Apr 142015
 

So, my career is ramping up, or ending. Possibly both. I’m not sure.

In the beginning of this blog, I described my career as being on knife’s edge between up and coming industry expert or complete and total failure. That was the case some years before I started here, and it was years in the making before that.

I’ll find out soon which side of the blade I’ll fall on.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in all my life as I have these past few months. I routinely pull all-nighters like I’m a college kid (I’m not). If the whole career thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to kick myself for not buying stock in eye drops and coffee.

So, I’m feeling reflective, which isn’t much of a deviation from the norm — it’s like status quo to the nth power.

It’s the sort of existential crisis that comes with being on the brink of being what you’re meant to be and what you’ve worked toward… accompanied by the dread that comes with knowing it’s not in your power to decide.

I’ll know soon.

And then I’ll get to keep on doing what I do, or I’ll have to start over. Either way, I’ll move on with my life.

I’m looking forward to it.

Apr 042015
 

peeps in bondage

reader questions about
sacrifice & indulgence
Ever give anything up for lent?

Sure. What better way to practice my faith in the Blessed Undead Bunny who sacrificed himself, rose from the grave, and shat jelly beans to save us from our sins? Giving up something is the least I can do.

I keep fairly accurate records in case I am called to the Bedazzled Gates of Heaven and made to account for my sacrifices in this yearly time of reflection and renewal.

Below is what I’ve given up for Lent the past few years.

2009 straws
2010 fabric softener
2011 odd numbers
2012 ice cubes
2013 ctrl-c and ctrl-v
2014 twist ties
2015 quinoa
Would you ever shove a creme egg up a sub’s ass to let it melt? And then threaten to make him eat it?

No. Life is too short for poor quality chocolate.

I’d love to pour laphroig down your naked torso and drink it. (computer tried to spell check laphroig to aphrodite – how appropriate is that?)

Life is also too short for single malt that tastes like the inside of an apothecary table. Bring Macallan and I’ll think about it.

Are you having a misfit easter party?

No. In lieu of dying eggs, I’m dying my nipples in festive shades of pastel. Later on, I’ll put on bunny ears, egg the neighbors house with Cadburys, and throw Peeps at passing children.

Would you like a poem if yes, please give theme 3 words and rudeness level :)

Would I like a poem? Probably not, but I’ll be open-minded… I’ll indulge you.

theme: indulgence
three words: spark, position, excess
rudeness level(?): clever, playful snark

 
 

Mar 182015
 
I can’t write my words
when I don’t have you
I can’t sing my song
when my strings won’t tune
You won’t believe me
You won’t believe me crying
And I can’t walk my path
when I can’t stay motivated
I can’t pay my dues
when it gets too complicated
You won’t believe me
You won’t believe me
So you’ll never see me

Give me a reason and I won’t breakdown
Give me a reason and I won’t breakdown
And if that’s all that you’ve got
you’d better not get caught
I’ve got more in store.

I can’t keep my beat
when I don’t have you
I can’t shake my sins
when you don’t come through

How could you leave me
How could you leave me

And I can’t take my words
when I can’t stay down
And I make up the words
when they won’t come ’round

How could you leave me
How could you leave me
So you’ll never see me

Give me a reason and I won’t breakdown… [Chorus]

Don’t look at me and act like you’re just blind
Let’s work it out before you change my mind

Give me a reason and I won’t breakdown… [Chorus]

And I wont breakdown if you give me a reason
but I got no reason so I’ll just breakdown

Mar 102015
 

wd-long-images-250Last year was the first I heard of International Women’s Day — several colleagues confirmed it’s relatively unknown in the U.S.. This year, when #internationalwomensday started trending a few days ago, I clicked.

Of course, hashtags are only an indication of what people are talking about on Twitter, but based on that hashtag, I learned International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s “beauty” with selfies — particularly makeup/no makeup selfies.

*grumble* *grumble* *grumble*

Intellectually, I understand celebrating body diversity and encouraging body acceptance and positivity are important parts of larger efforts for equality. I understand selfies can be empowering (and for the purposes of concession, I’m going to ignore the many disparate political and semantic interpretations of “empowerment”).

But good god… there were so many… SO MANY SELFIES.

Selfies with accompanying text: “beautiful with or without makeup,” “beautiful even with natural hair,” “beauty at any age/size/color/type,” “beautiful with no filters,” “beauty is what’s on the inside,” etc. (ad infinitum).

Intellectually, I get it. But emotionally (and maybe spiritually), I felt like putting my my fist through a wall.

