Gone but not forgotten

Spotting this image on tumblr brought a wry smile to my face. Those that have been around the femdom blogverse a while may recognize it. For those that don’t, this is Ms Marie with her husband in their basement. She wrote an excellent femdom blog 7 or so years ago, and I still occasionally see photographs from it surface on tumblr and twitter. One day her blog just vanished. As far as I know, she never posted or commented again.

Sex blogging is a strange form of interaction. With casual acquaintances we typically share a narrow and very shallow view of ourselves. It’s a personality puddle. With good friends we deepen and also broaden that sharing. Maybe a lake or sea rather than a puddle. By contrast, sex blogging is a dark water filled mine shaft. We share intimate personal details and yet retain this incredibly narrow focus. Readers know things that our closest friends aren’t aware of, but also don’t know things we’d casually drop into a conversation with a slightly annoying work colleague. It makes the transitions – when life changes and bloggers stop or move on –  all the more strange.

I often think of bloggers I used to read and (in some cases) swap comments with – Ms Marie, hmp, scott & Em, D from Dumb Domme, Saratoga, Suzanne, Axe, Bitchy Jones, Disheveled Domina and many others that have currently slipped my mind. In some cases I know a little bit of the context around why they stopped. In most I’ve no idea. I hope they’re OK and don’t regret what they shared with the world. I hope they know that at least one of their readers appreciated their posts and still reflect back fondly on them.

Protonmail vs Gmail

When the FOSTA-SESTA bill was passed into law there was a rush of sex workers and clients moving from Gmail to the enhanced security of Protonmail. Since then I’ve noticed a backlash to Protonmail, with complaints about its reliability resulting in some people moving back to Gmail. At the same time I’ve also observed some confusion about the security issues involved, with comments like “Gmail uses encryption anyway” or “I’m on a VPN, so why does it matter?” Obviously, everyone can make their own judgement call about utility vs security, but I’d like that decision to be an informed one. Hence, this post to dig into the issues.

When it comes to encryption, Gmail does use an encrypted connection between you and their servers. That’s nothing unusual. So does pretty much every internet service that carries personal data (banking, shopping, email, etc). That’s necessary to stop people in your building, coffee shop or  IT department sneaking a look at what you’re sending and receiving. Obviously this is a good thing, but pretty much irrelevant when it comes to law enforcement. Even if they could do it (which they can’t), they’re not going to try and hack your internet connection and reconstruct your emails from the data you send.

Similarly, while a VPN (virtual private network) is generally a good thing for privacy, it’s irrelevant when it comes to law enforcement and email. Normally, even with encrypted connections, it’s still possible to see what sites someone is visiting. With a VPN, a remote computer (typically in another country) makes all those connections for you, and you just have a single encrypted connection to the VPN. That’s great if you don’t want someone to be able to trace your interactions with sites like eros or slixa, but kind of pointless when it comes to Gmail. If you’ve got a public web presence tied to a known email account, there’s absolutely no value trying to hide the fact you’re connecting to that email service. The fact you’ve got the email address on your website proves that you must be using the service.

The key difference between Protonmail and Gmail is how the data is stored on the email servers. In Protonmail the data is encrypted so that even the people running Protonmail can’t read it. That is absolutely not true for Gmail. Google’s entire business model is based on mining user data. In some cases it’s even possible for third parties to access the data. As Google describes here, they will produce the content of your Gmail account in response to a search warrant. And, as they document here, they produced user data for around 80% of the legal requests they receive each month. So if a prosecutor has your Gmail address and a search warrant, he can read your emails. The bar for obtaining a search warrant is simply showing probable cause. That is not a high bar. In contrast, even if US and Swiss law enforcement cooperated to get hold of Protonmail data, it would be a jumble of meaningless numbers. They’d need the account password to make sense of it.

One could argue that there are easier and more likely ways for law enforcement to hassle sex workers than trying to access their email accounts. Or that if an investigation has reached the point of getting search warrants, it’s unlikely to be stopped simply by a lack of email data. However, in the current climate, I tend to take the view that safer is always better. Would you want to bet against the possibility of a prosecutor going on a fishing expedition after scraping the web for pro-domme and escort email addresses? Or getting hold of the data from sites like eros or slixa and then using some bullshit sex trafficking story to get a load of warrants signed off? No tech company is going to want to be perceived to facilitate sex trafficking, even if the trafficking story is a fiction with zero relationship to reality.

