Monday, 31 October 2011

It's Only a Game

(frame grab from a recent Restrained Elegance shoot with the super-fab Pandora Blake)

WARNING - This post goes on forever. Sorry!

Hello to all who read my blog. Actually READ it. So far in my career as a fetish model and blogger, I’ve had a pretty easy ride really. I’m not generally interested in scene politics and I never feel well-informed enough to comment on wider political issues impacting the BDSM world. I enjoy my kink-related work and my D/s lifestyle, but it’s a frivolous, fun part of my life so my blog is a place where I generally keep the tone fairly light, and where the people who kindly post comments tend to reply in similar style.

But recently my blog attracted a long, abusive comment about my work and lifestyle. I consider my blog to be rather like a sitting room in my house, where people are welcome to come and visit, but where rudeness is out of place. So I deleted the comment, feeling that my virtual sitting room shouldn’t be misused as a platform for such ill-mannered ranting.

But although I started this blog in order to talk about the kinky side of my life and had expected it to only be read by people who liked similar things, I’ve been aware for some time that my blog is also visited by vanilla people. Most of these are good friends and colleagues who’re very welcome indeed. But just in case there are other people who visit this blog and similar ones in order to enjoy a bit of prurient moral outrage, I thought a bit of nailing colours to the mast might be in order.

I’ll use the original offensive comment as a framework for the following thoughts. I’ve left it exactly as written, except for erasing names.

So, apologies in advance for the unpleasant nature of some of the comments, and further apologies for my limited wisdom in reply.

‘Hmm, where do I start, Well, first understand where I come from. My childhood, and that of two of my siblings was completely wrecked by the kind of behaviour shown in your Restrained Studios site. I found it by accident when I Googled your other persona, *NAME REMOVED*.’

To what ‘kind of behaviour’ was the writer alluding, I wondered? Having your childhood wrecked is a dreadful shame. But Restrained Elegance is a bondage site, depicting consenting adults roleplaying BDSM scenarios. As it happens, Restrained Elegance doesn’t even depict adults dressed as (or pretending to be) children. I doubt the writer’s childhood was wrecked by any kind of consensual behaviour at all, since abuse tends not to be consensual.

I have to confess I find some of your comments on this blog and your other one a bit strange, you repeatedly say you are reluctant to 'show too much' but you appear happy to sell what is basically porn!’

I was interested by the writer’s apparent attempt to shame me by pointing out that my work could be viewed as porn. Indeed it could. I try to create work with some artistic merit, but I’m not averse to the idea of turning people on, and I wasn’t sure why anyone would think this the case. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve thrown away the right to choose what type of photography I’m involved with. Page 3 (of tabloid papers in the UK, where traditionally, a pretty girl with no top on appears daily) is ‘basically porn’ in that it’s there to titillate. But Page 3 girls are under no obligation to shoot hard pornographic videos just because they’ve appeared topless - and quite right too. I’m a spanking model, and that doesn’t mean I automatically lose the right to choose what parts of my body I show at photo shoots. I’m involved in CONSENSUAL activity; just as an independent shop owner chooses the merchandise they sell, I choose what sort of productions I want to be involved with. I’ve chosen to do work that isn’t sexually explicit and which doesn’t involve anything I consider to be sexual contact. That’s my right as an independent trader.

Furthermore, its important to make a distinction between aesthetic choices and moral ones. I like spanking, so I shoot that. My decisions about which work to take are rarely primarily moral ones. Nor is my decision not to shoot more sexually explicit work. I shoot what I enjoy looking at. It’s an artistic choice, which I’m sure is somewhat governed by my sexual preferences. It’s not because I think my work is morally superior to more explicit work.

'Does it occur to you, or your 'BDM' that the kind of people who enjoy this material, especially the CP part, would probably be the same kind as the one who made our lives a misery for 10 years (actually, it was longer for my younger brother).'

