Elephant Arms was launched in December 2012. The creator, Sarah (last name withheld), started the blog due to “sexual frustration, interest in good local music [and] occult imagery.” She claims and proves through her blog material that she has an open mind and believes that “sex shouldn’t be seen as being so inappropriate in society; it’s a beautiful and natural thing.” With a large portion of the content featuring erotic fetishism, bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (herein BDSM) it is hard to find the local music content and the natural aspect of sex. Having said this, considering there are a number of photos or gifs of Sarah posing nude, starting such a blog can seem quite daring for a woman, particularly one who resides in such a small, interconnected city such as Brisbane. Elephant Arms continues to exist due to Sarah’s belief that she doesn’t “need to feel accepted by society, everyone needs to be comfortable with themselves, just like I am.”
When Elephant Arms was first discovered by withflaws. the idea was to create a discourse between a local feminist group and the creator of the blog. Having picked up a copy of the UQ Women’s Collective Zine at a local zine fair they seemed like they would be well suited for such an interview as they were already active in producing independent media. After trying to contact them and inviting them into the discussion of nudity, pornography and sexual expression, the UQ Women’s Collective failed to reply. Due to this, in order to still provide various points of view within this article research was carried out via online news sites and feminist communities.
A common stereotype of feminists is that they hate or are scared of sex and men. It is true that some feminists are ‘sex negative,’ though certainly not all of them. In fact, it is the Feminist Sex Wars that divided Second Wave Feminism or the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970’s. There are many ‘sex positive’ feminist websites on the Internet today, flying in the face of the misrepresented stereotype and showing that a consensus has still not been found within the feminist community. As an example, the feministe.us website has a list of various feminist porn sites. Each of these sites include all gender and sex orientations and represent women’s bodies honestly unlike most mainstream pornography.
Anti- pornography feminists focus on the patriarchy reflected in mainstream porn, which is driven by the arousal of the man. In doing this, women are reduced to objects and are portrayed as not finding pleasure in sex. On the other hand, sex positive feminists debate that sexual expression and freedom are vitally important for women’s liberation. Having said this, such sexual expression will not be found in mainstream pornography but found in porn sites like the one listed above and Elephant Arms. As Sarah stated, pornography does not emphasise anything natural within sexual encounters. Sexual expression, or erotica as some call it, promotes sex positive and pro-woman sexual values.
When Sarah was asked what her definition of porn was she replied, “I tend to think of porn as un-natural sex. No pleasure, no connection, no interest.” At first glance, it is easy to write off Elephant Arms as an independent porn site, particularly seeing as there is such a harsh stigma surrounding sex and open sexual expression. Many members of society still carry the binary belief that a woman is either a slut or the Virgin Mary, which is most often decided on how much skin is shown in public. Sarah strongly believes that she is merely expressing herself “without any restrictions”. She continues, “Whether it be in the form of my own pictures that I upload; or fetishism ones that I have re-blogged, we should be allowed to showcase our interests without judgement, no matter the content.”
Not everyone shares the understanding that women of any size or shape should be allowed to embrace their body. Sarah occasionally receives mail from viewers exclaiming some form of abuse such as “you’re fat” or “you’re ugly.” She has also received messages both through SMS and the Elephant Arms tumblr from an unnamed ex- boyfriend of a similar vein, telling her she’s just doing it for attention. A lack of respect tends to follow women who show any amounts of skin, whether they wear revealing clothing or work in the sex industry. There never seems to be any enquiry into reasons why women may want to express themselves in this way or need to work in such an industry. Even so, there are a number of people who respect Sarah’s boldness and courage. As an example, one comment left by a viewer was “Wow, I tip my hat off to you.”
Large portions of women are attracted to Elephant Arms for the thrill and shock of Sarah’s open sexuality. It seems to hit them as something they wish they could do without being ridiculed. As well as this, with the emergence of more personal blogs, it helps women find their own bodies more attractive and reduces the stigma of sex in society. The educational aspect of pornography is also often underestimated. Not all explicit imagery, such as creative sexual expression, should be considered ‘dirty.’ By reducing the stigma surrounding sex, a more natural and honest dialogue is enabled between partners and members of society alike.
Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism features heavily in Elephant Arms. When Sarah was asked about the chains, whips and gags she explained her view that “sex should be as fun and experimental as possible, whilst receiving uncontrollable pleasure. For me personally, that includes BDSM, foot worshipping, role playing and just being kinky.” And why can’t girls have a bit of fun? As a further explanation, the sadist in the sexual relationship derives pleasure from giving pain and the masochist takes pleasure form receiving pain. It must be remembered that there is in fact a pleasure exchange at work. There is yet another misconception held by people who tend to hold little knowledge about BDSM. Some believe that violence against women can lead from ongoing participation. There are in fact no studies that prove this is the case. Furthermore, BDSM is a fetish that forms part of a person’s sexual identity and is only performed once consent is given from both parties. Alan McKee, author of The Porn Report stated the real facts on potential violence against women in a discussion at the Brisbane’s Writers Festival. He derived from a study that the 60 plus age group, right wing parties and Christians have the worst attitude toward women and therefore have a more harmful affect than BDSM. Controversial.
When discussing BDSM, Sarah reiterated by saying that “these images should not be viewed as being treated unequally; they are posted to portray the sexual content of a submission and domination relationship.” The key word here is relationship. Bert Cutler remarked in his book; Partner selection, power dynamics, and sexual bargaining in self-defined BDSM couples, that BDSM couples communicate more effectively than mainstream couples due to the increase in risk and harm in a BDSM scenario. The dominant role in particular is always thinking about the safety of the submissive role, particularly seeing as all acts of BDSM follows from full consent. Femdom, or female dominance, also shows that the male partner is not always the dominant role, which moves further away from the violence against women argument.
Expression comes in many forms, with sexual expression being one of them. Both women and men should be allowed to express their enjoyment of sex through independent photography and video without being condemned by those who don’t appreciate it. As discussed in this article, sexual expression (a world away from mainstream porn) and fetishes aren’t hurting anyone. Sarah makes a plain point, “for those who are offended, it’s easier to not go onto my blog, they don’t have to view those images, it’s their choice.”
Quite a range of topics were brought into discussion within this article which will hopefully enable people to feel less on edge when confronted with sexual imagery they don’t quite understand or aren’t aroused by. If you happen to not agree with Elephant Arms or anything that was written in this article, please refrain from using any form of abuse on this website or on Elephant Arms. Instead, withflaws. would love to hear everyone’s differing opinions on feminism, sexual expression, nudity, pornography and BDSM via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WORDS by TESSA FOX