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State of play

Pandora Blake spanking Amelia-Jane Rutherford in Need to Know at www.dreamsofspanking.com Dreams has progressed apace these last four weeks, and is now hurtling towards our launch date in December 2011. Let's have a quick look at where we've got to since I last had time to write:

Shoots:

We've had two very exciting shoots in August - our last shoots, in fact, before the launch. Shooting is the aspect of production I have most experience of, and in some ways I think it will always be my favourite part of the job. This year I've fallen somewhat into the trap of booking shoot after shoot, loathe to pass up opportunities to work with my favourite people while they're available, until in June I looked back and realised I had over twice as much content as I needed for launch. Time to put the camera down and focus on post production and site development. So although I'm in discussions with some cool new performers, I'm not booking any more shoots until after the site is live. Shooting may be addictively good fun - but there's no point endlessly collecting content on my hard drive and never building the platform to share it with the world.  

Anyway, first there was a two day shoot with the excellent folks at Restrained Elegance, Amelia-Jane Rutherford and Hywel Phillips, along with my partner and Dom-in-Residence Thomas Cameron. Then at the end of the month we had our first M/M shoot for the site, with Jimmy Holloway and pretty new bottom Sebastian Hawley. I'd been looking forward to both shoots for ages and am really looking forward to sharing some previews with you all after...

Brand launch:

Tomorrow, Wednesday 7 September, is the date the DreamsofSpanking brand and URL will finally be shared with the world. I've owned the domain for three years, but have been keeping it quiet until I was far enough along to commit to a firm launch date. This blog is going to be opened up, I'll be able to publically release watermarked images and preview content, and everything's going to step up as I enter the final phase of preparation for launch.

CMS progress:

D has been steaming ahead with the development of CMS features, and has finished everything on my core feature list except the CCBill integration which is dependent on my having an approved merchant account. This means the software now supports:

  • Manual membership management (via 'restricted file serving' feature)
  • Recent items page in shop
  • Tags on shop items
  • Pagination on shop category, recent items and tag pages
  • Discussion threads attached to shop items
  • Shop search feature
  • Shop product types
  • Shop item 'likes'
  • Extend tag search to pass full object data to front-end templates

Shiny!

Post-production:

Meanwhile, I've been making leaps and bounds in my editing progress:

  • I spent a day troubleshooting to try and stop my software crashing - updating hardware drivers, deleting and re-installing .dll files and codecs, moving my data around to free up space on hard drives, playing with scratch disk options and messing around endlessly with settings and preferences. It was tedious, but it paid off - I've seen far fewer crashes since, and although my PC still doesn't quite have enough memory to handle complex video editing projects easily, fingers crossed it will just about get me through to launch.
  • I've worked out how to export video to mp4, and installed the relevant plugins for my image editor to handle RAW files - two steps forward which will stand me in good stead.
  • I came to a final decision regarding file formats and sizes, and am exporting each film to a high-res mp4 and a high-res wmv for download (960x540px; around 200-300MB for standard length clips), and a low-res mp4 and low-res wmv for streaming (640x360px; less than 100MB).
  • Finally, I've edited one new clip from each of the recent shoots: "A Bet's A Bet," an M/M scene in which two young gentlemen act out the results of a drunken wager, and "Need to Know", an F/F scene in which I spank Amelia-Jane with a hairbrush for compromising the security of our long con scam. I've finished the stills accompanying Need to Know, but I'm still waiting for the photos from the M/M shoot. I'm also halfway through editing Jimmy Holloway's introductory photoset, and have made progress with re-recording some dialogue for the first clip we ever filmed, Hitting Snooze, which had some teething problems with the sound recording.

All in all, progress has been very satisfactory, and with 12 weeks until my provisional site launch date of 1 December, I feel like I have enough time to do things properly. The only downside is that I actually only have until 14 October to do the majority of the site development and editing, in order to allow time to apply for a CCBill merchant account so D can work his Perl magic with the CCBill payment and affiliates scheme integration. That's five weeks away, and I'm starting to feel the pressure.

