It's been a strange year, that's for damn sure.
When Pandora first asked me to come on board at Dreams of Spanking back in 2013, I really didn't have a clue where it would lead me. I'd been struggling to find the right job for many years; something that both fit my own needs, and played to my skills seemed like an impossible dream. But though it started humbly, it soon went from something to fill a couple of hours a week answering emails, to having actual creative and intellectual control in a business. I could never have known back then how much it would mean to me and how proud I'd be of the work I've done since. I've learned so much, worked with so many incredible people, and it was a wonderful thing to discover that my decade long friendship with Pandora was able to survive the curse of mixing business with pleasure - on the contrary, I feel like our working relationship has actually strengthened our bond and that's a rare treat.
I really felt like I was getting comfortable with the job when the news came down from on high that we were to be regulated past the point of reason, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. We'd worked so hard, how dare they stop us? I remember making comment at the time that I had spent years being harrassed by the government to find work despite being disabled, and then as soon as I found a job I could manage, the government took it away! The whole thing made me so angry, and angrier still that I felt helpless to fix anything. We spent nearly 8 months holding our breath and crossing our fingers waiting for the decision that would take our site down, and for a while after the judgement, I really believed that would be the end of my time at Dreams of Spanking. There was so much we didn't know about how this was going to turn out that it almost felt dangerous to feel hopeful. Once Pandora and Myles had submitted the appeal, there was nothing to do but wait.
And then we won. Just like that, we won, and far sooner than we'd ever imagined. When Pandora first told me, there was a palpable waft of trepidation, confusion, and frustration, but we barely had time to adjust to our feelings when suddenly we were able to actually open the site and talk about it again. I won't pretend that I didn't spend the few weeks between first hearing we might win and the day our billing was reinstated assuming that somehow we'd still end up having it taken away. But once the new subscriptions started rolling in, there was no stopping my delight. I think I smiled that whole day!
In some ways, I've fallen back into the job so easily that it feels like I never stopped, and in other ways, that 10 months we waited to hear about the appeal felt like a decade. But now we're back, and I'm so stoked about the future. In addition to flexing my PA/customer service muscle regularly, my photoshop skills have come on in leaps and bounds since the very first set Pandora ever gave me to edit, "Introducing Alexander Knight", and I've learned to make animated gifs, which I can't wait to make more of. If you've not seen the Dreams of Spanking tumblr, you'll find many of them there, along with a great selection of some of our favourite images from the site. Plus, I've had the chance to work with some outstanding people; determined, devoted and talented in so many ways, cultural and political voices who I'm honoured to have heard first hand, and I'm looking forward to meeting even more of them. I also hope to make my screen debut at some point. Who knows what form that will take, but finding out will be a lot of fun! I never imagined myself working in porn, but now, I can't imagine doing anything else.
I know Pandora has already made her gratitude to our followers known, but I'd like to back that up by saying that I am also immensely grateful for the opportunity to dive back into the world of ethical porn, and I'd like to thank every single person who has supported the Dreams of Spanking team - before, during and after our ban. This community has come to mean so much to me, and I'm so happy to be a part of it again.
Peace out folks, and stay tuned; we've got so much more to show you! :)
It's a comment I've heard before when posting a particularly tantalising photoset: "it looks great, but it should have been a video". When it comes to spanking, it seems that a lot of people feel that motion is the name of the game. Whether it's the lip-biting swoosh of a cane through the air, the way peachy flesh ripples across a bottom at the moment of impact, or the beautiful scrunchy faces made by the recipient, spanking is a uniquely dynamic activity.
So it's no surprise that spankings work particularly well as animated gifs. AJ has turned her hand to making them recently, and I'm loving the results. I thought you might like to see some of the hot spanking snippets she's been sharing on our Tumblr - and some bonus gifs too big and juicy to fit within Tumblr's filesize guidelines.
How about some of Amelia Jane Rutherford (AKA Ariel Anderssen)'s famous faces?
I love Ariel's expressiveness here: that moment when she realises that the next stroke is going to hurt, and her cheerful face scrunches up into a pout of anticipation - followed by a yell as the cane stroke lands right on the crease. I know, I'm too mean.
It's okay, though, because after being so cruel to Ariel I'm about to get my comeuppance - and I love the grin on D's face as he dishes out the same treatment!
