#SoSS – ebook erotica recommendation

I feel a little guilty that I haven’t participated in the #SoSS tag events. It stands for Share Our Shit Saturday, and started because of how hard it is for people involved in sex work or sex blogging to reach new audiences, due to the practices of several of the main social media and blogging/micro-blogging platforms out there that try to hide us away.

Mostly it’s self-produced porn, webcam shows and the like. My own work is leaning towards the literary end of things: written word porn, effectively (although I would not classify Not To Choose as porn, it certainly has a lot of explicit sex scenes and is listed under Erotica at Smashwords, meaning it, too, is subject to all kinds of filters).

So I’m going to try to share some of the other erotic stories I’ve enjoyed from other authors on Smashwords.

This week, I got off to |In The Moment by Bishop Jones.

The short blurb says:

An unknown future and a long night, Inishi Mei must come to grips with her mortality while being stuck with a man she hates.

However, the story gives the heroine much more agency and potency than that description suggests. Yes, she hates him, but she needs a fuck before the enemy aliens break down the door of their bunker. What follows is deliciously dirty fucking and I will leave you to read it for yourselves.

The book is “name your own price”, which means you can choose to download for free, or pay any price above $0.99. I chose to pay for it, and I hope you will too!

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“You must be very wise, that you know what a woman is. Perhaps you can explain it to me?”

There’s been another round of awfulness from TERFs and their allies the TUMFs (Trans-Unaware Mainstream/Media Feminists – term coined by Julia Serano). To be honest, it feels like it never stops.

But the same old arguments that trans women are not women, are men, are not as they see themselves, keep getting hurled out with a venom that surely is out of proportion to the thing they are trying to defend.

The thing that strikes me most strongly is how confident TERFs seem to be that they know what a woman is. I feel as though it would be very entertaining to see them confronted with a Socratic dialogue on the subject. “It seems you know what a woman is. Perhaps you can explain it to me…”

But I was unsatisfied with the response I saw some people giving to the TERFs that, “A trans woman is a woman because she says she’s a woman”. To say one is a woman, that must mean something about what one is.

If a woman is defined by XX chromosomes, then almost no one we meet can be known to be a woman. I personally do not have the ability to test for chromosomes by sight or touch, so I can never know that a person I meet has XX, XY or any other configuration, unless they tell me. Heck, I don’t even know what my own chromosomes are (I would guess XY, but I have no direct knowledge to say that guess is accurate or not).

If a woman is defined by any particular phenotype or anatomical feature, then it is simple to render any cis woman no longer a woman by the means of surgery. Examples from real life can be found for most of these anatomical arguments, and it doesn’t take much to imagine situations for the others.

This is not the first time I’ve considered such questions, of course. I thought about building a lifeform and giving the new person a gender.

I’ve also thought about the “social” definitions about “experience” before: for example, when I considered what it means to me to call myself “mum” rather than “dad”. A similar process of questioning seems appropriate on the broader question of what it is to be a woman. With the simplistic “social roles” argument from TERFs and TUMFs that trans women somehow uphold social gender by seeking to transition rather than adopt “traditionally feminine” roles while living as men, this type of questioning (in which I directly rejected “motherly duties” as the definition on which I felt the pull to that identity) seems important to engage in.

In that post, I concluded that “mum” is not a fixed definition, but a concept (I called it an “idea” in my conclusions there) or conceptual space in which various aspects of “motherness” contribute but none is sufficient or necessary.

When it comes to womanhood, this still feels lacking in some way, and I think that this is because most descriptions of transness do encompass some sense of embodied reality: something relating to one’s physical expression in the world (which is why various forms of surgery to affirm gender are important). There is a sense of oneself in the world, and it is this sense that creates gender, including nonbinary, genderqueer and genderfluid selfhood.

There is no intrinsic physical quality that can be used to “prove” this subjective experience.

From there, the only way we can access the essence of a person’s womanhood (or manhood, or other gendered identity) is to listen to them when they express what it is they feel inside. It isn’t that “they are a woman because they say they are a woman”, but rather, “the only way we have to know whether they are a woman, is for them to tell us”.

