I am really excited about this week’s guest blog, because it is written by the brilliant Zak Jane Keir, who I met at Eroticon and who gave me all the sexy shivers with a short story about nerdy dice, strip games and blow jobs. She is a writer and editor who has been involved with erotica for over 20 years. She has written countless articles (for magazines such as Penthouse, For Women, Swingmag and Desire) short stories and several novels, both as Zak and as Sallyanne Rogers. She currently runs the Dirty Sexy Words erotica slams in South London. You should check out her blog (which is on hold at the moment but there are plenty of past entries) and follow her on Twitter, as well as buy some of her lovely smut.
Today she’s here to talk about something very close to my heart – the ethics of taking photographs at kink/sex events, and how to do it without being a massive arsehole.
How to take photos in fetish clubs (and how not to)
Back in the 90s, when I used to write about fetish and swingers’ clubs, I had a Polaroid camera that went pretty much everywhere with me. It was big, and obvious, and the flash could damn near knock you off your feet, and it was noisy, too. Stealthy, unobtrusive photography just wasn’t possible with one of those. Then again, I wasn’t planning to be the Ninja Snapper on a top secret undercover exposé type mission in the first place.
OK, one of the reasons I carried the Polaroid was because I have always been an apocalyptically rubbish photographer. With a picture I could pull from the camera and examine on the spot, I would be able to tell straight away if I had what I wanted (and at what point I could stash the camera, get pissed and go cop off with someone). And, of course, I was always able to reassure anyone anxious that they had stepped inadvertently into shot at a crucial moment. The picture could be shown to such a person and, should they have managed to get themselves snapped, the evidence could be handed over for them to destroy on the spot.
I always did my best to be careful and considerate when taking photographs in these circumstances, (and will continue to do so, naturally) even though I used to find the somewhat-hysterical anti-camera/anti-journo pronouncements in some clubs a bit tiresome – I have never been able to see anything terrible in people wanting to get a picture of themselves and a willing friend or two as a record of a good night out. It was also true, even back then, that there were people who liked the idea of being featured in a magazine – fetish clothing designers or models, for instance, and the sort of blokes I used to shag in the toilets who always wanted me to make sure I mentioned the name of their band in the write-up (several hundred words of misty-eyed lip-licking reminiscence swiftly edited out).
Quite a few people thought, even back then, that being caught on camera at Club Fistfuck wasn’t that big a deal. You could a) deny it was actually you and challenge people to prove otherwise and b) know that photographs taken on those nights were only ever published in top-shelf magazines with a limited circulation, so you could deflect the person challenging you by demanding to know why they were reading the thing in the first place. Yup, that’s out of date now, because: social media. Your well-reddened bottom (and blissed-out subby face) could be making rings around the world before the last cane stroke has even landed.
It could be argued that, post-50 Shades of Everyone Talking About Kink And Ooh It’s All Mainstream now, fewer and fewer people would actually care if someone they knew turned out to have been to a fetish night, or an erotica slam. Being peripherally involved in consensual kink is a lot more likely, now, to bring about an amused smirk or confession of similar interests from your employer rather than your P45, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t true for everyone. People can have all manner of reasons for not wanting to have their photograph taken at an event, whether because they have an unusually sensitive job/nosy and puritanical employer, are locked in a ghastly child custody battle, or just feel that they’re having a bad hair day or a big zit has just come out on their forehead that they don’t want immortalized, thanks.
It’s never going to be OK to out people as perverts against their wishes, whether you do it accidentally, thoughtlessly or because of some bullshit conviction that everyone should just be honest and authentic and all the rest of it.
There’s probably no perfect solution because no matter what rules and policies are made, some people are always going to behave like dicks, but the rest of us should perhaps remember our manners, whichever side of the divide we are on. If you are taking photographs, ask people’s permission and tell them truthfully what you intend to do with the images you acquire. If you genuinely only want the photograph for wank material, it might not be the best idea to state this in too much detail – ‘For my private use’ might work, but try not to either dribble or clutch yourself when you say it. If you want to put it on your Facebook page then think – and ask – about tagging, and make sure you actually know what your privacy settings are.
If you are the person who really doesn’t want to be photographed, that’s absolutely fine, but please try to keep your eyes open for photographers and their subjects rather than walking straight into shot, getting in the bloody way and then throwing all your toys out of the dungeon about how awful it is that people are taking consensual photographs of other people.
Oh, and if you are one of those Top Undercover Website Reporter types who wants to take sneaky pictures and then write a tiresome body-shaming article about What Really Goes On In Clubs then I have a better use for your camera. It involves Tabasco-flavoured lube…
Buy some of Zak Jane Keir’s books