As I said at the beginning of the post, the utility vs security trade-off is a matter for individual judgement. But nobody should assume that there isn’t a trade-off involved here. Gmail and Protonmail offer very different levels of privacy. Personally, even though pro-domination is legal and I only engage in non-sexual BDSM activities, I’ve switched to Protonmail for my personal account.

If anyone has questions about any of this feel free to leave a comment. I’m absolutely not a legal expert, but I do know a bit about computers and networks. I also added some follow-up thoughts in a subsequent post.

This domme certainly takes security seriously. She doesn’t ever turn her computer on. That’s hardcore security.

As far as I can tell the website originally associated with this image has ceased to exist.

More on Demarcation

This is a follow-up post to my one from yesterday. That tackled the perennial discussion of what sexual activities are acceptable for a domme and why the obvious answer of ‘all of them’ never somehow seems to stick. In that previous post I argued that a large number of pro-dommes are invested in defining domination in a legal safe way, which naturally puts certain activities outside the definition.  While I obviously think that’s true, it’s also only part of the picture. The other part is the out-sized influence that professional domination has on femdom in general.

In any sane world, femdom would be a generally recognized preference, and professional femdom a narrow subset of it that operates within certain legal boundaries. Actually, in any sane world, those legal boundaries wouldn’t exist and sex work would be decriminalized, but lets set that aside for the moment. The general point is that people’s sexual behavior shouldn’t be defined by the professional label. Nobody would take the escort definition of the girlfriend experience (GFE) to be how a man should actually interact with a girlfriend. Yet the pro-domme dynamic is often the lens used to view femdom in general. So any distortion created by the laws around sex work tend to distort how people see the bigger picture and the definition of female domination.

This blog is part of that problem. Over the years I’ve tried to link to and feature the blogs of many lifestyle female dominants. I’m sure I could have done a better job, but I try to share the broadest view of femdom that I can. However, for most femdom bloggers, sharing information is optional and secondary to their kinks. For most pro-dommes, sharing information is a key part of their marketing and essential to how they make money. That creates a public information imbalance. Most femdom blogger avoid sharing photographs for reasons of privacy. Pro-dommes hire professional photographers and take endless snaps of themselves between sessions. My social media feeds are full of them, and I love featuring them here. It makes it easy to create a visually interesting posts. But it’s a distorted view of femdom.

I’ve no idea how to resolve this problem. Pro-dommes have been a hugely important and positive part of my life. I’m happy when I encourage people to visit them. I also think that if I tried to create a blog that featured no professional content at all my readership would plunge. The images they share are undoubtedly striking. At the same time, I don’t think I present a balanced view of femdom. Or a view that leads people towards what I’d like femdom to be. Instead I reflect an information imbalance that’s detrimental to that vision, and I’m not sure what to do about that.

I’ll leave you with a shot that exemplifies my problem. This is of Mistress Iris as captured by Miss May. It’s a lovely image and Mistress Iris is a fabulous domme, but it’s also as relevant to femdom in general as the Noma cookbook is to the average home cook.

You can find Miss May’s professional site here. She offers bespoke web and graphic design services for the global Fetish, BDSM and erotic industry.

Mistress Iris is an LA based pro-domme, who travels extensively. You can find her professional site here.

Demarcation

There’s one topic of discussion in femdom communities that seems to repeat itself with the inevitability of elections, taxes and the return of pumpkin spice lattes. That topic is: What are the appropriate sexual activities for a domme?  The naive reader might assume that the answer is a simple one: Whatever the fuck she wants. After all, the clue is right there in the name ‘dominant’. As in the person in control who gets to make the decisions. Yet somehow that seemingly obvious answer never seems to stick.

This topic recently surfaced once again in a bunch of my social media feeds, and prompted a strong and well written response from Domina Victoria Rage. By coincidence, Mistress T also just published a good post on the topic as well, in that case prompted by a very confused sounding pro-domme client.

I think a big part of the problem here is to do with the laws around sex work in most countries. Pro-domination is typically legal, where any kind of paid sexual act isn’t. Torturing someone for money is A-OK, just don’t make them feel good with an orgasm. Most pro-dommes therefore want to draw very clear lines between their profession and anything that crosses that legal boundary. Hence, in their view, any domme blurring that line isn’t just making a personal choice, she’s challenging their legally safe but entirely arbitrary definition of what domination is. It’s almost seen as an attack on their very identity.

