Should we run a British Fetish Film Festival in 2016?

Earlier this year we ran a British Fetish Film Festival. It was very successful but also quite a lot of work to organise.

The fetish film community in Britain is now under a lot of pressure, and many film-makers have quit or moved operations abroad. The climate for holding a film festival in 2016 might not be as hospitable.

Should we do it? Is it worth trying to maintain community and coherence in the face of censorship and legal pressure? Or is it too much work, too much risk, and is it better to continue to build community online? (And maybe go en masse to events like BoundCon and Kiel Fetish Film Festival instead?)

I’ve made a survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2V3QH87 to find out what you think, and to ask what activities we should have at the festival if we do run it again.

There’s only nine questions so it won’t take too long, and it would be really useful for us to find out how much interest and support there would be for a 2016 British Fetish Film Festival.

Thank You!

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

Bondage Photography Tutorial 16th May- one space left!

UPDATE: The event is now full. Wow, that didn’t take long. Please drop me a line if you’d like to go on the waiting list, or if you’d like us to arrange a tutorial for you at a later date.

We are running a bondage photography tutorial at our studio in Welshpool on Saturday 16th May.

We’ll be covering the whole process of taking bondage photos beautifully and safely, so if you’d like to learn about studio lighting, camera settings and bondage rigging, why not come along?

You’ll be learning from professional bondage photographer Hywel Phillips and bondage model and rigger Ariel Anderssen, the people behind RestrainedElegance.com

email webmaster@restrainedelegance.com to reserve your place.

Full details: Bondage Photography Tutorials Information

The first British Fetish Film Festival

The film festival went very well. About 25 people attended. First of all we heard about the draconian new regulations affecting internet producers in the UK, courtesy of Pandora Blake. All was not dismal, we have the beginnings of a plan for how to take them on.

Then we had a workshop session on making a fetish film. I set a challenge- to make a short film, in one-camera, indie film shoot style, in under two hours. Thanks to the skills of Ariel Anderssen and Zoe Page, and great collegiate suggestions and camera-work from the people attending, we made it. Our intern Pippa even quickly cut it together for us during the tea and cake break so we could even show it at the festival screening that afternoon.

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I’ll put the film up on Restrained Elegance once we’ve fine tuned the edit.

Then we settled down to watch the films which people had kindly submitted. There were some very funny ones, and some very intense ones, and some very sexy ones- and all was very positive and fun. If we have one regret it is that most of the films were mostly female submissive. Primarily because the circle of producers we contacted for this first film festival are the ones who work with my wife, who is a female submissive!

Our main goal for the year was to run something at a public venue, which we’ve now done.

Our main goal for next year, assuming we’re brave enough to run it again, is to broaden the scope and make sure we make contact with other sections of the fetish community, so we can show a wider variety of fetishes and orientations next year.

Cheers, Hywel Phillips

Top reasons why the internet is a dangerous place for Adults. You won’t believe number three.

Hi All

The internet is no longer a safe place to be an adult. Puritans and authoritarians are closing in from all directions: state censorship, financial censorship and corporate censorship. This sounds like paranoia, but it isn’t. Here’s why. (Oh, and sorry for the ghastly Upworthy headline, I couldn’t resist).

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1) State Censorship

The UK has censored depictions of acts which are legal to perform- like BDSM, spanking, face-sitting. See blog posts passim.

Australia has even more draconian restrictions.

The USA has protected speech, so did it by the back door: 18 USC 2257 imposed very onerous record keeping requirements on producers. For example if a model you shot in 2001 pops up again in 2014 with a different stage name, in theory you could go to prison if you don’t update your records on her accordingly. Even if you don’t work with her and don’t know she’s resumed her career. And the feds can come knocking any time they want, and you have to have you record keeping address on the site.

I remember a lot of single-model sites closing down because they didn’t want to publish their real names and addresses, naturally enough. These days it has settled down, with lawyers acting as keepers of records, but mainly because the current democrat government has had other priorities than closing down porn. Just wait until a censorious person gets in as attorney general again.

