Due to a server error many of the members only files on the site are currently missing. I'm working to restore them - they'll be back within 48 hours. I'll grant all members an extension on their membership as an apology for the hiatus.
Nearly two years ago I wrote a letter to Dreams of Spanking explaining why, with great reluctance, I needed to step away from the project for a while. At the time I wasn't sure if or when I would be able to come back to it. It was over a year before I updated the site again, with a new, sexier queer spanking porn film co-created with Chelsea Poe and Courtney Trouble. There was another pause, and since February this year we've released three new scenes - one a month, and we have another one lined up for this weekend. It seems that one way or another Dreams of Spanking has wiggled its way back into my schedule - and my heart.
I thought it was time to touch base and let you know what's going on with the site, and what you can expect.
In the immediate term, there's a new update coming this weekend - one for fans of our cinematic Victorian epic Mrs Smith's Method, showing Amelia Jane, Molly, Adele and I in a new light.
Beyond that, I have ten new scenes edited - all they need is images and previews, copy, trailers etc. I've been having good success this year with delegating those sorts of jobs (thanks Zak and Violet for the fantastic copy writing, and Nimue for the trailers!), and I'm currently trying out different image editors to see who's a good fit. Once I've put the finishing touches to the team we'll be able to continue to keep the site updated regularly with minimal input from me; all I'll need to do is edit the films themselves, plus whatever promotion I feel like doing.
Those of you who have been following my personal blog and social media posts will already know my happy news, but it's just occurred to me that I haven't shared it here explicitly yet. After trying to conceive for a year, I'm now eight months pregnant, and absolutely thrilled to be bringing a new life into the world with my amazing partner Felix. Our baby is due in July, and I couldn't be happier!
As well as gestating a human infant, I'm also gestating a book. It's about what we do with the sexual fantasies we have that are in tension with our politics and personal ethics, and how we resolve that tension. It's non-fiction, combining autobiography, personal essays, and academic writing. I've got 60000 words of it written so far, two thirds of that since January. Book and baby are currently racing to the finish line; I'm well aware that I'll need to substantially revise what I've written, but I'd love to have a zeroth draft of the manuscript finished before I give birth. To prioritise that project, and look after my body in the final weeks of my pregnancy, I'm stopping all other work and taking a writing sabbatical from 1 June. It's just going to be me, at home, writing and getting ready for the baby.
Long-form writing is deeply immersive and requires far more of my attention than pretty much any other endeavour I've found to date. Loading the project in my head takes a lot of wind-up time (and energy), and once it's loaded, it's really hard for me to focus on anything else. It's not convenient for me to multitask, or interleave writing the book with other projects.
For the next two months I'm going to focus on writing - which doesn't leave much attention spare for updating Dreams of Spanking. And from mid-July onwards (perhaps later, perhaps earlier - eek!), I'll be a fulltime parent and totally unavailable for anything else for a while. I intend to ease myself back into part-time work gently once my baby is a few weeks or months old, but I'm not putting myself under pressure to do so on any particular schedule. So if I want to update the site while I'm on parental leave, having a team of people to help me do it is absolutely essential. I'm in conversation with someone about taking on a project management role, so I can hand over that final step of keeping track of everything and making sure it all comes together in time to deliver you regular new spanking content.
With ten scenes in the bank, it looks like there'll be regular updates for a while - which is great! However, I haven't committed to a specific update schedule yet. One a month would take us to next March before I had to edit anything new. I'll almost certainly be able (and want) to edit new videos before then; I have eleven other scenes filmed and waiting to be edited, mostly dating from before I called a halt to the weekly Dreams of Spanking update schedule in 2017, and Nimue and I are planning to shoot at least one more next month. (I'm eager to shoot at least one pregnant spanking film before I give birth!)
I was wondering about whether that's enough content to go up to two updates a month, but that would only take us up until the end of October - which would put a lot of pressure on me to edit two videos a month from September onwards, on top of my parenting (and other) commitments. I don't want to commit to a schedule I can't sustain.
So it will probably work out somewhere between the two - at least one new scene a month, perhaps one every three weeks if I find myself shooting and editing new content more rapidly than I expect. Members will, of course, get access to everything new the moment it goes live - follow us on Twitter, add this blog to your feed reader, and join our mailing list to stay abreast of new releases.
It's been a while since Dreams of Spanking had a regular, predictable update schedule. Feels good right?
After a quiet year, I have some big news.
I’m stretching my creative wings again with some new queer porn collaborations. Last weekend I filmed a scene with Courtney Trouble and Chelsea Poe with me and Chelsea performing together, which was a dream come true. I have a massive porn crush on Chelsea and we had so much fun. Our scene was (of course!) very kinky and involved butch/femme dynamics, spanking, flogging, makeouts, Chelsea making me squirt everywhere with her fingers and tongue (she kept asking me to cum on her tits, which I’ve never done before - it was very horny) and me sitting on and fucking her face with my cock until we were both drenched in jizz. Chelsea had to hop in the shower afterwards to rinse my cum out of her hair. It was so great to connect with her and I hope we get to work together again.