It’s a bit like an old fashion union – “Sorry mate. More than my jobs worth to touch that dick. I’m strictly rope and strap work. Whole different process if you need those pipes cleaning out. I’d love to help, I would, but my governor would be on me like a ton of bricks. Demarcation she’d say. Escort’s a totally different job code and time sheet. We don’t touch the dicks and they stay away from the ropes.”

Here’s someone indulging in all sorts of sexual and kinky acts. However, she’s also filming it, which makes it porn, so that’s legally fine. Presumably the pornographers have a great union, because they get to cross all sorts of lines that show up when no camera is involved.

I believe this is by the artist incase – tumblr here and patreon here.

More Opting In or Out

I’m continuing my thoughts from yesterday’s post – Opt In or Opt Out. If you haven’t read that already, then I’d start there, otherwise this won’t make much sense.

When it comes to scene negotiation, I think there’s a fundamental tension that’s challenging to resolve. On one hand everyone wants scope for creativity and spontaneity. Working out a strict plan of action beforehand or stopping every 5 minutes to discuss the next activity is no fun. On the other hand, people can have very different views on what activities need discussion and what don’t. It’s not so much a question of failing to negotiate, but failing to spot the need to negotiate. If I think hoods are an opt in item then I will not mention them, as I don’t think I need to explicitly bar them. If the domme thinks they’re an opt out item, then me saying nothing leaves them on the table as a viable option to stick over my head mid-scene.

I don’t have any great suggestions to resolving this tension, other than trial and error and playing with the same people repeatedly. A few things I try to do from the submissive perspective are assume that…

  • Any common themes in femdom and BDSM are things I have to explicitly opt out of. For example, I’m always explicit about ruling out humiliation scenes as that’s not my kink but it’s a common one.
  • My opt in’s are sticky. If I opted in to something in a past session, the domme is probably going to assume I’m still in for it, even if we haven’t discussed it. So if I’m feeling differently about it, then it’s down to me to bring it up and opt out.
  • Opting in for X may well be treated as also opting in for things closely related to X. For example, there are a lot of different types of impact play, yet they rarely get negotiated separately. If that’s a problem for me, then I need to be explicit about how narrow I want my opt in to be.
  • A domme isn’t going to remember my particular opt outs between sessions. So if I discover during the course of play we’re on different pages on what needs discussion and what doesn’t, then it’s down to me to bring that up again next time as necessary.

I’ll leave you with a vintage image of an activity that is opt in for most dommes I know. However, there was one domme who, mid-scene and totally out of the blue, tossed me a pair of fishnet stockings, a garter belt and a pair of frilly panties to put on. It turned out to be fun, but I was certainly a bit surprised at the time. I think she was equally surprised by just how long it took me to figure out how to get them all on properly.

This show is from mrunderheel’s twitter feed.

Opt In or Opt Out

A couple of comments to my previous post got me thinking about the dynamics of session negotiation. Specifically, what gets treated as opt in and what as opt out. In theory, if you listen to most kinksters, all play has to be consensual and explicitly negotiated ahead of time, so everything should be opt in. The reality can be murkier.

The comments in question – from Servitor and Al about my pet peeve of ‘gotcha questions’ –  were slightly different but both raised the same basic point. I might not like questions designed to trip a submissive up, but that’s a valid thing to do for some scenes. Your kink is not my kink and all that. I absolutely agree with that. It can be a fine style of play if you’re into that dynamic or the roleplay requires it. But it’s also not quite the point I was trying (and probably failing) to make. Gotcha questions are a specific activity or style, and yet often get used without discussion. Which brings me to this posts title. My pet peeve isn’t so much with the approach itself, but that it is something I have to actively opt out of. Shouldn’t the default be opt in? Not so much YKINMKBYKIOK, but that YKINMK – and it’s in my session damn it! – BYKIOK.

I can think of other examples where the default is the reverse of what you might expect. Bondage for example. That’s part of almost every scene I do, yet I don’t think it ever gets negotiated. It’s treated as an intrinsic part of kink that you’d have to explicitly request not to do. Impact play is another. I’ve lost track of the number of times I didn’t mention impact play in session negotiation, yet 10 minutes later somebody was whaling on my ass. I suspect that’s probably because almost all domme’s like it so much! Neither of those activities count as a pet peeve for me, because I also enjoy them, but it might be an issue for someone else.