Posted in Gender, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Free sample and 10% OFF over at GOTN!

So yesterday the awesome (and kind) Girl On The Net posted an extract from my novel “Not To Choose”. She totally loved it and I’m sure you will, too!

What’s more, as a special offer for those who head over and read it there, there is a 10% off coupon code to buy the full-length novel. So you should definitely do that next. The code is valid until February 8th, so hurry…

Posted in Kink, Sex, Writing about writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Project: “Humanity’s Diaspora”

I have several story ideas that revolve around societies that have developed different ways of organising themselves and what might happen if they came into contact with one another.

I actually know very little about anthropology or situations where this has happened in humanity’s past, and some of the ideas are not possible in the world as we currently know it (for instance, I am fascinated by collective consciousness such as Star Trek’s Borg, or Asimov’s “Gaia” in the later novels of his Foundation saga). Therefore, I thought about setting it in humanity’s future.

But I needed a way to split humans off from one another so that they could develop these vastly differing ways of organising themselves, and then come into contact with each other again.

The following is the introduction passage I want to use to link the stories together and explain where they come from in-story. Some may see hints in it of a concept in David Brin’s Glory Season. There is undoubtedly a dose of Star Trek as well. One curious thing is that I wrote out this passage a month or two ago and shortly after I composed it, I saw a review of Rivers Solomons’ An Unkindness of Ghosts in the New Scientist. The reviewer says, “It doesn’t really make sense that a spaceship hundreds of years in the future, even one in which racial prejudice holds such sway, would model its society so exactly on the slave-holding South”. I like to think that in the following passage and the conception of why generation ships (in my world-building, some are generation ships and some use suspended animation) were sent forth in the first place, gives an idea of how such a social structure might be plausible and even probable.

Legend of the Diaspora

There is a tale told throughout human space. A legend, an origin myth. It appears in many versions but the key elements are the same. It is told in one form or another on every planet where humans can be found.

In the beginning, it says, there was a world named Earth, or Velt, or Monde, or many other names from many other tongues. The name is not important. What matters is that there was in that time only one world. Only one sun. All the others had yet to be found.

And on this world, all of humanity lived, and they were numerous. They were too many, and too hungry. Some versions talk of always wanting more. Some talk of striving too hard for new learning. Some talk of being too fecund and unrestrained libido. After all, what is an origin story if there is no moral to teach to the next generation of how not to be? But all the stories agree that the world was dying because humans were too much and too many for it to cope.

So the greatest and wisest (so the story goes) built great vessels to carry humanity through space to find and found new worlds where humanity could thrive and learn the lessons of its past, and do better. Earth, it seemed, was dead.

So a thousand ships with a thousand people each, set forth each in a different direction, as the last hopes that Earth and its legacy might one day have a new home. They travelled for centuries through the stars searching for one that had a world they could call their own.

Each world where humans are found today, traces its ancestry back to one of those ships. Their origin story.

The story is true, or close enough to the truth. There is only one world where it is remembered differently. That world is Earth.

* * *

On Earth, the story is different. Yes, the world was facing ruin. Yes, humanity had bred so numerously as to threaten the survival of their species. Yes, they had plundered their world’s resources until there seemed nothing left could be wrung from its crust. Poisoned its air until it was barely breathable and the temperature threatened to run away catastrophically. All this is true.

But on Earth, it is remembered as not the greatest and wisest who created the arks to save humanity. On Earth, it is the richest and most selfish who had these ships built for them. They took with them servants and engineers – those whom they would need to do the tasks too menial or too technical for they themselves to accomplish, and that would be needed for their survival. They took with them vast resources and wealth in the form of technology and equipment to help them build comfortable, even luxurious, homes on the planets they expected to find.

They fled the destruction their own greed had wrought upon the Earth and tried to take their lifestyles with them.

The economy collapsed. Multinational and transglobal corporations were robbed of their capital and their decision makers, and many folded. The nations of the world crumbled into warring factions on every continent. Starvation and disease claimed many more lives but gradually, those who survived began to rebuild. They weren’t able to use as much as their predecessors, and had to rely on older, more traditional, sources for some things. For others, they scavenged the waste and refuse dumps left behind by the old ways. And they managed to make use of wind and tide and sun to power their technology.

