On conscience

I’m having a crisis of conscience.

I’m dreaming of making a living of my work, of being able to dedicate more time and energy to it, of making my ideas bloom and prosper…

I’m also dreaming of keeping my work free for everyone, open and far reaching, not exclusive or limited…

But, as hard as I’m trying to figure this out, I’m starting to doubt that I can achieve both at the same time…

I’m not happy with Pornhub. I don’t like that as long as my videos are on their platform, they co-own the rights and can sell them for a profit. I also don’t like that they’re making money of the (potentially harmful) ads popping at those who want to watch my work.

I don’t regret having been on a 2.0 porn platform. It was an important step for me. I learned a lot, tamed a lot of fears and healed a lot of shame. But I think it’s time for a new home.

While looking for this new home, I’m seeing mostly places that include commercial transactions. My first reaction is no no, I want everything to be free, I want everyone to be free! I’ve said it before, I’m an idealist. But, just like everyone else, I have to live in reality. Where money is still very much a thing.

In my imagination, there is a parallel universe, a future, where things aren’t sold and bought anymore. Under my feet, there is the present ground, the present time, where my rent is due every month and my skills are not worth very much per hour.

“If you feel like you don’t fit in this world, maybe it’s because you came here to build a new one.” I want to live by those words. I’m just gonna need hella good construction skills to go from this landscape to the clouds above…

On Tumblr 2

I just realized I said here that it’s nice to see all my pieces reunited, when in fact I haven’t added all the Vimeo videos to my Tumblr…

I’ve questioned what that means and I have come to the conclusion that I want Tumblr to be my sexy feed, while Vimeo is still the repository of my whole repertoire, minus the content they won’t allow, which therefore goes on Pornhub.

For example, I’m very proud of my crying videos but I guess I didn’t put them on Tumblr because I see it as a space dedicated to the erotic side of my work. And I think that’s totally ok.

I don’t know why it’s so important for me to clarify that but it is.

On Tumblr

Finally, finally, finally, I am on Tumblr!!!

For the technically inclined, my embedding issue was a question of http vs https. The difference one letter makes!

No new content, but now the videos hosted on Pornhub can be viewed directly on the Tumblr blog. From what I can tell, it doesn’t work on the mobile app (there it redirects you to the Pornhub website) but it does work in a web browser for me. It’s nice to see all my pieces together again, reunited.

And I made some gifs, my own flashing images (NSFW 18+) Fun stuff.

Oh and it’s also the return of the Post orgasm piece (explicit sexuality). I had waited to turn it into a gif but I also uploaded the whole thing. It’s one of my earliest video. I still like it a lot.

Rain Robert on Tumblr

On porn 3

Does my work become porn if it’s on a porn platform? That’s the question I just woke up over in the middle of the night.

The biggest issue that’s come up for me so far about having my videos up on Pornhup is the constant exposure to ads. For example, Vimeo sends me emails containing the text of new comments, while Pornhub sends me an email notifying me that a new comment has been made and to go see it, I have to click and scroll away from a multitude of rounds of ads. And porn ads are a particularly invasive kind of ads. It feels overwhelming to be bombarded by all these images. But on the other side, exactly that is what allows me to upload my videos and for others to watch them for free. I feel like this is so representative of the issues of our times. The dialectic between freedoms and rights.

I still stand behind my decision though. I wanted to make all of my work available. This platform allows me to do that. And the one good thing about all this exposure is that it really brings up all my sexual shame to the surface to be examined. I consider myself pretty advanced in my journey to be comfortable with sex. Yet there are still so many issues waiting to be resolved.

I read once that men think about sex in average every 30 seconds. I would argue women think about it just as much, but just in ways that are not as readily identified as “thinking about sex”. After millenniums of repression, sexuality from a woman’s perspective is still very much in its rediscovery phase. I am so grateful to have been born in a time and place where I get to so actively engage in this reclaiming process.

On the unknown

I still want to figure out how to make my Tumblr happen.
I think it can be a better frame around my work for some people.
Plus, I really want to be a part of what’s happening on Tumblr with adult content.

But this whole idea of using a porn site only to host and bypass dealing with it directly is bullshit.
I say my project is to explore the place of sex in our culture?
Well I’m not gonna do it halfway and leave porn out of the equation.
I’m going to claim all of it and see what happens.

But I’m gonna do it my way.
Which means I’m not trying to fit in with what’s already out there.
I’m not a pornstar.
I’m not an amateur.
I’m an artist in a yet unknown category.
Because, yup, I’m making all this up as I go.

My videos on Pornhub.

On porn 2

It’s one thing to talk about porn theoretically. It’s another to sign up on PornHub and face that reality in the face. I don’t think I had realized what a portal to another world this was!

