Self Care

Let’s get Productive: 4 tips to get to it and get shit done

This is a post in my dildoholiday series. If you’d like to read the whole shebang of what happened while we were out there, you should totally start out here.

Moving right along.

Day 2 in the #dildoholiday household started at a reasonably late hour, with a few cautious tweets from a couple of us around noon. As we stumbled about in our sleepy bodies, we found the Cherub of Shame juding our food choices from inside the refrigerator. Jerk.

Photo by Girly Juice

Photo by Girly Juice

The day had one main topic to be touched on at some point: productivity. Trouble was, we’d all stayed up so late being excited and settling in to the house that we’d all barely slept. I’ll touch on why that’s shitty for productivity later, but I imagine you can draw a correlation in your own life beteween those nights that we get 4 hours of sleep and the amount of work you (don’t) get done the next day.

We all eventually gathered around the big kitchen table with our laptops and ideas, and Girly Juice led us in a chat about productivity. Her output is amazing, and we all particularly adore her for it. Her dedication to a regular release schedule, and the amazing content that she throws out shows that not only does she write a lot, but that she does work to make that writing turn out so well.

Look 'ma, we got off the couch!

Look ‘ma, we got off the couch! photo by Reenie

So, without further ado, here’s Kate’s tips for productivity, inspired by #dildoholiday and Girly Juice:

1) Make more effective lists

I live by lists. I can’t concentrate on any one thing for longer than half an hour generally, and so I really need to write down all the shit that I need to get done in a day or none of it will happen.

I also know how I handle stress, and how I let myself get defeated by tasks. For example, if I have the list item “Clean your office”, I might start that task but will quickly get distracted and move on to some other thing that is either on my list or just something shiny nearby that catches my attention. At the end of the day, my office still looks like shit and my list has just as many things on it as it did before, since I didn’t really finish cleaning my office.

So instead, here’s an example of my lists:

-Pick up papers off bed and sort them
-wrangle sex toys
-dust desk
-take out the garbage
-replace bag in the garbage bin

Can you see the difference there? I’ve made all kinds of little list items based around cleaning the office, but I get to check off way more shit way more quickly. It really helps me to manage larger tasks by listing the steps involved.

The exact same thing goes for work tasks. For example, I’m in the middle of planning an East Coast screening tour with a colleague on Evernote (which is great for coworking). Obviously the list could include something like “Get venue”, but there are so many steps hidden in that one step. The list, as it stands, for the venue in each city contains the following types of steps:

-research venues via locals
-find contact person
-email re regulations on screening nudity
-settle date
-book venue

Break it down into small, manageable tasks that you can check off easily and, more importantly, keep track of super easily.

2) Make yourself get out of your comfy spot

I never do anything but this in bed.

I never do anything but this in bed.

I have a super comfy spot on the couch in my living room, and also I have my bed. I’ve spent a long time perfecting both of these spaces so that everything around them calms me and makes me think gleefully of the past, present, and future. While that’s awesome, I often find myself just sitting there, thinking, for literally hours. I can’t be stopped.

I like to physically put myself in a space that is built for my productivity, or in a space that is quite simply not my fucking couch. While my couch is great, it lacks a place for me to put my mouse and use it in any useful capacity. Most of the work that I do require some serious mouse use, and I primarily work from a laptop since I travel so much.

All of that said, your space to work in should be comfy. My office in my house is a space that celebrates the accomplishments of my reasonably short time here on earth. I keep framed copies of newspaper articles about me, awards I’ve won, etc, all around just to remind me to keep at it. But it’s a space that’s specifically meant for work. The couch was not meant for work, for me. If it was for you, then by all means work on the couch. But try to separate your comfy relaxing spaces from your work spaces, whatever they look like.

3) Get fancy

Here I am, getting fancy for a day of productivity.

Here I am, getting fancy for a day of productivity.

This tip definitely won’t be the same for everyone, and I understand the classism inherent in getting fancy for business. But this element really works for me, so I’ll talk about what it means to me in the context of my own experiences.

I started to like “dressing up” around the age of 24. I had previously been a very jeans and a t-shirt kind of person, and didn’t really do the femme thing. I think I owned two pieces of what I’d call makeup, no nail polish, and maybe one dress. I also didn’t have much disposable income. But even back then, I remember that getting up, putting on whatever made me feel good, doing my hair (it was short, easy to do, but even just the act of *doing* it was important), and sitting down to work on whatever was in front of me really got me started.

Since then, I’ve amassed a lot of “fancier” items, but the ritual itself remains the same. Now it includes things like earrings and fancy nail polish (I cut the waiting time involved in this by using Julep’s Polymer Topcoat, which dries super fast). The trick is to get a bit fancy, feel good about yourself, but also not spend the entire morning/afternoon/whatever getting fancy. I try to limit myself to about 20 minutes, and I should also note that the idea of getting dressed is actually a thing that motivates me to finally get out of bed. Maybe this is a way that I can pitch to myself that buying all the clothes I buy is actually an investment in my business. Yeah.

