Lockdown wasn’t a fallow period for us here at Dreams of Spanking - quite the opposite! No childcare meant I didn't have much time to do things myself, which made this the perfect moment to bring on new team members. We’ve got three newbies in the Dreams of Spanking family: DJ has joined us as our marketing lead, Sally is now helping out with the web development side, and Abi is our new writer assisting with scene copy and blog posts. Including this one, actually. (Well, this just got a bit meta, didn’t it? Who needs a fourth wall anyway. -Ed.) I record garbled dictation files with a baby on one arm, and she turns them into nice sentences for me. Thanks Abi!
Expanding the team has been an interesting experience, because for the first time I’m documenting some of the processes that for the past ten years have only existed in my head. It’s been a great reminder that there’s actually quite a lot to this porn-making thing. A surprising amount of skill, effort and expertise goes into creating the content you all enjoy! And writing down our methodologies is a great investment in the future, making it easier for me to delegate while keeping the quality of the work to the standard you've come to expect.
So what have we all been working on? Further to our April post about changes to the site, there’s some new stuff to tell you about...
A shiny new join page!
One big thing we’ve changed recently is our join page. it’s now easier for prospective members to see what you'll get with your membership, and we’ve streamlined the signup process too. There are now just two quick web forms to fill in: one here on the website to create your account, and another on CCBill to pay. You won’t need to duplicate information between those two forms, and you can do the whole thing in one go. DJ worked his magic on the page, which now looks much nicer and pleases my aesthetic heart.
This has also given me a chance to finally reinstate MasterCard payments. I cancelled our MasterCard merchant subscription when the site was dormant, as CCBill charges $500 a year to receive MasterCard, meaning we need at least 30 members per year who can only pay with MasterCard to make it worthwhile. Now that our update schedule has stabilised and membership is growing, I thought it was time we gave you back that option. If you’ve been holding off on buying a membership because you only use MasterCard, now’s your chance!
Better mailing list software!
We've transitioning our mailing list management to SendGrid rather than handling it in-house. This upgrade gives us access to lots of new shiny features and analytics, with more flexibility to schedule emails and keep track of what's been sent, making it easier than ever for us to send you enticing spanking content. Among other things, this has enabled us to create a new opt-in: you can now sign up for free weekly spanking pics direct to your inbox, a hand-picked selection showcasing hot kinky moments you may not have seen before. It’s a great addition to our existing list, which is still the easiest way to stay abreast of all our new content as soon as it goes out. You can join either or both of these lists here. We've also created an option for new members to sign up for either or both lists when you create your account, so it's easier than ever (though still completely optional, of course).
Incidentally, if you have any feedback on either our mailing list setup or on the new join page we’d love to hear it: do they make you want to sign up? Is there anything else you’d like to see? Does it all make sense to you? Let us know in the comments on this post.
An improved update schedule!
We’ve committed to a new update schedule - and in fact we’ve been maintaining it steadily for a few months now. You’ll be getting brand new spanking content on the second and fourth Saturday of every month from here on out - so put that in your diaries! At least one of these updates will always be a video with an image gallery. The other might be a new video, but it could also be a photostory or an audio story. This gives us the best chance to showcase what our fantastic performers can do, and caters well to the tastes and preferences of our membership.
It's still uncertain when it’ll feel safe to shoot new partner scenes again - I’m thinking about options to reduce risk like pre-shoot testing, infrared thermometers and scenes featuring masks. Never fear, however: we’ve got porn! I've got plenty of content in the can that's yet to be posted, and we’re building relationships with performers who shoot at home. Many of these will be solo, but there are also scene partners and real-life couples sharing pods. We're partnering with some wonderful content creators, so watch this space for details! We’ve always been big fans of performer-created porn, and the whole industry has been in the same boat. We've seen a real growth in DIY porn this year, which is all to the good. We're dedicated to keeping to our schedule and bringing you the good stuff.
It’s wonderful to be collaborating with new team members behind the camera and new performers in front of it. I’m really looking forward to keeping the site growing and reaching new audiences in 2020 and beyond.
We know we're back with a bang - porn review site HonestPornReviews.com have updated their review of Dreams of Spanking. They’re a great resource for comparing porn sites around the web, so I was really happy that they wanted to update their page for us - they last reviewed the site before our ATVOD-imposed hiatus. They’ve given us a high score of 8.3 - thank you very much HonestPornReviews.com!
They’ve made some lovely comments in their new review. The reviewer praised the site for our diverse mix of genders and orientations, adding that “this is an equal opportunity site in every single way, and that is why it is a cut above most other spanking fetish sites that I have seen.” This is something which is really important to our values, and it's great to know it matters to other people too. They also singled out our web design and user experience, saying “This is a beautifully presented site that does almost everything right”. Always good to hear!
The only low score we received was on download speed. This is really interesting to me, as the server the site is hosted on is the one I use for everything, and I've always experienced fast download and upload speeds. What's your experience of the site's download speeds? I want to make the site a pleasure to use, so this is something I want to look into if it's something others have noticed. Perhaps it's time to switch to a new server.
In addition to the official HonestPornReview score, there's also a "user score" which is simply an average of the score given by users who leave comments on the review. Our user score is a little lower - 7.3. This is down to two older comments. One person gave us a 5/10 shortly after our ATVOD hiatus began, saying that we’d closed down, which of course was fair enough at the time but no longer relevant (hurrah!). There’s also a 1.5 score from back in 2014, from someone claiming that “the English spanking models are nowhere near as attractive as the European models”. I’ll admit it, I got a laugh out of that one.
