OUR BLOG

Call For Submissions – Trans Fiction Anthology

Trans Fiction Anthology (with a focus on sexuality)*

This book has now been published. The call will stay here for archival purposes. You can buy the book at www.instarbooks.com/books/nerve-endings.html

Editor: Tobi Hill-Meyer
Publisher: Instar Books
Deadline Extended! – May 16th, 2016.
Payment: $50.00 & a copy of the book (there are plans for a kickstarter campaign, which if successful, will raise the payment to be $100)

Deadline Extended! You can now continue to submit until May 16th!

The theme of this anthology is to address the personally and politically significant issues around sexuality and dating in trans community through erotic fiction. Too often trans erotica has been written from a cis perspective, with a cis reader in mind, addressing cis concerns about trans people, but not trans concerns. Let’s create fiction that truly feels like trans people’s stories, addressing the issues and concerns you see as significant in your trans communities.

Stories might have characters dealing directly with trans issues related to sex, like dysphoria, ignorant hook up partners, or things that come up when dating another trans person. Or perhaps a story might have a strong trans community setting, like in a trans activist group, or at a queer and trans event. Maybe your characters discuss local politics, sex workers’ rights, and black lives matter. But also, feel free to have it be more subtle. Maybe your characters are dealing with a sense of being de-valued that they can’t put their finger on. Maybe your story isn’t about them being trans at all, and your characters have deep and unique backgrounds, yet their experiences are still influenced by being trans. Or perhaps your story takes a common trope about trans people and turns it on it’s head.

My goal is to have a wide spectrum of stories, so don’t be afraid to submit something painful alongside more positive content. Reading a story that powerfully illuminates a hard experience many of us have had to deal with can be just as affirming as having positive models for how things can turn out well. So feel free to cover topics like abuse, a friend’s suicide, and violence. Happy endings are definitely appreciated, but not required. The resilience of the trans community is a big part of our strength. At the same time, fiction is a great opportunity to envision the how we would like to see the world.

To that point, sci-fi, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction are happily welcomed. Just be careful to avoid the common trap of putting characters that are essentially cis in unusual gender experiences and expecting it to speak to trans audiences. I’m excited to see how you might imagine trans experiences in alternative societies, trans-humanist genders, post apocalyptic survival, and gender in a world of super powers and magic — as long as the story itself remains relevant to actual trans people’s experiences.

Requirements

  • All submissions must be sent through the submission form below
  • Cis people are welcome to submit, please indicate your connection to trans community in the submission form
  • Preferred Length: 2000-5000 words
  • Word documents are preferred and should be double-spaced, using a 12-point font, and one inch margins.
  • txt and rtf files are suitable alternatives to word documents
  • Multiple submissions are accepted, at a maximum of three per author.
  • Late submissions accepted on until final selection made
  • Inquiries can be sent to Tobi@HandbasketProductions.com

Additional notes

  • Stories with asexual characters are welcomed.
  • Please avoid having an all white cast of characters unless you have a reason for it and address race in the story
  • Stories written from a trans perspective are usually preferred. If you’re writing from a cis perspective, be sure you have a clear reason and avoid long inner monologues of transphobic thinking.
  • Be sure to avoid reproducing common tropes about trans characters (or twist them in meaningful ways)
  • Be creative, draw inspiration from your experiences or the experiences of the trans people in your life, but don’t submit memoir or manifesto.

*Note: The title in this call was originally “Trans Erotic Fiction with Substance (Working Title).” The anthology itself is still, as of yet, untitled. I took out the word “erotic” because it seemed like too many people were being discouraged from contributing something because they saw “erotica” as a specific genre that their work falls outside of. What I am looking for is trans fiction, with a focus on themes of sexuality and relationships. Sex scenes don’t have to be intricate (although they certainly can be). If you want to write a story that only describes sex with a sentence or two, and instead focuses on the role of sexuality in the relationship the characters are in, please submit it. You don’t have to deliver a blow by blow of their sex, and your story doesn’t have to be something the reader will masturbate to – Although it certainly could be. I hope to receive a range of submissions. Traditional erotica is certainly welcomed and encouraged, but even in those cases stories with well developed and compelling characters who’s experiences and relationships impart something meaningful will be prioritized. Hopefully shifting of this call to Trans Fiction Anthology will help clarify the broader range of what I am looking for.

 

Support DoingItOnline on Patreon

mo8Ei_support_videos_with_logoI’m really excited to see the Patreon support for Doing It Online take off. In it’s first month, 50 people pledged enough money to finance a new episode every other month! If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, go look at the different rewards and the youtube-safe video at my patreon page. (Note: you can’t find it by searching or even google searching because it’s tagged as “NSFW” and they removed search-ability, so don’t lose that link.)