Communities reached out and connected, those surviving were mostly not those who had fought so bitterly and were just thankful for contact and trade. From the nadir of the post-departure years, a new sense of togetherness and global society developed with better and faster communication devices. Sustainable ways of living and working together became more important and soon Earth, far from being dead, was a thriving economy with a vibrant population of all races, creeds and cultures shared together.

New ways of powering spaceflight were discovered and humanity once more reached out to exploit the wealth of resources in its own solar system until at last, a thousand years after those wise or selfish pioneers set out to seed new hope among the stars, a bold team of scientists developed a ship with the ability to travel faster than light.

Before long, humans ventured once more into the stars, and began to meet the societies built by the descendants of those who, a thousand years before, had left the old world behind.

Now, the government has sent new ships with a mission to trace Earth’s estranged offspring and, maybe, to welcome them as long lost family.

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So here we go then! Pledge me your money, sweet reader!

So after last Saturday’s fury at Patreon finding a way to trash my plans again, it turns out that I was far from the only one to be completely dismayed and distressed at their proposed changes to the fee structure, and in a rare instance of a business seeing sense and listening to its core support, Patreon have announced they will NOT roll out the changes after all!

That’s right, folks – Patreon are NOT going to be increasing the cost of a $1 pledge!

And that means…


Support me here!

Because a make a thing about it also supporting music as well as writing, I’ll link a few of my demos on soundcloud:

90 Degrees Of Reality (punk/metal sounding version of a song I wrote aged 16 – I still think it’s f’ing awesome!)

Fear Of The Dark (working title – this is probably just the intro/riff section. Still working on lyrics & vocals)

Retail Work Songs playlist – 2 melodies I’ve been singing lyrics about my job at a major UK department store for the past 5 weeks.

Pledge at my $5 level and you get to hear far more of these “works in progress”, including advances of tracks I compose to go along with stories I’m working on.

* * *

I’m not going to lie: I’m REALLY excited to be launching this properly. I’ve dreamed for a long time of using my creative output to be more than a hobby and this year it’s happening. My novel is out there. I’m launching my Patreon at long last. If I can get 2018 to build this then I might finally get somewhere.

So, if you enjoy what I write – stories, this blog, my music, anything else – please do make a regular monthly payment and help me plan to make better stuff than ever!

Posted in Economics, Music | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I am angry at Patreon AGAIN!

So 6 weeks or so ago I had a rant about Patreon shitting on their adult content Creators and putting my planned Patreon launch on hold.

Last week I bit the bullet. I need some way of showing I can make money from my creative endeavours and Patreon seemed like the best/only way I could do that on a reliable basis. I trimmed back the “adult content” side of what I would do/offer for it and designed myself a nice Patreon page with some rewards for patrons including, at the top end, getting your own story or piece of music written for you.

Well, fuck that.

Patreon have now shat on 90% of Creators AND Patrons in one ginormous cock-up of a fees restructuring.

One of the Creators I support explains it in a public post but what it boils down to is that small contributions are going to be charged much higher “transaction fees”, making it hard to support lots of people.

At first it looked like it was just a money-grab, but many wiser heads than me have dug into it and seen some really messed-up thinking, while Patreon themselves have described the logic as making it easier and more logical for patrons – fixing a situation where sometimes you’d get double-billed when you first signed up because of the way the billing cycle works. Unfortunately, this makes it far worse for me as a patron – I liked the simple, 1st-of-the-month system – I could budget for it on my financial cycles (whether monthly or weekly) and make sure I knew how much to have available on what day.

By revealing that they really only care about Creators with a certain level of success, Patreon are trashing their own USP (that people can support creators they love and admire who aren’t necessarily well-known or “successful”).

But this really sucks for me, personally. I was expecting to get mostly small-scale patrons – the ones who will be hit hardest by this change – and hopefully one or two big regular payments, enough to give me some breathing room financially and free up time so I can work on making even better stuff. And, you know, pay other people to design covers, do editing for me, and such, on my stories.