Courtney, who was our videographer, was so great to work with and made everything super easy. They were warm, sweet and welcoming, delightfully enthusiastic about my gender expression, and helped me get over my nerves. I stopped getting regular pre-shoot anxiety ages ago, but it was a bit scary shooting with two porn icons whom I’ve admired from afar for years. I’m so so glad to have worked with them both and can’t wait to release the finished scene, which is a collaboration and will be distributed through QueerPorn.tv, Dreams of Spanking and other channels.
It's coming. And so are we...
I recently received this glowing letter from a woman who had joined the site, and it touched me so deeply that I wanted to share it. This is the reason I built Dreams of Spanking. This, right here, is the reason I've done everything I've done.
This is the first time I’ve had the nerve to contact you, and I really do want to let you know how much your work has meant to me, and especially if you’ve decided that stepping away from the site is the best thing for you, I wanted to be one more voice telling you that the work you’ve done is incredibly meaningful and still having an effect.
Before I found Dreams of Spanking, I was aware of, though not at all comfortable with, my kink, and had this vague idea that porn was sleazy and not really something women were interested in. I did try a couple of other spanking sites first, and while it was super exciting to finally be able to do more than watch ten-second clips late at night, I always felt a bit icky about it –from a “there’s something wrong with me for wanting to be spanked” standpoint, but perhaps even more so from a “I really don’t know how I feel about paying for this material” – buying a scene described along the lines of “Blond hottie’s huge bubble butt spanked HARD!” didn’t feel like particularly great feminism.
And then I stumbled across Dreams of Spanking (and bought a subscription, and stayed up until 4 AM watching videos until I physically couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore!). And I found EXACTLY what I’d been looking for – stories about real characters with real plotlines that involved spanking! Content that was artistic and beautiful and brought to life some of my favorite fantasies (and introduced me to a lot of new ones)! And most of all, respectful descriptions that called performers by name and showed an appreciation of their work, and commentary and behind-the-scenes content that assured me that the performers were not only “not exploited” (what a ridiculously low bar!), but people who were genuinely into what they were doing, whose boundaries and limits were respected, and who had input into the scenes they chose to do. And all of that together made incredible art, art that felt not like “what the company assumes the average porn consumer wants” but art that was creative and expressive and fulfilling for the people making it.
And then I started reading your blog, and learned that a creative, articulate, intelligent, successful, poised, independent woman can like getting spanked, and there’s nothing about any of those facts that are not compatible with each other. And something inside me relaxed.
The last thing I wanted to say, because I’m aware that I’m really rambling now, is thank you so, so much for your focus on diversity in all areas, but especially meaningfully for me personally, for hiring performers with such a diverse range of body types. Your website shows SO many people with all different kinds of bodies and they’re all presented simply as what they are – photos of people looking beautiful (and/or hot, sexy, sweet, cute, etc.) – with no fetishizing size, no “how brave of x to be seen naked despite x,” no “real women look like x” – just gorgeous photos of people presented as exactly that. Thank you, thank you so much for that.
Dear Dreams of Spanking,
You are the realisation of my hopes and dreams. You are the safe space I dreamed of creating for people to explore and express their spanking fantasies without shame; a community offering reassurance and support to likeminded kinksters. You are my proof that a spanking site bringing together all genders and sexual orientations can be a success. You model a way of publishing online porn that makes explicit the difference between fantasy and reality, and transparently reveals the enthusiastic consent of those taking part. You do all this while paying performers and contractors decent market rates, never exploiting unpaid labour, and paying me last, if at all. I am so proud of you I might burst.
Cynical people told me that this commitment to integrity would make you untenable as a business, but in 2015 you were a financial success. You had enough traffic and a high enough turnover to cover your costs, invest in exciting new productions, hire contractors to help with editing and marketing, and still have enough left over to pay me a reasonable wage for my time. Eventually, if you had been allowed to continue uninterrupted, I would have been able to train up trusted team members to do more of the production, post-production and marketing, until I could step back completely. I would have been able to keep earning income from you as the business owner, while I freed up time to move on to new porn projects. As a self-employed person I don't have much of a pension plan, but you were my nest egg.
If it hadn't been for ATVOD, we'd have pulled it off. You would still be flourishing and I'd be halfway through nursing your sister site to life. But that's not what happened.
ATVOD singled you out for censorship, investigating you while ignoring other UK spanking sites. I still don't know why this was, but I can guess: you became a target when I criticised the oppressive AVMS regulations in mainstream media. Or perhaps it was your queer and female-gaze depictions of masculine submission that singled you out as subversive. Either way, I regret nothing. Integrity and inclusivity are two of your core values, and I’m proud to have stood by your principles.
I endured the trauma of the investigation, the threat of being outed, and the bitterness of having to put you to sleep while you were in your prime. And then we won our appeal. We emerged victorious over ATVOD, gained the moral high ground and saw the whole organisation disbanded. Even better, we won the right to publish the content we had been prevented from publishing - and we've spent the last year doing just that.
So let’s talk about these last twelve months.
When you re-opened after a ten month hiatus, you were in a state of financial precarity that put me in a triple bind. I’d hoped that if we generated enough press coverage around the appeal win it would boost sales enough to cover my losses, but since we re-opened you’ve never recovered your former success. I’ve been juggling three fulltime jobs: political campaigning against the Digital Economy Act, editing new content to keep you updated, and since neither of those things have been paying me enough to live on, I’ve had to somehow find time to do enough billable work to pay the rent. It’s been a tough year, and I’ve been able to give neither you nor the campaigning the attention you deserve. I’ve stubbornly persisted, because I love you and I don’t want to let go. But it’s time I accept that this isn’t working.