For me, it’s a dress, earrings, brows, lipstick, putting my hair up, and a nice set of underpants. For you, it could be your best sweat pants and a top that makes you feel awesome about yourself. The idea of the whole thing is to make yourself feel really good about yourself before you start working. As a few #dildoholiday participants pointed out, feeling good about yourself can also mean feeling *super* comfy. Harness the power of clothing, however you like!

4) If you work from home, try leaving home every now and again

It's my laptop working on things from a college campus in Winnipeg.

It’s my laptop working on things from a college campus in Winnipeg.

This is more important than you’d think. Getting out of your space can stimulate creativity in ways you didn’t know it could. Being in a new environment kicks you out of your habits and into new ones.

I tend to either rent space at 245 McDermot, which is a coworking space in Winnipeg owned by ACI (Creative Manitoba) that rents hot desks for $30/day, go to an hOffice, or go to a local haunt that serves frosty beverages, since I don’t drink caffeine at all. I have a magical productivity spot that lives around 1.5 drinks and then sharply drops off, and so I do have to make sure that I pace myself with great discipline. I imagine this is the same for coffee drinkers. (and please don’t think this means you need to consume alcohol or caffeine or any other drug in order to be creative or to focus)

Stay tuned for the next episode of #dildohoilday on my blog, where we’ll talk about making our own glass dildos!!

And if you haven’t read part 1 of the #dildoholiday series, go read it right now!! 

Dildoholiday: 7 people and the sea.

And the sex.

Where do I begin?

#dildoholiday was a bunch of friends from the internet getting together in a beach house on the Oregon coast. We’re all internet personalities in some way, but we’re all definitely involved in sex blogging. Epiphora, Aerie, and BexTalksSex were the main organizers of the whole thing. The rest of us just came in from 5 other cities across the continent to join in the fun.

Flying into the Pacific Northwest always floats my boat.

Flying into the Pacific Northwest always floats my boat.

What I didn’t expect from Piph, Aerie and Bex was just how prepared they were for us, and all the amazing things that they had in store. They’d asked companies that they regularly work with if they could help make our vacation even more exciting, and ended up creating quite the experience for us.

I arrived in Portland in an airplane for the first time. Previously, I’d driven down from Vancouver (I’m a Canadian), but as such had never really experienced the glorious Portland airport. I, of course, took a snap of my shoes and the famous carpet, then got on my way to Piph’s house in a rented autocar.

Portland PDX carpet feet

The notorious carpet at PDX.

And then it was right in to the family. I was the last to arrive, which means I found everyone happily hanging out at Epiphora’s place. I met Girly Juice and Reenie for the first time, but I’d met Penny, Piph, Bex, and Aerie before. We all got settled in and gave each other some hello gifts. Maple candy and personalized drawings from Reenie, coasters with original photography from Penny, and I gave everyone a Naked on the Internet shirt from cherrystems.com (my soft porn company), perhaps in anticipation of seeing everyone naked that weekend!

Girly Juice models one of the Cherrystems shirts like a professional.

Girly Juice models one of the Cherrystems shirts like a professional. (photo links to her original tweet)

Starting off by playing a few rounds of Concept, then moving on to watching the classic film, 50 Shades of Grey. Most of us hadn’t seen it, but decided that in order to keep up with pop culture’s idea of BDSM, we should probably give it a go. We got about halfway through before we had to get on to the next thing of the night, but there will be more on this later.

Next up, we headed over to SheBop for a hello! I made sure to thank the staff for selling so much Fuze, and you should probably also go to their shop (or their website) to purchase some of our super awesome silicone toys. I did make a few purchases, which I’ll definitely note because I loved them so much. First was a card to be mailed off to my husband back in Winnipeg from Foulmouth Greetings. I absolutely love her cards, they’re just the most adorable. I definitely picked up the one with the house on it! I also finally picked up the 2014 copy of Smut Peddler, an amazing anthology of sexy graphic smut.

The last item I picked up was a bottle of Good Clean Fun lube. I’d actually never encountered it before, and bought it on the recommendation of Bex. I’ve only used it a few times now, but so far I’m really loving it. It has a tiny hint of vanilla, and is aloe based, which my crotch seems to absolutely love. I’ll keep using it a little more and report back on my experiences with it!

Following that, we headed over to Salt and Straw which, for those unaware, has amazing ice cream. I filled up a waffle cup with two flavours – Olive Oil, and Black Truffle. WHAT?! I’d had the olive oil ice cream before, and knew that it has a light, subdued fruity flavour with a texture like fucking butter, but I was trying the truffle for the first time. I was a bit concerned that it might taste mushroomy, but daaaamn! It was perfect and earthy.

Epiphora took this cute photo of me taking a photo of myself and my iced creeeam.

Epiphora took this cute photo of me taking a photo of myself and my iced creeeam.

The rest of the night was spent eating at food trucks, drinking cucumber lime soda, and then heading over to Devil’s Point – a strip club in Portland. Now, I’ve seen people take their clothes off in many a city. Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, New York, and more. This? This took the fucking cake. The dancers were amazing, approachable, and totally pros. Their floor work was just as impressive as their pole work (WHICH BLEW MY MIND), and I adored being there.

Well, you certainly can't take photos while you're in there.

Well, you certainly can’t take photos while you’re in there.