I did feel a certain amount of despair upon reading this comment. Did it occur to the writer that there is no ‘kind of person’ who enjoys CP, or any other type of sexual activity? What ‘kind of person’ is gay? What ‘kind of person’ enjoys the missionary position? Actually the BDM and I are not the same ‘kind of person’ if by this, the writer meant ‘of the same sexual identity’. The BDM’s a dominant sadist, I’m a submissive masochist. He’s not interested in spanking random vanilla women or tying them up. I’m not interested in randomly submitting to people, or trying to entice passers-by into spanking me. Both of us spent years of not engaging in the activities of our choice because we hadn’t met a suitable partner who’d enjoy them too, and we didn’t deal with our frustrations by making anyone’s lives a misery. We dealt with it by looking at porn (depicting consenting adults) and by reading BDSM erotica . Now we’re involved in creating this type of material and I hope it’s used in part by people who are still waiting for their perfect match to come along. I also hope it’s used as inspiration by happy couples who like the same things that we do.

Of course, I couldn’t be sure of the type of abuse the writer was alluding to, but taking a shot in the dark, it sounds as though he was talking about physical abuse, which may have involved being beaten. If that’s the case, then it’s horrible, very sad. But in my 7 years of involvement in the kink community, I’ve yet to meet anyone who thinks that the activities we engage in for fun would be good ways of disciplining a child. Actually, just writing that sentence made me feel a bit ill; its so OBVIOUS that even putting it into words feels a bit inappropriate really.

So the short answer would be ‘yes, of course I’ve noticed that the activities I engage in sometimes would be very wrong indeed if they were visited upon a non consenting individual. As would having any kind of sex, actually. Fortunately, I don’t want to, neither does the BDM. Neither does anyone I know, to the best of my knowledge.’

'None of us had been unaffected, and our ability to have relationships has also suffered as a result. So to find you glibly talking about actually enjoying your bruises is pretty insulting.'

I suppose it would be rather glib if I used my blog to talk about how much I enjoyed being spanked by an abusive father as a child (which I wasn’t). But I’m not; I’m talking about my (adult, consensual) love life. Since the writer chose to read a BDSM blog which is clearly marked as such, I didn’t think he really had a compelling right to be insulted by the things I talk about here.

'The fact that you are a beautiful, intelligent and talented woman makes it worse.'

And why on EARTH would it make it worse that I’m beautiful, intelligent and female? By that logic, would my desire to enjoy CP somehow be less offensive if I was a bit uglier, and maybe not very bright? Again, even writing that feels pretty unpleasant. Being intelligent (which I may or may not be) doesn’t steal my right to write about the things I enjoy, on my own blog; and it certainly doesn’t give me a responsibility to only find certain things sexually appealing. Being beautiful (or not) is, surely, also irrelevant?

'You mention that in the cp world none of the togs is interested in your body parts and all are very helpful, even working for free, that's probably because they all enjoy watching you in pain.'

It took me a while to work out where the writer were going with this, but I think I eventually figured which bit of my blog he was mis-quoting from. I think that he meant ‘tops‘ when he wrote ‘togs‘, although he may have been trying for an abbreviation of ‘photographers’. Again, I got the impression he was trying to shame me with the idea that people might enjoy watching me in pain. However, since I enjoy being watched while I’m in pain, I feel a distinct lack of shame at this idea.

I’m fine with people enjoying watching me in pain! Since it’s CONSENSUAL pain, which I’m enjoying too, it’s all good. That’s kind of the point of my BDSM work, after all. Of course, anyone within the BDSM industry will know that there’s a lot more to a spanking shoot than that. The collegiate spirit, the long-term friendships and emphasis on mutual respect and consensuality, for example. I do hope that most of the people who watch BDSM films will see the evidence of this, and not be alarmed.

'Yeah, bondage is ok, I've seen some great shibarte (sic) pics, but your pc (sic) stuff disturbs because it brings back memories, which is why I am writing.'