Earlier this year, looking over website memberships I had to wonder if I’d have to shut down later this year. The success already happenening gives me new optimism that this series is something that could not only keep going but that I could dedicate new energy into. Although I do want to remind you that the bare-bones budget level that we’re at right now does *not* include paying myself even while it means I have to take up the slack from not being able to hire certain help. That keeps things going for now and helps me get through the backlog of episodes that have been shot but need to be edited, however, to be able to sustain this long term and keep shooting new content we’ll need to bring more and more supporters on board.

2014 Tobi casualI really do rely on your support to make this happen. Thanks to all the people signing up for memberships starting at just $3.42/mo, but you don’t need any money to help support this project. I could really use some help getting the word out there about it.

  • Post about it – use any social media to let people know about this series. But more than just re-posting the link it’s your endorsement that makes a big difference. Including just a few words about why this project is important to you makes a big difference.
  • Share my short autobiographical film about my experience in mainstream porn and how it inspired me to create a better alternative.
  • Let people know about the free membership program
  • Write a review – contact me at Tobi@HandbasketProductions.com to request a review copy or free month membership to review. And be sure to let me know when you’ve posted a review so that I can point people to it.
  • Recommend it to a friend. Mention it in conversation, send an email, or whatever. It’s easy for folks to miss or ignore things in the constant social media stream. This works especially great if you’re not comfortable posting about sexually explicit content on your social media.
  • Tell your writer/blogger/podcast friends about it — send them my press release. From the trans empowerment angle, to the tech aspects of how Patreon is a game-changer, to the rise from rejected mainstream porn performer to indy porn and erotic art producer, there are several interesting stories folks could tell around me and my work, and I’m happy to do interviews.
  • Send some fan mail to me at Tobi@HandbasketProductions.com – it really means a lot to me when I hear from you that you appreciate the work I do. Sometimes it can seem like I’m someone who’s “made it” because I have my creative works out in the world, but really it continues to be a struggle just to keep moving on the next project. It can get tiring and sometimes and what keeps me going is knowing the impact I’m having on people’s lives.

I know that this project couldn’t exist without community support, and I’m grateful to have a community that values this kind of work as much as I do.

How to Edit a Scene with Fisting

I’m editing an episode right now and trying to figure out how to handle the fisting. When I shot it, I had no intention of making a political statement or getting drawn into a controversy. I simply have a policy of always allowing the performers I work with to choose what kinds of sex they engage in. I want people to be able to gravitate towards the sex that they are most into and that really gets them hot. So when Kimberly Gray and Jiz Lee made fisting the center piece of the sex they were having for their episode in Doing it Again, my only reaction was to get excited about how engaged they were, how they were having a ton of fun with each other, and how they were modeling excellent communication, walking each other through the intricacies of their bodies and their ability to receive a fist.

It was almost a year later that I found myself with a distribution deal with a mainstream distributor and the gears began to turn as I slowly realized they might have a problem with fisting. Suddenly I have a decision on my hands. I can still release an uncensored version on my website, but for the DVD will I have to try to edit out the fisting? Would there be anything left?

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The best advice I got was to zoom and crop the video so that the actual penetration was not visible. Just show faces, reactions, and the shots from other angles so you can’t really see what’s going on. But here’s the thing – I’m all about explicitly discussing what’s going on in a scene. One of my favorite things to do is I interview performers and edit their discussion of what they were doing right into the sex they are having in the final edit of an episode. The more I thought about it, I realized that if I had to edit out all visible fisting, I would at least want to tell the audience with interviews and voiceover what kind of sex is happening.

I expect my audience to be smart. They’ll know something is up if two thirds of the sex is angled to obscure the actual sex going on. And if they are told that they are watching someone get fisted, I know that immediately they are going to want to get a closer look and will want to know why I’m not including one. So to give my audience the respect they deserve, I feel I’ve got to include discussion of that censorship as well. Once I realized that, I knew that I had the perfect concept for the episode.

As much as anything else this episode will be about the censorship of fisting. I went back and shot additional interview footage with Jiz discussing how the fisting might get edited out. We talked about why fisting is important to them and why they care about fisting being cut out of their scene. It goes into all the detail you might see from all these articles here on fisting day. And that’s going to be included whether the episode gets censored or not. Because either way, it’s a conversation we need to be having and I think it’s worth having that conversation not just around porn, but in porn itself.

Fiction: Self Reflection

This story was originally written 2009 and has appeared in Best Lesbian Erotica 2010, Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica, and Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction.

selfreflectionweb

The resemblance is uncanny. At first I don’t notice anything because her short blonde hair standing in spikes is so different from my own dark curls working their way to my hips. Yet something about the way she holds herself draws me in. She clearly doesn’t mind standing out in the crowd. She’s wearing baggy pants with a tight-fitting tank top and a leather jacket with the word Dyke embroidered on the back. In this moderately conservative town, her outfit clearly screams “Fuck you!” at the straight world. At the same time it enticingly coos “Fuck me!” to the queer world.