One of the nicest things (in my opinion) about my sponsored caning video is the interplay between me and D - including some lovely affectionate, teasing touch. I really like the moments AJ has pulled out and highlighted here.
But spanking itself is arguably the best subject matter for an animated gif. Because they loop endlessly on repeat, they are perfectly suited to the rhythmic rise and fall of an over-the-knee hand spanking...
And they're perfect for highlighting those hot little moments that really press your buttons...
But my favourite gifs so far are the ones AJ made from Schoolgirl Takedown starring me and Ten Amorette. It's a high-tempo resistance play scene with non-stop struggling, wriggling, wrestling and spanking, and it was almost impossible to screengrab. But with gifs, we aren't limited to a single screen frame - which makes it that much easier to preview all the hot, gutsy girl-on-girl action.
So what do you think - do spanking gifs work for you? What moments would you pick out to enshrine in gif format? Do you like to see impact, facial reaction, anticipation, or an endless rhythmic spanking loop? Please do tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Another year has gone by, and on 23rd December 2014 Dreams of Spanking celebrated its third birthday. Three years is a coming of age for a new business - the point at which you stop being a start-up and become established. If you haven't made it by the end of year three, you aren't going to make it. Happily, after our profitable first year, sales have been steadily increasing and we're going from strength to strength. It's time to look back on the year just gone and take stock. Here are ten ways in which Dreams of Spanking changed and improved in 2014.
1. Saying hello to Girl on the Net
In March we added sex blogger Girl on the Net to our team, and since then she has been writing all the copy for our spanking scenes and free hosted galleries, as well as being a regular contributor to this blog and our twitter stream. She puts up with me sending her pieces at the last possible minute, and is remarkably patient about working around my irregular schedule - while always staying friendly, cheerful and professional. It's a pleasure to work with her, and her advice on marketing, advertising and SEO has been incredibly useful. She's become an invaluable presence behind the scenes.
I commented a while ago that I would gladly pay Girl on the Net just to write nice things about my work and send them to me every week. Not only do I get the ego boost of a writer I admire providing regular positive feedback on my creations, it also means I'm freed from the emotionally exhausting labour of marketing my own porn. I hadn't realised how much it was costing me until I stopped. I think most creatives resent having to sell their work, and would much rather spend their energy making more art instead. Since hiring Girl on the Net, I have had more creative energy to spend on film-making, editing, business development and activism - and my quality of life, wellbeing and business success have been all the better for it.
2. Handing over photo editing to AJ Levi
Around the same time, I started handing over photo editing duties to my amazing executive assistant AJ Levi. It was a wrench - I'm a massive control freak, which isn't a great trait in a manager, but AJ has handled the transition with grace and skill. She has edited every photoset published since her debut gallery Introducing Alexander - 44 in total by my count. Over the last few months, as she's proved that I can trust her with the all-important visual imagery on the site, she has taken on more and more of the work. She now selects which photos from any given shoot will be published, edits them (including the behind the scenes photos), chooses preview images, creates thumbnails, handles the data entry in the CMS and creates new free hosted galleries for our affiliates. Not only that, but AJ has just started handling our updates on Clips4Sale and Spanking Library.
Add in her regular responsibilities with tech support, processing payments, answering emails and keeping the site organised and it's an impressive list. AJ has an amazing eye, and you only need to look at her recent galleries (such as Sing, Muse) to see that she is an artist when it comes to photo editing. She is consistent, dependable and continues to surprise me with her technical and creative skill. Hiring her was a coming-of-age moment for the business, and now I honestly don't know what I'd do without her.
3. Saying goodbye to Thomas Cameron
I haven't written about this yet publically, but in March 2014, with regret, I ended my romantic relationship with Thomas Cameron. We had been together for nearly a decade. It was my decision in the end, and not one I made lightly. Times change, and our lives had been moving in different directions for several years. I eventually found the courage to accept that it was time to move on.
The break-up was amicable, and afterwards Tom continued working for Dreams of Spanking behind the scenes, updating the clips stores and affiliate galleries. It was only a few weeks ago that, looking at the finances and the logistics of liaising with three different freelancers on a tight weekly update schedule, I made the decision to hand over his duties to AJ in order to keep things more streamlined.