Is acceptance and celebration of appearance what we find most empowering? Is there anything else? I’m sure there is, but I didn’t see much evidence in the avalanche of selfies.

I saw a few mentions of strength, fewer mentions of intelligence, but little else. Those characteristics and attributes (some seemingly natural talents, others hard fought and won) are important, but they’re what women are, not what women do.

Yes, women, you are beautiful. But what about what you do?

What about the diploma you earned? the garden you planted? the child you raised? the bread you baked? the book you finished? the finish line you crossed? the math test you passed? the poem you wrote? the scarf you knitted? the guitar you play? the meal you made? the art you created? the problem you solved? the product you developed?

It’s maddening that the few vague mentions of talent or achievement were merely contributing factors to what makes a woman beautiful. While beauty is semantically flexible, it seems reductive and counterproductive to describe everything in terms largely connotative of aesthetic standards. Can’t we use special, or important, or valuable instead?

A woman’s qualities and characteristics are important unto themselves — not simply in support of what makes her beautiful. More than that, her qualities and characteristics are important not simply because they make her who she is, but also, because of what she does with them.

 

 

 

 

GRUMPY-CAT-FUCK-THE-PATRIARCHY-4Post published courtesy of my grumpy inner feminist, who wants to remind you:

Hey kids, get off my lawn!
and also… maybe take fewer selfies… and instead of simply describing yourself as beautiful, maybe you could describe yourself as talented, smart, creative, hard-working… all those things…

 

Mar 062015
 
bdsm symbol over targetSurrounding the release of the movie that shall not be named, there was discussion about whether newbies to kink and BDSM (particularly Fifty Shades readers with expectations built on fiction) were at risk of being taken advantage of. That’s an interesting conversation, but not one I engage in here. What I think is interesting, though, is the way that Whiplr, the kinky hookup app, draws on those concerns in what appears to be very strategic ways in order to market itself to novices.

What is Whiplr Selling?

As its predecessors Grindr and Tinder, Whiplr markets itself as a social media / messenger / dating / hook-up app. Grindr is for gay men, Tinder is for everyone[1], and Whiplr is for kinky people.

But what makes Whiplr different is that it targets not only “experienced kinksters,” but “kink-curious” novices, too. To “woo you into the world of kink and help you step out of your comfort zone,”[2] Whiplr promises education and mentorship, selling itself to newbies as access to a safe, welcoming community.

In communications with Salon, Whiplr’s Chief Communications Officer, Daniel Sevitt, offers:

Whiplr is a great place for the kink-curious to be welcomed as they start their journey [. . .] It all begins with filling in your profile. Once you do that the community will reach out and help you learn more. Find someone experienced to mentor you or find someone just like you and arrange to meet up at a fetish event. [emphasis added]
"I'm looking for someone experienced to show me the ropes"

screen caps from Whiplr app > help

Sevitt makes Whiplr sound more like a learning experience than a hookup app. While particular groups and individuals perform outreach and offer education,  there is no Official BDSM Community™, nor any BDSM Community Guidelines™ that mandates such activities or codify their practice.

As part of a marketing strategy, the idea of “The BDSM Community” is misleading. In reality, a community is nothing more than a group of people who share an interest. Sevitt’s implication, however, is that a community — “The BDSM Community — also has a set of shared values (and practices) to which members subscribe.

It doesn’t. “We” don’t.

The only qualification needed for inclusion in “The BDSM Community” is an interest in BDSM. Any values that some members might share are secondary (perhaps ancillary) to their interest in kink. The values Whiplr draws on aren’t inherent to BDSM and aren’t necessary for “community membership” — collectively, kinky people don’t have a”welcoming committee, aren’t an educational outreach, nor are values consent or safety essential to community membership.

But still, Whiplr implies community and shared values because it helps to sell itself to novices as safe. It speaks to concerns, albeit misleadingly, people might have about exploring BDSM for the first time.

In an email to The Daily Dot, Sevitt says:

“Until now there has never been an app [. . .] that can help experienced kinksters connect as well as provide a safe and welcoming environment for the kink curious to begin their journey.” [emphasis added]

If by “safe,” Sevitt means “users cannot be physically assaulted in the app,” then sure. But unless he thinks people’s “kink journeys” will begin and end in the app’s electronic environment, promises of welcome and safety are disingenuous.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more said about this. What little “coverage” Whiplr has received since it’s release on February 22 has been overwhelmingly promotional (read “vapid”) and optimistic.[3]

Refinery29 suggests Whiplr will help people find a “supportive, educational group of like-minded people.” Elite Daily seems to think the app’s private digital notepad, where “you can record things you didn’t like” about a date, is “an interesting element to the app since the BDSM community prides itself on communication and honesty between partners” (huh? what logical leaps made that connection?) Nylon says Whiplr “helps beginners figure out what they’re interested in.”