I stop and can’t help but stare as everyone else walks by. As she gets closer, I begin to notice little things. Her face is fairly distinct from mine, but there are definite similarities. Then when I catch her eye she flashes a particular smile at me: a crooked half smile that I’ve never seen on anyone but me before.

“That looks like my smile,” I say with a touch of amazement in my voice.

“It is your smile,” she replies.

I stare at her dumbfounded for a moment, not sure what she means by that. Then the other pieces begin to fall together: The same arc of her eyebrows. The same look she’s giving me right now. The same skin tone. The same double-Venus symbol tattoo just below the left side of her collarbone. The same smart-ass tone of voice she’s using with me. She is even wearing a handmade Trans Pride button I designed.

“You’re me,” I say, “Aren’t you?” She sits down on a bench next to me and takes her jacket off. I notice the embroidery again. It’s a technique I’ve been learning, but it’s far tighter and more orderly than my skill can produce. I look at her eyes and see small laugh lines beginning to develop. “…But older.”

“You’re a smart study, I never doubted that,” she says, smiling.

“Does that mean you’re from the future? How does that work? Can you tell me about what happens? Why are you here?”

She laughs for a moment. It’s odd to hear my own laugh. It sounds different when it isn’t coming from my own head. “I’m not really supposed to tell you those kinds of things. I’m not really sure how it all works myself.” She leans over and in a hushed tone says, “But you might want to transfer your inheritance money out of the stock market before the end of 2007.”

“It’s 2009.”

“Oh, well, you’ll be fine. You’ll get by without the money anyway.” She gets up and pulls me into a more secluded space. The crowds disappear.

“So if you’re not here to give me a message or a warning, what are you here for then?”

“I need a reason to visit now?” The joke seems more odd than funny. “The truth is that I’m here for a while before I can move on, and I don’t really know anyone else here. I figured I might as well look you up. You’d understand better than anyone else we know. In 2012, I visited Mom and she almost had a heart attack.”

I don’t know why, but it kinda makes sense to me. I look back at her. She glances at the ground, and for a moment her face looks very tired and somewhat sad. I don’t understand anything that’s happening, but I realize that I don’t need to. I put my arm around her shoulder. She looks back at me and smiles again, then embraces me in a long, comforting hug.

“Somehow I knew you’d understand.” She looks at me a moment longer. “You said it was 2009. Does that mean you’re dating Saphira right now?”

“For a year and a half.”

“And you don’t know Cayne yet?”

I think for a moment, then nod.

“And you’re still poly, right?”

“Yep.” I cock my head to the side. I can’t really imagine a future where I’m not poly.

“Good, I just had to make sure. You can’t always assume that all the details are still the same.” She pauses then shoots me a smoldering look. “Anyway, if that’s all true, then unless I’m mistaken, you haven’t seen a trans cunt up close yet.”

I perk up. “No, but I’ve been curious.”

“That’s another reason I wanted to stop by,” she says, looking me up and down. “How would you like me to give you the opportunity?”

“No way,” I say in disbelief, “But I’m non-op.”

“You might be, but I’m not.”

I’ve thought off and on about how I’d like to check out a trans cunt up close, but I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to just go ask someone. Having my future self here creates a valuable new opportunity. Before I know it we are back at my place, in my bedroom.

She gets on the bed and starts to take her pants off. A pulse of excitement runs through my body. Everything feels surreal. Like I’m not even sure if it’s happening or not.

“Before we begin, we should check in about things. Part of why I haven’t had the chance to do this yet,” I explain, “is because as much as I want to know what it can look like and what it can feel like, the more significant part to me is that I really want to explore the sensation of it, how it feels to you.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of that, Sweetie. Why do you think I came? I might get some details wrong now and then, but I know you inside and out. I came here because what you want is what I want. Besides,” she adds, “you’re a hottie and I’ve been envisioning this scenario for a while.”

I smile at her. Suddenly I realize, regardless of the trippy context, I’ve got a strong and brazen beauty in my bed who knows every one of my desires and wants to play through them with me. This is hot.

She finishes taking off her pants. I glance down. Her legs have a different shape to them, probably due to a few extra years on hormones. That’s not all I notice.

“Where did you get those scars on your legs?”

“The big one on the outside of my thigh was from a fight—don’t worry, I messed him up even more. The smaller ones are from cutting.” She watches me closely. I think she’s looking for a reaction, but I’m not sure how I’m feeling. “You don’t need to do that, by the way, if you can find a better alternative.”

I decide that a minimal reaction is best. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

She must see my awkwardness with the topic and redirects us. “Come and get a closer look.”

I move forward to look at her. The pattern of pubic hair is somewhat sparse, and I can see her labia underneath it fairly well. I glance up and notice her staring at me. I can feel myself blushing.

“It really is okay to touch it,” she tells me.

I don’t know why I’m being so hesitant. I pull her labia to the side and take a closer look. Her clit is actually pretty cute. Her bits really look like any other cunt I’ve seen, as unique as any other. “What made you decide to do it?” I ask.