And as a Patron, it sucks even worse. I support a few Creators at the moment, all people whose work I love and who have made their appeals resonate. There’s about as many more whom I have been thinking of adding to this list recently. All of them are low-tier pledges, and therefore hit hardest by the changes. I can’t afford to take on those changes – as I said at the top, I need to find a way to demonstrate reliable income from what I do! I pledge $1 or $2 pledges because that’s as much as I can manage. If the cost to me of my $1 pledges go up to $1.40-odd, then to me that means I just stop my pledges. I could, I suppose, choose one or two to keep at the same level and sacrifice the others to pay for it, but in truth this seems not worth it. And it certainly means I won’t support any new Creators because at the back of my mind will be that extra charge.

So I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all the Creators I’ve chosen to support (and those I was thinking of supporting), and also a heartbroken “sorry” to them. But I just don’t have the means to support you through Patreon any more.

The Creator I linked above has migrated to a platform called LiberaPay and I may follow, or explore elsewhere for my own fundraising. I get the feeling I’m going to be donating via a number of different sites in the near future when it comes to supporting my favourite creators, too. And if any of you are reading this, I hope to hear soon of where I can give you what little money I can spare.

Posted in Economics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Novel Extract: “Karen gets her spanking”

The following is a passage from my novel Not To Choose, which is available to buy through Smashwords. It comes fairly late in the novel. Karen is Black, and in her late 30s. She made friends with Jo, the protagonist, and came out to her as lesbian because of Jo experimenting with bisexuality. At this stage, Jo has also come out to Karen about being into BDSM, and Karen expressed curiosity, asking Jo to give her her first spanking. After Jo explains about how consensual BDSM works, Karen joins her in the bedroom…

* * *

Jo sat on Karen’s bed and patted her lap, “Here you go.” Karen hung her jacket on the door and shuffled across the room while Jo positioned a pillow for Karen to rest her head.

“Oh, yes, that’s a good idea, thanks,” Karen giggled nervously. Jo shuffled to make sure she was comfortable. Karen rested her belly on Jo’s thighs, both still wearing their office clothes. Jo admired Karen’s long legs as she stretched out along the full length of the bed. There was something alluring about her dark skin and black tights. Karen shuffled her head in the pillow, rested her hands on either side of it, and turned back. Jo met her gaze.

Karen grinned, “I never ever imagined I would ever do anything like this. And yet here I am!”

“Yes you are,” Jo smiled, “Are you ready?”

Jo felt Karen’s chest heave with a deep breath. “Not even slightly, but there’s no way I’m stopping now.”

Jo rested her left hand on Karen’s shoulder blade and stroked her buttocks through her skirt. Karen exhaled slowly. Jo patted her and Karen gave a little squeak of surprise. Jo waited until her friend settled, and gave a slightly harder slap.

“Oh!” Karen exclaimed, and kicked her ankles. Jo giggled, and gave another slap, this time noticing how Karen’s soft flesh felt under her hand and watching the ripples under the fabric. Karen sighed heavily.

Jo stroked her friend’s hair and fiddled with her blouse, “That was just a warm-up. You wanted a spanking, and that’s what you’re going to get.” Karen’s breath caught. Jo used her fingers to stroke Karen’s back between her shoulder blades, through her blouse. Karen sighed again.

“Ready for it to get a bit harder?”

“Okay,” Karen stammered. Jo brushed her bottom with her spanking hand, small circles to relax her. She waited for a moment, then landed a sharper smack. Karen yelped and jumped slightly.

“That really stung,” she protested.

“But not too badly?” Jo checked.

“No. I mean, ‘Green.’ But, gosh!”

“Want a few more?”

Karen nodded mutely, face down in the pillow.

“Brace yourself,” Jo warned, and spanked her. She placed several swats at a leisurely, regular, pace. Karen squeaked or yelped each time, and squirmed until Jo stopped.

“You’re slipping off the edge of the bed, Kaz,” she warned.