Since your hiatus, sales haven’t been high enough to afford to hire editing help, so my only option has been to cut back the amount of content I put out each week. In the good old days, we’d publish a complete new spanking video plus photoset, trailer, and behind the scenes video every week - and preparing and promoting all that is considerably more than a full time job for one person. So then I cut it back to a photoset one week, an audio story another, and started splitting longer videos over multiple updates. And I still haven’t been able to stay on top of it. There have been too many missed updates this year, and you and your members deserve better.
I’ve been so busy it’s been hard to take stock, but even so, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since the appeal win. Throughout the autumn, with the Digital Economy Bill looming and the future uncertain, I started to entertain the idea of leaving you. But I’d made a commitment to complete what we’d started. When ATVOD ruled against you, the idea that we might never have the right to release the content we’d already shot was one of the most painful aspects of it. It was deeply frustrating that creative endeavours I’d invested time, imagination, money and effort into might be thwarted. Then we became free to finish them, to put them out into the world, and I’ve felt myself stubbornly determined to carry out that commitment. Giving up would have felt like admitting defeat - like letting the government bullies win.
Morally and legally, we beat them and I’m glad of it. But in a practical sense, they’d already won before I even filed my appeal. They cut you down in your prime, wiped out years of carefully accumulated momentum and traffic, and turned you from a growing small business to an expensive hobby I can’t afford to continue.
I’ve been mulling it over for months, trying to decide what to do. In December I decided to not shoot anything new - it seemed pointless with the Digital Economy Bill hanging over us - and just keep going until we ran out of content. Originally I had enough scenes in the can to last until April; then the new slower update schedule stretched it out until June, and now every missed update delays the finishing line. It’s started to feel like completion is impossible. I’m away for most of July, and I absolutely don’t have time to prepare a month’s worth of updates in advance around the other paid work I’m doing. I’d set my sights on getting to the end of the content already shot, but I’ve had to accept I won’t manage it before I go away.
Trying to keep things limping along is just letting the situation continue indefinitely without conclusion. It's in my power to step away. A shift of attitude is all that's needed.
Love and fear
We’ve been together a long time. It’s been six and a half years since you opened for business, and I was working and planning for two years before that. You are a labour of love, and before the ATVOD investigation, you were a pleasure. I was passionate about you and preferred you to any other project. But under the present circumstances the weight of obligation is growing increasingly heavy.
I have always wanted to do what I love, and love what I do. Years ago, I sat down to create a job for myself which paid the bills, was creatively fulfilling, self-expressive, and politically worthwhile. You were what I came up with, and you ticked all my boxes. Then ATVOD came calling. Since then, the political importance of this work has become more acute - but it is no longer financially rewarding, and the constant legal struggles have made it hard for me to enjoy the creative aspect of the work. I used to pour my heart and soul into every update. The ATVOD investigation, the threat of being outed, the unfavourable ruling, the helplessness of waiting to hear my appeal result, and now the Digital Economy Act - all these have tainted my enjoyment of you. Since the appeal win I’ve stubbornly persisted in the face of financial losses, legal uncertainty and competing priorities, but now I only have time to do the bare minimum each week, it’s much less rewarding.
Spanking is a core part of my identity. It's my original fetish, hard-wired; it’s been with me for as long as I can remember. I am deeply attached to it, and spanking is what has kept me attached to you. Our relationship has always been one of love, as well as business. Now I need to ensure that I don’t let that love distort my ability to make rational decisions.
When I had to take you offline I was badly burned out, and it took about six months to recover. Now I'm finding myself heading towards burnout again. I need to start re-assessing my priorities, and putting what truly matters first in my life.
The thing is, this pressure of obligation is self-imposed. I can free myself if I want to. If I reprioritise, perhaps I can create more space for relaxation and celebration, and be able to enjoy some of the rewards the last few years has brought me. There are opportunities opening up for me, and I want to be able to take advantage of them rather than being stuck in the same situation forever.
For a while now, I’ve sensed that the rational decision was to stop updating you. And yet each time I’ve thought about it, I’ve found myself refusing to make that choice. So what am I afraid of?
You have brought me so much. Creative and erotic satisfaction, the pleasure of connecting with likeminded fetishists who affirm my interest and make me feel less alone. You’ve given me peer recognition, a political voice, social status. Our legal battles have brought me a reputation as a campaigner who keeps on fighting rather than backing down. I’m scared of losing that. I’m scared of giving up too soon. I’m scared of letting them win; and I’m scared of making people think that I’ve let them win.
The thing is, although we’ve been in conflict with UK authorities, ultimately this struggle is not with an external enemy, but with my own fear of letting go. My inner enemy is the very stubbornness that has made me a successful activist. That reluctance to back down, to lose face, has served me as a campaigner. But it’s not serving me now. An opportunity opens up for liberation and change; a new period of my life can begin.
The impact of age verification
I had hoped that this new period would be one in which you were a going concern, a profitable and liberated enterprise which could financially support me while giving me a space to express my authentic erotic self. But that’s not the world we find ourselves in. Thanks to the ATVOD hiatus and the Digital Economy Act, the economics are stacked too high against us.