I did have to move to the back while Bex, Piph, and Penny got private dances – but I made use of it and got a few people to buy me tumblers full of whiskey.

I fucking love Portland.

The rest of the night saw Bex, Piph, Penny, and me catching up like the oldest of friends. We went to bed a little late, considering that we needed to be up early enough to get on our way to Lincoln City. Still, we managed to get out of bed and on our way on time.

This

This “Captain my Captain” donut actually made me shake from sugar overdose. It was horrifying (and tasty).

We hit Voodoo donut, payed a great visit to JoEllen, and got on the road at a reasonable hour. A quick grocery shopping trip (which was amazingly a treat of SheVibe!), a two hour drive, and a whole lot of French folk songs (ask Girly Juice and Reenie about this one) and we arrived at the house!

As soon as we arrived, we were in a bit of a rush to make it to the SUPER SECRET SURPRISE. Bex, Piph, and Aerie were all in on it, but Penny, Girly Juice, Reenie and I had no idea what was going on. I did have a moment of anxiety around this super secret surprise, as all we’d been told was to wear closed toe shoes, pants, no flowy clothing, and that it might make us sweat. Because, like many, this conjures up ideas of gym class, I got a little freaked out – I won’t lie. This was actually one of the first times I’ve been surprised in my life. I’m usually the planner of surprises, so who surprises the surpriser? Dildoholiday folks do! We hopped in our cars again for the quick ride to the surprise. As we turned corners, with Bex and Piph in my car, I saw us going toward the ocean. My mind automatically went to boats. “OH MY GOD ARE WE GOING ON BOATS?!” I asked. I was wrong, but definitely got laughed at for being so restless about the surprise. Two turns later, however, I saw a building with writing in the window. It said: Blow your own glass! HOLY SHIT WE ARE MAKING DILDOS AREN’T WE?!

pennysblog_20150604_16

Photo courtesy of Penny!

Yes, yes we were. (and on behalf of the good folks at WeVibe and Tantus, no less) Or, we thought we were. Bex had prearranged with the owners of the glass studio to have us come by at 6:30, when the shop was closed, so that we wouldn’t scare off the tourists. Sadly, Kelly, the person we’d coordinated with, spaced it and forgot that we were coming. We hung out for half an hour, then went to pick up some margarita supplies and headed back to the house where we ate food that we so badly needed. So ultimately, it was probably good that it didn’t work out that night. Luckily, we got a hold of Kelly the next day, and we rescheduled for 6 the next day.

We were all asked at that point to retire to our rooms to allow for the setting up of a surprise by Bex, Aerie, and Piph. There were doin’s a-happening. I used this time to move in to my room, on the same floor as Bex, Penny, and Girly Juice.

Moving in for me includes the Buckinator Glow, my journal, a paddle, lube, and earplugs. Because reasons.

Moving in for me includes the Buckinator Glow, my journal, a paddle, lube, and earplugs. Because reasons.

When we were called back up, we couldn’t believe our eyes! There was a bag of treats for each of us, chalk full of surprises hand picked for us. Bex, Piph, and Aerie worked really hard on all of it to make sure that we’d feel super special and welcome, and it worked! I’ll run through a list of some of the amazing bits we got, so you can be sure to support these lovely companies in the future.

So many great things! So many thanks!

So many great things! So many thanks!

With that all settled, we moved on to the next part of the evening: Popcorn, Pyjamas, and Porn. This was an evening of porn curated by yours truly (that’s me) for all of the #dildoholiday folks to watch and enjoy. I’ll post the list here because if you don’t know about any of the films, you really should:

It was amazing! I opened with Taken, which actually features essentially no pornographic video content. Instead, it’s like a spoken word erotica piece. And I love it, so so much. If you have a chance, you should check it out. I’m really into it for so many reasons. I won’t break down every other film though. I really think you should check all of them out (and pay for them too!).

Taken by Penny - Porn cuddles among internet friendsies.

Taken by Penny – Porn cuddles among internet friendsies.

But what I will talk about is the magic of watching porn in a group that is so sex positive. We cuddled and watched the scenes with colourful excitement, and really got to know a lot about each other. Popcorn came out, wine was poured, and we ended up staying up til far too late. It’s around this time that we made a new frienemy in the household – The Cherub of Shame.

There he sits, in his home.

There he sits, in his home. Photo by Aerie.

We found him perched above the windows to the sunroom as we were starting the porn night, and decided that he maybe shouldn’t be exposed to the sins we were about to unleash. I pulled him down and stowed him away. While we thought it was over, he was soon found peeping on us in the washroom by Epiphora. Shouts of discomfort rang from that loo as she pulled him out and commented on his presence. Suddenly, we noticed, he HAD A TWITTER ACCOUNT.

As the porn played on, we tried out toys – new or old to us. I spent some quality time next to Girly Juice on the couch, both of us fully clothed and trying out some vibes, having casual orgasms.

The sun started to rise as some folks paired off. I tiptoed my way gleefully to bed and couldn’t wait to find out what tomorrow would hold.. I MEAN, DILDOS GUYS!!

For more dildoholiday updates, keep up with me here on mskatesincliare.com! Next up: Productivity tips from #dildoholiday!