What exactly gets treated as opt in versus opt out clearly varies from domme to domme. At one extreme, every domme I know treats edge play activities like piercing, cutting or breathplay as opt in. They always get discusssed first. On the other side, along with bondage and impact play, I’ve typically found blindfolds and hoods are opt out. If I don’t call them out as an issue then there’s a good chance they’ll be pulled out at some point and I’ll have to start negotiating mid-scene, which is never my favorite time to do it. In between those two groups there’s a lot of fuzziness. For example, face slapping for some people is a very specific activity to be discussed ahead of time, for others its just an intrinsic part of kink that it’s up to the submissive to opt out of.

I’ve more to add here, but I’ll save that for the next post. In the meantime, I’ll continue my photographic theme of impact play. If this gentleman has a desire to opt out of caning, he probably needs to speak up asap.

This is from the High heels & Fetish tumblr.

Pet Peeve – Gotcha Questions

I think I’m due another PPPP – a Paltego Pet Peeve Post. Excuse me while I unburden myself on this one.

Today’s pet peeve is domme’s who ask questions with the deliberate goal of tripping the submissive up or drawing out a ‘wrong’ answer. There are a lot of ways to do this, but perhaps the canonical example would be posing a question and then, however the submissive responds, following up with “No. The right answer is whatever Mistress wants.” That really bugs me.

Let me first qualify that there is a specific style of play that this kind of gotcha questioning is appropriate for. If you’re doing a punishment or humiliation dynamic, where the whole point is that the submissive should always be wrong and kept mentally off balance, then its a valid technique. It’s certainly a mindfuck to be forced to answer knowing that there is no good response. But those kind of scenes are a specific and narrow style of play. I actually never do them, yet still encounter the gotcha question approach from time to time.

The reason I dislike it so much is that it runs directly counter to the goal of being open and honest in communication. I always want to be transparent and truthful with my thoughts and emotions in a scene. That’s the only way I know to build two way trust and a sense of connection. If I start having to second guess my answers, or spot the gotcha questions from the real ones, then it runs counter to that goal. Being told an honest answer is a wrong answer sets up bad incentives for my future answers, and forces my brain into social-interaction and negotiation mode, which is not at all conducive to subspace.

I’ve seen plenty of dommes complain over the years about submissives expecting them to be mind readers. They get told that the submissive will do anything to make them happy, and then get upset when it turns out that they were operating with different definitions of ‘anything’.  I think that’s a very reasonable response but, on the flip side, asking submissives ‘no win’ questions conditions them to give exactly these kind of responses. You can’t have it both ways.

Of course, just because a domme doesn’t deliberately trip up a submissive, doesn’t mean she can’t beat him. It’s always fair to say – “It’s interesting that you think that. Now bend over so I can cane that ass.”

I’m afraid I don’t have an attribution for this image. Please leave a comment if you can help me with that.

Updated: Thanks to a helpful comment I can attribute this to Princess Toni. Based on similar images, I think this might be a Cruella shot.

A Double Dose

I’m fortunate that most of the feedback I receive for this blog is positive and appreciative. That said, there is one singular and common complaint that I find regularly jamming up my inbox. It generally follows the form of – ‘I love your witty writing and insight into kink. But why can’t we have more of it? One blog just isn’t enough! Can you please give us more of paltego?’

I find these kind of complaints somewhat annoying, but I also hate to disappoint anyone. So for this group of totally genuine and not at all imaginary people,  I give you a lengthy interview with me on the blog of the fabulous Miss Ava Zhang.

In all seriousness, it was an interesting and enjoyable process to think through the questions Miss Zhang posed, as well as pleasure to hear her feedback. While I have this site as my personal soapbox, I try and keep posts here short and to the point. Writing in more detail forced me to clarify my thoughts and do a degree of self-analysis. That’s probably an exercise I could do with repeating more often.

Miss Zhang is based in NYC, but also tours regularly. I’ve not been lucky enough to session with her (yet!), but based on my interactions for this interview, I think she’d be an amazing person to know and submit to.

I love the blend of elegance, composure and just a touch of fetish in this shot. It’s from Miss Zhang’s gallery page.