Just for a second, let’s consider the possibility that I might want to keep updating you. I’d have to stop doing paid work and borrow money to free up time to build you back up to the successful business you used to be. It would mean going back to start-up mode, spending another couple of years accumulating debt and working for free. Realistically, to have a chance of being successful I’d also have to stop spending time on political activism, end my Patreon campaign and turn away from the chance to make a difference. But even if I wanted to do this - and I don’t - the new age verification rules would make it an impossible endeavour.
The mandatory age verification in the Digital Economy Bill leaves me three choices. To maintain my current level of page views, I’d have to pay several orders of magnitude more than your turnover each day to age verify every viewer. This is obviously not possible. To avoid having to age verify non-paying viewers, I would have to completely reorganise the site - months of unpaid work - and put everything classifiable as 18 or higher behind a paywall. I’d no longer be able to use any of the preview images, trailers, or explicit promotional materials I’ve spent years making. We’d make fewer sales as a result of not being able to publically promote the scenes in the archive, unless I spent yet more time creating new PG-13 promo materials for all the old scenes. Not only would this be a colossal waste of my time, it would lose the transparency which was always one of our core missions.
The third option is to geo-block all UK site visitors - 40% of your paying customers - and suffer a corresponding loss of sales. You’re already barely covering your costs, and I’m not getting paid enough to keep updating you. None of the available options are going to improve that situation.
The conclusion is clear. It’s time for me to step away. In fact, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t updated you for several weeks already. It was late April when the emotional reality of this situation hit home. In early May I went into hospital for an operation, and ended my twelve year relationship with D. It’s been a hard month, and I’ve had a lot to deal with. But even without those unusual circumstances, this would still have been the right decision.
It’s taken me a while to put this into words. I fear what your members will think; I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want them to feel disappointed, resentful or betrayed. I don’t want people to think that I’m weak, that I’m giving up too soon. But in the end, I shouldn’t be led by fear of what others might think.
For a few years, you were the reason I got up in the morning. I was gutted when ATVOD stopped us from doing the work we had set out to do. Now, a year after your triumphant re-opening, I’ve finally reached the point where I feel ready to step away.
Yes, I mourn the injustice that saw you cut down at your height. But what's happened has had a silver lining too. My campaigning against the AVMS 2014 and, more recently, the Digital Economy Act 2017, has given me the opportunity to challenge the criminalisation and stigma of sex work, and advocate for the right to enjoy consensual BDSM. My political work has taken me to places I’d never been before - from lobbying the House of Lords to leading the discussion on age verification at the Adult Provider's Network tech demo. I’ve built up a successful Patreon to support my ongoing political activism, and I'm finding myself increasingly drawn to this sort of work. I have you to thank for that, but ATVOD played their part in getting me fired up, too.
After the time I’ve spent with you, I know I can bring my dreams to life. I’ve learned how to build a successful enterprise, innovate, and take risks that pay off. You’ve given me confidence that any new venture I turn my hand to will yield results.
You have fulfilled your purpose, and it’s now time for me to move on. One of the hardest wisdoms of the heart is knowing when to leave a situation and let go. Our natural tendency is to want to have, to hold and to keep - letting go can seem a rejection of important values such as commitment, dedication and responsibility. But there is a season and a cycle to all things. Something that has served us at one time may now no longer do so. And I’m starting to realise that stepping away is not a rejection of one thing, but an embracing of another.
There is no need to blame anyone or anything in the past for my decision. I’m not bitter about ATVOD or the Digital Economy Act. These experiences have shaped me, given me skills and experience and connections, helped me step into my power. I see the future calling to me as I give thanks for the experiences of the past. Now, it’s time for me to take a break to recharge and rededicate myself to what I sense is the core purpose of my life.
So what does this mean in practice?
The Digital Economy Act has a one year window before enforcement will begin; we’re already a couple of months into that. So whatever changes I make to the site in response to the age verification requirement, they must be complete by next March, or earlier to be safe.
To avoid having to pay for age verification, I’ll have to geoblock UK IP addresses. This will mean that if you’re visiting the site from the UK and you aren’t using a VPN or onion router, you’ll be redirected to a PG-13 page which doesn’t contain any content that would be classified 18 or higher. Users from the rest of the world will still be able to view the site and buy access to scenes.
There won't be new weekly site updates. Current members will continue to have access to the archive. Members who bought subscriptions before this change was announced will be given extensions to their memberships to compensate them for the lack of new updates. If someone doesn’t have a membership yet and wants to be able to watch films in the archive, they will still be able to buy a subscription, but it won't entitle them to new content each week.
I still have several photo galleries, videos and audio stories which have not yet been published. I’d like to put them up at some point, but I’m not committing to any particular schedule. I’ll do it when I feel like it, if I feel like it. I suspect I’ll need to take a break for a while to recover my enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to this being a pleasure again; to sharing new spanking scenes for the joy of it, not because I’m tied to a neverending weekly obligation. Those with memberships will have access to new material when it comes out, and I might even give members a heads up when I’m working on something new - but I won’t be holding myself to any deadlines.