My Journey Through Porn

TW: sexual assault, rape

Spoiler: Porn is the good guy.

I’ve been working in some kind of porn in some kind of way since I was roughly 20, which was 10 years ago. You can look into my projects here and here. I won’t get into them now, but know that they’re awesome and you should totally check them out if you’re over 18.

This is more about the years in between than where I am now, though. It all really starts years before that, growing up in a working class household in a white suburb of a mid-sized city in the middle of nowhere. A city most recently named Canada’s most racist, which is an interesting thing to note but of course isn’t the subject of this. Or not so much directly.

I grew up in a household that encouraged a positive relationship to sex and sexuality as children, mostly due to my mother’s openness. My puberty wasn’t really full of questions as I moved through sex ed. I’d already read it all in books by the time I was 10 and hitting sex ed for the first time in 5th grade.

Shit was honestly pretty idyllic and lovely.

And then I got my period. My curfews stalled, and I was no longer allowed to hang around with boys. My life became super scrutinized, and I had no idea what happened to the open conversations we used to have around sex. My bedroom and personal items were routinely rifled through looking for evidence of penis in vagina, drugs, drinking, anything.

I was a developing woman myself at around 12, and I found that drawing the female form in the nude helped me to understand my own body and that of others. By creating images, I was rejecting ideals and body types that were so frequently presented to me as a young woman with eyeballs. I got to explore what I thought people’s bodies looked like under their clothes, which always fascinated me. It still does.

I threw out a few of the drawings that weren’t as awesome, as one does. One day, my parents found a drawing that I did of a naked woman, lying on the floor, an arm draped across her body. I’d thrown it out because it just wasn’t good enough, or I’d drawn her arms too long, or something, and it wasn’t going to be right. I thought literally nothing of it, because my history of talking to my mother about bodies was so open. And I was throwing this in the trash, so who gives a shit, right?

A few days later, I was called to the kitchen table to have a talk with my parents. There lay the drawing. I was confused as to why we were having a meeting. My mother, to her credit, did reassure me that if I were attracted to women, then that was fine. But overall, the message was clear. I was not supposed to do this. I was not supposed to draw naked people. It made my parents uncomfortable. I remember them asking why I had drawn it. I replied simply that I thought the female body was beautiful. This wasn’t a good enough answer. There was shame, there were instructions not to do it anymore. It was made clear to me that naked women’s bodies were primarily not mine to enjoy since I said I was not gay, and here I was, a 12 year old human with a vagina, drawing naked women. It seemed logical to my parents that I was possibly a lesbian – because bodies are for sex, not beautiful in their own right.

I tore up all the drawings of naked folks I’d done. I internalized that shame, that nudity was supposed to be shameful, and, mostly, that naked bodies were not mine – not even my own body.

Skip forward about 4 years, and I became sexually active at around 16. I suppose I still had my virginity, but that’s just by some societally-accepted version of things. I’d actively decided that I was not going to have p-in-the-v sex until I felt ready to navigate everything that came along with it. I did everything else, because I knew from my still-voracious appetite for sexual knowledge which actions carried a lower risk of STIs and pregnancy.

My first sexual experiences were with complicated at best, and not that amazing. Mostly. There is a certain level of sloppiness in human interaction, and I get that. And we’re talking about a bunch of young folks that only have basic sex ed (mostly anatomy, and mostly internal anatomy in terms of what we learn about those with uteri) and have had nothing but mainstream porn and media to inform them of what sexual encounters should be like. It’s a lot of fumbling, and it was mostly based around some fucked up things based around access and rights to women’s bodies. But I don’t feel like any of it was out of the ordinary. It was exploration of bodies, consent, and emotions.

All of these experiences came to a head while I was in my first long-term relationship. Rights and access to my body were reinforced as not belonging to me in this relationship. We moved in together. I was fresh (two months) out of high school and 18 years old, and here I was living with this guy in a two bedroom apartment on a notoriously rough street North of Portage Avenue in Winnipeg. I honestly loved the idea of the freedom that came with it, but hadn’t bargained for the intricacies of living with a partner – and all the issues around porn that would surface because of it.

I’d had issues around porn since I was about 10 and had walked in on my father using the early internet to slowly download photos of naked women. I’d mentioned it to my mother, and it nearly caused a divorce. The choice to have or not have the divorce, however, was actually placed on me. My two other siblings had hard answers to the idea of divorce, yes and no respectively, and my mother did not want to make a decision. I remember sitting on a blanket at one of my brother’s football games and being given all the information and told to make a choice. Clearly, porn was the cause of all this stress (and not my parents’ inability to fucking communicate or make decisions like a goddamn adult), and so I associated porn with destruction of relationships.

My partner’s porn habits quickly became obvious. I shared my experience and asked what kind of compromise we could come to. To continue the shitty communication, he agreed not to look at it anymore (unrealistic – for both of us, actually). I inherited my parents’ distrust and frequently checked into his history, learning that he was indeed still consuming the porn. Then we sat down to talk about it. And it was completely the worst fucking thing.