“Oh. Yes, sorry,” Karen lifted herself on elbows and knees to wriggle back into a secure position. “Thank you,” she said, and settled her stomach back on Jo’s lap. “Okay, I’m ready now.”

Jo’s slap was harder, and echoed around the small bedroom. Karen’s squeal was also louder and she reached back to rub her buttock with her palm.

“Ow, that one really hurt,” she grumbled.

“Check in?”

Karen paused, and Jo worried for a moment.

“Green,” Karen said.

“Okay. If you reach back again, should I stop you?”

“No, don’t stop me. I would start to panic if that happened.”

“Okay. Let me know when you’re ready for me to start again.”

Karen settled on the pillow and took several deep breaths. “Okay, I’m ready, I think.” Jo massaged her shoulders to relax her.

“Right, here it comes.” Jo smacked her friend’s bottom again. Karen tensed and grunted, and Jo saw her fingers clench into the duvet. After a pause for Karen to relax, Jo added another smack. This time, Karen kicked her legs from the knee. Jo didn’t wait for Karen to settle, but added another smack and another.

“Ow ow ow! Stop!”

Jo bit her lip, but added another smack. Karen protested again, and jumped.

“Kaz, you’re slipping off the bed again. Check in, please?” Jo asked.

“Yellow,” Karen stammered as she manoeuvred herself back onto the bed.

“Well done. Never feel ashamed to safeword,” Jo reassured, “Shall we take a break, or should I dial it back?”

“I just need a few moments. Oh, God, my bum is throbbing so much.” Karen caressed her bottom with both hands as she sighed on the bed. Jo waited for her friend to resume her position.

“Okay, ‘green’ again,” Karen smiled.

“Good girl,” Jo smiled, “I’m going to keep going until you stop me now, is that okay?”

“Mm-hmm,” Karen squeaked.

Jo weighted her smacks at the strength where Karen had hesitated to say ‘Green’ before but tried to make them faster. Karen’s squeaks delighted her, accompanied by the flexing of fingers and ankles, disturbing the bedclothes.

“Oh, oh, no more,” Karen begged. Jo was confident her friend could stop her if she needed to, so she kept going. Karen kicked and gripped the duvet tightly, and groaned. Jo felt nervousness tighten her chest, but wanted to be sure her friend had the experience she wanted. She continued but when she noticed her friend became less responsive, she paused.

“Check in, Karen.”

“Yellow,” It was quiet, but emphatic.

“Well done,” Jo said, “Is it okay if I say we’ll stop now?”

Karen nodded.

“Okay, then. Come here,” Jo reached to hug her. Karen clung to Jo like a lifesaver. “Thank you, Jo, thank you,” she panted.

“You were fantastic,” Jo said, “Thank you for sharing that with me.”
Karen sniffed, “But, why? You were doing it as a favour?”

“Because it’s always a special experience, that’s why, and because you were wonderful. You did really well, I’m so proud.”

Karen blinked and looked into Jo’s eyes, “Really?”

“Yes, you’re a special, wonderful woman and you just shared something like that with me. I feel very privileged.”

Karen nuzzled into Jo’s embrace.

“How was it for you? Did you get what you wanted?” Jo asked. There was a pause while Karen seemed to process her experience.

“Yes. Thank you. It was, oh, I can’t describe it. My bum feels so sore and yet so wonderful, and on fire. It’s so weird.” She shook her head to clear it, “And, it felt like, I don’t know, when you were actually smacking me, it felt like I was, you know, transported somewhere.”

“And when I pressed on, when you were saying ‘no’?”

“I didn’t believe you would actually do that. And then you did. It was scary, but fun, like a roller coaster.”

Jo squeezed her friend, “I’m glad I got it right.”

Karen smiled dreamily, “Yes, you did. Thank you so much.”

Later, over a drink and a snack, Karen said, “I still don’t know what to make of it, or if I ever want to do it again, but, thank you for an experience that, well, that I asked for.”

“I’m glad you got what you needed,” Jo smiled, “There is one more thing you should do. Before the colour fades, go in the bathroom and check out your bum in the mirror. Trust me, it’s a big part of it.”