My original intention was to use it only to host my videos then embed them in an ad-free Tumblr to present my work in a way that I could live with. But just filling up the new user form on PornHub makes me realize what an interactive place this is. I guess I could always not interact at all. Or interact and write about it. It just all seems so overwhelming.

Also, in the terms and conditions, it says their website is for adult-oriented content only and that other categories may be deleted. So now I’m worried my videos may be removed because they wouldn’t be considered hardcore enough. That’s kind of a funny twist.

 

On changing my mind

It’s so interesting, the evolution of things in my head. For months I was fine not showing my work yet, taking my time figuring out what I wanted to do. Then I put it on Vimeo, my account gets suspended, then reinstated but without the core videos, and I start getting this crazy sense of urgency to make them available again. I honestly didn’t even know I cared that much. But I’m glad I do.

The first thing I looked into is hosting myself. That would afford me the most independence. But after a long conversation with a trusted IT person, it’s clear I don’t have the financial means to do that.

My second search was for a sex-positive site. And I even found one! Makelovenotporn.tv, by Cindy Gallop and her team. Their rhetoric around sexuality is awesome, I so could see myself associated with what they are creating. The only catch is, it costs 5$ to rent the videos they represent. As a creator, I would get to keep 50% of that, so it’s not even a bad deal for me. But, as I considered it, my inner voice again started saying things I didn’t know I knew: I want my work to be free to watch. I want my videos to go as far and wide into the universe as they can reach. So they can’t be confined to a gallery that keeps them safe but restricts their access. I realize I’m not going to make my life easy with that, at least not financially. But on the other hand I can live with my choices if I know they are anchored in heartfelt values.

So that leaves porn sites. Which I had initially considered but then rejected when I thought Vimeo could be a forever home for all my pieces.

I don’t want to have the feeling that I’m selling my work. Maybe because it would feel like I’m selling myself. I want my videos to be art offerings rather than products to be bought. But then again, is what I think is free really free? Vimeo is free to watch but the cost of its subsistence is shared by the community. A platform like Makelovenotporn.tv isn’t a free model but it also isn’t invaded by advertisement. A 2.0 porn website is free for me to use and for others to watch but I wouldn’t be making money from my work while others would benefit from the traffic I may generate. It’s a pretty great conundrum! I assumed the moral questions were going to be the most important to consider but really it’s the economical ones that are driving the conversation.

Something else that enters the balance comes from an article I read last week: 88% of sexually explicit content uploaded online gets snatched by parasite porn sites. Now, I assumed as much all along but I thought at least I’m not the one who uploaded it as porn, so I’m not the one making that statement. But now, I’m wondering if the reverse idea isn’t just as valid. That if it’s going to end up on porn sites anyway, I might as well be the one putting it there consciously.

On my restored account

Vimeo restored my account the following afternoon, but they removed one video. By now three videos have been removed.

I’ve asked for a clearer definition of what was and wasn’t allowed but I got a contradictory answer. They say they “allow depictions of nudity and sexuality that serve a clear creative, artistic, aesthetic, or narrative purpose” but then say that explicit depictions of sexual acts are not allowed.

At the end of the day, I completely respect Vimeo’s decision to not allow some of my videos. They have to draw a line in the sand for themselves. And of course, there are legality and cost factors that weigh heavy in the balance.

I think everyone should get to decide what my work means to them. I started doing what I do for very personal reasons but now that I am making it public, I realize that part of my intention is to see what reactions I get. I think this might be the most exciting part of my project, even though I wasn’t even consciously aware of it before this experience.

On not being able to sleep

I hadn’t heard from Vimeo by the end of the day so that night I couldn’t fall asleep. More and more thoughts kept popping up in my mind, so I kept writing them. I sent the whole thing at dawn.

Dear Vimeo moderators,

I just wanted to add a few more thoughts about my case.

One of the reasons I started making my videos was because I couldn’t find anything online that looked like honest female sexuality to me.
When I started using sexual energy to heal my wounds, I found all kinds of sex-positive, feminist educational materials but nothing that actually ‘showed’ me what it looked like to be a real woman having a real orgasm in a non-commercial space.
I wanted to see a depiction of healthy sexuality (not just read or be told about it) in order to inspire me from within.
I believe that that’s exactly what art is so good at.
We look at works of art so that we can feel what we have not yet felt, what we long to feel, what we have felt but not yet understood.

It is so hard as a woman in this world to try to detangle yourself from the type of images that commercial sex impose on our consciousness.
My art is trying to be both a reply to what I’ve been exposed to but also an antidote to it.
I’m trying to uncover what it means to be truthful by putting up a mirror in front of me instead of comparing myself to what others manufacture.
My camera is that mirror, and it acts as a deflector of all the other screens that present me with a version of sexuality that isn’t mine.
I do want to share what I have tried to create, which is honest natural sexuality from a real woman’s perspective.
My intentions in making my videos go way beyond sexual stimulation.
I make them primarily for me but I hope that maybe through sharing this process, I can also be a model of positive sexual affirmation that can inspire others to find their own truth.