Still, it's lovely to finally be able to work fulltime on the project after three years of squeezing it into the odd corners of my schedule. Now if only I were able to concentrate purely on the site build and content editing, and didn't have to worry about marketing or publicity...!

Female gaze, spankee gaze

Well, the Dreams of Spanking concept has now been released into the wild, and the pre-launch page is open to the public. I've been thrilled by the positive response so far. Thanks so much to all who have signed up to our mailing list, followed us on twitter, left positive comments on photos and written emails. It's been great to see others sharing my excitement about this project. Thanks also to those who have sent constructive criticism and feedback which has enabled us to improve aspects of the site, especially our introductory text on the homepage.

If you haven't signed up to the mailing list yet, please consider doing so - I'll be sending out chatty, fortnightly updates on site progress, and the newsletter will be the first place I'll post the link to free preview galleries as I make them. There's a sign up form on the homepage and at the bottom of most other site pages.

I've wanted to post these vintage photo montages since I first saw them on Chross' blog, but they fit the Dreams of Spanking idea so perfectly I've been holding off until the URL was made public. Check these out:

Aren't they wonderful? I love the facial expressions of the daydreamer, and the contrast between her lustful body language on the bench, and her submissive postures in the daydream. I'm seriously tempted to recreate this series as a full photoset for the site :)

But the most exciting thing about these images, to me, is that they represent an early example of female gaze spanking erotica. Not only female gaze, in fact - but spankee gaze.

Feminism is only a small part of my politics. Yes, I think porn in general would be improved if it represented more women's fantasies, and included more things women tend to like (such as intense psychological situations, or intimacy, or male bodies for women who like men). But in the specific case of kink and spanking, I think there is just as much a need for the spankee's gaze (or submissive gaze, or bottom gaze, or whatever language you prefer), both male and female.

So many kinky porn sites have been made by tops, and for tops, that tops' fantasies see the most representation. As a bottom, I much prefer to watch porn made by bottoms, because I find it more accurately reflects my own desires. That's not a gender thing - I am just as interested in watching F/M and M/M spanking scenarios written by male bottoms as I am in watching material written by female bottoms.

Of course, this is personal as well as political: I'm a woman and a bottom, and there's nothing I can do about that, so it's inevitable that in making films and images of my own fantasies I will be representing female and spankee desires. But it's also a conscious choice - in response to what I see as a cultural imbalance - to accurately represent my own desires, my own fantasies, even if I'm told that's a poor business decision.

Well, the internet is full of people making porn catering to what they think men want, and porn catering to what they think tops want. I've always felt that the best porn was that which accurately reflected the desires of the pornographer. You write what you know, and it's easier to get it right if you share the fantasy you're creating. I think that lots of people - women, bottoms, men, tops - would enjoy watching things from a different perspective, and I'm not the first or only person to think that.

Here's to all the women, to bottoms, to spankees and submissives making kinky porn that reflects a complementary side of The Thing We Do. I'm really excited to be part of this movement towards greater diversity in porn, and I hope that some people share my ideas about what makes spanking scenes worth watching.

Spanking, BDSM and erotic D/S

I've just finished editing one of the first photosets I shot with my partner D. There's a preview image from this set on the homepage already, but here are a couple more:

 

I've been pleased to see the first preview get positive feedback on Fetlife and SpankingTube, because this scene represents a bit of a departure from the classic disciplinary spanking scenario. Don't get me wrong, I love domestic discipline, school scenes, punishment and edgy fantasies as much as anyone. But I also like variety, and one of the things I'm looking to explore alongside the above is consensual, erotic dominance and submission.