So I’ve got a quick ask for all you wonderful blog readers - if you’ve got a minute, I’d love it if you popped over and left a comment and a score out of 10 yourselves. It doesn't need to be long, and the user score updates in real time, so it’s satisfying to see it change once you’ve added your opinion! We love reading your comments on new posts and updates, and we really value your input - so here’s your chance to tell the world what you think of us. Especially if you feel moved to score us ten out of ten *cough* - er, I mean, we’re always interested in hearing your frank and honest opinions of our work!
Hello friends. Well, the world looks very different to how it did a month ago. How are you coping with social isolation? Are you furloughed from your job, trying to scrape a living working from home while self-employed, or still having to go to work? If you're stuck at home, I hope you're finding meaningful ways to spend the time. If you're a key worker, thank you from all of us, and I hope your workplace is playing their part to help you stay safe. And if you're a parent suddenly finding yourself with no time and no privacy, you have all my empathy!
My partner and I are taking it in turns to do bursts of childcare while the other gets a little work done. Since all my in-person bookings were suddenly cancelled, I've found myself with more time to work on Dreams of Spanking. Since my time is so scarce, I've been gathering a team around me to help me improve the website and re-ignite the project. I've had a long wishlist of things I'd like to improve since before I had my baby, and it feels really good to be making them happen. Here's what we've been working on behind the scenes:
New signup flow
One of the things that makes Dreams of Spanking unique is its community emphasis. I really appreciate the collective of fans and members who "like" scenes and leave comments on scenes and blogposts. Thank you to each and every one of you! So to keep the community focus, it's always been important to me that you should be able to keep your username for the lifetime of the site. Other spanking sites have "disposable" usernames, which you create when you buy a membership, but lose when that membership expires. We do things differently. Once you've created your username, you can buy a membership - or not. It's up to you. After your membership expires, you can still login to your free account using the same username, watch the free previews, and leave comments on blogposts. And when you feel like joining again, you can use the same username to do so.
I've received loads of feedback about how much you appreciate this feature. But the downside was that it made the initial registration process a little slower. First you had to create a free account, and only after you were logged in could you buy a membership. So I decided to make it simpler.
Now, if you're not logged in, clicking any of our "Join" links will take you to a signup page with a single, simple form. You enter your desired username and password, and - hey presto! - with a single click, your user account is created and you're passed through straight away to the payment form. You'll be sent an email containing a confirmation link - this is so that someone else can't create an account with your email address without your consent. Once you've clicked that, you're logged in and your membership is active. Simples!
If you're already logged in to a free account when you view the Join page, you just see a payment button, and you can click straight through to the billing form.
I noticed that people often made typos in their email addresses when registering an account, meaning they didn't receive the confirmation email. So the new signup form also has some clever validation trickery to check whether or not the username you want is already taken, prompt you to type your password and email address twice, and make sure they match.
I'm hoping that this will reduce the friction in the signup process, and make it easier for you to get to the good stuff.
New affiliate scheme
Bloggers take note! We've relaunched our affiliate scheme, with heaps of brand new free promo content. If you have a platform where you can share links and pics, you can make a massive 50% commission on any signups you send our way. If you want to take part, fill in this form to get your unique affiliate ID and linkcode. I've just updated our affiliates area with sixteen new photo and video galleries, so there's loads of content for you to use in your posts. Note: this is a new affiliate scheme and our previous one is no longer active, so if you have partnered with us before, you'll need to sign up again and refresh your links.
New update schedule
I checked in last May - eight months pregnant! - to let you know you could expect a regular update schedule of a new scene every month, even while I was on parental leave. With a team of freelancers supporting me, we were able to keep the site updated while I gave family life my full attention. And we've stuck to that.
It's April now, eleven months later, and there have been eleven scenes published on the site since I made that post. Huzzah! Feels good to be back to a regular, predictable update schedule, doesn't it? So now, I'd like to do one better. We need a little fun and entertainment to lift our spirits during this difficult time in the world. So I'd like to raise my game and offer two new spanking scenes every month. One will always be a video - either a full spanking scene starring two or more performers or, more realistic in this era of social distancing perhaps, a sexy solo video. The other might be a kinky audio porn recording of a spanking story, a spanking photoset, or a bonus video. I've got 24 scenes in the can, so that'll keep us supplied for a year before I need to shoot again. And hopefully, we'll all be allowed back out to play long before then!
20% off discount
I know that this is a hard time for all of us - particularly self-employed folk and those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. So I'm offering 20% off all memberships until the end of April. Use promo code "LOCKDOWN" to claim your discount, and make self-isolation a little bit sweeter.
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?
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.
When you run a business, the conventional wisdom is to present a front of certainty at all times. If you're feeling ambivalent, the theory goes, don't let on; potential customers will pick up on it, and it might make them feel ambivalent too. It's better to hide your doubts, and manifest confidence and certainty that your product is the best there is. So the theory goes.
The problem is that if you're genuinely feeling ambivalent, it's hard to sound positive without it feeling fake. And if your business is founded on principles of authenticity, transparency and genuine self-expression, that fake feeling can amplify any feelings of ambivalence that already exist. It's a negative spiral. And if I'm truly honest, this is where I'm at right now with Dreams of Spanking.
Stopping and starting
When ATVOD first started investigating us, the site was going from strength to strength. Girl on the Net, AJ and I were working together as a solid team; we were earning international recognition and winning awards at film festivals. For the first time since we launched in 2011, I'd managed to get my own workload down to a manageable level. We were earning enough that everyone was getting paid - even me, and I've always made a point of paying everyone else before I take anything for myself.