Beware Hijackers

This is, for the moment at least, my last mainstream and political themed post. I promise that normal service of more explicit femdom topics will be resumed shortly. We thank you for your patience.

Writing yesterday’s post, featuring Ross Douthat subverting #MeToo for his own political agenda, reminded me of this New Yorker article from last year on sex and consent. I didn’t link to it when it was published because I thought it was problematic in some areas, but its underlying point is a sound one. It argues that while consent is a fundamental issue, the definition is often fought over. By way of example, it highlights the two sides in the feminist sex debate of the 70’s and 80’s…

One side argued that no consensual act should be punishable by either law or social sanction. The other side focussed on the limits of consent, arguing that consent was sometimes—or even most often—not entirely freely given, and that some things, like injury sustained during S & M sex, could not be the object of consent.

#MeToo has put the subject of consent front and center in the mainstream debate on sex. As kinksters we should be glad about that. It’s a topic we’re well versed in. Unfortunately, operating in the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, political movements will inevitably try to subvert that discussion to their own ends. Mr Douthat is only the start of that.

One approach is to narrow the qualifications for consent so as to make it meaningless. Assert that any power imbalance renders consent meaningless. Given the endless variations of power through society – gender, race, wealth, culture, class – that quickly puts 99% of relationships outside the consensual boundary.

The other approach is to claim that consent can only be given by people of a sound mind, and that certain activities by definition indicate an unsound mind. This is the perfect catch-22. You’re free to do whatever you want, but if you agree to consent to BDSM, then you must be crazy, and therefore can’t consent.

If you want an active example of this kind of mentality in action, just look to the laws on sex work in Sweden. Sex work there is treated as a pathology that’s impossible to consent to. For example, Eva-Marree, an outspoken sex worker, lost her children because the system claimed she lacked insight and didn’t realize what she was doing was a form of self-harm. Consensual sex work was ruled to invalidate her ability to consent. Her children were placed with her ex, who then stabbed her to death when she went to visit them.

Consent is clearly a critical issue, but we need to be wary of people trying to redefine it or hijack it for their own political purposes. When a concept becomes powerful, it’s inevitable fuckheads will appear to try and exploit it.

This is Claire Adams and Eurosex shooting for kink.com. They’re clearly both crazy and need to be stopped for their own sake.

More Mainstream Porn stupidity

While I’m on the subject of stupidity and porn, as I was just a couple of posts ago, I should tip my hat in the direction of the NY Times. They’ve had a couple of recent articles that would fit under that umbrella.

To be fair to the first one – What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn – it’s hard to tell if the problem stems from the article itself or the porn education classes it’s reporting on. Possibly a little of both. It feels terribly dated, and that impression isn’t helped by the pictures that look like they’re taken from 80’s VHS tapes. Sexuality and pornography are incredibly complicated and interesting topics. Deconstructing porn and understanding how/why people use it and make it should be a fascinating area to dive into. Instead this turned it into ‘Porn isn’t real and can be bad, m-kay?’

The real stupidity comes with Ross Douthat’s column ‘Let’s Ban Porn‘. I might not agree with the title’s sentiment, but it’s a defensible one from a particular moral viewpoint. The stupidity comes when he tries to tie it to the #MeToo movement. Apparently widespread pornography has led to a lot of men who think it’s OK to sexually assault women because they’ve seen it in porn. It’s wrapped in a lot of bullshit and accompanied by much fact free hand waving, but that’s the heart of his point.

A slightly more fact based observer might note that men have being doing this shit for decades before the internet was invented. The key enablers appear to have been men in positions of power, with companies and social structures that covered for them, and a society that actively punished people for speaking up about assault. There have been some truly piss poor excuses offered by some of the men called out, but I haven’t seen any stoop so low as to blame internet porn. I’m sure they would if they thought they could get away with it.

A man trying to re-purpose #MeToo from a story about women speaking up about sexual assault into a way to push your personal politics is pretty obnoxious. And blaming internet porn for some men’s terrible behavior is a stupid as blaming comic books, rap music, movies or videogames for violence in society. Oh wait…

I guess if Ross Douthat was right, then publishing this kind of filthy pornography would actually be contributing to future sexual assaults. I guess it’s therefore a good job he’s got his head up his ass.

Updated: Thanks to a helpful comment, I can attribute this to Goddess Serena, a UK based pro-domme.