit passively and wait for the worst. Ariel is working on viral videos. We’re talking to film-makers about campaign pieces and activism to get the worst excesses of these regulations revoked. If we had more money, I guess we would be looking at a bolt-hole outside the UK as a worst-case scenario, but that’s just not a viable proposition at the moment.

Despite the Tory victory, I don’t think the majority of people in the UK really and truly support censorship. There is just still too much stigma about admitting to being an adult and having a healthy interest in erotica in general and BDSM and other fetishes in particular.

Ariel does have non-fetish-related work. Right now, I do not. I’m sorry if it seems a bit cowardly, but I’m going to have to figure out some contingency for me being able to support myself and pay my share of the mortgage. I will try not to let it impact negatively upon the sites; so far I’ve been doing a day’s work then heading off to the hills. I’m trying to practice and see if I can get sufficiently good at landscape photography to make a sideline for the business doing that. I’ve tried mainstream film and video production too but no-one seems to be making any money at that on the cottage industry level (too many people keen to do it, not enough people willing to pay to watch what they produce). At least landscape photography has some proven sales channels, although it is also famously hard to make a living at.

I’m expanding on teaching and tutorials, but how much call for that will there be if the censors get their way? Purpleport and amateur photographers might not be allowed to show bondage photography for much longer either.

Another downside of the move is that I can’t exactly walk into a reasonably-paid high tech job in this part of the world, either. That sounds self-pitying… it isn’t meant to be. I’m an optimist at heart and I’m not afraid of running a business or doing some hard work. I will find some way of making a living. I just don’t want it to negatively impact on RE, because RE is my art, my romantic life, my erotica, my fantasies, and Ariel and my shared life together.

The thing which is going to have most impact on RE is the whole gags-plus-bondage ban in the new regualtions. Although I fucking HATE it, I would be foolish to have a two year stock of gagged videos on disk if we’re suddenly not allowed to show them- that would be tens of thousands of pounds of investment in shoots which I might never be able to recoup.

So the other concrete policy decision from today’s election result is that for the moment we’ll be shooting mostly ungagged videos, unless it is a custom shoot. Custom shoot fees cover the production costs up front, so even if we end up not being able to put the video up on the site, at least I won’t have lost money on it. Maybe enough people will want gagged custom videos shot in the RE style that it won’t change the mix too much. I can already say there are going to be a few more videos with shoes and stockings and ballet slippers and other foot wear; a lot of custom video requests want something other than bare feet. I won’t let it change the character of the site, but barefoot and gagged bondage videos might be a bit thin on the ground for a while if people don’t want them as custom requests.

If and when we get censored, I will not go quietly. I will keep you informed of everything we do or are required to do, and will explain why (as I hope I have in this post).

And with that, I will leave you. I’m going to work on July’s RE updates and cheer myself up. And maybe go out and by a huge fucking cake of a million calories to eat.

Restrained Elegance, Silk Soles and Elegance Studios are your sites too. We will do our best to defend them for you, every way we can. We will fight this.

Hywel

Save BDSM in the UK

Hi Everyone

SIGN PETITION: SAVE BDSM IN THE UK

As you may have heard, most forms of BDSM have just been banned from UK websites, despite the fact that it is legal to peform, legal to film, legal to own and legal to buy from a website outside the UK. It’s just not legal for a UK-based producer to put on their website.

The regulations are ignorant of BDSM safe practice, ignore the consent of the performers, and also prohibit many other forms of sexual expression and enjoyment, especially those involving women actually taking pleasure in the activities. For more details, see these posts by lawyer Myles Jackman and feminist film maker and Restrained Elegance and Silk Soles model Pandora Blake.

Please help us repeal this ridiculous censorship. Sign the official UK government petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/72693 and share with everyone you know. Enough signatures and the government is legally obliged to respond. (For UK residents only- sorry, only just found that out).

You can also complain about the new regulations to the censor directly (more details on that from Pandora Blake).

If we cannot get these regulations revised or revoked, fetish production in the UK will cease and your favourite UK models will no longer appear in bondage and spanking films for your pleasure. RE model Nikki has already had to close several of her websites. Virtually all of Pandora’s scenes have suddenly and unjustifiably become illegal. Northern Spanking, AAA Spanking, Spanking Sarah and others have been forced to leave the country – and that is just in the last four days.

Killed it stone dead for me…

Hi Everyone,

Does anything kill a website stone dead for as soon as you get through the door?

