Why can’t I take a photo of you and put it up online? Privacy, safety, and personal boundaries as an author of kink and erotic fiction

Many bloggers and authors take steps, some extreme, to protect their privacy. A whole range of occupations and personal situations can spell danger for an adult “caught” practicing consensual kink. These occupations and situations include:

  • Teachers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Mental health practitioners
  • Religious officials
  • Health practitioners
  • Nannies and daycare providers
  • Drug enforcement officers
  • Employees in jails, courthouses, and correctional institutions
  • Parents involved in child custody cases and/or divorce proceedings
  • Those being prosecuted for a crime (according to a panelist at Rainbow Con, possessing an erotic novel was considered evidence toward proving that someone intended to harm a child)

As an author who writes naughty fiction, including kink and what some have termed erotic work, concerns of privacy are utmost. A year ago, Ohio school teacher Carol Ann Eastman received sanctions for writing erotic fiction (on her own time, her own dime, and in the privacy of her home). When Clint and Chelsea of Learning Domestic Discipline gave an interview describing their marital practices last year, the consequences were far-spread. Domestic discipline bloggers shut down their sites or took them private as news centers called asking for interviews. Commenters questioned whether domestic discipline meant abuse and placing children at risk. (Clarification: domestic discipline never involves spanking children. It happens between two consenting adults, but some commenters wondered whether a couple practicing DD were fit to raise their children.)

The difficulty about protecting one’s safety online is that many people auto-upload photos to their social media sites without thinking of the potential consequences. In the past, I have been harassed (constantly, for weeks) to show a photo of myself to someone I only knew online. The person even went so far as to make jokes about it, completely unaware of the real distress being caused.

In our digital age of constant access to social media, it may be difficult to understand hard personal boundaries. I accept that the lines are different for many people, and some people may feel completely indifferent about protecting their privacy online. Some kink authors display their photos, give out their hometown information, and hand out their phone number to anyone who asks. That’s wonderful, and I applaud them for having the life circumstances that make such openness possible.

For others, being outed would have disastrous consequences. In Freiya’s Stand, my upcoming novella, two teachers at a Catholic K-12 school are slapped with a morality clause as a condition of their employment. They must sign agreements not to engage in pornography, adultery, or homosexuality. To refuse to sign, or to be shown as violating the terms of their covenant, will mean dismissal from their jobs. Without a letter of recommendation, they would never be able to get another teaching position. If being gay/lesbian could mean losing their jobs, imagine what would happen if Freiya or Sabrina were outed as authors of kink!

In my case, people have abused trust regarding photos. I have found my photo advertising causes I found wholly opposite to my personal beliefs. My photo has been displayed publicly (in high-traffic areas, no less).

This isn’t the case for all authors, bloggers, and readers. Some are more open about their naughty secret identity; some use their real names. Some are retired and couldn’t care less who knows their identifying details.

How about you? How do you feel about issues of privacy regarding videos and photos online?

 

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27 thoughts on “Why can’t I take a photo of you and put it up online? Privacy, safety, and personal boundaries as an author of kink and erotic fiction

  1. rayanna jamison April 24, 2014 at 4:05 pm Reply

    I feel like it should be entirely your choice, and people should respect your wishes. I have only gone so far as to show photos that don’t show my face, and even that had me spooked after a while. To be honest, (and this is really really silly). When I am on my fake (author) facebook, and I have so many friends on there who are also obvioulsy under secret identities, it always makes me nervous when I get friends under that account who are obviously not taking any precautions. It’s totally silly, It’s their choice too, but it always makes me nervous like it’s going to somehow out me, being friends with them.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm Reply

      Hi Rayanna! I agree that people can make choices to reveal whatever they want, but I do feel a bit concerned when I see too many intimate details about people’s children. I don’t think their school name, sports team name, etc., should be available online. I’m also very careful in what information I allow posted, and I hope that will help. We never can know for sure, though.

