In April I travelled to Boston, USA for the AAG annual meeting to deliver my research paper: Kinktrepreneurship and social media: debates, rights and female subjectivity. The paper was part of the panel session (De)Stigmatising Sexscapes: Politics, Policy and Performance I: Porn, Pleasure & Performance (Sponsored by Sexuality and Space Specialty Group). Before going to the conference the paper’s abstract received positive responses on Twitter (see @gemcommane), but also reactions that highlighted continued stigma against sex workers (whorephobia), hatred towards women (i.e. taking away agency and voice) and the devaluation of important work that academics are doing to help support the rights of marginalised groups and communities. The paper explored the concept of ‘kinktrepreneurship’ (Commane 2016) and how this offers space to develop critical debate into the use of social media by women within creative kinky industries. I coined the word ‘kinktrepreneurship’ as an umbrella term for professional women in the BDSM fetish scene who identify as a FemDom or Pro-Domme. Kinktrepreneurship as a critical frame is new and is a term I intend to develop, specifically through obtaining a research grant and directly involving the voices and experiences of Professional Dominatrixes. The paper presented is actually part of a proposed project that I am currently writing a bid for funding (AHRC Early Career Research Grant). The title of the research project is: Kinktrepreneurship, Sex Work and Social Media. The research approach is sex-positive, intersectional, interdisciplinary, and feminist. Importantly the research is led by women and will actively include women’s voices (Pro-Dommes, kinktreprenuers) throughout the research process. The research intends to develop a critical frame and terminology that can be used by Pro-Dommes, researchers and the wider public to recognise and valorise kinktrepreneures and their contribution to sexual economies, the creative industries and entrepreneurship. Kinktrepreneurship is a frame which recognises the practice of kink and BDSM in professional contexts, but also as a lifestyle that identifies kinktrepreneurs and upholds their subjectivity, especially as their working practices are part of their self-identity.
In order to examine the gendered and political significances of online kinky entrepreneurship (‘kinktrepreneurship’), the paper drew upon virtual ethnography and case studies to challenge negative attitudes about female entrepreneurs, particularly women in the kink and sex industries. While academics have explored work of women in the creative industries in the field of cultural studies (e.g. Naudin, forthcoming); sex workers and Kinktrepreneurs are not readily included, despite being successful in managing their own careers. Critical discussions on Kinktrepreneurship and Social Media are absent from established scholarship on entrepreneurship within business and media studies. The paper therefore addressed the significance of recognising sex workers’ use of social media as an indicator of their entrepreneurial skills, particularly as a means to carve out alternative routes to employment. The topics of discussion in the paper included: Entrepreneurship (i.e. themes, theories, (in)visibilities), Alternative Income Streams (i.e. porn entrepreneurs and marketing strategies); Kinktrepreneurship and social media (debates, rights and female subjectivity); FemDom, Fetish and Kinktrepreneurship and finally: Kinktrepreneurship and the Politics of Resistance (sexual activism, fetish and gynocracy).
The word ‘kinktrepreneur’ is not really widely used or recognised (i.e. in academia specifically, but also beyond this too); although the paper and proposed research I want to undertake does have credence as the word has been used (but not framed) by Princess Kali. Princess Kali is the founder of Erotication.com and she states that she is: ‘a pioneer of the “kinktrepreneur” business model, creating sites such as Kink Academy, Passionate U, and Fearless Press for easy access to adult sex and BDSM education. Her work continues to inspire and support many other kink educators, writers, and enthusiasts’ (see: http://www.enoughtomakeyoublush.com/about/). As a term and a critical frame beyond this mention, there is nothing else out there that really takes kinktrepreneurship further. The paper and the proposed research address this. The paper argued – through case study example’s – that the terms ‘Kinktrepreneurship’ and ‘kinktrepreneur’ can be a potential frames, where a politics of resistance emerges from the very interactions (sexual, digital, exchanged on/off-line, business) Pro-Dommes have with users, fans, clients and slaves. The paper contended that the frame of kinktrepreneurship can include the multiple contexts that manifest through the various platforms and settings used, which constitute new ways to consider what the ‘workplace’ is; but also women taking or retaking control of their social, sexual and private spheres that activate other possibilities. This generates an active and embodied resistance that challenges representations in wider culture and within the media that try and construct subjectivities in ways that uphold cis-normative, heterocentric, whorephobic and anti-kink worldviews. Kinktrepreneurs actively challenge ways in which women ‘do’ work, but also demonstrate reciprocal pleasure, resiliency to multiple barriers and possibilities for opening accessible space supported by networks to critically drive social change for all women, but particularly women at the cutting edge of pro-sex, pro-kink and pro-women activism.
For more information about the papers at the session, please see Dr Emily Cooper’s (UCLAN) blog: https://ecooper2site.wordpress.com/category/aag2017/ and https://ecooper2site.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/aag2017-destigmatising-sexscapes-politics-policy-and-performance-boston-usa/ (her reflection of the session is forthcoming and will be accessible on her blog).