I spend far more time submitting willingly to my partners in the bedroom than I do acting out roleplay scenarios in which I'm playing a protesting character who hates every second. But this sort of sensuality is a tricky mark to hit in porn. The kind of play I enjoy in private doesn't necessarily translate well to scenes that are fun to watch. Of course, the internet is full of sexually explicit BDSM porn - but I'm a picky soul, and it's rare for me to find scenes which suit my taste. First, a lot of it is far harder BDSM than I personally enjoy. I like the pain of CP and have an endless appetite for severe spanking, but I'm not really a fan of the other sorts of pain play you commonly see - electroplay, needles, clamps, pegs, mouth and foot torture, painful suspensions and the like.

I'm looking for subtlety, for nuance, for beautiful, visual rich imagery. I'm looking for eye contact and intimacy that makes me catch my breath. I like my spankings hard, but when it comes to BDSM I'm looking not so much for physical intensity as emotional intensity. Romantic power exchange, palpable sexual chemistry, a sizzling energy between the players.

By all means show me hardcore dungeon scenes, extreme pain play, demanding bondage - but unless I can sense genuine trust, respect and vulnerability, it's unlikely to maintain my interest. Sexually explicit porn which turns me on is rare, and it only ever works for me if there's an emotional narrative I can hook into. I like tops that simmer with restrained violence. I like humiliation when it's subtle - not pornographically degrading, but small acts which get inside the sub's head. I like unrehearsed displays of affection between the players.

Show me an erotic BDSM scene between two lovers where the sex is subtle and implicit, but the CP is strong and explicit, and I'm sold.

Shooting M/M

A little while ago there was a multi-blog conversation - well, more like a debate, really - about the invisibility of M/M material in the international spanking scene online. It centred around SpankingTube, the crowd-sourced spanking clips site.

Paul at North Gare uncovered a bias in their search algorithms designed to reduce the visibility of M/M clips on the homepage and in search, in favour of /F content. Mija picked up on the topic and called this out as deliberate policy and blatant homophobia, likening it to racism in the suburban California of her childhood:

My cousins don't have a white mother to temper their skin tone and that color's effect on the neighborhood. When they moved into a white part of town, a "welcome wagon" met them with a chicken casserole and a request that they keep their children in the backyard for fear the sight of these brown children would lower property values.

No-one in the scene can ban M/M, and they don't want to make anyone feel unwelcome, but go on one of the big spanking sites or blogs and look for it, and you'll quickly realise the extent to which it's hidden away. Not only blogs and sites where the owner's selections are arguably a matter of personal taste - even open, user-based clips sites, which enable anyone to upload content, have a deliberate policy that M/M clips won't show up in public search unless someone is explicitly looking for them. I hear of play parties and scene events where M/M players are unwelcome, or segregated into their own play room.

We don’t have anything against you M/M folks, we just don’t want to scare other people away. Do what you want to do, they say in effect, but make sure you don’t do it where you could make someone uncomfortable.

All too many otherwise progressive, enlightened individuals have nothing against M/M, but it's, well, not their thing, and they'd rather not watch it ... or, you know, be on a website where they might accidentally brush against it.

The thing is that the people saying this, most of the time, are male. It is considered normal, not prejudiced at all, for a man to be put off by M/M. But just mentally reverse the genders for a second. Imagine a female kinkster who was squicked by F/F spanking play, and refused to visit any site, gathering or party where she might stumble across it accidentally. Imagine if she found the idea of women disrobing offputting, and refused to stick around to watch a female bottom enjoy a scene. She'd be massively limited in the websites she could visit, she'd ostracise herself socially, and chances are, people would find her taste a little weird and overly restrictive.

This is how many men's reaction to M/M seems to me.

And this is where female gaze porn comes in.

Historically, the porn industry has tended to be maintained by men, for an audience which was predominantly male. Social anxiety about homosexuality has also, historically, affected far more men in our culture than wome. Tie this in with a cultural image of male submissives as worthless, pathetic, and unsexy, and it all adds up to a massive collective hang-up.