Other governments world wide have woken up to the potential of the internet. The potential for people to bypass old (state-censored) media. And they don’t like it- witness the use of, and censorship of, the Internet and Twitter during the “Arab Spring”.

Now that so many of us are online, they have also woken up to the fact that they can keep tabs on people by spying on the internet en masse.

Clearly there is a balance to be struck between using the internet to catch people committing serious crime and allowing the rest of us privacy and freedom of expression online. Personally I think the presumption should be innocent until proven guilty, and that enforcement agencies should be made to justify each case with judicial oversight. I think we need a public debate over where these boundaries should be set, and that’s something we’ve not had to date.

What actually happens is that the decisions are made out of public gaze by bureaucrats with a job to do. That job may be intelligence gathering, law enforcement, or classification and censorship of films. The problem is that the parameters for how they are allowed to operate have not been set following mass public consultations and long debates in Parliament. They have been set by the people at the coalface, doing the job. Is it any wonder that they are erring on the side of making their jobs easier, and grabbing everything they think might be useful to them? That they have the technical capability to do something doesn’t mean it is healthy for our society to allow them everything they’d like.

I’d ask even the most determined “won’t someone think of the children?” brigade to step back a moment and consider the chilling effects. Their children will grow up soon enough- don’t you owe it to them to ensure that when they are adults, they enjoy freedom of speech, freedom from unwarranted intrusions into their privacy, and the right to be themselves online?

Because make no mistake, being yourself online is exactly what is at stake here.

2) Financial Censorship

Paypal

I’ve been in the website business for nearly 14 years. I remember the feeling of freedom, the Wild West spirit of 2001. Back then, you could use Paypal to join erotic websites. They had a service specifically for that. Many webmasters used it, many more customers did too.

Then the axe fell. One day, Paypal changed their minds. All the professional accounts of webmasters- who had been making a neat amount of money for themselves and for Paypal- got blocked. Not only that, but in many cases Paypal kept hold of the balances in the accounts, too. Pretty shitty if you happened to have the money to keep your business running in there. Most people eventually got the money out of Paypal- but by then the damage was done. This was the first wave of website closures I can remember.

My business Paypal account remains blocked to this day.

Ariel opened a business one too a while ago. We accepted a few payments that way for custom videos, because we thought that was OK by their terms and conditions and people like paying that way. Guess what? Account got frozen, lots of intrusive questions from Paypal, eventually the money was released but still- lesson learned. Don’t use Paypal for business, especially not if you want to be an adult online.

Google

Google makes its money through advertising, and the primary form of advertising it uses is Adwords, those “sponsored links” that pop up when you Google something. Advertisers pay Google when you click on of those links. Advertisers like it because it lets you target people who might be interested in your specific project.

Google was entirely happy for erotic websites to use adwords and pay them money. I did so for many years. Just a hundred pounds a month or so- but enough to get the Restrained Elegance brand name in front of the eyes of people searching for “bondage porn”. I reached hundreds of thousands of people that way. Sure, not all that many of them signed up. But some did, and it was a good way of attracting new people who’d not heard of us before.

Then the axe fell. One day I got an email from Google telling me they were no longer happy to accept my advertising money. At a stroke, the primary online form of advertising was denied to adult producers.

Oh, and Google refuses to push pirate sites down their search rankings, even back when we were all paying them to advertise with them. Google bondage porn now and you find tube sites with stolen content. The first actual producer is Hogtied from Kink.com down at the bottom of page three.

They claim they remove search results if they’ve had enough DCMA copyright notices about a page. But this is disingenuous. Google is in the business of building search algorithms. That allows them to deliver good search results on page one, and encourages advertisers to pay because customers stick with Google. If Google wanted to push pirate tube sites down the search rankings, they’ve got hundreds of very smart people who could work that into the algorithms. They haven’t.

That puts a lot of financial pressure on producers, who are now competing with their own stolen material and denied even the chance to pay to show their own sites above the pirates.