Instead of “I see how you feel”, it was “why aren’t you as cool with it as the women in the movies and pictures?” The conversation went entirely that way, and then it was over. He told me that, even though we were having sex 2-4 times daily, I was not sexually open enough. He started to pick clothes for me that were much more revealing than I would ever have worn, and I kept trying harder to make him happy, by doing pretty much anything.

This is the lady we’re talking about, at age 19, in the second apartment my then-partner and I lived in.

I enjoyed sexual exploration, so I was mostly happy to engage in as much activity as there was to be had. The trouble is, that wasn’t really good enough for him. Being perpetually available was not good enough. There was a lot of emotional manipulation, specifically making me paranoid, and lots of things that I realize now were abuse – like waking up covered in cum, unbeknownst to me. He was expressing what he thought of me by using my body while I was asleep, without my consent. I’d wake up either from the icky sticky wetness feeling on my body or, if I managed to sleep through the night, I’d wake up with a crust to shower off while he’d already left the house. I did object. Every time.

This was a person who was actively involved with the U of W’s LBGT* and Women’s Centres.

I feel so disconnected from that story, even now. I have trouble picturing it or understanding it as a thing that a human would do.

The relationship dissolved along the way as he slept around, and insisted on an open relationship on his end and not on mine. He was to be allowed to sleep with anyone at all, and I was to wait around – because women’s bodies are property, and his penis had laid claim to that piece of land. I called bullshit on this, and we finally decided we’d call it quits. That night, he did not return home after dinner to decide who was moving out – instead, he hooked up with a woman that lived several floors above us, then expected to come back into the apartment to get ready for work. I lost my mind.

It was after my initial breakup with my partner that I decided to shoot for a website. I met some stranger at his apartment in Osborne Village, he filled me up with gin, and I took off my clothes. Something clicked in that moment for me. I felt powerful; in control. I was 20 at this point.

The first shoot – with not-so-great lighting, but lovely otherwise!

My motivations for starting in porn were definitely not ideal. There was a lot of baggage there, and much of the motivation was to show men how sexually available I was, and how I was just as cool as the women in porn – while still maintaining that I didn’t like porn, and that what I was doing was somehow better. Obviously, I was being a hypocrite, but we’ll get to that. However, there was also the motivation of body positivity, and giving other people that feeling of being powerful and in control of their own image. I was still just grappling with all kinds of shit.

I continued to sleep with people randomly, and I can say that a lot of it was exploratory and fun, but the way that I was doing it was still mostly based in the fucked up abuse of the first long term relationship. I used sex to get to people, and to try to have some kind of power. I also used it for fun, and as an outlet, but much of it came from a pretty dark and fucked up place.

It was around the age of 21 that I met a guy in a bar, which was not an odd occurrence. We decided to meet up after class one day, since we were both studying at the U of M. We went out for a drink, it was nice, and then we headed back to my place. I remember having the conversation, in which he asked me if we were going to sleep together. I’d been trying to give myself a bit of time to figure myself out at the moment, and so I’d actually used my own words when I said “Ya know, I don’t think I’m actually that kind of girl.” Which I meant to mean that I was realizing that maybe I wasn’t the kind of person that wanted to sleep around all the time – maybe I wanted to start being choosier and making the decisions for myself. (I should note that there is nothing at all wrong with being *that kind of girl*, just that I was reconsidering if I was or if I just thought that I should be)

Long story short, I got drugged that night in my own home and I put out whether I wanted to or not.

Cue the string of possibly even worse decisions and avoiding of even more realities. I did a lot of fucked up things to a lot of people. I dabbled in some super unhealthy BDSM-type activity (BDSM is not inherently unhealthy, but my topping was not from a positive place, and when I was being bottomed, I’d relive my various abuses in a negative way), dated guys who would routinely yell at me, and generally just did what I could to get by. But through all of this, the idea of Cherrystems blossomed. The body positivity, owning your own image, and being in control of how you are represented. It was the only thing that kept me from feeling the pain at a deep level.

Still, I refused to call Cherrystems porn. I felt it was something better, more thought out, empowering, and positive. The porn that I thought I knew ruined relationships and made men believe that they owned women’s bodies. What I didn’t realize is that porn can be all of those positive things too, and that what I was doing was really no different – it was just given a privileged narrative.

As I grew up and began confronting my demons, I started to realize the truth of the situation. It wasn’t porn that was fucking anything up. It was all people in my life. It was people avoiding real communication, compassion, and forcing me to make decisions that I didn’t want to have make. My parents couldn’t see eye to eye on it, and ultimately put their relationship on me. Being young, I couldn’t fathom my parents being wrong – and so the culprit was most definitely pornography. I brought this pain with me to my future relationships, came down hard on a lot of folks about their use of porn even though I was also consuming it in the same way – but I figured in my hypocrisy that the way that I was using it was not exploitative and was somehow better.

But then we get to the tricky bit. I started to do interviews for newspapers and radio in which I’d get the question – is Cherrystems art or porn? And what is the difference? I at first insisted that we were different because porn was inherently exploitative, and that it dehumanized people and broke them down into parts with functions rather than autonomous human beings with bodies that have parts. Indeed, there still is a difference between those two methods of producing porn, I just hadn’t realized that. I didn’t yet have the vocabulary and experience with feminist porn to realize that that’s all it was – a difference in production styles and values. As I started to become more exposed to the idea that porn could be positive, I slowly began to unpack my own hangups with it. Soon, I realized that porn and art are the same thing. A switch flipped, and though I still felt uncomfortable with it, I started calling Cherrystems porn.