I started my own site because no-one was making exactly what I wanted to see. Lots of people were making interesting stuff, and lots of people still are. I still join websites that I like. I joined a couple recently, solo model foot fetish sites that looked fun. The photos on both sites looked nice.

One site had nicely arranged sets in ZIP files so I could download them. The other had some ghastly Flash-based gallery system. So not only no ZIP files, but I couldn’t even easily set a web spider to download galleries I liked.

That killed the second site stone dead for me. They’ve got years and years worth of content… but I’m never going to see it. Even though I’ve paid for it. It’s just too frigging painful obtaining the photos in a suitable form to view where and when I want to view them. They had an option to download the videos but I prefer stills.

I’ve explained before the dilemma that all adult websites face to balance the bandwidth bills with the membership fees. That’s why we have a rotating members’ archive rather than leaving every set from the last 13 plus years up all the time. It’s not an ideal solution, but it reminded me that there are worse ones!

This could be why that second site is set up that way: making it difficult to just grab everything or flick quickly through sets is one of the ways websites try to limit each members’ bandwidth usage. Or maybe it is some idea of “You want to see the pics? You need to stay a member FOREVER”, which I think is misguided. It’s a little incoherent with being able to download the videos. Maybe they think that people will use less bandwidth downloading videos once rather than repeatedly streaming it to watch it every time? Videos are big compared with stills. Maybe they are right, I don’t know their usage patterns or their business strategy.

What I hope that it is a misguided attempt to make the site user friendly by presenting photosets in nice galleries to click through shot by shot. Maybe I’m unusual in preferring to download the lot and do that on my local machine, flicking between shots with only the delay from a fast SSD rather than having to download the next picture each time by manual intervention. I spent too long at the computer already- when I’m signing up to something fun like a website, I want it to make it easy for me.

Whatever the reason, it killed that site stone dead for me, which is a shame because I was looking forward to seeing, saving and enjoying their work. Sad face.

The first site had a daily download limit, which was mildly annoying, but since the limit was quite generous I downloaded all the stuff I was interested in in a couple of days. I only joined for a month but if they keep producing fun new stuff I’ll very likely go back.

I’ll never go back to the other site. So they’ve potentially lost a fair amount of money, and I’ve not got value for money from my one-and-only membership of their site, either.

I have two questions for you.

1) Is there anything that kills a site stone dead for you? I mean flaws on legitimate sites, not rip-off sites which don’t provide what they advertise. (Those I’d ask for a refund/chargeback for- I haven’t needed to in YEARS).

2) Is there anything about any of our sites which kills it stone dead for you?

I’ve tried to make our sites support the way I like to use sites I join myself, but you may prefer to use them a different way. If I’ve made it impossible for you to do so, I’d really like to know about it. So if you could post a reply here it would be much appreciated!

Cheers, Hywel

Elegance Studios Revamp & Bastinado

I’ve just revamped EleganceStudios.com. More importantly, I’ve added three hot bastinado clips to the Bastinado Movies section. Great news for Bastinado fans!

Junior Doctor

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Fifty Strokes

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New Implements

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These short films are not strictly speaking new- we’d previously put them up on Clips4Sale. Clips4Sale is horrid and getting slower and clunkier by the day, and unless one updates frantically often, films get completely lost in the morass.

So we didn’t think these clips had had a fair shake, and we wanted to showcase them better. That’s particularly true and a little sad because whilst bastinado is my favourite thing in the world, Ariel suffered series of knee and foot injuries at dance shoots and we’ve not felt brave enough to do HARD bastinado the way we used to in a while.

To really make the most of them, I’ve also taken the opportunity to go back to the master files and re-do the colour correction, which I was never totally happy with, and also export at higher resolution and higher bit-rate. So these are polished full HD versions. We think they do the scenes a lot more justice than Clips4Sale ever did.

If you check out each film’s individual page, you’ll find a brand-new trailer and some full-HD frame grabs from each movie so you can get a much better idea of what they are about than you could ever have seen from Clips4Sale 🙂

I do have a few more of these short bastinado films which I’ll be adding over the next few weeks.

You might also notice a surprising and intriguing new category of film, called “Mean Girl Monologues”. This was another fun experiment that Ariel and I did… but you’ll have to wait just a little longer until I get those encoded and uploaded!

NEW! Custom shoots!

Hi Everyone,

Well, we were going to wait to announce this until we moved house, but as that is still dragging on and we have a window for shoots in the current house before we move…

We are now taking bookings for custom video or photo shoots. And the cost is significantly less than you might expect! Check it out now:

Custom Videos and Photoshoots from RestrainedElegance.com