I’m planning a redesign. I’ve been meaning to do one for years, I even started work on it, but ATVOD et al got in the way. I’d like to set up more powerful video on demand functionality, with individual films available to stream or download without needing a membership. I’m not intending to walk away from you entirely; but I won’t have time to implement these changes while still struggling to edit new content every week.
What does the future hold?
Well. I still have so many porn ideas. New projects, new enterprises, new films. I doubt I’ll be gone for good. And without being tied down to a membership site, my time will be freed up to work on the new projects that excite me.
But in the short term, I think I’ll be taking a bit of a sabbatical. I’ve spent far too much time since 2009 editing porn and campaigning around porn politics, and not enough time with my loved ones, enjoying hobbies, or campaigning on any of the other social justice issues I care about. I have a book I want to write. I have plans that require money, and non-porn opportunities to earn it.
You can stay informed of what I’m up to by adding my blog pandorablake.com to your feed reader, and by following me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. If you want regular newsletters and sneak previews of my latest work in porn and out of it, you could consider becoming one of my supporters on Patreon.
So this is farewell, of a sort. Thanks, Dreams of Spanking. You’ve changed my life for the better. And I like to think that the two of us, in some small way, have changed spanking porn for the better, too. This has been the best job of my life, and now I find that I've reached a point where I am complete with it. Looking forward, the opportunities feel infinite. I’m excited about what I might do next.
Last weekend was the first ever London Porn Film Festival - a weekend of queer and feminist porn organised by queer community Wotever World. I managed to catch four out of five screenings, and attended three Q&As to accompany my films that were showing. I really enjoyed myself, and would love to write in more detail about some of the amazing porn I saw - keep an eye on my personal blog, and hopefully I'll post some reviews and recommendations for new hot, kinky, ethical porn when I get the chance.
They accepted two Dreams of Spanking films: Please May I Come, Mistress, and the new fast-paced edit of Bitch, which I renamed Queer as in Fuck You. In honour of its screening I've released it for free on Dreams of Spanking, so if you couldn't make it to the festival, you can watch it without a site membership here!
There was a lot of warmth and love for me in screening my work to my home community, a roomful of lovely queers many of whom I already knew. I think everyone else was feeling the love too, because the audience reception to both films was far and above the most positive response I've received so far. Everyone laughed at the jokes, got the little asides and comic moments, and enthusiastically applauded at the end - and I got lovely comments afterwards too from people who'd enjoyed the films. Perhaps it's a Londoner thing - all four performers in the films are from this city, and maybe there's a common sense of humour. But whatever the reason, I appreciated it.
Zak Jane Keir noticed it too, and has written a lovely blogpost about her experience seeing herself on the big screen for the first time.
The other factor that seems likely to have made it easier for the audience to get the jokes was that for the first time, both films were subtitled, and we were screening to a roomful of native English speakers. Dreams of Spanking films are often dialogue-heavy, and these two are no exception. Neither has particularly good audio quality; Queer as in Fuck You was shot before I upped my game and started using external mics to enhance sound quality, and Please May I Come, Mistress was an unexpected and spontaneous shoot when I didn't have my usual equipment. A couple of German speakers in Berlin told me that they found the rapid, quiet speech during the interviews hard to follow, so I was very happy to subtitle it in French for La Fete du Slip in Switzerland.
London Porn Film Festival were even more on the ball with language and accessibility - in fact, they were the most accessible porn film festival I've ever been to. Filmmakers were asked to submit English subtitles and audio description files for every film, to improve access for hearing and vision impaired members of the audience. The audio description was to be "exactly the same length, down to the frame, as the video file, and match up with it".
When I first got the email asking me to create those resources, I was fascinated to observe a short, intense ableist response flare up in me. Rather than admiring the LPFF for their strong stance on accessibility, my immediate reaction was frustration, feeling that this extra, unpaid work would be fiddly, tedious and unwelcome. Particularly around the audio description, I felt something along these lines: I've already created this film in my preferred medium to tell this story, it's done now. I don't want to have to go back and retell it another way, a way I never designed it to be told, having to comply with someone else's specifications! It's going to be unrewarding, and screening films at film festivals is meant to be about MY creative satisfaction, damnit!
Writing it out now, it sounds ridiculous - and in fact it didn't take long for me to get over myself and realise that of course creating accessibility materials was part of my job, and it was an honour to help my work reach a wider audience of people who were interested in viewing it, but wouldn't normally be able to. In fact, providing these sorts of materials was probably something I should be doing as a matter of course. So I made a conscious effort to shake off the ableist and self-involved reluctance, and got down to it. There was only one problem: I had never made an audio description file before, and I had no idea where to start.
The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. Surely an audio description of the film would take significantly longer than the film, as visual information is communicated more quickly than speech? Should I use the original dialogue and music to retain the voices of the performers and add mood and atmosphere - but then, that wouldn't leave many gaps to insert description?
Luckily, the lovely folks at the London Porn Film Festival were ready to answer my questions. They explained that audio description is transmitted at the same time as the film with a loosely-fitting headset, so whoever listens to the AD will hear all the film sound, including music and dialogue, as well as all the sound in the AD. Not all visually impaired people are blind, and many can see part of what's going on on-screen, which is why the timings need to match up, so the AD makes sense with the visuals they're seeing.
In fact, the advice they sent me was so valuable that I asked their permission to repost it in full. Since I was new to this, it occurred to me that other filmmakers might be, too; and so this guidance might be useful to others who want to make their work more accessible to visually impaired people.