Once I started calling it porn, I was forced to understand all of the moments in my life that had shaped my relationship to the *concept* of pornography. It was a challenge. A fuck of a challenge. But it was something so liberating. I was and continue to be constantly inspired by people that are so amazing, that have their own stories to tell.

I think ultimately, Cherrystems and Ciné Sinclaire are my story to tell. They’re the story of my own reclaiming and newfound understanding of my own sexuality.

The road.

I’ve been working in travel since I was 20 years old. This year, I’m celebrating my 30th birthday.

I’ve spent 10 years of my life on the road, and it’s definitely catching up to me. Think about that a bit. 10 years of my life, I’ve been nomadic half of the time. Sleeping on trains, airplanes, in hotels, on couches, air mattresses, and quiet corners of airports and bus terminals.

I can't actually sleep on airplanes. Even with first class upgrades (bring presents for your flight crew, kids).

I can’t actually sleep on airplanes. Even with first class upgrades (bring presents for your flight crew, kids).

The half of the time that I spend at home has always been treasured. I live in a small(er) city in the middle of a vast country. We’re essentially cut off from the stress of big(ger) city living. If you don’t know about my 700,000-strong hometown of Winnipeg, you can read all about it here on the internet. Our housing prices are reasonable, and so I am a homeowner without having to sacrifice lifestyle or time dedicated to my hobbies (like the pornz).

My home has always had to be the most comfortable place in the world for me. Back in 2005, when I was getting started on this whole travel gig, I was single-ish (one of those relationships you know isn’t going to be super long, but it’s nice at the time), and coming to grips with leaving town for 5 days about 4 times a month. And then I worked my first trip. I was an attendant on board the Canadian – the transcontinental train that goes from Toronto to Vancouver. We worked 18 hour days while we were working, with 6 hours off in which you were to wash yourself (even just a bird bath), sleep, and then also get ready in the morning. All in these wee tiny on board compartments. Sometimes you’d get a bigger compartment to sleep in, but that was rare. It was usually a 1-bed room (and when the bed is down, that’s it, there is no more room) or a berth with a curtain separating you from the rest of the train.

One of the times I had a larger compartment. And some trees. They look like the ones around Jasper National Park.

The beds weren’t that bad, honestly, and I got used to the gentle rocking of the train putting me to sleep. I kinda liked it. Pair that with the fact that I fell asleep with headphones in listening to Radical Face, and you’ve got a pleasant sleeping locale. The trouble was the length of time we were allotted to sleep. At best, for years, I’d get 5 hours of sleep. Usually, it was the kind where you close your eyes, completely exhausted, and open them again to find that 5 hours have passed and your alarm is going off. I would routinely pass out on a milk crate in a locked kitchen somewhere.

And so home has always had to be exactly what I needed it to be. I bought my single ass a fucking amazing king sized bed for those days that I was at home. Is home really still home if I was spending 20 out of 30 days of the month on a train? Yes. So much yes.

This was home.

 

I lived by myself in a 1-bedroom apartment in the French quarter (I am a speaker of the French language and a haver of the heritage) – the third floor of a three-storey walkup. At 20, this was my third apartment, and the first that truly felt like home.

This little place on Enfield. I was almost never there, but it was where my favourite memories were made.

This was the first place I’d felt comfortable enough to call home. 

And there in that comfort, my story really came together. I made Cherrystems on that shitty folding chair on a computer I spent most of my life away to afford. We shot almost all of the early sets in that living room, or kitchen, or bedroom. I met Aaron shortly after moving in, though I decided to take some of his friends here for some nights before considering that he could be every single thing I needed in a partner. He moved to Malaysia for a while, where he worked for a women’s rights organization as a developer, I kept falling home here and cultivated a small following of amazing folks ready to change the city. Amazing how a space can sit empty for so long, but mean so much.

I continued to drag all my luggage up that three-storey walkup for four years. But I wasn’t happy just being away for 20 days a month. No, sometimes I’d end up with a week off near the end of the month, and I’d get my ass back on the fucking train and go as a passenger. They fed me there, and I had a place to sleep, and I was out and experiencing. I went to Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, and stops in between – all before I was 22. I scattered myself out as far as I could, letting home be a place that I still had. I can’t tell you what a privilege that was and is. Without even the concept of that place, I don’t know how I would have held my shit together.

They don't have these in the prairies.

They don’t have these in the prairies.

The train was mostly full of older folks from around the world. I learned from them constantly. I learned the good things, I learned about the people I wanted to become, and the people I learned the most about were the ones whose stories repulsed me – racists, bigots, etc, etc, etc. I spent 5 years at that job, being a tour guide for Canada, telling the real stories of Canada’s colonization, even if it was uncomfortable for 65 year old Europeans to stomach.

Things changed slightly when Aaron and I decided that we would become a partnership. We decided we’d move in together, but both our places were too small. We moved. I left the place that I felt at home in. We spent two years in a place I hated. During that time, however, I also switched jobs. I left the train behind and took to the sky.