“I realized that I had always been interested. I had just thought that if I had a spare twenty grand hanging around that I might have better use to put it to. But there are some real benefits to it. I don’t have any problems in clothing optional space anymore, and I can go stealth in locker rooms, with Michigan festies, or even with one-night stands.”

“You’re stealth now?”

“Only for a few hours at a time.” She flashes me my crooked smile again. “But I suppose the main two factors that pushed me over the edge were that my healthcare plan covered it—actually Saphira’s health plan—but most health plans cover it now. And that I didn’t want the risk of getting placed in a men’s prison again.”

It takes a moment for me to catch the significance of again. I should be disturbed by it, but for some reason I’m simply concerned. I look up at her questioningly, hoping for more explanation.

“Oh shit, that was insensitive of me. I didn’t mean to tell you like that. But don’t worry, I already took precautions to prevent it from happening to you.”

“How did it happen to you?”

“It’s a long story I’d rather not talk about. Let’s just say it had to do with an abusive partner and survival crime. Life sucked for a while, but I got through it and I’m stronger now than I was then.”

I can see the pain again. She’s been hurt a lot. I wonder if, despite her mysterious precautions, that will happen to me.

“Hey, mind if we get back to the fun stuff? I know you’d love to see me get off, and I’ve actually been wanting to try this for a while.”

I smile back at her and let her change the subject. “I’ll grab the gloves.”

“Hmm, that brings up an interesting question. I wonder if it’s possible for me to give you anything? That seems like it would be a bit of a paradox.”

I think about it a moment. “There’s enough paradoxes floating around already. Besides, it’s a part of my agreement with Saphira.”

“Oh, certainly. Of course. I just get curious. Those kinds of things are hard to figure out.”

I move closer to her and run my hand up her leg.

“Before you start…” She beckons me over. I come to her side and she pulls my head toward her and kisses me on the forehead. “Have fun, darling.”

A little more relaxed, I cup my hand over her cunt and hold still a moment. Then I back off slightly and give her some light and teasing touches. She responds positively, with a slight shudder and a sigh. A smile comes to my face. I’m getting really turned on. I run my tongue over her thigh. Then I turn my focus to mapping her vulva with the tips of my fingers, enjoying every tactile sensation.

Once I’m satisfied I slip on a glove and douse my hand in lube.

I move my hand between her legs and find her opening. After rubbing the lube around a bit, I slide a finger in. Her eyes flutter as she takes a breath. It went in easily.

I feel around a bit, drinking in every sensation I can. I’m in up to my last knuckle. She’s moaning softly. I back out to insert another finger. This time she gasps. I do a come-hither motion and she arches her back.

“There, oh fuck, yeah,” she says between breaths, which are coming faster and harder. “Please, right there.”

“You’re a lot of fun to play with.” With my other hand I squeeze her clit between her labia and rub it. She lets out a series of staccato breaths. Encouraged, I increase my pace. She writhes under me.

A moment later I slow to add another finger. I push all three in as deep as I can. She starts lifting up to me and I can feel how much her cunt wants me.

“Oh, yes,” she cries. “That’s what I need, fill me more.”

I use a fourth finger as well. There’s more resistance and I slow, then drizzle more lube over her cunt. It takes some time, then I can feel her cunt opening up, begging to swallow my fist.

“Try your whole hand.”

Doing as she says, I tuck my thumb under my other fingers and press in. I’m in awe and not sure if it will work, but I keep the pressure on. As her moans and movement build, my hand slips into her. She’s gasping. I’m filled with a sense of amazement. Her pulse beats around me.

She reaches down to stimulate her own clit. Her whole body is tensing and pulsing. I can feel it as her cunt clenches around my fist. I hold her hip tightly as her body rocks. Then she’s spasming. I feel her cunt quiver around me. Her abs tense and she almost sits up. Then her body slumps back and goes slack.

I take the cue to slowly remove my fist. When I finally am out she lets out a long breath. I lie down on the bed next to her and she puts her arms around me.

“A thousand throngs of thundering thespians, goddamn, I needed that!” She gives me a peck on the cheek. “It’s been a while.”

“Of course. I should be thanking you.”

“You really are an adorable sweetie. I kinda miss that part of me.” She brushes the hair out of my eyes. “So, what do you think?”

“That was incredible. When did you get it?”

“In 2015. As soon as I could after I got out.”

“You know, I don’t think you lost it,” I say, “the sweet caring part of yourself, I mean.” I lean over and give her a kiss. She’s somewhat surprised at first, then kisses me back with a gentle tenderness that makes my heart swoon. I run my hand through her hair and kiss her harder.

I roll over her and run my hand down her side. Her hand moves up under my shirt and scratches my back. The sharp sensation intensifies the arousal I’m feeling. Her fingers find and undo the snap of my bra.