After three years investing time, energy and money into the project, it was genuinely starting to pay off. I could even envisage a time when I might be able to hand over the video editing to a trusted colleague, and move onto new pastures while continuing to earn a little passive income from the project into which I had poured so much. Pensions are a tricky business for self-employed sex workers, but Dreams of Spanking was my first real chance at a nest egg. I didn't pay myself for most of the work I did nursing it to life in the beginning, but I was hoping that eventually, it would all work out.
Then ATVOD came to call, and after a gruelling investigation the site was forced offline for ten months. From a business perspective, this was a massive blow. Never mind that we were politically and morally vindicated in the end; we eventually won our appeal and earned the right to relaunch. My protestations that the AVMS regulations were unjust, and ATVOD was enforcing them unjustly, were eventually proved right when my appeal was upheld; but never mind that. The damage was done.
It's hard for any business to recover from an enforced hiatus. It's not just the loss of traffic and search engine rank; it's the human aspect too. Fans, promoters and affiliates get bored waiting and look elsewhere. If I'm honest, after my initial grief at ATVOD's verdict, my own focus has shifted too. During those ten months I was able to pursue other interests for the first time since I launched Dreams of Spanking. I travelled, exercised, got therapy, re-invested in friendships and relationships. I engaged with other forms of rewarding work. I made time for play. When I first heard the verdict I felt like my life had been taken away; but in some ways, the hiatus gave me my life back.
More pressingly, while the site was offline, the press attention surrounding the ATVOD verdict gave me the platform to to raise awareness about issues I cared about. I renewed my political activism, and launched a Patreon campaign to crowdfund the work I'm doing to challenge sex work criminalisation and promote sexual freedom. In the midst of trauma and loss from seeing the biggest creative project of my life destroyed, I was able to find a renewed sense of purpose.
Then it all got complicated again. Privately, I was told that I'd won my appeal - but that I couldn't announce it yet. I felt conflicted. I was happy to have won - but increasingly frustrated at having the rules of this game dictated to me; at not being free to express myself. The practicalities were stressful, too. I knew I would at some point be able to re-open the site, but that I wouldn't know when until much nearer the time. That not-knowing was hard. It was impossible to make plans; I didn't know if I could start new projects, or if I would suddenly have put everything else on hold to relaunch the site at short notice. When I launched Dreams of Spanking in 2011 I had created a fulltime job for myself. In 2015 that was taken away without my consent; and now it was being thrust back on me, and in some ways, I felt just as powerless. It felt like whatever steps I took to build a fulfilling, self-actualised life for myself, the government would stick their oar in and mess up my plans.
Of course I'm happy Dreams of Spanking won our appeal. Ofcom made the right decision; ATVOD should never have ruled against us, and the law and the whole investigation was unjust from the start. But the disruption was devastating both financially and personally, and picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild it didn't make the whole thing right again. After winning the appeal, it wasn't like the investigation had never happened.
So we co-ordinated the announcement of the appeal win, and in June I finally re-opened the site. But I was permitted a mere four weeks to enjoy our victory before the next cloud appeared on the horizon.
And now, after so many ups and downs, the future of Dreams of Spanking is still depressingly precarious.
The costs of age verification
The Digital Economy Bill is currently going through Parliament, and has just come to the end of its committee stage. The section of the Bill introducing compulsory age verification for all adult sites accessible from the UK will have a serious impact on Dreams of Spanking, and on many other adult websites.
Complying with this legislation will be difficult, if not impossible. First of all, I'll have to overhaul the whole site structure of Dreams of Spanking. Any content that would be classified as "18" or higher will be illegal to publish publicly, on the open internet. So video, images and audio that contain any nudity, bums or spanking will need to go behind intrusive, privacy-violating age checks.
To prove you're over 18, you'll have to type in sensitive personal details such as your legal name, credit card details, date of birth, address or phone number. That data will be visible not to me, but to whatever age verification system I install - private companies that are free to operate unregulated, and without having to safeguard the security and privacy of your personal data.
Not only is this terrible for you, it's terrible for me. Every age check will cost me money - estimates range from £0.05 to £1.50 per check. Dreams of Spanking currently receives over two thousand visitors a day (under half the traffic we had before ATVOD forced us offline), so the cost of checking the age of every site visitor would add up to significantly more than the site's total revenue - and that's before we take into account existing costs such as production, paying my team members, and bandwidth. In other words, complying with the age verification law will immediately put the site out of business.
Even if I can somehow persuade enough of those two thousand visitors to buy memberships that I can afford to verify all their ages, the site will never be the same. This law will mean no more public previews. No free trailers, no preview images, no free hosted galleries, no birthday spanking giveaways, no Creative Commons projects and no charity caning films. No more getting around CCBill's content restrictions by giving material away.
No more transparency, and no more free porn.
The value of giving things away
When I launched the site, it was hugely important to me that I didn't follow the standard paysite model. You know the one: some garish tour pages with flashing banners and fleshy montages, with all the actual scene previews, video trailers and so on behind a paywall. It's a scarcity based business model; the only way you can get to see the good stuff is by paying. I personally believe that's one reason why piracy has been such a problem for the porn industry - people resent having the content they want to see withheld, and it motivates them to buck the system by filesharing.
Instead, I wanted something closer to a loyalty model. Rather than trying to force a situation where buying a membership is the only way you can see Dreams of Spanking films (which is impossible when filesharing is so common), I wanted to make it so that people wanted to support the project. The idea of the model I came up with is that I give lots away, and you trust you know what you're getting if you do decide to pay. The brand gets more visibility; you feel more included. Everyone wins.
I have no desire for my porn to pop up in the browsers of young children who won't know how to assess what they're seeing, and might be distressed by it. But I don't use popup advertising, and Dreams of Spanking doesn't have high enough search rank for children to "accidentally" stumble across it. Even if a child did somehow find the link to the homepage, they'd have to click through the content warning page, scroll down, and click again on a link to an individual scene in order to see anything other than tiny thumbnails.
