Jun 182011

“People don’t lie on the Internet!”
-Dept. Raineesha Williams, Reno 911!

I recntly read a Fetlife discussion of the old CastleRealm BDSM website and what was and wasn’t true about its operators, Lord Colm and slade jade (including whether jade actually existed). One of the posters linked to the preserved text of the CastleRealm site.

Thanks to the miracle that is the Wayback Machine, we can examine old websites, and trace the history of ideas and memes. This page (scraped from November 2000 but copyrighted 1998) presents the “ancient houses” idea with a completely straight face.

Houses: A common term for the families or small communities that have evolved from adhering to certain social activities, social values and morals associated with the Dominant/submissive lifestyle. Each “clan” developed their own special standards, style and customs and there are wide variations as to what is acceptable within a “house.” We find two distinctly different styles between the two main groups found within the term:

* The Oriental Society: The lifestyle developed in the Oriental countries, mainly Japan. This group of “houses” or “families” focuses mainly on the psychological and artistic aspects of Dominance and submission. Physical punishment and pain play little part in their world and great attention is given to the surrender and control of the mind and emotions. The beauty and artistic appeal of their method is easily seen in Japanese rope bondage.

* The European Council: Developed in Europe, mainly Germany, Belgium and France, this group is heavy into the more physical aspects of the lifestyle and incorporates the bulk of the BDSM practices we find today. The German houses gave birth to the PonyGirl/Boy and many of the other fetishes found in the power exchange. Within the European houses we find most of the Dominatrixes and male submissives, along with the practices associated with them, such as CBT.

Are these “houses” real or only a fantasy created by some fiction book?
These houses are very real as are the people who are involved in them. The history available dates their existence as far back as 2000 years and they most likely existed before then in a less structured manner. It is a common practice for people with similar ideals and interests to join together to share their experiences and needs, so the existence of these groups should not come as any great surprise to those who are aware of human behavioral sciences. You may not see a sign hanging over the doorway of the little white house on the corner of 3rd and Maple Street that says “Joe’s D/s House and Grill,” but they are there, hidden from view and doing very nicely in our everyday society.

One of the things that has undermined the existence of these houses is the current fad D/s is undergoing. It seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry has jumped on the band wagon and proclaimed themselves to be members of this or that house and boast of having their Masters degree in BDSM or D/s. The truth is that most of them are charlatans who have found a way to give credence to their misuse of power and pitiful knowledge. Their unfounded claims have planted more misunderstanding in this lifestyle than almost any other factor. Be wise and have doubts about anyone who solicits you for enrollment in a “house” especially on the Internet or at scene clubs. Most people who truly have roots in the old families are not about to proclaim it to the world.

Why are these houses so secretive?
Like any group that goes against the mainstream beliefs of the society within which it exits, there are carefully guarded standards about their establishment and being. Five hundred years ago, such things were only considered bizarre and extreme but not criminal. Today, with laws and concerns for human rights, such organizations fall into the jurisdiction of illegal activities or criminal acts. It doesn’t take an active imagination to consider the consequences for a group or individual discovered to be living a D/s lifestyle or to be practicing some of it’s activities. Remember that in many states it is still a crime to engage in oral or anal sex with your spouse. Just think of what a group who advocates the practices found in BDSM would be facing. Not a lovely thought, heh? Then is it any wonder that you don’t see billboards pointing out the way to “Joe’s D/s House and Grill?”

May 282010

Perhaps I was too hasty in my previous post. Recon.com, a hookup site for gay men into fetish wear, somehow got sex-and-queer-unfriendly Apple to approve their iPhone app.

From Queerty:

So how did Recon get on there? By “invest[ing] a lot of effort in designing an application that ensures that [they] walk the right side of the line as far as content and imagery is concerned,” says the company.

Or maybe it’s because Recon’s iPhone app is really just a geo-locating chat app, like Grindr. There’s no obvious sex going on in user profiles, but it sure is suggestive.

This doesn’t change my opinion of Apple. It just shows that their authority is arbitrary and has no transparency in their decision making process.

May 282010

Prism Comics, about LBGT issues in comics, has a great post on the impact of Apple’s content policies on comics in general and specifically LBGT themed comics. Even fairly mild stuff

“My problem with Apple banning [Jesus Hates Zombies] is simply this,” says Lindsay. “They allow the Marvel book Kick-Ass. How in God’s name is my book worse than Kick-Ass when it comes to content? The simple answer, it’s not. But because Kick-Ass is a Marvel book, it gets a pass.”

The experience of smaller publishers producing books with LGBT characters and situations also seems hard to reconcile with Murphey’s assessment of Apple’s guidelines.

Tom Bouden’s adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest was rejected as an iPad app for the App Store, again due to “materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.” A handful of sexually suggestive images depicting men, some extremely mild, were specifically flagged as problematic in the 80-page graphic novel.

A few lessons from this situation:

1. Media and standards and platform, and especially who controls them, matter to content. Censorship (public- or private-sector) is often not so much about controlling content but about controlling the medium itself. When new forms of media appear, which put words and images in new places, censorship kicks into high gear. Walled-garden content systems like the iPhone/iPod/iPad or the Amazon Kindle are a reaction to the wide-open Internet, reassuring big media companies that they will retain control.

2. If you’re a big, established company, like Playboy or Sports Illustrated or Mavel comics, the standards for judging your content is different if you’re somebody publishing an indie comic off your laptop. Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition will net more revenue to Apple than some little swimsuit company’s illustrated catalog app. Money talks, “community standards” walks.

3. People will find a way. Even if your LBGT indie comic doesn’t get into the iVerse, it can still get into the iPhone via the Amazon Kindle app. The question, however, is how level will the playing field be. Amazon takes a 70% cut, while Apple takes a comparatively mild 30%.

4. It’s still censorship when non-government parties do it, and even worse in a way because there is no system of appeal or open standards. Apple and Amazon, being corporate entities, can do it purely by fiat.

5. That the violence of eroticized-yet-plausibly-deniable violence of Kick-Ass gets a pass and two men making out doesn’t speaks volumes about our culture’s twisted view of sex and violence.

6. Watch out for chilling effects and pre-emptive self-censorship.

I’ve often imagined an alternate history of American comics in which the Comics Code Authority of 1954 never happened, and the medium matured, gaining respect and credibility until it equaled film or television. It surely isn’t coincidence that the most heavily censored medium is also the one that struggled longest for critical respect.

May 172010

Gawker has an email exchange between Ryan Tate and Apple head honcho Steve Jobs that’s partially about the technical/business issue of why Flash won’t be allowed on the iPad, but also about the issue of porn on the net.


Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.

And you might care more about porn when you have kids…

Aha, I thought, here’s the nub of it. Jobs employs the old “won’t somebody think of the children” canard, situating the iPad in a purely domestic environment where children are central, and nothing that could potentially or purportedly harm them must be allowed it. As Walter Kendricks pointed out in The Secret Museum, censorship requires the idea of the “vulnerable person” who must be protected from the influence of pornography.

From a strictly business point of view, this attitude may hamstring the Apple iEcosystem. If the goal is to create a walled garden, people may simply not show up and go elsewhere because they like their porn, among other things.