  2. Nina April 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm Reply

    Ana, thank you for writing this. You could add many more professions to your list. Hubby e.g. is self-employed and works in an area where discretion is an absolute must have. If his name ever publicly appeared in connection with ttwd, it might easily ruin us, as many customers wouldn’t want to be connected to him then, as news centers would put him and his business colleagues into the center of attention.
    I have only once published a photo of mine and that was years ago, my hair was rather short and I doubt that anybody would recognize me any longer in that one. But I found it later on in another profile, which was not mine and after that I have been far more careful.
    If I did something like giving away too much personal information that makes us easily identifiable, I’d definitely be spanked for that (well, not right now, but in December I could be spanked again at the latest). And if all that happened as a result was a punishment spanking, we’d still be relieved, because intolerance is a major problem up to this day.

    hugs …and congratulations

    that the Rainbow Con was such a huge success for you. <- additional hugs

    Nina

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm Reply

      Hi Nina! Absolutely. I wrote the major professions, but there are many more. I nearly put politician, but how common is that occupation, really? :) News is another good example.

      Yes, taking other people’s photos and using them is a problem online. It’s a good idea never to make photos available unless you feel comfortable with your mother-in-law, future and current employers, child, and next-door neighbor seeing them.

      I agree. A punishment spanking as a consequence for lack of discretion is a pretty light consequence.

      Hugs back, and thank you for your kind words about the con. :)

  3. Cara Bristol April 24, 2014 at 4:30 pm Reply

    When I went to RT last year, one was supposed to ask permission before taking pictures of speakers because of privacy issues.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:11 pm Reply

      A good practice and should be industry standard. Really, it’s basic etiquette as well as common courtesy.

  4. hollawrites April 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm Reply

    I need to remain private and I wish everyone could understand that. Why is there always someone who feels they have to find out who you really are?

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:12 pm Reply

      Absolutely, Holla. If people give information, great. If not, unless it’s harming someone, why does it matter?

  5. Natasha Knight April 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm Reply

    I’ve shared my photo with some friends and have become more comfortable doing so, however there’s a strong sense of ‘no’ when I even consider for a moment going public with my photo. I think it’s a choice that must be made with care because once it’s out, it’s out.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:13 pm Reply

      That’s it. I can change my mind and decide to put up my photo, but I never can go back and remove my photo from everyone’s memories. I celebrate authors who have taken that step, but it won’t be me. Not for a very long time, and perhaps never. I want people to know my stories, not my face. :)

  6. DelFonte April 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm Reply

    I try to ensure nothing identifying leaks out about either of my pen names as both a writer of erotica and a spanko. Separate emails, different browsers logged into different FB accounts in case I comment under my real name by mistake. Being exposed as an author wouldn’t be the end of the world but both a spanko and author, that probably would cause major issues in my personal life. A pity, because as I hate keeping secrets and would love to be able to be open, especially with other authors. Privacy is so important and should be respected by all. Like Rayanna I’m always surprised at how many open authors there are on FB.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm Reply

      Using different browsers is a great way to keep accounts separate. I find that my problem is signing my real name to my author emails or vice versa. I’ve never actually sent the email out, but I’ve scared myself.

      I would love to be open, too. It would be wonderful to have that kind of freedom, but we don’t always live in ideal circumstances. Some of us enjoy our freedom while protecting our privacy. All different kinds of ways, right?

  7. Katy Beth McKee April 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I totally think that others don’t have the right to tag you in photos on social media, etc. I use a false name to pursue my love of literature because I’m sure that my reading list could very well cause problems with work. I don’t even tag my own children in a family photo I post without their expressed permission. I got really upset because I posted a picture that included my children at confirmation. I tagged them with their permission. Then someone else that is my real life facebook friend went in and tag a lot of the other children. That really bugged me because I’m sure they didn’t ask permission and I hope it doesn’t look like I took that liberty with their identities.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:19 pm Reply

      Hi Katy Beth! I once let a friend look at my Kindle. I purposely gave them my Kindle set to a safe, classic title (like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm). She returned my Kindle set to the main bookshelf with all of my smutty titles on the front. ALL. I was really embarrassed, but it sort of served her right. :)

      Privacy issues get even more intense when children are involved. I’d be furious if anyone posted photos of my children without permission. I believe you can change the settings on your photos so they won’t ask people if they want to tag. At least you used to be able to do that.