It is, I admit, possible that older teens, who are already interested in exploring their sexuality - and who may well be over the age of consent for sexual intercourse - might look for erotic content online, and find Dreams of Spanking. Realistically, this is unlikely to happen unless they're explicitly searching for "spanking". And if curious young people - perhaps wrestling, as I did, with the fear that because they fantasise about spanking there's something wrong with them - type "spanking" into a search engine and end up here, then at least they'll see a site that prioritises consent. They'll see interviews, behind the scenes videos, comments, and respectful copy that celebrates the whole personhood of our performers. They'll see body positivity, queer inclusivity, and gender equality.
If sexually curious teenagers are going to look for porn, I'd rather they found my porn than some of the other stuff that's out there, because at least then they'll be receiving healthy, positive messages about negotiation, communication, body image, gender, and consent.
Free previews are valuable to adult viewers too. I want kinky queer people, kinky fat people, and kinky people of colour to be able to see people in porn who look like them. No-one with a spanking fetish deserves to feel shame about their kink. I want as much of the site as possible to be public, because I want as many people as possible to become resilient to the sex-shaming and kink-shaming that are so prevalent in our culture - regardless of whether or not they can afford a membership.
If I was independently wealthy and could operate Dreams of Spanking as a free site, believe me, I would. Even as it is, the total pay I've drawn from the business over five years adds up to way less than a living wage.
So these core principles of transparency, visibility, and open dialogue about kink, diversity and consent, are absolutely fundamental to the Dreams of Spanking manifesto. And now, the age verification law will make it impossible for us to uphold them. Everything will be locked down, hidden away.
The legislation applies to audio and still images as well as video, so those won't be exempt. This blog will cease to be publically visible; all the discourse I have engaged in over the years about how to make porn in an ethical and feminist way will cease to be findable via Google. Years of careful tagging to make our scenes show up in searches will be destroyed in a single blow: you won't be able to find Dreams of Spanking via a search engine any more. It will be like a return to the secret libraries of Victorian England: only accessible to the wealthy, to those in the know, those with the privilege to not have anything to lose by sharing their identity or risking their privacy.
One of the many ways in which the internet has been a positive force for change is that it has opened up the discourse about sex and sexuality; made the topic more visible, invited more people to share experiences and insights, and helped all of us feel less alone. Now, just as we are really starting to see the benefits - in terms of better social understanding and acceptance of sex and gender diversity than ever before in our history - this law is going to shut that discourse down. Sex will become taboo again. You shouldn't talk about it, not in public spaces. It's dirty. You should be ashamed. Think of the children.
Actually, I do think of the children. I know that societies with more open attitudes towards porn have lower rates of sexual violence, STI transmission and teen pregnancy. I know that children growing up with marginalised sexualities - whether queer or kinky - often feel isolated, especially in rural communities. I know that this isolation can cause severe mental health issues, and even lead to suicide.
I know that young people need better sex education which is based around consent, pleasure and how to stay safe, provided by parents and teachers who aren't propagating their own sexual shame.
I know that humans are often sexual and often curious about it, and that if we don't talk to young people about porn they'll find it anyway, whether or not they have the resources or resilience to critically interpret what they're seeing. I know that shutting porn in a locked room and only giving keys to the rich is not the answer. It will not help our culture be healthier, or better informed, or more accepting or responsible about sex.
That's bad enough. But the problems with the Digital Economy Bill go deeper than that.
Even if I somehow manage to fully comply with the legislation: hide everything spanking-themed on the site behind age checks; find the money to check the ID of every non-paying visitor who wants to browse my free previews; survive the loss of traffic and Googleability - even if I can stomach the disappearing of this blog, the behind the scenes videos, the performer interviews, and the discourse about ethics and consent - the site still can't survive, because every scene that was criminalised by the AVMS regulations will be recriminalised by the Digital Economy Bill.
ATVOD found us in breach because they ruled that some of our videos depict corporal punishment that leaves 'lasting' marks. We won our appeal on the basis that the principle purpose of the site is not commercial, and it is not in competetition with mainstream broadcast media. That victory won us an exemption to the AVMS Regulations 2014. But the AVMS didn't invent the rules around what content is banned; it drew them from existing classification guidelines used by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for films and TV.
The guidelines prohibit any depiction of pain play that leaves marks on the body beyond those deemed "transient and trifling" from classification even as R18, the highest classification category in the UK. Basically, under the current rules you can't show any act which would constitute assault or actual bodily harm, or any act which would risk injury to the viewer if it were imitated. So no caning, no belting, no welts, no bruises - and that's before we get into the bans on things like facesitting, breath play, fisting, squirting, watersports and "full" bondage, defined as the restraint of all four limbs plus a gag.
The AVMS regulations were the first instrument of UK law to apply those classification guidelines to material published on the internet. We've enjoyed a heady few months of official exemption from them: but now the Digital Economy Bill uses those same guidelines to control what can and can't be published online. If the Bill is passed it will be illegal to publish any 'prohibited content' even behind age checks. Let that sink in: even age-verified, consenting adults who have handed over their real names and addresses to prove their age won't be allowed to look at spanking videos that show marks.
So we're about to be recriminalised. And I can only assume that every other UK law affecting online pornography from now on will use the same prohibited content guidelines. If this law passes next March, as I'm told it will, then our victorious relaunch will barely have lasted longer than the enforced hiatus that preceded it.
What are our options? One thing is certain: stubbornly refusing to comply, incurring the wrath of the regulator, going through another investigation, another hiatus, another appeal - it's not an option. Either for me personally at an emotional level, or financially, from a business perspective.