Privacy

Bustle seems to understand something about people’s (particularly kinky people’s) privacy concerns. But instead of doing the bare minimum of reading required before making claims, Bustle offers undeserved praise.

I sent someone a pic or  amessage, but now I've changed my mind. What can I do?

[Whiplr’s] privacy features are much more sophisticated than those of most dating apps — and with good reason. Because of the taboos that still exist with regards to kink and BDSM, being hacked or even simply tracked on this app could be potentially embarrassing or harmful for some users. As such, the app doesn’t record or save any of its users conversations; furthermore, users can delete all of the messages that they have sent on their device and on the other person’s device at any time.

delete all the thingsThree things here.

  1. DELETE ALL THE THINGS isn’t a sophisticated privacy feature. It’s about as far from sophisticated as you can get.
  2. Giving users the ability to delete messages they’ve already sent to other users could cause a whole host of problems. Wouldn’t this make it easy to threaten someone and then remove the evidence from their phone?
  3. Potential problems aside, the idea that the app doesn’t record or save users’ conversations is patently false, as clearly stated in Whiplr’s Privacy Policy.
We collect information that identifies an individual [. . .] including your name, password, email address, status, relationship interest, ethnicity, religion, social habits or preferences, height, weight, birthday, precise geo-location information [. . .] messages you sent to other users (including photos, location, audio or video files) or any other information you voluntarily submit to your profile or is generated by your use of Whiplr.

Whiplr also clearly states they share information with affiliated companies and service providers and the public: “You acknowledge and agree that information you share with other users or provided in your profile is available to the public.” And it is. While I still can’t seem to register a profile, after downloading the app, I can see profiles of users near me — their usernames, ages, photos, and a bunch of other identifying info. In other words, anyone can see users profiles — no registration required.

Is Whiplr Responsible for Educating Users?

What Whilpr’s marketing offers is a counterargument in response to potential, unstated objections of novice users. Whiplr invokes people’s reasonable and understandable concerns about BDSM, kinky “communities,” and hookup apps strategically in order to allay their concerns with promises of safety, community, and education — promises it has no right to make.

In a sense, it anticipates and speaks to the concerns of the audience without ever really offering any meaningful information or warnings to potential users.

Does Whiplr have a responsibility to educate users? No. Not legally, at least. I’m not even sure they have an ethical obligation — life is “at your own risk,” of course.

In a statement to Salon, a representative from Kink University agrees: “I don’t think apps like Whiplr have any responsibility to educate newbies, any more than Grindr and Tindr and other ‘am I hot or not’ flirt apps have a responsibility to educate users about meeting strangers and having safe sex.”

It’s worth mentioning that both Grindr and Tinder do offer prominent educational warnings about safety on their websites. Whiplr does not. (Whiplr does have the standard “hold harmless” clauses in their Terms of Service, so they’re not unaware of risks to users that risk lawsuits to the company.)

What is unethical is the way Sevitt markets Whiplr as access to a safe community where novices will be welcomed, educated, and mentored. Arguably, there is no “BDSM Community,” certainly not one organized around universally shared values or practices.

While an app isn’t necessarily responsible for warning people about dangers, it shouldn’t[4] go out of its way to make unfounded claims about safety, either.


[1] Technically, it’s for everyone. However, it seems largely marketed to straight people.
[2] As written in Salon.
[3] I didn’t expect great journalism or even informed opinion pieces. But with the recent attention to, and relatively thoughtful discussions about Fifty Shades of Grey, I expected slightly more from write ups about Whiplr. I know… my expectations are too high.
[4] Before anyone gets their leather knickers in a twist, I’m not calling for the app to be pulled (criticism does not equal censorship), I’m not saying an app is responsible for educating people, nor am I charging app developers with obligations to honesty or ethics. I’m also not suggesting people are stupid, nor that people aren’t responsible for using good judgment and keeping themselves safe. What I am saying is that Whiplr’s marketing and service claims are strategically misleading.

Korn, Gabrielle. “Introducting Whiplr: A Dating App With Kinks.” Nylon. Feb 25, 2015.
MacMillen, Hayley. “‘BDSM Tinder’ Could Make Your Kinkiest Dreams Come True.” Refinery29. Feb 25, 2015.
Kabas, Marisa. “Whiplr is like Tinder for kinky people.” The Daily Dot. Feb 26, 2015.