Recently, however, more and more women have started not only to watch porn, but to make porn. And women, on average, love M/M. Look at the fanfiction community, which is predominantly made up of female authors and readers, and which emphasises male/male pairings above any other orientation. Indy speaks eloquently about the appeal, as a woman, of M/M spanking fantasies (and her comment threads are full of women who agree):

M/m spanking scenes in books and films generally have a dignity that is often lacking in F/f or especially M/f spanking scenes. The boy is supposed to take his punishment manfully if it’s fair and stoically even if it’s not. He’s in control of his emotions, and even if he’s breaking inside, he doesn’t let the bastards see it. (Women who like M/M: punishment, triumph or libido?)
I guess another reason I like M/M is that there’s something more egalitarian about it than a lot of M/F or even F/M spanking erotica, even though the roles of top and bottom are clearly established. (More on girls, boys and tears)

In my opinion, the more women there are making and watching spanking porn, the more visible - and acceptable - M/M scenes will become.

In the wake of the revelations about SpankingTube, Mija exhorted politically progressive readers to boycott any sites and events which made M/M unwelcome. I supported her stance and had - still have - a great amount of respect for her principles in this. I was also in the difficult position of knowing that I would find it much harder to market my - already risky - female gaze, fairtrade, inclusive porn site without promotion on SpankingTube. I had a couple of conversations in which I tried to weigh the relative value of successfully selling radical porn versus boycotting homophobic web hosts. And when it came down to it, it seemed to me that my energies were better spent making the good stuff, creating porn without prejudice, without homophobia, than joining the (valuable, necessary) outcry against the people doing it wrong.

I made a decision that week to include M/M material on Dreams of Spanking from the outset. Not to do it later, as a risky extra once I'm already up and running. But build it into the fabric of my philosophy from the start: make it clear that this is a site which welcomes women who fantasise about male/male spankings; welcomes male bottoms, tops and switches who enjoy the idea; welcomes bisexual and open-minded male players.

I credit my heterosexual male viewers with the broadness of mind to be able to tolerate clicking past the odd M/M scene on my webpage. No-one has to watch anything they don't want to. I have plans in my first-six-months budget to develop a sophisticated search feature on the site which permits users to only be shown the orientations that interest them, but in the meantime, I believe that you, my companions in dream, will be able to cope.

That week, I put a casting call out for male performers on my blog. I waited. And at the end of August, thanks to some social networking, some hasty planning and the last of my savings, I spent a day shooting tasteful, psychologically interesting M/M spanking films with an all-female crew and two beautiful male actors in their twenties.

We had a blast. I've rarely had quite that much fun on a shoot. And I'll tell you all about it in my next post.

Schoolboys and aristocrats

I'd put a casting call up on my blog, but disappointingly, my inbox was not instantly flooded with requests for work from bright young things willing to shoot M/M spanking scenes. I received lots of emails from willing chaps over 40 who wanted to bottom to women, but lovely as I'm sure they were, none of them was really suitable for the scenes I had in mind.

In the end it was Twitter that solved my problem. I posted to the effect that I was looking for kinky young men willing to bottom on camera for CP films, and that I was offering competitive rates of pay, creative input and good times. Someone on my feed put me in touch with a friend of theirs. He didn't have a website, but he did have a link to a fetlife profile. I took one look at his photo gallery and was sold.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Dreams of Spanking's newest star, Sebastian Hawley:

Sebastian switches, but was mostly interested in new encounters as a bottom, and had experience at modelling and acting. He's into deep D/S and service. Plus, look at that beautiful inkwork. I had to shoot him. All I needed now was someone to top.

My close friend Jimmy Holloway was my first male bottom, and since he's happy working with blokes I was originally looking for an open-minded male top to work with him. Sadly, however, he's not been available to bottom on film for most of the last couple of years, although he's been an absolute star behind the scenes and has done a lot of my camera work. And male tops willing to work with men have been few and far between. I've found a couple of straight male tops who would be happy doing it in a purely acting sort of way, but for sizzling screen chemistry (although none of my scenes are sexual - I like to put boys in restrained discipline scenarios) I ideally wanted to cast male performers who liked men.