I could try to comply with the age verification requirements: swallow my pride, compromise my core principles of transparency and visibility, and hope that I get away with there being prohibited content behind the age check. But it seems like a doomed proposition - even if I could afford age verification in practice, which seems unlikely. My public profile is too high, my reputation as a troublemaker too entrenched, for me to avoid scrutiny. And there's no way to avoid publishing prohibited content: under the current guidelines, nearly all our content is banned.
Moving the site overseas might seem my best remaining option - but the Digital Economy Bill applies to overseas sites as well as UK ones. The only way I could do it would be to install IP checks that made the site totally inaccessible from the UK. In effect, I would no longer legally be able to view my own website. I might be able to continue working for the site in some capacity, but I would no longer be able to own it, control it, or in fact see it.
As far as I can see, my best option is to challenge the problem at source, and push for a review of the classification guidelines - specifically the ceiling for R18 content - and of UK obscenity law more generally. So for the last couple of months I've been working with Backlash, Myles Jackman and other political allies towards this goal. We are challenging the Digital Economy Bill and pushing for a comprehensive review of the laws surrounding porn and BDSM in the UK.
If you want to support these efforts, you can pledge a dollar or whatever you can afford on Patreon, to help me pay my rent while I do this political work. You can sign and share the petition for personal privacy and sexual freedom. And if you can buy a site membership from time to time, even better.
But a comprehensive review of obscenity law is a long-term goal; and in the meantime, I have to accept that it's unlikely I'll be able to change the law in time to save Dreams of Spanking from being outlawed next spring.
The hard questions
All this has been going around my head since the Digital Economy Bill was published on the 5th July. Here are some hard truths, which I have come to admit only grudgingly:
All these add up to a strong argument for putting the site on ice now; gracefully retiring Dreams of Spanking to focus on other goals, rather than suffering the humiliation of clinging on to the last possible moment before it's wrenched away again. But I haven't done this, and I don't intend to.
Perhaps it's just stubbornness - it wouldn't be the first time that attribute had made my life more difficult than necessary. But to counter the above, I have good, valid reasons for keeping going.
The first is, quite simply, closure. The worst aspect of the ATVOD verdict was not being able to publish the content I had already filmed; it was a brutal disruption of my creative process. Winning my appeal was a victory for my right to express myself. I've won the right to publish that content, and I want to damn well publish it. Not just because I can, but because appealing that verdict was a 'fuck you' to unjust laws and a prejudicial regulator. I held fast to my principles, I fought, and I won. I intend to continue in that spirit.
Giving up now would be letting them win after all; it would betray everything I've fought for. Not getting that closure would leave me feeling unsatisfied and incomplete. I'm willing to accept that it doesn't make sense to shoot much new content now, given I may not get a chance to publish it. But the work I've already done was created as a true self-expression, and my intention was always to share it with the world. I want closure on that creative process before I move on to the next phase. I want to finish what I've started.
Secondly, this decision doesn't only affect me. Another dreadful consequence of the ATVOD decision was that it wasn't just me who was affected - my team members lost out too, and with even less control over the situation than I had. I was prepared to pay the price for my stubbornness, but it also impacted everyone who works for me. I try my hardest to be a good boss, and that means not making my whole team redundant if I don't have to. Doing so mere months after giving them their jobs back would be particularly cruel.
I feel too ambivalent, too uncertain, and too conflicted to be confident about quitting when it won't just affect me, but will also directly affect the financial stability and wellbeing of people I care about. The Dreams of Spanking project is a complex ecosystem; my own self-care isn't the only relevant factor.
But it's an incredibly difficult situation. Do I continue updating Dreams of Spanking while I still can, try to make the best of it, promote it enough to cover costs while I keep it ticking over - all at the same time as trying to campaign against the laws that will otherwise inevitably kill it? Or do I stop spending time editing and promoting new videos, put the project back on ice, and free up more time for activism, to give myself the best possible chance of defeating this terrible law?
This question isn't going to go away. And it's an impossible bind.
I can tell you this much: for now, I've decided to keep Dreams of Spanking running. I have a content schedule mapped out until March next year. Before then, I'm going to run out of male submissive scenes, and at that point I need to decide whether to re-invest in a project that is already barely covering costs, and risk ending up with more content I can't publish; or whether to compromise another the core principle of the site, and stop maintaining the gender diversity of new updates.
I don't know the answer to that question. And even not changing my plan, continuing to reflect while maintaining the status quo, is a decision that has consequences. Every month I keep the site running, I'm spending time on Dreams of Spanking that I'm not spending challenging the law.
I've been trying to balance these conflicting priorities for five months already. You have probably noticed that the content going out each week is different than it used to be. To free up time for the political campaigning I'm doing, I've been publishing shorter updates, more solo videos, POV scenes, audio stories and photosets. There has been a new update every week, but I'm no longer committed to a new spanking video plus performer interview plus behind the scenes video plus photoset every week, because maintaining that schedule is a fulltime job, and if Dreams is my fulltime job, I'm not doing the political work that is its only chance of longterm survival.
Deciding how much time to spend on the site, how much to delegate, is an open question; one I revisit every week. So far, I've been feeling my way through these thorny issues as best I can, with a heart full of uncertainty.
I've tried to be open and transparent with the rest of the Dreams of Spanking team throughout the process, but when I sent them the draft of this blogpost it was the first time most of them fully realised how precarious the future of the site really is. And now you know, too.
Where do we go from here?