She gets my shirt off and cups one of my breasts in her hand. She pinches my nipple between her middle and ring finger. I moan. She twists. I gasp and pull back slightly. I’m disoriented for a moment, then she pushes me onto my back and is sitting on top of me and holding a royal blue dildo.

“The Empress! You still have her after all these years?”

“Of course. When you form a psychological connection with one of these babies, it doesn’t go away easily.” She leans over me. “You did such a nice job with me just now, how would you like it if I returned the favor?”

“Please.”

She gets off the bed and walks around by my feet. She’s wearing a strap-on harness, but I don’t remember her putting it on. I grab the lube and spread some on myself. Kneeling at the foot of the bed, she lifts my legs into the air and leans over me.

She kisses my ankle and guides the Empress to my ass. I’m hungry and ready for her. She pushes the tip into me. I moan. She holds still for a moment while I adjust. Minute by minute, inch by inch, my ass swallows her. When she knows I’ve had enough time, she pulls almost all the way out, only to sink deep into me in one fluid motion.

I arch myself into her and she alternates between a few slow thrusts and several faster ones. I let out a slow groan. She reaches down with one hand to play with my breasts. As I get more into things she shifts her position so she’s lying on top of me and kisses my neck. She’s panting.

“How much can you get out of using that?”

“Quite a bit, actually.” She moans into my ear while making several quick thrusts in succession as if to demonstrate. She grips my hair and grinds her hips into me. Her head lifts up and leans back. She’s a lot louder. Her energy is intensifying, then suddenly she downshifts and returns to her previous patter.

She smiles at me. “A little more of that, and I could have come.”

After a while I roll us over so that I’m on top. I’ve got room to touch my bits now. She’s still thrusting up into me. Everything feels so good. She’s staring straight into my eyes with such intensity and focus. The sensation is arcing. Waves of pleasure crash over my body. I collapse onto her. A tingling sensation is still making its way back and forth over my spine. I wrap my arms under her back and clutch her to me.

After it subsides I lift myself up and pull the dildo out. I snuggle up to her side. “Damn, I love you,” I say.

“I love you, too.” She laughs. “But seriously, I’m really glad you still think I’m worthy of your love.”

“I don’t think you’ve changed as much as you think you have. At least not in the important ways.”

“Keep that in mind,” she says. “You and I, we’re resilient. I’ve been through a lot. A lot that I hope you don’t have to deal with. But even with all that, you can still love the self that I’ve become. I hope you never stop loving the self that you are.”

It’s a rather beautiful sentiment. “Is that the message you came here to give me?”

“Maybe.” She grins and looks to the side. “Hey, you wanna try something really weird?” She pounces back onto me and changes the subject, a habit I hadn’t noticed about myself before. It’s also interesting to realize how much bubbly energy she has, and I wonder if I’m like that too. She interrupts my thoughts and holds up a condom. “I’m creaming all over at the thought of you fucking me with your bits—if you feel comfortable with it.”

I smiled. “I like how you think.”

We keep going like that for who knows how long. We try everything we can think of. I’m getting to know her body really well, and she already knows mine. Occasionally we take breaks and she tells me more about her life. Time slips by. It’s hard to keep one moment distinct from the next. I don’t remember it becoming night, but suddenly it’s morning. I must have fallen asleep.

I feel arms around me. I turn around to kiss my future self, but she’s not there. Instead, it’s Saphira. She’s awake and kisses me.

“Saphira, when did you get here?”

“I got back really late last night and you had already fallen asleep. You looked so happy I didn’t want to wake you.”

Now that I’m more awake, I think I realize what happened. Oh well, I say to myself. I guess I can never deny being vain again.

“I had a thought last night, darling.” It would be nice to keep my options open. “What would it take for me to be on your health plan?”

Systems of Ethics in Porn

Courtney has been having some great conversation in their asks about ethical porn and I think this really highlights how much people may have different priorities for what makes something ethical.  Academic discussions of feminist ethics in porn from the past tend to focus around a media analysis lens and avoiding what has been named as problems: objectification, looking at body parts and not whole bodies, not having facial come shots, showing male and female pleasure in equal amounts. Wth this media analysis perspective, it tends to be very audience-centered.

Fair-TradeA lot of my background is responding to these issues and applying a strong feminist media analysis lens to my own work. But I also recognize that that’s not what makes something ethical. What one viewer may see as objectification and unequal representation of pleasure, the performers may see and a specifically negotiated scene that respects their boundaries around being stone and wanting to be anonymous. The viewer centered lens can lead to some odd situations, like when one person saw one scene I directed and voiced a concern that the white woman was being dominant and the woman of color was being submissive – a concern quickly alleviated when I explained I had no role in that decision and it was about the specific desires and choices of the performers. That’s why even though I keep a strong media analysis lens on my work, my ethics are always performer centered.