So when Jimmy mentioned that he'd been enjoying exploring his switch side in private and would be interested in topping for me on film, I was overjoyed. And instantly desperate to see him and Sebastian together. Two handsome young men. Both a bit alternative. Both into power exchange. Both bisexual. It was literally a dream come true.

I invited both of them to contribute scene ideas, and between us we came up with several we could use. In the end, I decided to shoot two M/M scenes on the day, and wrap up with an F/MM scene with me topping both of them. I was a bit nervous about the topping part, but super keen to see a schoolroom scene with two boys which was as humane, sensitive and engaging as some of the schoolroom scenes in which girls share punishments together. 

The first scene was taken out of the book of my ultimate fantasy scenarios. A downtrodden young fag at a public school, and the bullying prefect who has the right to his labour. I think this scene borrows heavily from reading Roald Dahl's Boy at a young age. I have an image of the prefect wiping the mantelpiece with a white gloved finger while young Roald quakes in his shoes.

I didn't have the costume budget for the full Eton top hat and tails (that's one for further down the line), so my public school was a modern one. Hard to be historical when one of your actors has long hair, the other has large plug piercings and both have tattoos, anyway - the ink can be covered with long-sleeved uniforms but the rest is hard to hide.

(I'd had a great time ordering uniform for the boys off the internet, feeling like a proper pornographer as I asked their sizes and selected colours for them - matching maroon jumpers, blue long sleeved shirts, stripy red and black ties. Jimmy didn't own any grey trousers so I got him a pair of those too, which fitted so well that he declared them to be his new favourite going-out trousers. There's something fantastically decadent about purchasing kinky outfits for other people to wear. The uniforms are still folded neatly in my room and I get a mini-thrill whenever I look at them.)

We started out taking some portrait shots of Sebastian, showing off his beautiful celtic inkwork and getting him into some spanking-themed solo poses with his favourite heavy wooden paddle. Tricia Sullivan (who also took the beautiful introductory shots of Jimmy), one of my favourite female gaze photographers, was behind the camera, and I was directing - always a pleasure when I'm not having to perform at the same time. It was particularly lovely being able to direct a new spanking model with the benefit of all my experience - to be able to say "this will feel really unnatural, but it'll look great" and so on, with an empathy for the disjunction that often exists between what feels right and what looks right.

My fun behind the camera continued with the first M/M scene - the prefect and the fag, for which I was handling the video camera as well as directing.

I hadn't seen Jimmy top before, and I was instantly taken aback by his poise. His dialogue and pacing was perfect, and he struck the ideal balance between scary in-scene and reassuring and friendly out-of-scene.

I knew Sebastian didn't have much CP experience, so I'd written most of the scenes to be short and punchy, and we started with some hand spanking over his boxers to get him warmed up. His restrained hisses and gasps as he processed the sensations were absolutely delightful to watch from my point of view, and when his boxers came down he'd turned a lovely shade of cherry red.

Knowing how much he enjoyed service kink, I'd written some boot-blacking into the scene. Watching Sebastian at work was quite amazing: his focus and perfectionism created a crackling energy when set against Jimmy's performance as (in his own words) a "wonderful cunt".

For the next scene, I had them dressed in traditional upper class hunting outfit, breeks, moleskins, v-necked jumpers and all, playing well-to-do young men acting out the unfortunate consequences of a drunken wager. (Because all spanking scenarios are improved by class dynamics, obviously.) This was a tricky scene to roleplay, but the result was unexpectedly hilarious. Sebastian took twelve with the riding crop over his boxers, and Jimmy didn't mess about - he had some fantastic marks afterwards, which we captured in stills although they weren't shown off in the (terribly straight) video.

Finally, we played a schoolroom scene with me as the teacher and the boys as star pupils in my ethics and philosophy class. I wanted to write them a scene where they were in the right, despite being the bottoms - where they were punished for doing something interesting and honourable, in the sort of school scene which I myself like playing. So I was their young, slightly anxious form teacher, and they had cleverly sabotaged the school's new intrusive CCTV system as an act of non-violent protest. Sadly, the school's attitude to such vandalism was exactly the opposite of non-violent.