Posted in Kink, Sex, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not To Choose is now available to buy!

So, 11 years after I started writing, I have finally finished a novel, designed my own cover, and published it via Smashwords.

That is an epic achievement.

There are so many things I have failed to complete, to see through to the end. But this one, no one can say I didn’t create a finished product.

It’s not the story I set out to write in 2006. It’s not the story I would set out to write if I started today. But it is, somehow, the story that I wanted to write and I hope I’ve done justice to the characters, the story, and to the groups of people who may find themselves depicted in it.

I have no idea if I will get anyone to buy it but I hope I do. Either way, though, I finished it and THAT is something worth celebrating.

Buy Not To Choose now!

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Work songs in food retail

So here’s something to prove how much I dislike working in retail: I have been singing work songs to myself whenever I can get away with it, and composing them in my head.

But I thought I’d share the “magic” with you anyway.

After the store has closed to the public, we do what is called “pulling forwards”, which is basically, pulling stock items from the backs of the shelves to the front to make the shelves look nice and full, and better-presented. On my first day, I composed the following:

Forwards, I’m pulling forwards
Forwards at the end of the day
Forwards, I’m pulling forwards
To earn an hour’s pay. (or “a measly wage” or similar variant)

Stacking, the shelves need stacking
Stacking at the end of the day
So I’m here stacking
To earn my hour’s pay.

A friend on another site tells me that in the store where she works, this is known as recover and it wasn’t long before I had a “Recovery” ditty as well, which may well get lyrics related to my workplace as well:

Oh, recovery
For the items in the store

Oh, recovery
Drains the life from me, and I
Just can’t do it any more

I programmed the melodies (and a bass line) for them on Garageband, and they can be found on Soundcloud.

Posted in Economics, Music | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My letter to my MP about Universal Credit

Since there has been some discussion of this, and my recent change in circumstances, I finally found the impetus to write to my MP regarding the many problems with Universal Credit and its implementation. I see in my Twitter feed that there is a new article online from the Guardian discussing the many failures and problems, so decided to add my story out there:

* * *


I am writing to you today to give you my view as a Universal Credit claimant for the last 9 months of the difficulties that the system has presented me, and the ways in which it fails to help or live up to the claim of ensuring people are “always better off in work”.

First, I would like to thank you for your continuing work on the issues around Universal Credit, and particularly the 6 week waiting period. As a voter in your constituency, I make use of social media to follow your twitter and your website, so I am aware of the work you have been doing in this area. I am disappointed that you abstained (even if you viewed it as only symbolic) in the Opposition Day vote in October, but appreciate your closely working with the Prime Minister. I also saw that you tweeted a page from the Resolution Foundation’s report on Universal Credit – a page that I believe is relevant to many of the issues I am experiencing.

As regards my situation at the moment: I currently sign on at the [nearest local] Jobcentre, and have recently started a fixed term seasonal job at a major department store on part-time hours. [snip personal details] In terms of mental health, I deal with anxiety, depression and Aspergers syndrome.

My previous job, and my current seasonal job, were both paid on a weekly basis. When my last job finished, I had been saving money to put towards my business plan for marketing my writing and music. After the 6 week waiting period, even living as frugally as I could, my savings were gone and I was overdrawn on my current account. The money that might have been able to launch me into something new straight away, I had to use on basic living expenses instead. Not only this, but my last paycheque (because I was paid weekly in arrears for the job I had been doing) was deducted from my first Universal Credit payment, meaning that for the next month I was living on less than the amount normally paid. I was therefore in financial difficulty not for just 6 weeks, but for a total of 10 weeks after losing my job.

I have a history of depression, and the added stress of this period of financial instability was extremely bad for my mental health. This, in turn, has a negative effect on my efforts to find work or to produce a plan for self-employment and execute it effectively.

While Universal Credit was explained to me as being more flexible than Jobseekers Allowance, my experience has not matched this. Ever greater regulation and threats of sanctions have proved to be destructive to mental health and to my efforts to support myself either through self-employment or finding a job.