Thomas was a huge presence in my early adult life and in the development of this website, and I can honestly say that Dreams of Spanking would not exist without him. He provided inspiration, support, enormous stage presence and acting skill, and a huge number of scene ideas - from the first embryonic inkling that I wanted to produce my own content, to the launch of the site three years ago. He was instrumental in launching my career as a spanking model, and in encouraging me to start producing my own films. He was my dominant, spanker and top for many years. My spanking kink was greatly influenced by his taste and personality.
Tom let me move in above the real ale pub he managed in 2010 and 2011, refurbish it with decor that would look good in spanking films, and trade work for his business for a place to live, work and shoot. The scenes we shot together were a core part of this site's launch content, and the work we did together that year made launching this site possible. Tom's skills as a performer, top, scene writer and consulting historian raised the bar of the UK spanking industry and made an indelible impression on the development of my style. I will always be grateful to Tom for his contributions to my personal life, my spanking career and to Dreams of Spanking.
4. More behind the scenes content
A direct consequence of bringing AJ and Girl on the Net on board is that 2014 was the year I had time to edit more behind the scenes content. In the first two years of the business, struggling to keep on top of all these responsibilities single-handedly, I simply didn't have time to do everything. Editing behind the scenes videos was a job that often got dropped in busy weeks, and I never had time to go back and catch up.
In the last year behind the scenes content has been a priority, and more scenes than ever now feature candid making-of videos, hilarious out-takes, performer interviews and behind the scenes image galleries. Not only do the image gallery feature candid photos taken on set, but I've also started adding hand-picked screengrabs from the behind the scenes videos. If you like to reassure yourself that an edgy spanking video was produced ethically and consensually, look no further.
5. HTML5 video
2014 was the year that we upgraded our streaming video player from a Flash popup streaming .flv files to embedded HTML5 video streaming MP4 files. Better video quality, better usability, better cross-browser and cross-device compatibility. Better for everyone.
In theory, HTML5 video should even work on mobiles and tablets, although I've had reports from some users that it's not playing for them. Following on from this development, I've made a personal commitment that 2015 is going to be the year we finally get our website and streaming video player fully operational across all mobile devices.
6. Recurring memberships and Mastercard payments
In January, D extended our back-end code so we could offer you the option of recurring memberships for the first time - a real milestone. And in June, a year after CCBill slapped an extortionate annual fee onto porn sites that wanted to accept Mastercard payments, I decided we could afford it, and we started accepting Mastercard payments again - making it easier for you to support ethical porn by buying a site membership. Finally!
7. More transgender performers
2014 was the year we added two new out-and-proud transgender performers to our cast - world famous queer porn star James Darling, and budding UK newcomer Ron Beastly. In the past, trans porn performers often kept quiet about it for fear that being open about their gender history would make their work less popular or make them targets for abuse. Although transgender people still suffer from appalling and unacceptable stigma and violence worldwide, it's wonderful to see an attitude change start to ripple across the online community which is more accepting of non-binry identities and transgender bodies. This is no small part thanks to queer porn, which has centered trans bodies from the beginning.
The next step is for us to make a pro-active effort to expand our cast to include some hot transgender women. I've already had exciting talks with a number of suitable performers. The only limiting factor is that a number of them are in the US or Canada, and so shooting will have to fit around my international travel schedule.
8. More performers of colour
In 2014 we uploaded three new scenes starring stunning UK porn star Lola Marie, and we shot not once but twice with brand new spankee David Weston, who is (as far as I know) the first ever black male spankee to make a name for himself in the UK. Mind you, given how few fetish sites name or celebrate their male sub performers, he hasn't had much competition.
Of course, we still have a long way to go - two exceptions to a mostly white cast is nowhere near enough, and we're looking forward to making new connections and improving the chromatic and gender diversity of our cast further in 2015.
9. Consent, consent, consent
2014 was the year the conversation about ethical porn and showing consent behind the scenes started to take off - from my talk on establishing consent in kinky porn at the Feminist Porn Conference in April to Zoe Williams' guardian article in November. It was also the year that UK legislators showed just how out of touch they are by making a whole swathe of consensual acts illegal to depict in UK-produced online porn.
The Sword of Damocles is still hanging over our heads, in that at any time in 2015 we might receive an initial letter from ATVOD demanding us to comply with these regulations - which we intend to refuse to do, thereby kicking off a lengthy and expensive court battle. But in the meantime we have no intention of stopping producing, and we won't be limited by these regulations and self-censor when filming new content in 2015. What we can do is take additional steps to demonstrate the consent and well-being of performers on all our shoots. Previously, consent was established in contextual behind the scenes materials and links surrounding the main fantasy film. Since these regulations came into force at the start of December, we have brought some of this context into the main feature, so that even if a particular film is watched in isolation, outside the context in which it was originally published, performer consent will still be explicit.