Courtney is bringing up yet another concern of ethics, which I might call economic centered, and it’s a real legitimate concern.  I know plenty of performers who’s primary concern around ethics of the productions they work with is if they are getting paid fair market value for their labor – which unfortunately is not possible for most feminist porn production companies.  We can pay fair market value for the sub-industry of feminist porn work, but we can’t match mainstream industry standards. As someone committed to ethics in porn production, this is a very difficult and frustrating situation to be in.  One that is made worse by our target demographics’ hesitancy to spend money on porn. For one, when you’re catering to queers, women, and trans people in particular, our community tends not to have as much “disposable income,” but additionally I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone express the sentiment, “Why would anyone pay for porn when there’s so much free porn out there?”

Well, I’ll tell you just from my own budget, I’m waiting on sales from current projects to see when I can shoot again. Working on Doing it Again has maxed out my budget. Yet I’ve got literally a hundred applicants who really want to do a shoot.  As well as a dozen performers I’d love to work with but can’t afford and who I worry about insulting with an offer to perform at the rates I can afford.  Economics can be a significant sticking point when it comes to ethics.  Ironically, it’s an area that the “ethical porn” production companies typically fail at. I admit that I’ve had a major problem in that area – hell after working five years establishing my production company, I’ve never actually paid myself and only reinvested profits from sales into the next project.* That’s a tenuous situation I’ve come to realize I can’t continue.

All this is to say that there is that being ethical is not a binary yes/no kind of question. I don’t know of a single production company that gets all of these issues right. That’s true for porn, and for Hollywood, and for indie-films, and the tech industry, and the garment industry, and pretty much every single industry in this capitalist world we live in. It’s certainly better to strive to act ethically. But for someone to say that their work is ethical without question, or to point fingers at someone else’s work that’s unethical, it’s really important to break that down.  What exactly are we talking about? Ethical compared to what? Ethical for who?

 

 

 

 

 

*Full disclosure: I haven’t been “paid” but I have used Handbasket funds to cover travel to conferences, cover some food at shoots or on the road, buy a computer, and other totally legitimate business expenses. So that’s kinda a form of compensation, but still nothing that could help with my rent or something like that. I also have benefited from the accompanying notoriety in order to get other paying gigs. So whether or not I’m being compensated is kind of a gray area and depends on your interpretation of accounting. Still, it kind of feels like an unpaid internship for myself in that kind of “working for the exposure” kind of way.

Racial Caricatures in Video Games

I engage in a range of media criticism and today I want to talk about video games.  Recently I’ve fallen into playing a lot of Hero Academy, a turn based mobile game where you pit your heroes against another player’s team. It appeals to my sense of strategy, enjoyment of number crunching, and ability to plan many moves forward. However, I can’t help but groan at the racial stereotypes embedded in it.

The default team – The Council – is based on D&D characters and are all white/European with the exception of an inexplicable ninja, a few of the other teams are built around racial stereotypes. The orc team – The Tribe – is shock full of indigenous tropes. Most frustrating is the ‘shaman,’ who’s entire face is a wooden mask that changes expression as if it is the characters actual face. He’s accompanied by the warrior, the witch, and the chieftain. Being indigenous myself, I sighed in disappointment, but it’s not much that worse than what I call “background level racism,” so I tried to deal with it and move on.

But then I discovered the “Shaolin” team. Each character is extremely light skinned despite obviously being made to be Asian. I’ll spare you the details except for the teams healer: “The Toaist.” He carries a magic wand and can heal and resurrect allies. When upgraded he gets a hat with a ying yang symbol on it – which I know it can’t be, but looks suspiciously like a Chinese takeout container on his head. And when making a charged up attack words appear on the screen announcing “ToaPIST!” Get it? Because he’s pissed off. I don’t know a lot about Taoism, but even I know that it’s a terrible idea to have this guy running around the battle field, harnessing the power of rage, and waving a magic wand around to bring people back from the dead.

I know that European religious practices have had their place in these reductive games, but the standard role of a cleric or a priest doesn’t quite compare. It’s the specificity, as well as just how wrong they get it that is so painful in this case. The “cleric” is purposefully kept generic and could be of any of the made up D&D religions. It’s not meant to represent the religious/spiritual practice of an actual people in the real world. Imagine if they instead included a character named, “The Protestant,” who wore a large hat, similar to the Pope’s and attacked people by swinging incense balls. He would wave his hand and sparkles would shoot from his fingertips as he brings people back to life. And whenever he made a charged up attack it said “Protest-AIN’T TAKIN’ YOUR SHIT!” or maybe “Prostes-TURN THE OTHER CHEEK SO I CAN KICK IT!”

I know some folks won’t get why this is worth complaining about. I can’t tell you how often I’m tempted just to ignore it and try to enjoy my game. But this shit is pervasive. I got this game from Humble Bundle where previously I found myself playing through “Swords and Soldiers,” where you play as “Aztecs, Vikings, and Chinese,” with all the same tired tropes and stereotypes. This isn’t just offensive, this is lazy, boring, and totally unoriginal. People rely on these tropes and reductive stereotypes because they can’t be bothered to think of something more compelling. Instead of having real characters with compelling stories, they choose to rely upon images and caricatures they expect people to already be familiar with.