The AD file should be just voice. Of course, not being able to describe everything is frustrating. But a lot of the personalities of Zak and Charlie can be picked up through their conversation, and their relationship is discussed in detail - perhaps their physical appearance is secondary? Very often, you go after what gaps are available and fill those with what seems right at that time, and that's as good as it's going to get.
I work professionally with AD scripts for mainstream TV, and I prioritise in roughly this order, with everything above taking precedence over everything below:
1. Not running the script over any dialogue or plot-pertinent sound effects, e.g. doorbell ringing
2. Stuff that's mentioned in dialogue but not explicity, e.g. someone points at a chair and mentions it without saying "chair", at which point the AD would say "Jim points at a chair" or whatever.
3. Characters present. Names if they've been introduced, brief descriptors if not.
6. Description of setting.
7. Description of characters' appreance and (non-plot-essential) clothing.
I'd say that in the majority of AD scripts I do, I rarely get below level five, and even then many actions that happen during dialogue will have to be excluded.
Armed with this information, I sat down and began the process of watching the films while noting down brief descriptions of actions every time there was a gap in the dialogue - and with these two films, there aren't many! I then did a second pass, reading my AD script aloud while playing the film again, and deleting anything that didn't fit. Once I had the wording down I set my mic up on my desktop, with the film soundtrack playing in headphones, and recorded the audio description at the same time as listening to the film audio. Finally, I laid the film soundtrack as a second track in Audacity and went through the recording and tweaked the timings of the audio description to make sure it didn't overlap any of the dialogue. Then I deleted the film soundtrack, and exported the audio description file complete with gaps in all the right places.
For two films, it was a long job, and sadly I don't have the resources to offer it as a matter of course for all Dreams of Spanking scenes. But it was an illuminating process. It enabled me to connect with my films in a new way, and perceive them as aural experiences, learning how they come across differently without the visuals. And it was fascinating to think about how visually impaired people might enjoy porn, and how pornographers might approach their work differently in order to create multi-sensory experiences that work on different levels for different types of viewer. It would be so cool to create a film that was just as effective an erotic experience if it was enjoyed aurally, or visually, as well as the combination of the two.
I'll upload the audio descriptions of Queer as in Fuck You and Please May I Come, Mistress to the scene pages, so you can try them out if you want to - and there are subtitle files for both films too, including both English and French for the latter. Plus, of course, if your sight doesn't permit you to fully enjoy Dreams of Spanking films visually, you would probably enjoy our audio spanking stories.
In the end, after a bit of a reluctant start, I enjoyed creating the audio descriptions for the London Porn Film Festival. And I was delighted when after the screening, someone came up to me after overhearing me talking to someone else, and recognised my voice from the audio description. They told me they'd really enjoyed it and they thought I'd done a great job with it. At the end of the day, that makes it all worthwhile.
A new video blog from me about yesterday's photoshoot for Dreams of Spanking, how I decided what to shoot and how, and some hints about what you can expect on Dreams of Spanking over the coming months. Worth a watch if you're interested in how the looming Digital Economy Bill in the UK will impact the site. Enjoy!
La Fete du Slip is a gender and sexuality film festival in Switzerland (I think it's slip as in panties or underwear). It's been running for a few years and has gained prestige in the international porn community, and Dreams of Spanking is joining them for the first time this weekend.
I first tried to take part in La Fete du Slip in 2015. After Houseboy won the Berlin Porn Film Festival short film competition, I felt encouraged to submit it to other festivals. But sadly it seemed that it wasn't to La Fete du Slip's taste. I figured that I was unlikely to make a better film than that any time soon, so perhaps my work just didn't suit them. I didn't think it would be worth trying again. But I was pleased and surprised in Berlin last October when Stéphane, one half of the brother-and-sister organising team, found me after the Fetish Porn screening to tell me that she'd loved Please May I Come, Mistress, starring Charlie J Forrest and Zak Jane Keir; and that she wanted to screen it at La Fete du Slip. Well!
So here I am, on the Eurostar to Paris, where I'll change trains and venture to Lausanne - my first visit to Switzerland. I am curious to discover whether the home of milk chocolate and cheese fondue will have vegan food I can eat. I'm sharing an airbnb with porn friends Livia and Parker Marx, and I'm so looking forward to catching up with them both, seeing other international porn fam, and immersing myself in queer, sex positive community.
When I watched Please May I Come, Mistress in Berlin I was pleased by how it came across, despite the appalling picture quality. (It was a DIY porn shoot; I hadn't intended to shoot porn that day, didn't have lights, and only had my oldest camera with me. If you don't know the story of how I came to shoot spontaneous porn at Eroticon with two brand new porn performers you can read it here.) But it was noticable that it was hard to catch what Charlie and Zak were saying. They both speak quite fast, and I hadn't had a proper audio recording setup; despite my best efforts to boost the dialogue, it was still hard to make out. So I'd already decided that I was going to need to create English subtitles for it at some point.
For La Fete du Slip, however, I needed French subtitles. I ran my English transcript through Google translate, but was well aware how lacking the result would be. I turned to Twitter to see if I could recruit a native French speaker who wanted to help with the translation in exchange for free porn. Big thanks to @bdsmfreq who valiantly stepped in. Did you know that the French for "come" is jouir? I do now.