The tension in this scene was lovely, just lovely: they both looked beautifully young in their oversized jumpers; Jimmy made an obnoxiously fluent know-it-all teenager; and having someone to roleplay alongside gave Sebastian a new confidence with the improvisation. Despite being the top, I'd written myself a losing proposition - I wasn't going to win the argument, and my only recourse was institutional, rather than moral, authority.

Still, I got to give six memorable stripes to each of two lovely bottoms, which I admit I enjoyed rather more than I should have. The boys told me afterwards that they didn't mind too much, either.

So: two M/M scenes, one F/MM; a new confidence in topping for Jimmy and me; cute boys looking adorable in school uniform; an all-female crew and overall, one of the most stress-free shoots I've ever been on. Being behind the camera really is a completely different experience when you aren't also having to be in front of it; and not bottoming at all was surprisingly liberating.

Subbing on camera is still my primary interest, and I have no intentions of giving it up. But when I can find actors this hot to execute my ideas this well, there is a new and different pleasure in producing films which focus on others - especially if those others are male.

Relocated and undeterred

So, it's been two weeks since I last had a chance to update the blog - and an awful lot has happened in the meantime.

I've spent a lot more time with Adele Haze, who has performed for Dreams of Spanking as a switch and who is now helping me out with the web marketing side of things - much to my relief. (I'd much rather make films and photogalleries than publicise them, but the latter is just as necessary if you want anyone to see your creations.)

Relatedly, I've filmed an introductory video talking about my aims with this project, and the results should be ready to show you sometime soon. 

There's been some impromptu spanking filming too, when Tom suggested that we set up a camera during our Wednesday night date, and left it on during the scene that unfolded. That was a rather special experience... and the resulting hour-long romantic discipline/hard caning movie will be available to download from this site at launch.

While editing aforementioned movie, I spent long hours wrestling with new and exciting software issues - most notably the audio sync problems arising during the rendering of extended mp4s. After a couple of days' troubleshooting I've eventually abandoned mp4 as a format for long movies in favour of mpg (with wmv available as an alternative for those who prefer it).

I've made progress with the site build, including choosing a design for the site subsections (with the help of lovely kinky friends including Jimmy, Adele and Ella as well as Tom and D) and starting work on the CMS templating. Designing for your own project is a strangely mixed process. On the one hand, if you have a clear vision and know exactly what you want, you can head straight for it rather than having to waste time exploring other options. On the other, when options inevitably arise, it can be impossible to make a decision. Even when I think I have a clear idea of what I want, I often find myself creating a whole sequence of viable alternatives - and creating options is much easier than choosing between them! Throughout this process I've been soliciting opinions from close friends, and I'm grateful to everyone who's given me feedback, offered advice and helped me clarify my vision.

But none of that is the big news - not really.

The big news is that a week ago, Tom and I found ourselves suddenly (but not entirely unexpectedly) homeless for several complicated reasons. The intervening time has been spent packing, consolidating, planning and moving. Our household is now packed into a locked metal cube in a warehouse of identical locked metal cubes - truly a surreal experience. Tom's staying with friends for the time being, and I'm presuming upon the hospitality of D, who is generously sharing his bed and his internet connection for long enough for me to launch the site and find my feet. Hooray for polyamory, and the reinforced support networks it can offer.

The upheaval couldn't have come at a worse time in terms of my schedule for getting Dreams of Spanking live, and it's likely to put the launch date back by a week or so. But I'm back online now and raring to go. Living in London again for a little while is no bad thing for me, and sharing space with D while we work together on the site build should make some things easier. Come the new year, everything will hopefully be more settled. In the meantime I have a lot of work still to do on the site, and after a week being forced to attend to more mundane concerns I can't wait to get stuck back in.

To celebrate, I want to share a free photo gallery of yours truly, in which I'm dreaming of ... well, you can probably guess.

CHECKING THIS SHOWS UP

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