My travel options increased drastically. Suddenly, a two day trip took two hours. The world opened.

A bestie of mine joined me on a 3-day layover in Barbados.

A bestie of mine joined me on a 3-day layover in Barbados.

One of the wonderful things I’ll say about the relationship that I have with Aaron is that I have always worked on the road while dating/living with/being married to him. We have never known life any other way. Other people I would date would take it personally when I got called out to go somewhere. They’d feel jilted that I was never in town, and I completely understand that. I was off having adventures while they were “stuck” at home. They were travellers too, but couldn’t do it nearly as much as I was able to.

My layovers were never, ever, spent in my hotel room. I learned the layouts of cities. I am proficient in the transit systems of Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Prince George, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, New York, Washington, Boston, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, and the highways of countless other places where I’ve rented a car because of lack of transit services. I’ve driven the interior of the US and been to fucking weird little motels that wouldn’t let me stay there because I wasn’t married to my partner.

I climbed a hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and met a person that became a great friend. He also worked in travel in a way – for a traveling acrobatic circus called the Cirque du Soleil. I’ve met people on hills, in bars, on bikes, in seats, and learned a little bit from each one.

This is backstage at a Cirque du Soleil show in my hometown. A direct result of climbing Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland and making a friend.

This is backstage at a Cirque du Soleil show in my hometown. A direct result of climbing Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland and making a friend.

There’s honestly no lesson to be learned either way from my life. I managed to get a Bachelor of Arts somewhere in all the mess of not being home, but I managed it.

Glamorous Prince George, BC. I actually fucking love it there.

Glamorous Prince George, BC. I actually fucking love it there.

I’ll post more individual stories about the people and experiences I’ve had along the way, but for now, this post is probably long enough.

The Polyphonic Spree was playing while I was on a layover in Vancouver.

The Polyphonic Spree was playing while I was on a layover in Vancouver. So I went.

Is there anything you’d like me to address, cover, or recount? Let me know in the comments and I’ll think about it. When I’m home.

Feminist Porn Heaven day 4/7: Conference Time

Saturday morning got started a tiny bit late, with Aaron and I getting slightly lost on the way to to the Feminist Porn Conference. It was being held at the University of Toronto, but we had a bit of a time figuring out just which building it was actually being held in.

Regardless, we showed up in time to quickly get registered and sneak off to Jiz Lee and Shine Louise Houston‘s workshop on affiliate programs. For those unaware of what an affiliate program is, let me give you a bit of a walkthrough.

An affiliate program at the bare bones level lets a person become an “affiliate” of a website, meaning that they put up a unique code on a website that they maintain advertising another site. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use Cherrystems as our example. Jane talks about Cherrystems on her blog a lot, and she wants to link to us. While it’s all fine and good just to send traffic over, wouldn’t it be nice if Jane got a bit of cash for sending us all that traffic? That’s what an affiliate program rewards. When someone clicks her unique link to Cherrystems, it leaves a cookie in their browser’s cache (cookies are just a text file that gets stored for a certain length of time in your browser’s cache, letting you do things like stay logged in to a website) so that Cherrystems knows how that user originally got to the site was via Jane’s link. Still with me? Lovely!

When someone that clicks Jane’s link *joins* Cherrystems, that’s where the dollars come in. We offer a 20% cut of all referrals on a recurring basis to the general public. So let’s say that someone clicks Jane’s link, then joins Cherrystems on a 3-month term (automatically recurring, or automatically charged every 3 months). That’s $40 every 3 months that that person pays, and Jane gets 20% of it every time they pay. That’s $8 every three months. While that doesn’t seem like much, it adds up when multiple people click through and join. If Jane refers 8 people at that level, that’s $64 every 3 months, and an extra $256/year just to have a little banner up.

Advertising is expensive. Cherrystems has advertised in magazines like Bust, and we’ve sponsored a bunch of events. The thing about throwing money around like that is that it only gets about a 3% return on the investment amount. Affiliate programs mean that a company doesn’t have to pay out of pocket to get advertising space, and that we can pass on actual cash to individuals that help us out.

You can actually find our affiliate program here. For example, here are some of the banners we’ve got:

caroline254x331   Candie234x60   Belinda240x120   adventuress160x320

You would need to go sign up for our affiliate program and get your unique link started up before any of these banners will make you any money, of course. 😉

Anyhow!

That talk was great for me to sit in on, because it made me realize how little the CS team actually knew about promoting themselves and Cherrystems. It’s a new thing to focus on!

The rest of the panels for the day were absolutely great, including one with Jessica Drake, Christopher Daniel Zeischegg, Dylan Ryan, Shine Louise Houston, Tristan Taormino, Carlyle Jansen that really spoke to me. A lot of the issues addressed therein were ones around the experience of being on a porn set. Things that performers like and don’t like, things that are expected, and how to create an atmosphere that best makes your performers feel comfortable.

As a new porn producer, I really enjoyed hearing that talk. I mean, I’ve been working on Cherrystems for most of my adult life now, but having pictures taken and doing video performances of sexual acts are different in a lot of ways. They’re similar, but I feel that an all new level of comfort and safety need to be achieved with the advanced level of intimacy that you’re sharing with your performers.