Credit Card Companies

Credit card companies levy hefty penalties against the erotica industry. Not without reason, they say the transactions are high risk. They are probably right. Because of the hysterical reaction some people have to the entirely normal situation of a grown adult person looking at porn, one can imagine the conversations when an unexpected charge is detected on a partner’s credit card.

“Oh! My card details must have been stolen online! I’ll call the bank!”

The merchant has essentially no say in this process (not the credit card companies’ fault- it’s the law). We just have to accept that sometimes someone charges back a dozen monthly payments worth of website memberships because “my card was stolen and I didn’t notice for a year”. Yeh, right.

What we’d do if we were a mature society is accept that people like porn, and if you have a problem with your partner doing so you’d talk about it to each other, and come up with a mature and considered solution. But that’s not how it is, and with the way things are going, that’s now how it is going to be in the future either.

So we’d love to accept payment methods other than credit cards. But credit cards are only available to people over 18, so the use of one is often used as a de facto age verification process. So one of the things the UK censor of video on demand is requiring is that only credit card payment be accepted.

Oh, and you used to be able to get a merchant account for adult processing fairly easily in the old days. These days it is prohibitive for any small company to do. So a little restaurant or pub or craft shop can get a merchant account and start processing right away. In my observation these businesses have a pretty high risk of failure, although admittedly they probably don’t suffer the chargeback crisis. So adult companies are forced into the hands of payment processing companies who levy eye-watering charges. a) Because they can and b) to give themselves some insulation against the chargebacks by aggregating payments for many producers.

iBill, CCBill, Clips4Sale, Epoch and the rest

iBill was the first big name processor. They imploded, taking a bunch of websites with them. The second mass die-off I can remember.

Their successors are CCBill, Clips4Sale, Epoch and the rest.

On the one hand, it is great that they exist. They enable cottage industry adult production, without them there would be NO small websites producing niche fetish material. On the other hand, they have often arbitrary compliance codes. Many sites have had to gut their descriptive text to avoid whatever CCBill think is bad this month.

Furthermore, if CCBill think you’ve been naughty, they can keep your money for six months to a year. It is right there in their terms and conditions.

This is an example of the creeping censorship by the back door imposed by corporations on erotica and adult freedom of expression. You can still say it, but you can’t say it and make a business out of it. And you can’t challenge it- there’s no court of appeal for CCBill deciding your content is not the sort of thing they want to handle any more.

Clips4Sale pre-emptively blocked UK debit cards earlier this month. I believe it is back now, but it hardly makes one feel safe hosting material on their service.

If your favourite site bills with one of these companies, the text on the site has already been censored. The producers and performers can’t say what they really want to say. (For example, you can’t post an essay on why BDSM isn’t rape, because it contains the word “rape”. See what I mean about the chilling effect of censorship?)

Censors pressuring the banks

The UK video on demand censor has been trying to make bank block payments to websites outside the UK which don’t conform to their regulations. That’s not just putting financial pressure on the producers, it is using financial pressures to make sure you can’t buy what you want to buy. Thus far the banks have declined to go along with it. But Home Office minister Damian Green has said “the government supports their work on whether banks can decline to process payments to websites operating outside the EU”.

So if we tolerate this, your freedom to buy what you want will be next.

This is not paranoia, this is stated policy from the censor. And like the R18 regulations it will disproportionately hit small producers making cool, kinky, queer, feminist or minority interest erotica, because these are the small businesses. And small businesses are always more vulnerable- we just don’t have the resources to fight hostile regulations or take legal action or do anything much other than shut up shop and do something else for a living.

Blogger

Out of the blue one day, Blogger ordered all money-related links on adult blogs removed. I’ve yet to hear an even faintly sensible explanation.

We copied Ariel’s blog posts across to here in case. What it means is that she’s still allowed to talk about the lovely fetish shoots she does, but she’s not allowed to link to them or let you know who they are so they can share some love.

3) Corporate Censorship

In many ways this is most insidious and most worrying aspect of censorship in the 21st Century.

Many of us use large corporations on the Internet as utility companies. We use their services as infrastructure to reach other people and to do business. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Google, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Paypal. Smaller utilities serving niches like PurplePort, Purestorm, Model Mayhem.

