Somewhere on the internet is a picture of my punani. I took a tasteful picture of it once to load to a web forum for a column I was writing. At the time it felt like a very rebellious thing to do. Now, it’s practically banal. Running parallel to the ‘selfie’ phenomenon has been the rise of the new porn movement: erotica created by the people for the people. Unlike the homogenous, usually white, heterosexual, male-oriented and often sexist arena of mainstream skin flicks, the new porn is as nuanced and diverse as the users creating it. Users who aren’t professional pornographers or photographers but who long to see sex that feels relatable to their race, sex, gender or orientation – and their relationships. Central to the rise of this new porn is Tumblr, an image-based microblogging site where users can curate and share content. It’s free, anonymous and permissive, and while some stick to sharing erotica, others are creating the content – with couple’s erotica being the latest trend. But what does it take to put your sex life on display? Three couples share all.
Camille and Holden
Now in their late 40s, Camille and Holden have been together for 10 years and have been shooting porn together for five. ‘Every happily married couple has a thing they share,’ Holden says. ‘This is the thing we collaborate on.’ The couple ventured down the road of Tumblr erotica in 2011 after taking profile photos for a swingers’ site. The swinging life wasn’t for them, but they were hooked on taking photos and signed up to Tumblr. They’ve since moved to their own site (Holden-and-camille.com) and while their pseudonyms remain intact, the camera reveals more of the couple these days. Parts of their faces, tattoos and house are now visible in their photos: titbits most newbies are warned against revealing if they’d like to preserve their anonymity. ‘It was a huge deal when we started, because it felt so sneaky and subversive,’ Holden says. ‘But the more people you come across who are doing the same things you are, the more comfortable it becomes.’
‘It’ is a range of stylish images of the couple, together or individually. Ejaculation, oral and penetration (from a distance) are regular features. Although the photos are retouched, the real people remain; although it’s raw, there’s nothing gritty about it. It expresses things that conventional porn can’t: intimacy, trust and enjoyment. ‘One of the compliments we get the most often is that it’s just real,’ says Holden. ‘The love we share gets conveyed in these photos.’ The couple takes a series of photos every three weeks or so. They take up to 100 photos, of which maybe 20 will make it to their site. With more than 3 000 images, Holden says the process of taking the photos is the sexiest thing they do. ‘We still get turned on by the process. She still pretends to be a model and I still pretend to be a photographer. There’s not a single photo session that doesn’t end with us in bed.’
Cinnamon and SweetHoney
Cinnamon and Sweethoney have been posting erotic Tumblrs for about a year and are careful to protect their anonymity. ‘Sex, erotica and pornography still have a stigma we would like to avoid,’ Cinnamon says. ‘It’s silly that almost everyone engages in some form of sexual activity, yet publicly associating with it is regarded as unacceptable.’ Their popular site (Sweethoneyncinnamon.tumblr.com) plays with glamour-type photos of Sweethoney, pretty nudes, videos and gifs of them having sex. The two, in their late 20s and early 30s, have been together four years and were in a long-distance relationship when they started the blog. It was Cinnamon’s idea: ‘I was hoping to just capture some of our sensual moments to share with Tumblr,’ he says. But there was another reason for dipping their toe into the erotic collective. ‘I noticed the lack of people of colour within the erotic Tumblr blogosphere,’ says Cinnamon. ‘I followed quite a few couples’ blogs and none of them reflected my relationship. I wanted to create something that reflected a couple I felt were underrepresented on Tumblr.’ Cinnamon talks about the democratisation of porn, a term often used in reference to open platforms like Tumblr. ‘I think people want to find something that’s real and something they can relate to. I think we’re in an era where people want something they can imagine themselves in.’
The world of erotic blogging is one of pseudonyms, hidden faces and contextual hints. But not everyone is limited by these concerns. Tanya Dakin is an erotic model, photographer and office manager. ‘Everyone knows what I do. If you’ve found my erotic photography, it’s because I put it out there,’ she says. In 2012, Tanya started a couple’s erotic blog, called ‘Tanya’s Daddy’. At the time, Tumblr went nuts for it, and the site had 8 000 follows in a year. But far from being a love project with her then boyfriend, Tanya’s Daddy was a carefully styled story. Tanya crafted every aspect of the stylish, retro erotica-style site, coming up with ‘different kinds of themes, looks and feels, moods and lighting, and pulling together wardrobes depending on the place we were going to be or rent – essentially creating a set’. It was very romantic the way it played out, she says. ‘I know what women want, and what men want to see.’ When the relationship came to an end, so did Tanya’s Daddy. Letting strangers into your sex life online comes with its own set of problems. Like the time someone stole a picture from her site and posted it to Facebook, where someone recognised Daddy’s hand tattoo – and tagged him with his real name. Then there are the stalkers and people who fixate on you. She now has a private Tumblr account. ‘My new boyfriend is not on social media and I respect his privacy. Our Tumblr account is for us to post our nude photos, our doggie pictures, our videos, love letters – but it’s just between us.’ You form a bond when you’re creating erotic content together, Tanya says. ‘When you sit back and look at yourself in that way and know that you did it because you wanted to do it, and because you were really into them… to see that captured is very powerful. And it’s contagious.’
Too shy to try? Use Tumblr this way:
You don’t have to create your own erotica to benefit from the new wave of porn. ‘Tumblr has given people a way to express themselves sensually and sexually,’ says Elle Chase, sex educator and owner of ‘Ladycheeky’, an award-winning, 146 000-strong Tumblr account . ‘It’s taking an idea and feeling around sex that’s hard to articulate and making a collage of pictures that you’ve reblogged or created, and saying, “Here, this is me, this is my sexual aesthetic.”’ Elle was introduced to Tumblr porn by a married man she met online. ‘He would pick out pictures of things he wanted to do, things he thought were sexy – and I did the same.’
Her lover made a checklist of all the pictures that turned her on – and then made a point of ticking it off when they met. ‘It became a way to curate my sexual discovery,’ Elle says. ‘Scrolling through other Tumblrs showed us our different moods and started conversations between us not dissimilar to a “yes, no, maybe” list.’ Some couples start an erotic Tumblr together, each with a password and access to load the porn they like. ‘It’s a great way to sext and make suggestions for new things to try,’ says Elle. ‘It really does open doors to new and deeper intimacies with each other.’
Five things to keep in mind before taking the Tumblr step:
1. Who has the key: ‘The digital generation needs to think about consequences a lot more,’ says Tanya. ‘I owned all my own content, so that was never a problem. I don’t have kids, and my job and family know what I do. These are things you have to think about if you’re putting your stuff out there.’
2. Keep it safe: ‘Do not make yourself recognisable unless you want to be recognisable,’ says Elle. ‘That means your face, tattoos, moles, or any obvious room details. A lot of details can be Photoshopped out, but still – unless you’re making this a career – don’t make yourself recognisable.’
3. Start slow: ‘Start out with a private Tumblr blog that both of you have the password so you can see how’re you’re going to feel the next day,’ says Elle. Passwords on Tumblr are also variable. ‘Your blog can be just for you two, for a selected audience or for everybody,’ says Tanya.
4. Make sure you trust your partner. ‘I would be really hesitant for new hook-ups to go into this just because we see those cases all the time with revenge porn,’ says Holden. ‘All the power is in your hands; if something is off limits to you, don’t do it.’
5. Once you post publicly it’s out of your hands. ‘Someone took one of our photos, scrubbed the watermark, and reblogged it as their own with a long brother and sister incest scenario,’ says Holden. ‘It’s one of the calculated risks you take. This and knowing that these photos are out there forever.’