Five weeks into this new system, I'm increasingly seeing the positive side of this method of publishing feminist kinky porn. It centres performer consent in every production, sends a strong message about ethical porn, and as an added bonus, it brings the behind the scenes content to the front of my editing process, making it even easier to get out-takes videos and performer interviews ready for publication alongside every spanking film.
10. Best Spanking Site 2014?
Dreams of Spanking collected some impressive kudos in 2014, including this glowing review by My Sex Porn and lots of love during sex blogger spanking month. It was a good year for our mainstream press profile, too: as well as the Guardian feature on ethical porn, we were mentioned in The Sun and BBC News.
The Loose Hem was nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, and we were in the running for Honoured Website second year running. Also in 2014, My Inner Little Girl was screened at Cinekink film festival, and Instructed, our collaborative film with Ms Naughty, was screened at the Berlin Porn Film Festival.
We've taken a lot of runner-up prizes in the Spanking Awards 2014 hosted by SpankingBlogg, with this blog coming second in the News Blog category, my personal blog Spanked, Not Silenced coming second in the Creative Blog category, and me coming in third as Best Female Spanker and Best Female Spankee 2014. I was the only person to qualify in both categories, so I guess that makes me a jill of all trades. I'm happy with that!
Winner: Alex Reynolds
Runner Up: Amelia Jane Rutherford
3rd: Pandora Blake
Full results can be seen HERE
Winner – Sarah Gregory
Sarah has topped at many sites but check out her own at SarahGregorySpanking.com
Runner Up – Dana Kane
Dana has topped at many sites but check out her own at DanaKaneSpanks.com
& 2nd (very close) Runner Up – Pandora Blake
Pandora features at many sites but check out her own DreamsofSpanking.com
Congrats to Alex Reynolds, Amelia Jane Rutherford, Sarah Gregory and Dana Kane on their wins - you deserve it, and I couldn't be in better company!
The award I really care about though is Best Spanking Site 2014 - and I'm thrilled that Dreams of Spanking is in the running. After all our performers' hard work in this last year it would mean a lot if we could get the top spot, so please do head to their page and vote for us!
I know you haven't heard from me for a while, but it's been a long hot summer already, with all the Dreams of Spanking ladies flitting around like dirty little butterflies; Pandora's been up and down the country sampling the delights of the countryside in between mad bouts of video editing and volunteering; Girl on the Net has been firing off some amazing copy for us, and keeping sales afloat during the admittedly difficult summer months; and I've been desperately trying to keep up with tumblr and fetlife, while juggling a whole gamut of interesting life events. It's been amazing though, I've done some editing I'm really proud of (keep your eyes peeled for today's update, Day Ten of her Training, a classy vintage domestic discipline scene featuring Leia-Ann Woods and Thomas Cameron), and I no longer remember what it was like before I was working with so many talented and fascinating people every day!
Tuesday just gone presented itself with the rarest of opportunities - Pandora, her partner D, Girl on the Net, myself and my partner were all in town and without plans! Grabbing the chances with all ten hands, we headed off to a quirky little pub in Borough to eat pie, drink beer, and set the world to rights. We quickly occupied an upstairs room, and covered a great many salacious topics, including (but not limited to):
The depth and breadth of the discourse ensured that we always had the room to ourselves, which I'm calling a win.
However, socialising wasn't our main aim for this meetup. We ultimately got together so that Pandora could give Girl and I our super shiny new business cards! I don't know about GotN, but I have never had a proper business card, let alone one that included the word "manager", so this was a big deal for me. We were both so chuffed with them that we posted them on twitter the next day. I mean seriously, what is there not to love about business cards with bottoms on them?
Aren't they great? I can't wait to start handing them out to people.
I hope you've enjoyed this wee glimpse into some of the fun stuff that goes on in the staging area. It was excellent to catch up in person and we're feeling a lot more refreshed as we go into the last few weeks of summer. There's some fantastic material coming up and, well... you're gonna love it!