I wish I could end this post on a positive note. It would, perhaps, be good business practice to reassure you that for now I'm committed to keeping the site alive (I am), that we have hot new content lined up for this week (we do), and that I won't stop updating the site without giving all of you a decent amount of notice (I won't). I could urge you to join now while you still can. I could sing the praises of our archive, which is bursting at the seams with high-quality spanking films available for all members to both stream and download.
But the truth is, this is hard, and no amount of positivity or spin will make it less hard.
So instead I invite you to stand with me, in this undeniably difficult and demoralising situation. I invite you to understand, perhaps, why not every site update at the moment is as substantial as I would like it to be. And I invite you to share my anger at the injustice of criminalising consensual adult activities that do no harm and bring pleasure to so many. Your empathy and shared outrage has kept me going before, and it is always welcome.
I can promise you new erotic content every week: always spanking themed, always ethically produced, always the authentic expression of my kinky sexuality. I can promise you at least one fully-realised, action-packed spanking film every month, with a behind the scenes video and a photoset - and that if it is ever possible for me to publish more than one, I will. I can promise that I will continue to fight these terrible laws that tell us we should be ashamed of our kink. I can promise to devote as much time and energy as possible to political campaigning, lobbying and activism, challenging porn criminalisation and promoting sexual freedom.
And I can promise to be honest, genuine and heartfelt in my work on Dreams of Spanking - always.
We do get some interesting emails here at Dreams of Spanking from time to time, but I'm happy to say that 99 out of 100 are positive, and many more complimentary (sometimes so complimentary they seemed typed one-handed). That may be why that one percent really stands out. But even among the run of the mill technophobes and grouchy people, this email Pandora received as a reply to our latest newsletter completely floored me, and I don't think it'll be hard to see why.
Well. I'm not exaggerating when I say that both Pandora and I were gobsmacked. Aside from the screeching bigotry and entitlement, the thing that baffled us most was the thought that a former member could have read a Dreams of Spanking newsletter and thought "I know what would improve this experience - less than half the content!" It's not as if we've ever tried to obscure our principles of diversity and equality - in fact it's one of our major selling points.
I don't often get to argue with bigots who aren't just glorified twitter trolls, so when Pandora asked if I'd like to field this one, I didn't miss a beat. This guy? This guy was going down.
I think I was remarkably restrained, under the circumstances. I also thought I was pretty direct and firm that we were not going to capitulate. Oh ho, but I was wrong!
And yet, the entitlement kept coming...
Thankfully, he gave up after that, which is lucky as I'm not sure I could've found another way to say "No". I'm genuinely stunned that it took that many emails for him to stop mansplaining our business to us. Maybe he was bored, maybe he was trolling, but whatever the reason, attitudes like this are why we need feminist porn. That a man could approach a studio (incidentally, a studio openly run by feminist women), and demand that they bin several years worth of alternative content - and then continue to demand it blithely, despite being told repeatedly that he was barking up the wrong tree - is why we're here. This is why we have to keep fighting to raise the standard of porn, and open it up to the full spectrum of sexualities, gender identities, personalities, and body types. This guy and his ilk are why we work so hard, so that one day, anyone can be open and engaging about their kinks, no matter who they are.
As Girl on the Net has said before, not all porn is for you. We have no problem with people who prefer certain types of porn, and even people who *gasp* don't like our porn, but we will take issue with anyone who thinks that their specific sexual tastes should dominate, and take priority over other people's. There's a great big world of pornography out there, and nobody is saying you have to like it all. But don't you dare try and tell us that your custom is more important than our ethos, because we will always fight you, and in the end, we'll win.
After announcing ATVOD’s final determination that Dreams of Spanking is in breach of their ridiculous regulations, and that I will have to take most of the site’s content offline by 27 August, I'm being asked the same two questions again and again. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me this I would be able to afford my own legal fees.
I've already answered these questions in previous blogposts, so apologies for the repetition, but apparently it needs saying again. Please read, digest, and kindly trust that I have in fact thought about what I’m doing.
Why don’t I move the site so it’s hosted out of the UK?
Simply moving the hosting of the site wouldn’t help. When ATVOD are determining where a site is based, they don’t just look at the physical location of the server on which the site is hosted, they also look at the where the service provider is based (that is, the person or persons who own or operate the site). The relevant phrase here is “editorial control”.
If a site is hosted out of the UK, but the service producer is a UK citizen, who resides in the UK and makes editorial decisions in the UK, then for ATVOD’s purposes, the site is based in the UK. If videos are produced and shot in this country, edited in this country, and uploaded from this country, all these things contribute to bringing the site under ATVOD’s jurisdiction. If meetings are held in the UK, business decisions are made in the UK, and the programming schedule of the video-on-demand service is planned in the UK, then editorial control is, according to ATVOD, based in the UK.
Some producers have successfully avoided ATVOD so far by moving their hosting overseas,but keeping editorial control in the UK and hoping ATVOD doesn't notice. This isn't an option for me. I was on Channel 4 News talking about the new regulations after the facesitting protest, I've spoken on BBC Woman's Hour, at Conway Hall and at the National Theatre about my work as a porn producer, and there is zero chance of ATVOD not noticing I existed. Once they started investigating Dreams of Spanking, they would have quickly worked out that I was still operating the site from a UK base, and all the hassle of moving the hosting would have been for nothing. I have called too much attention to myself as an activist to be able to escape ATVOD by hopeful half measures.
In December, when the law came in, I was given them impression by the people I consulted that moving the site was not an option. After I got the first letter from ATVOD in February, and replied to it from a UK address, I began to work out that it might be an option - but by then it was too late, they already knew I was based in the UK. To escape ATVOD at any point since then would involve not just moving the hosting - I would also have to give up editorial control.