It was also really amazing to get to hear from folks that have worked on (and do work on) mainstream porn sets, and to hear about what life is like over on that side.

The day passed by all too quickly, and bled out into the night. Aaron, myself, and Bee headed over to Bar Mercurio, where I briefly met Lynn Comella, and Constance Penley, and ended up spending up the night hanging out with a great friend, Kevin Heffernan and Sarah Stevens and her partner. Pizza was had, jokes were made, and the night was ultra relaxing.

I skipped out on the Switch party that night though. The trouble with the Switch party for me is that I’m not one that just jumps right into an intimate encounter at a sex party. There just aren’t enough spaces at the Aslan studio for me to chill out and get to know anyone, and instead I end up feeling and acting super awkward – hah! So this year I just decided that pizza and cocktails and an early night would serve me best. All the other Cherrystemmers, however, hightailed it over there and had a great time. 🙂

And now it’s time for me to go away! AWAAAAY!

Smellin’ Good

So I’m nerding out a wee bit on self care. I’ve had some time off of one of my jobs, and instead of ramping up everything in my life, I’ve kind of just slowed down. Honestly, that was exactly what I needed to do in order to put everything in perspective. I’ve been working hard on Cherrystems about 20-30 hours a week for nearly 7 years. We’re launching a new site, building content for that, as well as building the site itself, creating the brand, filing the paperwork, registering the business, creating a filing system… You name it. A lot of folks think the porn world is all scandal and sex and fun times – and it is – but there’s a lot of work behind the scenes that gets done.  A lot of customer service, a lot of a lot of things. And it’s great. But sitting back and realizing I’d been doing all this for 7 years of my life, I thought “I want a break. I’m taking a break.”

And I did, and it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I was starting to get frustrated with the whole project. We’re moving forward every year, involving more people as time passes, reaching new folks, and expanding in every possible way, but it was just becoming *work*. Something I had to do, emails I had to send. So I stepped back, I took lots of long showers, I worked on Fuze and on myself. And really, I can’t say enough good things about that decision.

Did we see more joins while I wasn’t working? No. Did we see less? Slightly. Did we fall off the radar completely while I took care of myself? No. But these are all things that we think are going to happen, and people hold us to the idea that if we step back, the world will keep moving and no one will wait for you. Perhaps that’s true in a lot of ways. But ya know what? I don’t want in on a world that doesn’t understand that sometimes, people need to be people. What a freeing decision.

I’m now back at it with an energy I haven’t had in years. Attempting to make myself a real schedule based around when I can work, instead of working and being available all the time, has been my goal. One step at a time, really. Attainable lists make me get an extra 20 things done per day than just sitting around, fretting about how I’m going to take on a task.

And the little things.

The little things, for me, like putting on real pants in the morning (I KNOW) rather than sitting around in my jammies all day, and learning how to do my hair, and smelling good. Whatever those little things are for you, find them and *make* the time to do them if you can. Unplug, put the phone down, and go take care of yourself.

If you’re a femme or sometimes-femme and want to start taking time for yourself, I’ll tell you an interesting little thing that I started doing that has really actually changed things for me. I subscribed to The All Natural Face‘s monthly beauty box. Every month around the 25th, I get a little box full of self care surprises. It’s an extra bonus that they’re all natural, mostly vegan, handmade, and awesome. They’re based in the US, in Massachusetts, and really honestly make some great products. I’ll take this time to note that I’m not being paid or provided with free goodies or anything for this. I just like this box that much.

This is my third box, and I can’t really describe to you the great feeling I get when I see the it in the mailbox. I get inside, take off my boots, plunk myself down with a cup of tea, and then open my present. The last two boxes were pretty makeup-heavy, which is good because I’ve finally been learning how to do my makeup (at the age of 29). This box, however, for February, is full of body products.

All Natural Face Beauty Box

To spell it all out for you, from right to left, we’ve got Face Food Fruit Face Wash in strawberry and cream, 100% squalane oil (for wrinklies), edible cocoa Love Dust for times you want to be sparkly but also taste like cocoa, Diva Stix all-purpose shimmer colour stick in Raspberry, a sample of raspberry lip gloss, the most delicious-smelling Monoi Tiare Gardenia body oil, and some all-natural lube!

As someone who can’t wear cheap perfumes without developing a pretty severe headache, I really love getting natural products with essential oils or products that are just straight up unscented. If you like that kind of thing and the possibility of getting a box full of stuff you’ve got no idea how to use, then you should probably join too. Or just buy the individual things. Though had I bought all these things individually, it would have cost me about $30 plus shipping. Each of these boxes is $15 with shipping included. I can dig it!

The whole thing about it, though, is the ritual. I sit down and I have a little moment with myself. I experiment with eye shadows, brow powder and wax (I really had no idea what I was doing the first few times), and now all these body products too! It’s nice. So while this ritual is right for me, yours might be something else. But subscription boxes are definitely something to get happy about. I like presents.

So that’s my fluffy self care post, and how taking time off made me learn to slow down and smell the subscription box.