I wrote recently about the uncertainties of running a porn site during the holiday season - not knowing whether or not you, our lovely viewers, will be here on any given week, ready and waiting to watch our latest update, or whether you're all off having fun in foreign climes. The truth is that it's not only your absence that affects things over the summer months. Running a spanking website is hard work at the best of times - it's even harder when the director goes on holiday.
I went away for a week at the end of July, and if I hadn't had AJ and Girl on the Net in London to hold the fort, things would have fallen apart. I edited and uploaded the week's film (The Evacuees - Part 2) before I left, but it was Girl on the Net who wrote the scene blurb and the blogpost, AJ who kept on top of email and tech support requests and posts pictures on Fetlife and Tumblr, and both ladies took turns managing the Twitter account.
In fact if they hadn't been around, there wouldn't have been an update that week. On Saturday, two days before I was due to come home, I got a call from AJ to tell me that the server was down. It was terrible timing - our new scene goes live at the weekend and Saturday is usually our best day for new sign-ups. Instead, the server was down for 8 hours during the middle of the day. Not only could users not log on, neither could AJ, so the new scene hadn't even gone live yet. It was AJ who posted updates on social media until the site was up and running again - and AJ who logged in straight-away and pushed the new film live. I really am very lucky to have a team who care so much about the site that they're willing to work weekends and take the initiative in an emergency.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm going away again til Monday, and once more I'm relying on the Dreams of Spanking ladies to keep things ticking over in the meantime. It's good for me to take some time off (those of you who know me will know how rare this is!) but it's good to know that my baby will be in safe hands.
The downside of going away is that I have to rush to get everything done before I leave. That's why I'm typing this at 2am, while waiting for an audio effect to process on this week's forthcoming spanking film. I've done the multicamera edit, nailed the music (if I do say so myself), and am just tidying up the audio. Next it's colour grading, digital zooms, frame cropping and other finishing touches - and I still have to make the trailer and pack for my long weekend before my friends come to pick me up tomorrow lunchtime. Somehow I don't think I'm going to get much sleep tonight.
Still, it'll all be worth it in the end - I'm looking forward to a wonderful four days away, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you make of this week's scene when I get back. It's from our location shoot with Leia-Ann Woods last year and is a dark, sinister vignette which implies, but doesn't show, a longer dominance and submission narrative. This is one of the scripts I wrote before the site even existed, and it's a pleasure to bring it to life.
I think the finished film is going to be just as atmospheric as I imagined - if I get it done in time. My audio's finished processing now, so I'm going to get stuck back in. In the meantime, I'll leave you with an exclusive preview photo...
It's been quite a week - in a good way. Last weekend I attended (and presented at) an erotic fiction writers' conference, which was a fantastic opportunity for inspiration and networking. Among other things I took away the desire to do more sex blogging, which led to me writing about the breast punishment scene D surprised me with on Monday night. I also made a number of useful connections including - most excitingly - hiring a new professional copywriter for this website.
If you like spanking, hate patriarchy and read sex blogs, you probably already know Girl on the Net. I'm over the moon to be able to announce that she is joining the Dreams of Spanking team as a freelance copywriter, and will be writing film blurbs, blogposts and other bits and pieces. I love her sharp, punchy writing style and am really excited about this collaboration. She loves spanking, loves porn and has an eye for hot men, so I think she'll be perfect.
The other exciting news behind the scenes is that my assistant AJ is expanding her role to take on some of the photo editing. This should hopefully make it easier for us to include midweek photosets in our update schedule, and well as freeing more time for me to focus on video editing, business development and promotion. AJ has a background in photography and has done image processing before, so when I spent the afternoon showing her the ropes last Thursday she picked it up without any problems.
It's a pleasure to be able to delegate more of the regular work involved in the running of the site, and to give AJ's level of responsibility a boost. I'm confident that she will deliver fantastic images and can't wait to share her work with you.
On Friday night we found ourselves both working on Dreams of Spanking photosets at the same time - her on a forthcoming gallery introducing new male spankee Alexander Knight, and me on the stills accompanying our latest film, Slight Damage to the Rear End. It was lovely to have someone sharing the load behind the scenes, and we chatted away in IRC and even co-ordinated preview tweets!
I hope this is the start of two long and happy collaborations. Watch out for updates from AJ and Girl on the Net this week - and if you haven't read GotN's brilliantly filthy blog yet, take a look, I highly recommend it.