However,  those caricatures resonate with people because of the power that has been placed into them. Even when they include reductive silly images of white people it’s never on equal ground. “Smuggle Truck,” another game I was introduced to through Humble Bundle, has you playing as a truck driver smuggling immigrants across the US border – callously tossing your passengers out of the pickup truck bed along the bumpy ride, and trying to catch newborn “anchor babies” thrown into the air along the way. It may seem silly and over the top, but these images hold weight and the power to affect people’s lives in a way that a BBQ obsessed Viking does not. I’m tired of this.

I’ve seen it one too many times. I challenge developers and anyone creating media to hold themselves to a higher standard. Come up with unique ideas and characters. If you must rely on caricatures, limit yourself to the more neutral and generic. And get some feedback from people with a critical race analysis. Most games have some pretty extensive play testing to make sure there aren’t any bugs before they are released. Can you imagine if there was just a process for finding and rooting out racism, sexism, and other oppressive power systems? If game makers invested even one tenth of their playtesting process to this, things would be very different, that’s for sure. raceandgames

Sex and Coffee Interview

Towards the end of November I got to be interviewed on KTNF radio for Sex and Coffee, a weekly radio show hosted by Jennifer and Hannah from Smitten Kitten.  Well, with everything going on to get Doing it Again, Vol 1 released I neglected to post the link – until now!

The entire interview is included, embedded below.  Check it out, and if you want to hear more from them, you can like their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SexAndCoffeeShow

Sex and Coffee

Sex Conference Un-invites Keynote Speaker For Being Too Racy?

Tristan Taormino was scheduled to keynote the upcoming Modern Sex conference hosted by Oregon State University, with a talk entitled “Claiming Your Sexual Power.”tristan-taormino.jpgThis past Monday, January 17th, university administrators decided to refuse funding for her talk and the conference was forced to cancel her appearance – after she had already purchased airline tickets on the promise of being reimbursed, which presumably won’t be happening.

When the news hit the blogosphere the following day, the university was silent on their reasoning and have not yet released a statement regarding the cancellation. The university communications person I spoke with informed me that the appointed spokesperson was sent out of town for most of the day and when I did eventually get in touch with him he was not prepared to offer a response. I’ll update this post with a response when I receive one.

The only information from OSU has come from anonymous sources who Tristan reports having spoken to who oppose the decision but are afraid to say so publicly for fear of their job security. One of those sources did, however, state that the decision was because of her “website and resume.”

It leads me to question, if a resume of authoring seven books on sex and relationships, editing 18 anthologies, numerous television appearances, 75 university lectures, and a variety of awards for her writing, sex education, and filmmaking is cause for rejecting an already booked speaker, what kind of keynote was the university expecting for a conference about sex?

There is speculation that the reason for the cancellation is due to her work in the porn industry. If so, the university has overstepped significantly in this case. First off, the talk is not about porn whatsoever and to make hiring decisions based on a contractor’s other unrelated employment sets a dangerous precedent around academic freedom. Secondly, if there was ever a conference where it is appropriate to invite a feminist pornographer to talk about their work, it would be a feminist conference titled Modern Sex. And finally, to turn away a feminist pornographer while allowing Playboy to annually spend a week on campus recruiting for the “Hottest Girls of the Pac-10″ smacks of a horrific double standard.

The ironic part is that while Tristan’s speech was not about feminist porn, I will be presenting at the conference on that exact topic – and showing clips. I suppose the difference is that because as a workshop presenter I won’t be getting paid, that means they couldn’t simply cancel the funding.

Tristan’s press release, quoted below, includes three different university administrators to contact for those who would like to take action on the issue.

Note from Tristan:
Don’t Let the Anti-Sex Conservatives Win!

If you support free speech and my mission of sexual empowerment, please voice your opinion about OSU’s decision to cancel my appearance at the last minute (and not reimburse me for travel expenses) to the following people. I would really appreciate your support –Tristan

Larry Roper
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
632 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2154
541-737-3626 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: larry.roper@oregonstate.edu

Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi
Dean of Student Life
A200 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2133
541-737-8748 (phone)
541-737-9160 (fax)
email: deanofstudents@oregonstate.edu
twitter: @deanmamta

Dr. Edward J. Ray
President
600 Kerr Administration Building
Corvallis, OR 97331-2128
541-737-4133 (phone)
541-737-3033 (fax)
email: pres.office@oregonstate.edu

Update: the OSU finally has responded. As reported on The Portland Mercury’s blog:

University spokesman Todd Simmons says the school is “committed to free speech and open discussion” but that the higher-up administration did not get a clear picture of all of Taormino’s work when the contract was originally okayed. The school decided it wasn’t financially prudent to “use taxpayer funds to bring in a speaker who is a self-described pornographer and has a significant online business selling pornography.” The other speakers in the conference, he says, are presenting for free, so there’s no issue about use of money.