  8. Grant Antrews April 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm Reply

    This is a very major focus at the moment, as my children (both in their 30s) discovered my pen name and the type of material offered here. They have disowned me, refusing to speak with me, and I am not allowed to see my grandchildren. Sadly, I had been discreet about my erotica for more than 20 years. Privacy is a VERY big deal!

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm Reply

      Phew, Grant! That is really sad. :( It underscores the need for privacy in the long run (decades) versus one moment of fun (putting up a photo or video). I hope your children will come around eventually.

  9. Daizie April 24, 2014 at 10:34 pm Reply

    I use different browsers as well. I freaked when I went into Goodreads once and it auto-linked my naughty FB profile with my cleaner Goodreads profile. It was confused. I switched my Goodreads app to Myself Only, and since then, I’ve entirely used two different browsers. I strip my name out of my documents and always have to go back and check to make sure it didn’t slip back in if i saved under a different profile. I’m sure if someone dug the right holes, they might find your real identity, but I try to cover as many bases as I can. I write under different names, and my editor and my husband are the only people who know about my naughty business. To keep the smut I read and review under the covers, I have 2 Amazon profiles and read all the naughty books in the Kindle Cloud Reader and only download PG13 stuff to my Kindle with my other one.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 25, 2014 at 9:12 am Reply

      Hi Daizie! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, mixing social media can be disastrous. What a nightmare! We have to be very careful to keep our identities separate. I hope your steps work well for you. :)

  10. catrouble April 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm Reply

    I do understand what you are saying Ana…Matthew’s brother worked for a very straight-laced company and when they found out he spanked his wife…for discipline no less!…they fired him! I keep my accounts separate just because it could be difficult if I was outed at work and it could be uncomfortable with my family…bottom line…it’s none of their business!

    One suggestion for your emails…insert a signature into each of your email accounts so that it is automatically included. You then don’t have to sign your name at all.

    I also use separate browsers…really ought to have separate Facebook accounts but don’t…oh well.

    Hope everything works out well for you.

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 25, 2014 at 9:14 am Reply

      Yup, the risk is real. It’s not some silly overreaction, it’s a fact of life. Kink is not accepted by the mainstream.

      I do have signatures on my email, but I think it’s impersonal not to write a personal ending. At least I feel that way when I get emails from anyone but my closest correspondents.

      FB is a tricky one. Sometimes separate accounts can be just as risky!

      Hugs and blessings back.

  11. Normandie Alleman April 25, 2014 at 10:21 am Reply

    I noticed that after a recent event a photo of me was online with my name on it. Looking back several people asked if they could take my picture. I said yes to most. However, no one asked me if it was okay to publish it online, and I think that kinda sucks. When I had a blog in my previous career I ALWAYS got people’s permission before publishing their picture. It’s always better to ask, and to respect people’s privacy.

    • Anastasia Vitsky April 25, 2014 at 10:24 am Reply

      Absolutely. The rule of thumb is not to take or publish photos (or info) without permission. I never let people take my picture (if I am aware they are trying to do so), and if I do give permission I stipulate that it will not be made public. You might want to consider doing something similar. Sucks that your picture was posted without permission. :(

  12. Renee April 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm Reply

    I know that in my position at a school I have to be very careful about what type of things are connected to me. I live in an area that is rigidly religious and even being seen at an event that serves alcohol could be detrimental, cant even begin to imagine what would happen if someone found out ttwd. I do very little social media – no fb, twitter, instagram because I have found that people us those to snatch photos and information. Photos are especially dangerous, we do not even take photos of our students without very clear permission. The fear of predators after our children is to high. We actually took down the school fb account because we were finding pics of our students on other sites. We live in a different world today. So glad you had a wonderful time at Rainbow Con.