Giving up editorial control would look like this: I would sell the site to a friend in another country, move the hosting, the CCBill account, and the payments to their name, sign over commercial rights to all the archive content and everything I'd shot but not yet edited or published. I would no longer be able to shoot for the site, edit video for it, decide the update schedule or have any say in the running of the site. I would have to completely distance myself from the project in every way. Dreams of Spanking is a personal project, and as far as I'm concerned, once this had happened the site would no longer be Dreams of Spanking. It would no longer be mine.
Selling the site would mean killing it, stepping back, and let someone else reincarnate it as something completely new, based in a new country, with new cast members, new performers, and a new creative vision. I would lose the site completely - more completely than from ATVOD forcing me to take it offline, because at the moment I have the hope of a successful appeal, but if I sold the site, there would be no hope, and I would lose it forever.
Dreams of Spanking is my erotic autobiography, the expression of my own personal kink and fantasies, and I don't want to lose it. That's the whole point. I don't want to have to comply with ridiculous censorship regulations that would change it beyond recognition, and I don't want to have to give it to someone else who would change it beyond recognition, either. I want to fight for my right to keep it. That means appealing to Ofcom, and if that fails, taking the AVMS regulations to Judicial Review. If I win the appeal I can re-launch the site and keep it online exactly as it always was, with no ATVOD censorship, no guidelines to comply with, no fees to pay and no-one else telling me what to do. If I lose the appeal but win a Judicial Review, then I can get the law changed for everyone in the UK. This is something worth fighting for - and it's a plan of action that depends on complying with ATVOD's demands long enough for the appeal process to be completed, and keeping the site in the UK and under my control in the meantime. If I move the site overseas now, there is no hope of winning either the appeal or a JR.
If, a few years from now, both of these options have failed, then as a last resort, I would consider selling the site. But everything I've done so far, all the choices I've made, have been geared towards the goal of defeating ATVOD in a legal challenge. It would be completely self-defeating to sell it now, without seeing the plan through to the end.
Why don’t I move myself overseas, and emigrate to a different country?
Of all the well-intentioned, idiotic questions I am asked, this one hurts the most. It’s ridiculously insensitive to tell me that I should give up my entire life and everyone I love - to tell me that it's my responsibility to give up everything I have, implying that by not emigrating, what's happening is somehow my fault. If you want to support me, do not suggest this!
Emigrating is one of the biggest, most traumatic things anyone can ever do. It’s my decision to make, and mine alone. Do you think I haven’t considered this possibility? Of course I bloody have - I considered it and rejected it months before you even found out was happening. You are idly suggesting the first thought that popped into your head, and I've been living the reality of this struggle for nine months now. When you ask me this, you are suggesting that you don't think I've thought of the idea - which is pretty insulting. You also make it clear that you are completely incapable of grasping the enormity of what you're suggesting.
I’ve said this before but apparently it hasn’t sunk in, so I’m going to quote my previous post about this:
Quite aside from the stress and ultimate futility of moving away, however, this question makes me furious. The UK is my home. Why should I be the one to leave? I grew up here. My life is here. My support network, my partner, my friends, my history and my family are here. My partner and lovers couldn't come with me, and I don't want to lose all the connections I've spent thirty years building on these shores. I love these islands and I want to stay here and help make them better. I don't want to jump ship.
Attempting to persuade me and other UK producers that we should willingly exile ourselves is traumatic, stressful and victim-blaming. By doing this you are helping the censors who want to cleanse the UK of anything they find distasteful. Stop it.
ATVOD are threatening the future of independent, alternative, ethical porn within the UK. This is an issue I have devoted years of my life to, and which I care deeply about. I don't want to spend my time, money and effort running away. I want to stand and fight.
So are you with me - or not?
I believe that I have strong grounds for appeal - and that even if Ofcom don’t agree, that there is a very real hope that I can get the AVMS guidelines overturned in a court of law. That is the process I’m now embarking on, and it’s going to be stressful enough without you trying to tell me that I should give up without trying and run away. If I sell the site I will lose Dreams of Spanking, and if I emigrate I will lose my home. Do me a favour and trust that I’ve thought about this already, and that I’m choosing the path that is best.
My goal is to stay in the UK, stay the sole owner of Dreams of Spanking, and successfully challenge ATVOD's censorship. I am taking legal steps to make this happen, and I am going to see it through. The only result of your “helpful suggestion” will be to waste my time and stress me out, which is the last thing I need right now. So please think before you speak, and understand that when someone is going through a difficult time, they have probably spent far longer thinking in depth about their options than you have.
Well, it's happened.
Last week, I was away on holiday. I charged my phone in the pub on the way home on Monday, and saw an email from ATVOD with the subject "Dreams of Spanking - Final Determination". It was sent on Friday 31 July, so had been waiting in my inbox for three days. I'm glad I didn't turn my phone on while I was away - that would have been a surefire way to ruin the last few days of my trip.
As it was, I wept all the way home. I've known this was coming for a while - in fact I've been anticipating it since I received the first letter from ATVOD in February. With this hanging over me it's been a ridiculously tense six months, and I thought that when the axe finally fell it would be a relief of sorts. But when it came, it just made the loss more real.
I've known it was coming, but I'm still in bits. I feel like I built a beautiful sustainable house to live in, of my own design, which was legal to build at the time - but now, just as I've finally perfected all the finishing touches, paid off my investment, decorated it and was settling down to live in it and enjoy it for many years to come, I've been told that the law has been changed, and it's being demolished. That's the closest analogy I can think of. I designed this project to perfectly suit my needs - creatively, erotically, financially. I spent five years working on it as a labour of love, and just as all that effort was starting to pay off, it's being taken away.