Despite BDSMfreq's generous support, turning the French transcript into actual subtitles was a different ballgame. La Fete du Slip prefer hardcoded subtitles, and I would have liked to have had that much control over the aesthetic, but when I tried to use Premiere's built in subtitle feature the formatting and positioning looked terrible, and I couldn't work out how to fix it. Free subtitle software was equally frustrating. In the end I created a .srt file and hand-noted the timecodes for each line of dialogue, which the organisers kindly accepted. But this was my first time creating subtitles, and I'm nervous that I haven't left enough time for each line to be read. I'll be watching it on the big screen with my heart in my mouth to see if anyone can follow what's said.
Hopefully my efforts will be legible. But even if not, the bondage, spanking, teasing and orgasm control is still pretty hot.
Since Dreams of Spanking launched, I've been impatient to edit and release The Victorian Brothel. I chose the image of me over Tom's knee, wearing bloomers and a corset, as the homepage header image back when I designed the site in the summer of 2011. I always intended to create a rotating gallery of images on that header, showing a wider variety of scenes, but somehow I never found time.
I was incredibly proud of this film when we shot it. This was my second ever shoot as producer/director, a day with Zille Defeu, her husband Duncan, our friend Jay, Tom and me. The first Dreams of Spanking shoot had just been me, Jay and Tom. Those early shoots were a steep learning curve for me.
Until The Victorian Brothel, every scene was a crash course in new aspects of filming that I had to work out from scratch. There was a lot of stopping and starting. Trying to juggle the mental demands of directing with the physical and emotional challenges of bottoming on camera, I found it hard to avoid getting stressed. But The Victorian Brothel was our final scene of the day, and it was the first scene I'd produced that felt like it went well at the time. With Duncan, Zille and Jay behind the camera, Tom and I got into character and the roleplay flowed. It felt as natural as the roleplay scenes we played in private. Trusting our friends to capture our live improvisation, I was able to immerse myself in the scenario, get fully into character, and surrender to the beating without having to balance that headspace with other, more technical concerns. As a result I was able to take a much harder spanking, paddling and caning than I usually can while performing/directing, and I was really happy about it.
That was over seven years ago, in early December 2009. The reason I didn't edit this film before the site launched, along with the other two scenes we shot that day - Caned in Jodhpurs and Liberated Ladies of the Jazz Age - is simple. The Victorian Brothel was originally written as part of a series of films entitled The Adventures of Molly Brown. I'd written several episodes of it; this was the fourth chapter in the story. I hadn't had a chance yet to shoot episodes one to three, but the shoot with Zille and Tom was a perfect opportunity to shoot the episode in which my character meets his for the first time. I very much intended to shoot the others at some point, however; and I wanted to wait and release them in story order.
Sadly, I never got a chance to film the backstory. Episodes one, two and three fell by the wayside. And when I realised that the age verification policy in the Digital Economy Bill was going to put a cut-off point on my ability to keep the site alive in its current form, I finally accepted that I wasn't going to get the chance to shoot them any time soon. Meanwhile, I'm trying to release as much of the content I care about while the site is still legal in the UK.
So Molly Brown's story starts here: with her first appointment with a new customer in Mrs Slater's brothel. An urchin who grew up in the streets and the workhouse, Molly was sent out to work for various undesirable trades, but somehow always found herself sent back to face the the steely glare - and the hard leather strap - of the beadle. When Mrs Slater turned up to see if he had any new girls for her, he packed her off to the brothel - and Molly's life entered a new chapter.
Scrubbed to within an inch of her life, Molly began her transformation into a girl Mrs Slater's customers might find appealing. She earned her share of licks from the madame, too; but it was nothing compared to the beadle's strong right arm. When Mrs Slater saw how well Molly took her punishment, she thought to send her to one of her more eccentric clients, a gent with a predilection for administering corporal punishment to the plump bare bottoms of comely wenches. Molly lacked the elegance and accomplishment of other girls, but she was resilient and quick-witted, and Mrs Slater saw the potential to train her up to please her more unusual clientele.
Molly took well to Mrs Slater's training, and was finally declared ready to meet her first customer. But although Molly is no stranger to taking a beating, she still is not particularly inclined to behave submissively. Sparks fly between her and the gent as he tries to bend her to his will, and her quick tongue and stubborn nature get her into more trouble than she'd bargained for.
So that's Molly's backstory. You never know, it's not impossible I might be able to shoot the previous episodes sometime in the future - although perhaps I'll look too different by the time the stars align, and I have affordable access to the venues and cast I need. In the meantime I think this scene stands well enough on its own. Although I can tell you now that the next chapter has also been shot, and will be released in the coming weeks, starring myself, Tom, and a new character played by Leia Ann Woods...
Coming back to this film to edit it, seven years after it was filmed, was a weird experience. Tom and I split up three years ago, and it was very strange to watch us on camera. I almost felt like I was watching someone else; and yet in other ways seeing us together all those years ago felt very real, and very personal.
I remember writing this scene for us to play. Although Tom plays a very overbearing, bullying character, and to the uninitiated perhaps this scene might be edgy enough to seem non-consensual, I can tell you for certain that this scenario was my fantasy, and performing it was an authentic act of self-expression. But it was fascinating and somewhat dissonant to watch this recording, a piece of my own personal history, and reflect on how much has changed since then.