What’s interesting to me is that before this account suspension, I wasn’t sure how militant I wanted to be about the politics surrounding what I do.
I thought I wanted to let the work speak for itself.
But the last 12 hours have made me realize that this is extremely important to me and I feel called to defend my work.
In its guidelines Vimeo proclaims that it respects creative expression above all else.
But by suspending my account, I feel like you are effectively silencing my voice.
Categorizing my art as porn leaves me with no other place to share it because that is not what I believe I am creating.
As I’ve stated, I will never use porn websites to share my work.
I understand their function and origins but I find them unhealthy for my sense of self as a woman.
So I feel like this rejection from Vimeo sends me a conflicting message.
That it’s ok for me to share erotic art videos of myself on a platform that feels degrading but it’s not ok for me to share them in a place that would respect me.
Meaning that the only way for me to be expressing my sexuality is to do it in a place that feels offensive to me?
Meaning that it’s ok for me to express my eroticism if I’m selling sex but it’s not ok if I’m trying to make art from it?

If Vimeo says it is a platform for art videos but it chooses to exclude art that depicts sexuality, then it leaves a hole for where an artist like me can share her work.
And I feel like that actually perpetuates the problem of pushing sexuality into a second-class subject, a taboo subject, which fosters the kind of problems I’m trying to heal myself from.
If we limit the expression of sexuality only to a pornographic context, then we limit our imagination of what sexuality can be.

Yes, my art is about sexuality.
But it’s about healthy sexuality that is trying to be life affirming.
That is trying to be a cure for the negative messages I get bombarded with when it comes to being a sexual woman.
I don’t want to let anyone tell me what my sexuality has to look like.
And so far the most effective way I’ve been able to counter the current omnipresent dictates is by creating my own images, of what my sexuality looks like to me.

I understand that it’s very hard to decipher what’s what when it comes to explicit sexuality and that it’s also hard to maintain the boundaries that allow a space to be dedicated to creation.
I respect that in your efforts to do just that you have decided to suspend my account.
But I really think that if you look at my work again and if you allow me to keep expressing myself, you will see that I am an artist trying to heal herself and maybe change the world a little bit in the process.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for considering my position.

Best regards,
Rain Robert

On my account being removed

72 hours after I uploaded my videos, Vimeo removed my account for violating their guidelines. The email mentioned, “if you think this was an error, please reply to this message as soon as possible to explain”.

I had never written about my work before, but here’s what poured out of me in response, all written within an hour:

Dear Vimeo moderators,

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to my account being suspended.

I have been making videos exploring my own sexuality for over a year now and it took me a very long time to figure out which platform to share them on.
I consider my work to be 100% artistic in nature, which is why I finally decided to upload it on Vimeo.
I feel entitled to say artistic because they are created entirely by me, with no commercial intent or preoccupation.
I have not intention of ever selling the work that I am doing, it actually would cancel out what I am trying to achieve.
My creative process may seem pornographic but it is actually meant to counter outside influences such as that of porn by expressing my sexuality myself.
I am not interested in partaking in or being associated with the pornography industry in any way.
I also do not have the financial means to host videos myself (being a video artist paying my bills with a waitressing job!)

I absolutely understand and respect the need to moderate Vimeo accounts to keep it free of commercial porn.
Again, that is exactly why I have chosen Vimeo.
I just really want to argue my case that it is an artistic endeavor for me to film myself having a real orgasm.
I feel like there has to a place, a safe non-commercial place, for artists like me to show their work.
Maybe you will find that Vimeo is not that place but I urge you to consider it because I believe there are no other such places at the moment.

Discovering, freeing and owning my sexuality has been a life saving process for me.
I am recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the energy I have been able to generate through my creative process has literally changed my life.
I have slowly managed to heal so many things by empowering myself sexually, including obesity, agoraphobia and suicidal thoughts.
The work that I do, of reclaiming my body, my sensuality, my freedom of expression, is what I am documenting with my videos.

I can see how my videos could be judged as pornographic, and again, I am grateful to have the chance to defend my work.
Maybe if my images were integrated into a fiction film let’s say, it would be easier to justify as artistic.
I actually used to make short films and my goal is to work my way up to making them again, as I keep healing and grow stronger.
But right now I see my process as developing a language, one sound at a time, one video at a time.
A brand new language invented by me to talk about sexuality in a way that is healthy and empowered.

Your email mentioned to reply as soon as possible so I am sending this as it is right now but I hope maybe this can be the start of a conversation.

Thank you again for your integrity.
I hope I have managed to convince you of mine.

Best regards,
Rain Robert