But these are not utility companies. The utility companies are the internet service providers, mobile phone networks and web hosting companies. They get paid like utility companies too: according the amount of service you use. A fat pipe to the internet costs more than a piddly slow connection.

Governments are regulating them: the UK has forced ISPs to implement “won’t someone think of the children” filters (which 90% of people have sensibly turned off, despite the pernicious requirement by the government that they be switched on by default). They are requiring ISPs to keep and give up traffic details which can reveal almost as much about you as the content you are looking at. Knowing who you talk to, where and when and how often and for how long, is almost as revealing as knowing what you are talking about. It’s called traffic analysis. They’d certainly be able to figure out if someone is having an affair, or regularly attends alcoholics anonymous meetings.

But these things are brazen, and easy to find out about. Worrying, but open.

The worst thing of all is the creeping censorship amongst the utilities which aren’t utilities.

Apple

Apple won’t let you sell an app of nudie pictures. Because nipples. It’s great that Tim Cook has come out as gay, but sad that his company is so offended by the naked human form as to ban it in all their works. You can buy Fifty Shades of Grey from Apple, but not something like Screw The Roses or Chanta’s book which will actually tell you how to do BDSM safely in a loving and consensual environment. How fucked up is that?

Amazon

Amazon started hiding erotica. And then decided to ban a lot of BDSM just for being BDSM. Overnight, a small but vibrant community of eBook erotic and romantic authors had their business model whipped out from under them.

Vimeo

I’ve had an account on Vimeo for a couple of years. Their guidelines said nudity was OK but porn wasn’t. I posted some of our most romantic videos, including “Bondage can be Beautiful” (our trailer- which incidentally RED digital cinema said they were happy for us to use the RED logo on. Thanks, RED. You don’t know how welcome that was!) and “Ballerina loves Beethoven”, which is a beautiful film of Ariel as a ballet dancer. These videos had hundreds of thousands of views, and hundreds of positive comments.

This week the axe fell. My account was deleted from Vimeo. No “this video is OK, that isn’t”. Just – chop. Gone.

Vine – and soon Twitter?

Vine, which is owned by Twitter, is blocking adult content.

Puritans

Facebook is puritan central and always has been. Instagram likewise.

Social Media Future

Personally the only social media service I’ve ever liked is Twitter. I’ll bet you a tenner the @RElegance account will be axed inside 12 months, and all the other adult ones along with it.

No matter that thousands of people follow it, and presumably enjoy seeing bondage photos on their timeline (or they would unfollow again). No, all it will take is a few outraged “won’t someone think of the children” complaints, and it’ll all be gone.

The Shame Game

They’re playing the same shame game that the gay and lesbian community have had to endure for years. Ignoring that adult humans are sexual beings. Pretending that “all those perverts who look at this stuff” are not also the people who buy cars and kid’s toys (because they’ve had sex to have the kids, but mustn’t admit to it).

It is trying to say that people with sexual identities aren’t also functioning members of society. We’ve finally… finally! got gay marriage accepted in the Western world, and gay sex made legal. It is now OK to be gay and be the head of a large corporate, and thank goodness. But it is time we insisted on the same for other sexual identities too. Being into BDSM is one single aspect of your personality. It doesn’t make you of another species, some strange alien who doesn’t buy fruit or watch the news.

There are so many problems here. The first is that we are not willing to pay for services online. When you post a letter, you pay for the envelope and stamp. But no-one is willing to pay to tweet or follow on Facebook. Me included. This leaves the online service utilities like Facebook and Twitter to try to make money in other ways, and it means that we have no say whatsoever in their terms and conditions. We aren’t Facebook or Twitter’s customers. The advertisers and people they sell our details to are.

The only say we have in how the service treats us is to stop using the service if we don’t like it. When a mass migration happens (remember MySpace?) that can kill off the business, but if we withdraw in ones and twos, it makes no difference.