“I expect if the funders of the event had a complete picture of her work, the invitation wouldn’t have been extended to begin with,” says Simmons, who heard that her contract was for $3,000. Taormino is out that money, but the school says it will reimburse her for travel costs since she already bought her ticket out here to speak at the school.

It seems true that this is just about money, but that’s quite an assumption for the OSU to make. The University claims that they’d expect “the funders” would not wish to contract with a pornographer, but did they ever ask them? Who are the funders? Can we ask them? What do the students think? Can we ask them? And ultimately, this means that academic speakers and lecturers will now be subject to a purity litmus test before being deemed worthy of contributing to the free and open discussion — even for a conference on sex and sexuality.

Doing it Ourselves Background Vision

DIO Trailer (hi res)This was written a few years ago when I first started casting for Doing it Ourselves.  It’s been posted on handbasketproductions.com since then, but I’m about to redesign the website so it makes sense to archive it here.

 

Background and Context

Mainstream pornography is a field rife with criticism about sexism, racism, objectification, and exploitation.  There is also a fairly strong history of activists confronting these issues by stepping up to make porn that better suits a feminist and oppression-aware perspective.

Most people are aware that the mainstream representation of “girl-on-girl” pornography is often considered “fake” lesbians.  Such representations include a variety of inaccuracies and stereotypes.  But the problem does not rest with the performers.  In fact, many actresses who do “girl-on-girl” are lesbian, bi, or queer, however, they rarely have any decision making power.  Straight men produce the porn for a straight male audience that thinks of the actresses only in terms of fulfilling a fantasy.  The performers must conform to the unrealistic expectations of the straight male imagination or get another job.

In response to that, there is now a decent infrastructure for queer-woman-made porn that offers everything “girl-on-girl” does not.  It has real people, real emotions, real sex.  There is even a recent growth in trans men-made porn.  Yet trans women in porn are still represented only within mainstream porn production that is constricted by unrealistic expectations about what a trans woman is and a society that regularly sees trans women only as a more objectifiable kind of woman.

Having been in mainstream trans women porn myself, I know just how unrealistic it is.  While I appreciated the individuals I worked with, I resented being referred to in derogatory terms, requirements that my body perform on command, and being asked to do things that are physically impossible for many trans women but have become standard in the industry.  I felt like I had to strip away every symbol of my queerness and do my best to mimic the way trans women and women in general are thought of in male fantasy.

The opportunity for something better has existed for some time.  For one reason or another, trans women are virtually never represented in dyke- or trans men- made porn, and trans women have not begun directing porn themselves.

 

Vision

This particular set of circumstances and moment in history creates an opportunity to make great change.  I envision creating a film that continues the tradition of minorities reclaiming imagery of their own sexuality.  I hope this film will begin fill the void of feminist, oppression aware, and trans woman-made porn and be sold on store shelves that.  To my knowledge, this is the first film of it’s kind.

The creation of this film has been guided by a vision where trans women represent themselves and have the support and freedom to do so accurately, which aims to shatter the stereotypes and misconceptions about trans women’s sexuality that exist in queer communities, and show how hot trans women and their partners can be.  And hopefully, this project will open the door to the possibility of many others like it.

Doing it Ourselves – Different Editions

More random information about the Doing it Ourselves film placed here to be archived:

In true DIY fashion, the first two production runs of this film were done at home and with the help of a local copy shop.  However, it took over half an hour per copy to produce and was simply not sustainable for a larger production.  The third production run was done by professional disc manufacturer, JenCo.  As the technique was refined and errors corrected, you may notice a few interested differences.  Those interested in earlier runs as collector’s items may specifically request an earlier production run in the special instructions section of an order.

First Production Run

Cover: Uses a previous name Drew Deveaux used and approximate runtime.

Disc label: Aprx runtime, 1 5/8″ white circle in middle

Video: Contains a minor error, where the transition clip between scene 1 and 2 would cut off after 48 seconds. It was burned at 4x speed on high quality Taiyo Yuden DVDs

Availability: 50 copies were produced. 40 have been distributed.

Second Production Run

Cover: Includes announcement of Tobi having won the Emerging Filmmaker Award from the Feminist Porn Awards on front; spine says “2 discs”; back includes full runtime details, audio and encoding information.

Disc label: Final runtime, 1 3/8″ white circle in middle

Film Contents: Error was corrected, same high quality DVD and burning style.

Availability: 130 copies were produced.  114 copies have been distributed.

Third Production Run

Cover: The same as the second edition, but slighty darker due to using a different printer

Disc label: no white circle in the middle at all.

Video: same content as second edition, but on a stamped DVD9 (dual layer) instead of burned DVD5.  The extra space on the disc was used by increasing the video quality.  Also, by being stamped instead of burned, the disc itself should be more resistant to damage and last years longer.

Availability: 1040 copies were produced, and all orders are currently being filled from this production run.