There are some aspects of this film that I would definitely do differently nowadays. For instance, the way that Tom's patriarchal character throws around the word "whore" makes me wince, now, as an advocate of sex workers' rights who is fighting against stigma and whorephobia. These days I would seriously consider before I took on the role of a historical sex worker, but back then I didn't think twice.
Editing this, I had the opportunity to reflect on how far Dreams of Spanking has come - not only politically, but technically. The Victorian Brothel was shot before I knew to record audio separately from the cameras, or to use face lights. It was a frustrating edit in some ways, as I struggled to salvage a legible soundtrack from two cameras that both had audio isses - one picking up a lot of wind noise (from where I have no idea, given we were indoors), the other plagued by mechanical clicks and whirrs from the operation of the camera. But I feel like I've managed to massage it into a shape that communicates my vision, hopefully without too many technical distractions. I hope you'll forgive any that remain.
For me, the power of this film comes from the interaction between the characters. It's a hard corporal punishment scene, both physically and emotionally - the intensity brings me/Molly to tears towards the end. But not only is the spanking itself severe, the atmosphere of the scene is rife with tension. The scenario unfolds as a battle of wills between a cruel gentleman with particular tastes, and a spirited wench who doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. I certainly took more strokes, and harder, than if Molly Brown had been submissive than rebellious. But I loved it.
Life has moved on since Tom and I filmed this scene. We are no longer together, and there have been many changes for both me and Dreams of Spanking. But this film holds a special place in my heart. It shows what Tom and I did best - hard, accurate spanking that pushes me to my limits, quick-witted dialogue, sparks flying between two strong characters, and Tom's trademark brand of elegant, articulate dominance.
When I filmed this scene, it seemed to encapsulate everything I wanted to achieve with Dreams of Spanking: immersive roleplay between real life partners, lush costumes and locations, and imaginative historical settings with a quirky sense of humour and a rich attention to detail. That was why I chose a still from this scene as our banner image - and why, although much has changed since then, I'm still very pleased to share it with the world.
One of the things I've occasionally thought about, as a feminist who runs a spanking site, is content warnings. Fundamentally, the idea behind these is that if something might include content likely to trigger someone recovering from serious trauma, it's respectful to give notice in advance that the topic is likely to come up, so anyone who needs to can prepare themselves and isn't caught off guard.
I think it's a really great way of making material more inclusive. Yet I've never gone ahead and instituted content warnings on Dreams of Spanking, at least not overtly. What I do instead is to make the content of each scene very explicit in the tags and copy surrounding the film. I try not to spoiler plot twists, but I do often remove the element of surprise from how the story of a film unfolds, in the interests of pre-warning viewers what they can expect - both to catch the attention of people with particular niche tastes, and to pre-warn people who might find certain content distasteful or upsetting. So far, I've been happy with that system. But if any film on Dreams of Spanking has made me wonder if it should include a content warning, it's our latest film starring Tai Crimson.
When I was editing Caned at Home, I found parts of it so extreme - both in terms of the severity of the physical punishment and the nastiness of the verbal degradation and emotional abuse - that it made me feel uncomfortable. The whole scene was shot in a single take, so I didn't see any out-of-character interactions to break the tension and reassure me that Tai was okay with what was happening until the scene was over. However, I needn't have worried. The moment "cut" is called, Tai bounces up and enthusiastically tells me that she could have taken double the number of strokes. In fact, she almost seems disappointed that the scene hadn't been harder.
So I decided to reuse a film format that I trialled during our ATVOD investigation (and which may have played a part in our successful appeal win, although it's hard to be sure); showing snippets of out-of-character performer interviews or behind the scenes interaction both before and after the main film, to contextualise the fantasy in the real-world context of the performers' tastes and desires. Since we won our appeal, I hadn't particularly felt the need to do this - especially with films where the fantasy shows pleasure spankings and explicit consent. But Caned at Home is definitely not one of these.
If edgy domestic scenarios showing the disproportionately severe punishment of a helpless girl aren't a turn-off for you, Caned at Home has much to recommend it. In particular, the sequences of hard and fast cane strokes falling one after the other without a break are some of the most convincingly severe thrashing I've ever seen on a UK spanking site. Tai has a high tolerance, and this was the third time we'd played together; she'd asked me to push her to tears, and this was our last scene of the day, so there was no reason to hold back. As it turned out, even the nastiest verbal abuse I could come up with - and one of the hardest canings I've ever delivered on camera - weren't quite enough to break her.
Perhaps you love severe caning and verbal degradation as much as Tai does, in which case Caned at Home will be right up your street. But if, like me, you prefer to know for sure that the performers were into it before watching a scene of this intensity, I recommend watching the performer interview and behind the scenes video first, to reassure yourself that no only was Tai unharmed by the making of these scene, but actively enjoyed it. It's lovely to work with a young woman who is so in touch with her kinky sexuality, and so articulate at expressing her fantasies and fetishes.
Besides, severe canings that leave livid welts are most definitely not BBFC-compliant. Dreams of Spanking is currently the only UK spanking site where you can watch material like this, and we will remain so until the Digital Economy Bill means we have to stop, too. So enjoy it while you can.