I mentioned earlier that I have started a part-time job. This job is not one that suits my abilities or aptitudes, and clashes heavily with my mental health needs. I feel very deeply that I am a very square peg being hammered into a very round hole. However, the rules about having to take any job offered, and having to attend any opportunity presented by the jobcentre, mean that I could not choose or ask for, a more suitable option: having been required to attend interview, and then been offered a position, I had to accept.

While financially, I may be better off (although after travel expenses, this is not by much), overall I feel like my life is worse now than when I was seeking work.

More broadly, the restrictive nature of the targets and regulations and rules that hem in not just the jobseekers but also Jobcentre staff, have a far more pernicious long-term effect on jobseekers. I believe that these produce a tendency towards learned helplessness, because they produce the impression that the individual jobseeker has no control over his or her outcomes. They are stuck in a situation with negative effects, and threatened with even greater negative effects so that even making an effort to escape or find new ways of dealing with the situation seem discouraged or even punished. I certainly feel that every time I try to come up with creative ways of escaping the benefits system and either finding work or creating an income from my own ideas, that the way that JSA and Universal Credit are structured, I do not have any support to do so but am instead penalised for not doing things in the “proper” or “expected” fashion.

The threat of sanctions is also counter-productive in another way. It has the undeniable effect of focussing a jobseeker’s attention on “avoiding sanctions” rather than on “finding a sustainable job”. It may seem as though taking the actions required to avoid sanctions would lead to a job, and that this is the purpose of enforcing such measures. However, while the distinction may seem subtle it is still significant. The reason is that jobseekers focussed on finding a job can give more care and attention to the process of applying. But jobseekers who are focussed on avoiding sanctions will constantly be looking over their shoulder and mentally calculating, “Have I done enough to convince those threatening me?” In the same way that torture rarely produces good intelligence, the threat of sanctions does not produce good jobsearch activity.

A system that was truly interested in ensuring people were always better off in work would look first to ensure that people were getting the right sort of work, and not on hammering square pegs into round holes. It would ask not, “How can we punish people for not being in work?” but instead, “How can we actively make it easier and how can we actively give them what they need, to find work?” While the rhetoric around Universal Credit (and JSA) is the latter, the experience I and everyone I’ve ever met while on JSA or Universal Credit, has been that we are made to jump through hoops in the hope of tripping us up.

The last point I would like to make is about the Minimum Income Floor and how this affects my ability to make a serious attempt at self-employment. In general, the rules around the MIF seem to be based on a curious notion of self-employment as being like a small business in the venture-capital sense. The language used is that Universal Credit should not prop up “failing businesses”. But most people seeking to support themselves through self-employment are not running a business, but rather, seeking to find an income that gives them at least some level of independence from the benefits system. For such people, the benefits system should be there as a safety net for those periods when cashflow is insufficient, so that they are able to earn with confidence rather than being trapped into claiming forever.

This is certainly how I feel about my attempts to produce income. What I have to sell is my creative output and the creative arts are unreliable, with no guarantee of the level of income from one month to the next. But I want to be able to take at least some of the burden off the taxpayer by generating my own income. The year’s grace offered by the current rules is helpful in terms of time to build an audience, but sales will never be guaranteed from one period to the next, because commissions and calls for submission are periodic. The suggestion by the Resolution Foundation to “Allow self-employed workers to report their income in line with the tax system, at present annually in arrears, and apply the MIF on the same basis” would be a very good first step to helping with this. I also feel it should be lowered or made more flexible to take into account the type of work and the individual needs of the claimant rather than applying a rigid formula.

In conclusion: I would like to ask that you continue your work in trying to improve and remedy the problems with Universal Credit. I would like you to continue to push for the recommendations made in the Resolution Foundation’s report and, further to this, to press for a relaxation of the rules and sanctions regime in JSA and Universal Credit. A more flexible, and compassionate, system that is not bound up by rigid requirements but that can take into account the many and varied circumstances of those who find themselves unfortunate enough to need support from public money, can only lead to better outcomes and a greater chance that they will be able to help themselves back into work.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

[real name]

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