The adult content on these sites is irrelevant to Facebook and Twitter’s customers, the advertisers. Despite what the porn panic people would have you believe, porn is not big business. The revenue we make from it is small beans compared with what a car manufacturer might make by persuading thousands more people to buy their hatchback. The majority of us watch porn, but only a small minority are willing to pay for it. So there’s just not enough money around for us to be big players in advertising.

While people are too afraid of the shame game to admit to liking porn, so they won’t complain on our behalf when it the axe falls on Tumblr and Twitter. They’ll just quietly watch us go, and wonder where else they’ll find their porn fix now.

We’ve almost lost the ability to be an adult online

In the rush to think of the children, we’ve nearly run out of places to be adults. We’ve certainly lost a lot of places to be sexual, even though a huge fraction of human communication is sexual in one way or another (just look at a typical perfume advert to see what I mean). We just can’t admit to liking it. We have to keep up the “us and them” shame game pretence.

You are running out of places to post those sexy selfies.

You are running out of ways to reach an audience with your erotic fiction.

You are running out of places to find out about sites that might interest you.

It’s not OK to be an adult on the internet. We’re an endangered species. The freedom of the current generation to find out about their fetishes and sexual identities online may not be available to the next generation. Do we really want to go back to the dark ages of worrying that being sexually dominant and into BDSM makes you a potential serial killer? Shouldn’t we be celebrating sexual diversity, the freedom of sexual information? After all, 99.99% of the people on this planet are the result of sex between two adults. What on earth is so wrong with seeing it and discussing it and enjoying it?

What can we do?

For the UK producers, the R18 regulations applying to online video on demand is kind of the last straw. We fight this or BDSM disappears from the UK. It’s the latest wave of site die-offs. I personally know of many which have closed, several which have moved abroad in the last three weeks, and the rest of us feel under threat like never before. Because we ARE under threat.

It is naive to think that the censors will stop at this, as they are proudly announcing their intention, with the support of government, to prevent us all accessing censored material from outside the UK.

So obviously, help fight the regulations. Tweet about it, sign petitions, organise protest, all the things I’ve spoken about in previous blogs.

But is there anything else we can do to prevent the large-scale creeping censorship?

First, don’t rely on any service where you are not the direct customer. Don’t blog on blogger, get a little bit of web space (ideally hosted in country with protected speech), install WordPress and do it yourself.

There are free and open source social media projects, like SocialNet Federated services such as quitter and even more distributed intiatives like diaspora*. These are a long, long way from having critical mass but at least they are somewhat decentralised and are operated by people who want to facilitate communication rather than make money. We need to consider using those, and notifying our communities before we all get the axe from the existing social media companies.

I’m considering setting up a kink-friendly server for Twitter-equivalent social media – no idea how, or how much it would cost to run, but worth a go.

Then there’s Fetlife, which is an advertising supported not-a-real-utility but one whose entire selling point is the presence of fellow kinksters. I must admit I’ve always found it impenetrable, but I’ll give it more of a go. At least they make some of their money from paid subscribers, so they have some customers who use their service rather than advertise via it.

But if you upload video to Fetlife, you’d better believe the UK censor will come gunning for you once they killed off the cottage industry websites. Because they have a classic perverse incentive (they are funded by the people they decide are eligible to be regulated by them) they have defined TV like video on demand to encompass everyone putting video online, more or less. They WILL come for Fetlife sooner or late, if not stopped.

I didn’t get much joy advertising on Fetlife- I think it is largely preaching to the choir, because most of the people on there are already doing BDSM. So I’m not sure its a good way to reach newbies. And I’d be much happier if they implemented a Twitter-like section.

But it behooves us to support what facilities do exist, and to be pro-active in looking around for ways to protect our freedom of expression. You may not need the Tor browser to access your favourite sites today, but you’d do well to have it ready for the day the axe falls.

If anyone has any knowledge or experience of running microblogging services, especially via diaspora*, please get in touch as I am interested in setting up a pod for kink-friendly posting.

If anyone knows about payment via Bitcoin, or if there are better alternatives, I’d also love to hear from you.

I’ll see if I can get https: implemented for our sites.

What else should we be doing?