  13. Ami Starsong April 26, 2014 at 4:15 am Reply

    I hadn’t really thought this through until reading everything above. I hadn’t realised some of the repercussions especially in the US. I feel, on the whole, we are much more liberal in the UK. I do think, however, that if some nasty individual was determined to find out who you were, they could be able to do so without too much difficulty as the internet leaves virtual jet trails that are very hard to erase.

    My personal opinion is that it is important to be as up front as you are able to be with friends and family. Unfortunately that can lead to a Catch-22 situation if you deviate from the path of accepted erotica. My family and friends all know that I am writing erotic fiction and have long since become bored with it, but as far as spanking fiction is concerned – they have no idea at all. I have informed them that I do not write under my own name and that is that. Tough.

    I actually have more concerns with Facebook than anything else. I do put privacy blocks in place from time to time, but then Facebook changes the rules and you have to do it again and again. I am still not convinced and would never ever use any other types of social media especially Twitter. Live chat forums also terrify me and I have been warned of dire consequences of using them.

    Now I am retired my work is not so much a problem – but upsetting people who might be offended by what I write is a problem. The other huge problem is how such scandal would affect and hurt Dan as he is heavily involved in our community and well respected.

    I am so sorry to read what Grant Antrews wrote above. How awful for him to be disowned by his family. So sad for him.

    It always surprises me that whilst sexual marathons written into stories are so readily accepted on the bookshelves of our leading book stores in the UK, and sex shops are on every high street in every town, that there is such a shudder when people think about spanking. Why is this? What has happened to us that we are unable to feel comfortable about something that happens privately between two consenting adults? It is all very strange and mixed up.

    I am glad you wrote this post, Ana because it has given me a much better insight into how people feel, although I now feel more concerned about privacy than I used to.

    Hugs
    Ami

  14. annapurna1951 April 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm Reply

    Is there any way I might repost my response? It’s a bit edgy. I was a little upset by the topic, and after a glass of wine, I was a little too harsh.

  15. hollawrites April 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm Reply

    Well, don’t I feel stupid! I’ve never thought of using different browsers for different pen names. I’m using two computers which is a bit of a pain. I know I’m lucky to have two (we actually have four in the house because if it works I can’t rid of it) computers in my office but one of them is very old and needs to be rebooted a few times a day to work properly. Now I can use my newer speedy computer on a different browser! Thanks to the commenters that told us about that!

  16. Annapurna April 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm Reply

    Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, for this topic has had a strong emotional impact upon me, I’ll try to respond in a less edgy and more respectful manner.

    I’m of two minds on this issue. If an author of erotic literature wishes to remain anonymous, I’ll certainly respect that, and I surely hope that others will do the same. I feel it’s a gift when anyone shares something of a personal or private nature the way we do here and on similar blogs. I carry this attitude into my personal life with my friends who know that they can tell me anything in private, and I’ll take it to my grave; I won’t even tell my spouse.

    When it comes to protecting my own interest in spanking, it’s another matter. For years, I was deathly affair that someone would find out about my fascination, and would then promptly tell anyone who cared to listen about how or why I’m such a horrible person. Now with my work life no longer a consideration, I plan to be freer about my secret. That doesn’t mean I intend to broadcast my private life to others, but if asked whether I’m a spanko or not, I’ll say, “Yes I’m,” but won’t take follow-up questions. Should I be lucky enough to have my book published, a novel that has salacious content, I intend to put my name and picture to it. My reasoning is simple: I’m tired of hiding. What could possibly be the consequence for me doing so? Will I lose what few friends and family I have left? I’m willing to take that risk, for if others reject me over stories that I feel are worth telling, just maybe I haven’t lost much at all except the illusion of love and friendship.

Thank you so much for joining the discussion! Please play nicely or you may be asked to stand in the corner. ;)

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