I built this site so I would have something that was completely my own. This is the project that was meant to save me from having to compromise myself, my alternative to spending the best years of my life working for other people. Dreams of Spanking represents my creative independence, my sexual self-acceptance, and my financial stability. It's mine, I made it, it works, it was the biggest thing I'd ever done - and just as it started to pay me a wage, it's being taken away from me.
I knew this was coming, but the grief is still fierce. Whenever I let myself feel it, I can't help crying. I am losing the best thing I've ever made, and there's nothing I can do about it. I've never felt so powerless.
Why I refuse to comply
As anticipated by their Preliminary View, the Determination finds me in breach of Rules 1 (notify them that I'm running a service), 4 (pay them to censor me), 11 (lock everything 'adult' behind a credit card paywall) and 14 (no content 'prohibited' by the BBFC guidelines, even behind the paywall). I have 20 working days from the date of the Determination - which was sent on 31 July but dated 30 July - to comply.
As I see it, I don't have any choice but to appeal ATVOD's decision. There's no way I can comply with their demands without compromising the core principles of the site. ATVOD are demanding we register with them and pay them protection money - which not only funds their extortion efforts, it also officially submits to their control and gives them the right to censor us.
They demand that we put all adult content (ie anything comparable to the '18' BBFC classification, defined as anything containing nudity or strong fetish content) behind a credit card paywall. That means no more free preview images, image blogposts, free protest videos, Creative Commons spanking films, birthday freebies or free trailers. It also means credit cards would be the only way anyone could access any of our material - no debit cards, and no alternative payment options such as gift cards or cash.
Not only that, but from its inception Dreams of Spanking was intended to be a new kind of porn site, one that didn't rely on the standard, scarcity-based structure of infrequently-updated tour pages and hidden-away members areas. Coming from a digital rights background, I wanted to see what would happen if I built a porn site that was as transparent and as accessible as possible. I wanted everyone to see what I had to offer - and I wanted to give away as much free content as possible, trusting that if you liked it, you would choose to support us by paying for your porn. The gamble paid off, and the Dreams of Spanking business model has been turning a profit since the first year. I am fiercely proud of our members for their support and loyalty, and happy to have a site which is open to all - a site that teaches everyone about the ethics and consent of feminist porn, and what safe, positive spanking play looks like, whether or not they can afford a site membership. It is galling that after four years of successfully proving this concept, regressive legislation is trying to force me back into the closeted porn world of the 1990s, in which nothing is visible, and only those with the economic privilege to own a credit card are allowed into the club.
ATVOD also demand that we take down any content which doesn't comply with the ridiculous AVMS guidelines. These prohibit acts including hard spanking or caning that leaves marks, welts or bruises, adults roleplaying as under-18s, full bondage with gags, and a whole raft of other activities that are perfectly valid parts of many people's kinky sexualities. It would gut the site: I estimate well over half of our content, and possibly three quarters of it, falls foul of ATVOD's Rule 14. Not only would complying with this rule strip Dreams of Spanking back to a pitiful, sanitised shadow of its former self, it would be contrary to the most basic tenet of feminist pornography - that of authenticity.
The acts that are banned under the new regulations are a core part of my own sexuality. I didn't ask to be someone who was turned on by the idea of hard spanking that leaves marks, beltings, canings, strappings, riding crop thrashings and all the rest. But since I was six years old, this has been a part of me. I've tried to ignore it, to repress it - but not only does the attempt make me miserable, it doesn't work; trying to control these fantasies just makes them more potent. If, like me, you are turned on by sexual fantasies of hard corporal punishment, the best way to respond is by loving and accepting these fantasies as a true part of your sexuality. Since learning to accept my kink, I have been happier and more fulfilled than ever - and I have not only been lucky enough to act out my fantasies in more ways than I ever imagined, I have found an amazing community of likeminded people who share my enthusiasm.
If I were to pretend that these fantasies aren't a part of me, I would be undoing all that positive work of self-acceptance. It would be like pretending I was straight because it was illegal to be queer. If I were to remove these authentic depictions of my erotic life from Dreams of Spanking, I would be being fake. It is impossible for me comply with ATVOD's demands and still be true to myself; it is impossible for me to comply and still produce feminist porn. Expressing an authentic sexuality is one of the first principles of feminist porn. I don't want to become a fake porn star - and I refuse to lie about who I am.
So what happens next?
On Monday evening, as soon as I got home, I removed the CCBill signup link from our Join page. I'm afraid it's no longer possible to buy a membership to Dreams of Spanking - if you are not a member, I'm very sorry that you've missed your chance. Existing members will be able to access our members-only scenes until 27 August (20 working days after the date of the Determination).
With the help of the legal team at Backlash, I will be appealing to Ofcom (that's the UK Office of Communications, the government body for which ATVOD, a private company, act as unelected bailiffs). But while the appeal is underway, I still need to jump through various hoops if I don't want to jeopardise the process. All our spanking films and photos have to go offline on 27 August, and will remain offline until - unless - we win the appeal.
I don't know how long the appeal will take - a year, maybe more. Hopefully we will be able to announce a triumphant re-launch sometime in 2016 or 2017.
On the 27th, all remaining memberships will be frozen, and all our spanking films and photos will be taken offline.
I'm sorry. But I'm also angry: and I am going to fight.
This isn't the end of Dreams of Spanking - it's the beginning of a long journey to defend our freedom, and fight for the right to kinky self-expression in the UK. We're not the first to be targeted by ATVOD, and we certainly won't be the last. If you want to support the fight, please write to your MP, donate to Backlash, and tell everyone you know what's happening.
Although this site was created to document my personal journey of kinky discovery, it grew into a community - a warm, welcoming, non-judgemental place where we could enjoy our kinks together.
Let's fight together too.