This opinion just horrified me, frankly. Bondage is NOT magically ok. It’s only ok if it’s consensual, just as CP is only ok if its consensual. Images of different things have differing effects on people, depending on their tastes and experiences. The writer might find that CP stuff disturbs him, in which case I’d suggest he didn’t look at it. Someone else might find that images of shibari disturb them a great deal more than depictions of spanking. Pictures of spiders upset me so I don’t seek them out. If I’d recently been raped, I might not want to watch a production of ‘Death and the Maiden’. If my parents had died when I was a baby, I might find reading ‘Harry Potter’ too sad to enjoy. If my father had been remote and uncaring, the first half of ‘The Sound of Music’ might have an upsetting resonance for me. Memories can be upsetting. But the blame lies with the person who gave you the memories in the first place, not the people who happen to create art that you don’t like.

'Also, there are no checks on entry bar a warning that the site is not for minors (yep, I can see my son taking note of that one)'

I can’t actually face getting into the online censorship debate. Apologies to anyone who’d like to read one, but if I tried to take that on I’m not sure this blog post would ever end. In fact, Restrained Elegance does have a warning that the site isn’t for minors, and always has.

'Look, if you enjoy being spanked, as you claim (though how anyone can claim to enjoy having their body bruised and scarred is beyond me) then at least your don't have to sell it. It's porn, and you appear to have double standards.'

A thorough understanding of party politics is beyond me. Particle physics is largely beyond me. So is the ability to crochet successfully shaped baby bonnets. And so, I don’t post comments on blogs dedicated to those subjects. This isn’t an important point, do forgive me for being briefly pedantic and irritable about being harangued on my own blog (sitting room, don’t forget).

But I wondered, why on earth I shouldn’t I sell a product that I enjoy consuming? It’s such a logical thing to do. People who like chocolate sometimes open chocolate shops (I went to one today). People who like books sometimes work for publishing houses. People who love computers work in IT. And sometimes, people who love BDSM, produce BDSM work that they find beautiful.

'Also, it makes your 'BDM' nothing more than a pimp. God help if you have children, I'd be terrified to leave a child of mine with him. If he preys on you, who can at least defend herself if things go to (sic) far, what about a child.

I'm glad I typed this, I couldn't write it my hands are shaking.'*NAME REMOVED*

This part of the comment was where I briefly became really angry. Where, I wondered, were my double standards? Was he harking back to my desire to only shoot the work I’m interested in? Actually, even if I DID have double standards regarding my work, I don’t see what business it is of anyone who doesn’t hire me anyway. I won’t force anyone to deal with the nightmare of a model who only wants to do the work she’s CONSENTED to.

And lawks, can I actually face explaining the ways in which the BDM isn’t a pimp? In brief, I don’t give him a percentage of my earnings; furthermore, he doesn’t have the power (or desire)to make any decisions regarding the bookings I accept, or the level of BDSM work I choose to do for the site we run together. Actually, why does HE get to be the pimp, suddenly? We appear on-screen together. Many of the story lines that we shoot are mine. And actually, he does pay me. So maybe I’m the pimp, if I’m suggesting things he could do on-screen, and if I’m taking money from the business? Or maybe the ill-informed commenter just picked a word with negative connotations out of the air.

And to wrap it up, I was incensed that the writer would dare to make such offensive assumptions about us as parents or prospective parents. If a person truly can’t perceive the difference between what a couple enjoy doing as part of their consensual sex-life, and what the same couple do to their non-consenting children, then God help HIS children.

And lastly, the BDM does not ‘prey’ on me. I guess he might say I prey on him, but he manages to handle it with admirable fortitude. And for the record, I’m against the use of corporal punishment in any context other than between adults, for mutual pleasure.

The above notes will of course be nothing new to most of the people who read this, but I do hope that if you’ve found my blog by chance and are shocked by what you see, that this post will maybe help to set your mind at rest.

Ariel x